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 and HERE to read Part 2.).
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: Jason Arnott enjoyed a career offensive year (32 goals and 76 points) in Dallas last season, and could improve on it with speedsters Paul Kariya and Martin Erat on either side of him. J-P Dumont adds more bulk to a forward corps that suffered for lack of it in the playoffs.
The Pessimist Says: In not re-signing Brendan Witt and Danny Markov, GM David Poile entrusted much of his blueline to youngsters Dan Hamhuis (23), Ryan Suter (21) and Shea Weber (21). All three may yet become frontline defenseman, but on a team with championship contender pressure, that could be too much to ask.
The Apocalyptist Says: Now that the Ducks have improved their look, can we please put the Preds first in line for revamped uniforms? Surely we can agree a Stanley Cup-champion franchise with unspeakably hideous mustard yellow third jerseys isn't a situation that behooves anybody.
The Optimist Says: Mike Barnett brought in Ed Jovanovski and Nick Boynton via unrestricted free agency and a trade, respectively; as a result, the GM has given coach Wayne Gretzky the NHL's best young defense corps (which also includes Derek Morris, Zbynek Michalek and Keith Ballard) to work with. The presence of new Â‘Yotes Jeremy Roenick and Georges Laraque provides Phoenix's marketing team two of the league's best mouths to work with.
The Pessimist Says: Curtis Joseph turns 40 in April. His projected backup, 23-year-old David LeNeveu, had a 3-8-0 record and .886 save percentage in 15 games with Phoenix last year. Next in line are Mike Morrison and Philippe Sauve, who combined for 14 wins and an .882 save percentage last year. The moral of the story? Stay healthy, Cujo.
The Apocalyptist Says: Owen Nolan will turn 35 in February, has a bum right knee, and hasn't played an NHL game since March 27, 2004. He's no candidate to win Little Miss Sunshine in the dressing room, either. Man, a one-year, $1.2 million contract doesn't get you as much as it used to.
The Optimist Says: Adding Mark Bell to play on San Jose's top line with Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo is like injecting a squad of cheerleaders with vials of Red Bull Â– not entirely necessary, but the heightened kicks are guaranteed to please. Unrestricted free agent acquisitions Mike Grier and Curtis Brown will enhance a penalty-killing unit that was 23rd in the league last year.
The Pessimist Says: The Sharks' blueline is heavy with youngsters (21-year-old Matt Carle and 24-year-old Christian Ehrhoff being two examples); Thirty-two-year-old Patrick Traverse isn't the kind of experienced blueliner San Jose fans hoped would even things out in that regard.
The Apocalyptist Says: Vesa Toskala stole Evgeni Nabokov's No. 1 job in goal last year, and the prospect of a $5-plus-million-a-year veteran grumbling on the bench isn't especially comforting to either of the Wilsons (GM Doug and coach Ron).
The Optimist Says: Manny Legace, who the Blues got on the cheap, and Jay McKee, who the Blues got on the expensive, are large upgrades in goal and on defense. New team president John Davidson is an even larger upgrade on the PR front.
The Pessimist Says: St. Louis' projected second line Â– Petr Cajanek at center, Vladimir Orszagh and Dallas Drake on the wings Â– amassed 16 NHL goals in 2005-06. Come back 15-goal-scorer Dean McAmmond, all is forgiven.
The Apocalyptist Says: GM Larry Pleau signed Doug Weight (15 goals and 57 points in 70 games last year), and Bill Guerin (13 goals and 40 points in 70 games). If coach Mike Kitchen uses them alongside winger Keith Tkachuk, their line will be a combined 108 years old at season's end. That may be good enough for the Guinness Book of World Records or Anna Nicole Smith, but not for a franchise with serious playoff aspirations.
The Optimist Says: If Roberto Luongo's career .919 save percentage doesn't dip Â– and since he's out of Florida, where he routinely saw more rubber than the Goodyear museum, there's no reason to believe it will Â– the Canucks are set in net for years.
The Pessimist Says: Gone from an already-thin blueline are Ed Jovanovski, Bryan Allen and Nolan Baumgartner. Their replacements are Willie Mitchell, Lukas Krajicek and Yannick Tremblay. Luongo's sterling save percentage may not be so safe after all.
The Apocalyptist Says: Vancouver wasn't good enough to make the playoffs last year, and they've since removed Bertuzzi (25 goals, 71 points) and Carter (33 goals, 55 points), replacing them with Jan Bulis (20 goals, 40 points) and Marc Chouinard (14 goals, 30 points). Do the math, then wish you didn't.
Check back on Monday as we begin our tour of the Eastern Conference with Atlanta, Boston, Buffalo, Carolina and Florida.
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