ATLANTIC THERE FOR THE TAKING?
I will have a full NHL preview coming Thursday, as well as a Flyers team breakdown and season preview coming Friday - be sure to check both the online and print editions of the Delaware County Daily Times for that content.
But, while we have a moment, I thought I'd take a quick look around the Atlantic Division and see that the Flyers may be the team best suited to win the Division this season, despite taking, in my opinion, a small step backward in the talent department from last season.
The division will always be tough, but it's not as potent as it was a season ago. Not even close. For now anyway.
Pittsburgh is in trouble on the back end. Losing both Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney with long-term injuries is crippling to the Pens, who are already trying to replace the great production of Marian Hossa and Ryan Malone with a couple New York Islander castofs in Ruslan Fedotenko and Miroslav Satan.
The Pens will be fine come April, and at that time should again be the favorite in the East, no matter what their seeding might be, but they will struggle to accumulate enough points in the regular season to win the division.
The Rangers meanwhile have a superstar goalie with a mystery injury and although they improved on defense adding veterans Wade Reddena n Dimitri Kalinen, they lost so much up front it's scary. Markus Naslund is in the twilight of his career and along with Nikolai Zherdev can in no way replicate Jaromir Jagr and Brendan Shanahan.
The Devils are still the Devils, but they are the ageing Devils. Their biggest moves in the offseason was bringing back several players who won the Cup with them in 2000. Not exactly a youth movement. They'll still be tough, but I'm not sure they have the requisite energy to compete for a spot atop the division.
As for the Iles - they're not going to be as bad as a lot of people think, but they are very green and need time to develop together. As a result, a division crown is out of the picture.
That leaves the Flyers, who have mega questions on the blue line. But, they are the deepest team up front (when Joffrey Lupul - a 30-35 goal threat when healthy has to play on your third line, that's telling you something) and with the rapid maturation of Mike Richards first from breakout player now to team captain - expect a run at the Hart Trophy (you heard it hear first!) - the Flyers might be able to play on par with last season and be the best team in a weakened division.
I guess we'll all start finding out or sure Saturday.