Northeast Preview

NHL Northeast Division

Our friends over at viewfrommyseats.com took a look at the Northeast division today, by asking respective bloggers 5 questions about their team. Each blogger answered the same question, and I’d say some of the answers are pretty interesting. Here are our responses, and you can find the entire division here. Yesterday VFMS took a look at the Atlantic Division, check back daily for other divisions around the league.

There’s going to be an entire new look to the Northeast Division. The Toronto Maple Leafs got much bigger. The Montreal Canadiens got much smaller. The Ottawa Senators got much more dramatic. The Buffalo Sabres got to be much bigger fans of the Coyotes staying in Phoenix. And the Bruins seemed like the only ones that needed to show up to the NHL Awards in Las Vegas.

So what does that mean for the upcoming season? Are the Bruins going to dominate the Division again on their way to the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference? Will the rest of the division step up and throw their weight around the Eastern Conference?

We have a great collection of bloggers around Northeast Division to give us an idea of what to expect this season. We have TheKiiid from Loge19 representing the Boston Bruins. We’ll get our Sabres perspective from David Oleksy at Die By The Blade. Fans of the Canadian teams will get their fix with PPP from Pension Plan Puppets (Maple Leafs), Kyle Roussel from All Habs (Montreal Canadiens), and Kevin Butler & Tambland from Stay Classy (Ottawa Senators). In fact, since Stay Classy can’t be trusted—we have a couple of responses from the guys.

Tomorrow we’ll give the Southeast Division the same treatment. For an entire schedule of the divisions we’re going to cover, you can find it right here (including yesterday’s Atlantic Division Roundtable). Until then, enjoy the Northeast!

1. Why is your team going to be better than they were last season?

TheKiiid (Bruins): The B’s have not made many large acquisitions this off-season, but instead they made the right ones. Last season, on paper, they were not the most talented team, but they played well together. As the Herb Brooks said, “I didn’t choose the best players, I chose the right players”. Amen brother. So what does that all mean? Well lets take a look, the B’s served Axelsson a one-way flight back to Sweden and moved Yelle’s nameplate to the visitor’s lockerroom. Furthermore, Fernandez is still floating out there in free agency even though he stated he was going to retire, Ward was traded back to tobacco row, and Kessel is still in limbo if he wants to wear the spoked B for another few seasons. Take a look at how the Bruins filled these spots. Ward was upgraded to computer salesman Derek Morris, Fernandez was more than replaced with rookie nut-bag goalie (although extremely talented and is being groomed as a starter), Tukka Rask, and Per Johan was moved overseas for former Habitant Steve Begin. Most importantly Boston will get back power forward Marco Sturm. Sturm spent the majority of the season checking out the talent in the wive’s box due to a concussion, blown-out knee, and sniffles. So effectively Sturm is like another off-season aquisition that should add, hopefully, 25+ goals this season.

Lets look at the potential lineup for Boston:

Milan Lucic – Marc Savard – Michael Ryder
Mark Recchi – Patrice Bergeron – Chuck Kobasew
Marco Sturm – Vladimir Sobotka – Blake Wheeler
Shawn Thornton – Steve Begin – Byron Bitz

Zdeno Chara – Derek Morris
Andrew Ference – Dennis Wideman
Mark Stuart – Matt Hunwick

Tim Thomas
Tuukka Rask

Add in there newly resigned David Krejci (who will be missing the first few months of the season due to surgery) and hopefully a Phil Kessel with a shiny new agreement and we’ve got something going here. Not to mention you’ll have Bitz playing in his first full season (maybe Wheeler will like to physically and mentally play an entire season as well), most likely with Begin and Shawn “Deli Meat” Thorton, on the versatile fourth line. Again, Boston is able to roll four solid lines in its crowd favorite blue collar style.

Obviously the Bruins can do better than last year, after the disappointing Game 7 Eastern Conference Final loss. The same loss that almost cost theKiiid a relationship, but the injury bug had bit the B’s at the worst possible time in the season. Can the B’s take the Northeast title again? Yes, Eastern Conference? Yes. President’s Trophy? definitely, the B’s have only added talent this season, and if they can re-sign Kessel (whom will hopefully be on board mentally as well) we’ll see a dominate performance.

2. What part of your team scares the hell out of you this season?

TheKiiid (Bruins): There are two, maybe three, things that can bring Boston’s season to a crashing halt. The first, chemistry. This has been something I’ve thought about for most of this summer. Last year Boston didn’t have the best team, but they played well together. You could sense that all of the B’s were buying into Julien’s system, and furthermore seemed to get along well with each other. Look at the November 1 game against Dallas. It was like I had tickets to a Junior B game somewhere in Rose City Ontario. There were fights and large hits every few minutes. What’s the point? Each of the Bruins were sticking up for one another, even Kessel’s gloves fell off along with Savard’s. Games like that one are what bring teams together and can turn a season around. Chemistry is something that is formed in the off-season, and this year the Bruins opted out of their annual trip to Vermont and cancelled the team building weekend. How much does that matter? Hopefully not much, but with some new acquisitions this summer I’d like to see everyone buy in this year, and be mentally (and physically) ready to play each game for one another.

Second, injuries are what scare me most. Boston was somewhat lucky last year with the lack of injuries during the regular season, with the exception of Sturm, but in the playoffs it was bad. Kessel, Krejci, Recchi, and a few others were dinged up pretty bad, and I think that made the difference in the Carolina series. This year if the guys can keep their hands off the chicks from South Boston, thus avoiding mono, and avoid the injury bug, you can see a report performance of last season. I mean come on, old man Recchi had surgery to have his kidney stones removed and played the next night. Montador had his eggs scrambled pretty bad and Ward had his clock cleaned earlier in the series. I’m still convinced Chara was hurt because his puck handling skills were worse than normal, but shot was still effective.

Finally, and not that big of a deal, but I have my eye on Tim Thomas. He has a remarkable season last year culminating in a Vezina Trophy. I hope that he can still pull the same load this season and show Tuukka the ropes. If Thomas and Rask can anchor the B’s this season, the rest will take care of itself. A lot of my speculation on Thomas’ performance is media based, but it’s still relevant. He’s a bit older, however I think he has become comfortable with his style and team.

Commissionerdangle (Bruins): My initial choice for breakout player for the Bruins this year was Blake Wheeler. Blake is young, relatively inexperienced and had a rough end of the year. If Blake could couple his skill with his size and start taking the body like Bitz did last year in the playoffs I think he could have an amazing year. However, after looking at Wheeler’s numbers last year – 8th on the team in scoring as a rookie and 7th in points for a rookie in the NHL – it is tough to say that last year was not his break out year.
So I will defer to my second choice of break out player: Johnny Boychuck.

The 6’2’’, 225lb 25 year old defenseman is at the stage in his career where he can either make a big splash at camp and be on the opening night roster or fall into ‘career minor leaguer’ status. The Bruins obviously saw enough in Boychuk to trade for him last year (granted they did only give up a career minor league forward for him) and then re-sign him to a one year contract this off season.

Boychuck led all AHL defensemen in scoring last year and was tied for the team scoring lead overall with 20-46=66 in 78 Baby B’s games. Johnny has the size and skill to be a top 4 defenseman but he struggles defensively sometimes which had given him the # 6 / 7 defenseman label. I am looking for Boychuck to challenge Hunwick for a spot in the top 6 early in the year. They both are very offensive players and if Boychuck can pocket a few early in the season, he and Hunwick will be a good tandem to cycle through the B’s defensive corps.

4. We all know that watching a team for 82 games, you start to appreciate things that casual fans won’t necessarily know. Who’s the guy on your team that doesn’t get nearly the respect that he deserves?

Commissionerdangle (Bruins): Other Loge19 contributors may disagree with me – because they have other unsung favorites – but I think that Shawn Thornton does an amazing job on this team; both in the locker room and on the ice. Thornton is the ultimate 4th line scrapper. His stride is brutal and he has a tough time keeping two hands on his stick most of the time but he is always going 100% throughout every shift. As a 12 year pro (6 in the NHL) Thornton brings solid veteran experience to the Bruins locker room and won a cup with Anaheim in 2007. Oh yeah, he can also mix it up with the top fighters in the game – Chris Neil, Donald Brashear and Georges Laraque to name a few.

5. Prediction time: If you were throwing down some serious money, how do you think the final standings of the Northeast Division will shake out? More importantly, which teams do you think are going to make the playoffs from the Northeast?

1. Boston Bruins
2. Ottawa Senators
3. Montréal Canadiens
4. Toronto Maple Leafs
5. Buffalo Sabres


3 Responses to “Northeast Preview”

  1. September 11, 2009 at 10:08 AM

    When will the online store be ready? I have been waiting patiently.

    • 3 thekiiid
      September 11, 2009 at 10:35 PM

      Hey Sugar, it’s coming along….soon I hope….we had something set up but then it fell through…we’ll be sure to send you a free piece of swag when it’s printed…

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