Chris Drury skates against the New Jersey Devils in a pre-season game. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
There’s no law that says something has to be exceptional to be exciting.
Students getting straight A’s in university should be lauded for their efforts, but it’s usually the kids who subscribe to the “C’s make degrees” philosophy who have the most fun – until graduation, anyway.
In the sports world, average teams are still fully capable of providing awesome entertainment.
Take the NHL’s Eastern Conference, for example. I, for one, can’t wait to see how that powerhouse-devoid pile plays out. There may not be one unblemished peach in the East basket, but the action is going to be sweet.
Right now, I believe a legitimate case could be made for any one of seven clubs representing the conference in the Cup final. Each one of them posses enough strengths that, when put in play against opponents who are far from bulletproof, create opportunities for success.
Pittsburgh, the team that tore through the East last year en route to the final, has clearly taken a step back. Still, they boast two all-world talents and an all-star caliber goalie who’s finally hitting his stride.
Montreal racked up the most points in the conference last year, added talent and toughness in the off-season, but still don’t have that impact skater who can single-handedly pull a team through a playoff series.
The Caps are a team on the rise, but downgraded at the worst position possible when Cristobal Huet left town and Jose Theodore breezed through the door.
Ottawa? They didn’t even look like a Calder Cup contender over the final half of last year, but they still have the major pillars in place from a team that played for the Stanley Cup 16 months ago.
Morphing from a team that relies on Jaromir Jagr to a Drury-Gomez co-production could conceivably work out better for the Rangers, who also upgraded their blueline and just may have the conference’s top goalie. Too bad Markus Naslund and Nikolai Zherdev are their top wingers.
Philly’s stable of forwards is overwhelming, but the bottom falls out of its D after Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn.
And then there are the Devils. Up until the lockout, you could set your watch to them making a Cup run every two or three years. Yes, the names of their defensemen read like a who’s who of “who’s that?” but adding the multi-talented Brian Rolston to your team is like introducing coffee to your morning; it just makes everything better.
There you have it; a seven-pack of teams, each with ample amounts of upside and inadequacies to ensure the East keeps us entertained.
Let the turnovers begin.
Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog normally appears Thursdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears every Wednesday.
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