Some people become depressed when they see the sticky-hot summer come to an end. In hockey circles, we refer to them as Â“idiots.Â”
Honestly, what's not to love about the joys only Labor Day can bring? Cool breezes in the evening, children safely locked away in classrooms in the day, and best of all, the unmitigated optimism found in fans of every NHL team.
Though it usually is obliterated by the 50-game mark of the season, that hopefulness Â– seen again in 16 fortunate NHL markets come springtime Â– is why the Fall is the best season going.
To honor that outlook, we're going to try and find the good in each team's summer moves (Five teams per day, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of this week and next. Click HERE to read Part 1.).
However, if you expect we'll ignore the potentially bad and ugly consequences of their new directions, welcome to your first Screen Shots column Â– come for the comments, stay for the snark.
The Optimist Says: Buying out Bill Guerin and adding former Capital mainstay Jeff Halpern will improve a defense that collapsed in front of Marty Turco during the 2005-06 playoffs.
The Pessimist Says: Not-so-fun fact Â– the last team new Stars Eric Lindros and Matthew Barnaby played on together was the 2003-04 New York Rangers. The Rangers won 27 games that season. If they couldn't make it there, can they make it anywhere?
The Apocalyptist Says: Centers Jason Arnott and Lindros are similarly sized, aged and skilled, but the former left Dallas and signed a five-year, $25-million UFA contract with Nashville, while the latter settled on a one-year, $1.5-million deal with the Stars. If injuries cost Lindros any significant amount of time Â– remember, he's played just 72 games in the last two seasons combined Â– the discrepancy in salaries will be perfectly understandable, and the Stars will be as desperate for goals as they were against Colorado last April.
The Optimist Says: Let's seeÂ…umÂ…well, Detroit's press conference tribute to retiring legend Steve Yzerman sure was touching.
The Pessimist Says: Yzerman clearly was a depreciating physical asset, but Brendan Shanahan's 40 goals will be missed at least as much as the former captain's much-heralded leadership. Also, the Red Wings will have 10 players aged 31 or older by season's end. Gulp.
The Apocalyptist Says: The condition of Dominik Hasek's groin Â– at this stage, more fragile than Axl Rose's ego and R. Kelly's defense strategy Â– could be the difference between Detroit finishing atop the Central Division, or missing the playoffs for the first time since 1990. Letting Manny Legace go for Hasek's world-renowned distraction act was a big mistake.
The Optimist Says: The offense receives a sizeable boost with hometown kid Joffrey Lupul and ex-Ranger Petr Sykora on board.
The Pessimist Says: Nine veterans from Edmonton's glorious Stanley Cup run are now gone, including Chris Pronger, Jaroslav Spacek, Michael Peca, Sergei Samsonov and Georges Laraque. This may be more of a young man's game, but let's not get carried away.
The Apocalyptist Says: It isn't just that coach Craig MacTavish has lost his top two minute-munching defensemen (Pronger and Spacek), it's that we're now supposed to believe Jason Smith and Steve Staios are No. 1-and-2-calibre NHL blueliners. Because The Hockey News expressly forbids its employees to accept bribes, that's just not going to happen.
The Optimist Says: The best off-season transaction was the hiring of GM Dean Lombardi and coach Marc Crawford, two of the game's more productive player developers. Returning blueline star Rob Blake and Alyn McCauley won't hurt, either.
The Pessimist Says: Deleting Pavol Demitra and Mark Parrish from the equation means their power play (tied for 28th in the league last year) won't improve in the short term. And other than Alex Frolov and Mike Cammalleri, the Kings' wings are hurting, and not in a requiring-medical-attention way.
The Apocalyptist Says: Any longtime L.A. fan who remembers inconsistent Kings netminder names (such as Jamie Storr, Stephane Fiset, Felix Potvin and Roman Cechmanek) was likely plenty underwhelmed by the acquisition of former Canuck Dan Cloutier. But it's good to get that first sense of Â“is that all there is?Â” out of the way early, so it won't seem near as much of a shock when Cloutier frustrates them again during the season.
The Optimist Says: Team owner Bob Naegele Jr. finally retired the miser routine and spent money to improve and retain the Wild's talent. At forward, Marian Gaborik is re-signed for three years, Pavol Demitra is around for at least two, and native Minnesotan Mark Parrish is locked up for five. On the blueline, former Flyer Kim Johnsson and Keith Carney add puck-movement and stay-at-home skills respectively. Not too shabby, GM Doug Risebrough.
The Pessimist Says: For all Risebrough's savvy wheeling and dealing, the Wild don't have a wealth of depth at any position. Thanks to a payroll of more than $41-million, they also don't have much in the way of cap room to get much deeper.
The Apocalyptist Says: Armed with a newfound abundance of offensive weaponry, coach Jacques Lemaire will be pressured to prove he's a whiz in more places than his own end and the neutral zone. That last sentence may sound vaguely obscene, but the always-gracious Minnesota fans could get far nastier if the Wild misses the playoffs for the third straight season.
Check back Friday for Nashville, Phoenix, St. Louis, San Jose and Vancouver.
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