I've already given my opinion on the Maple Leafs, so I turn my attention to who I think will win the Northeast division. It's actually a tough call, because you have two solid teams that I think will challenge right down to the wire.
Of course, I'm talking about the Boston Bruins and the Ottawa Senators. Many of my casual hockey pals are quick to say Ottawa is a no-brainer to lock up the division, but I say hold the truck boys.
The Senators have an impressive line-up, and the defense is solid throughout. But I have a couple of questions. First off, how well is Hasek going to do? Nevermind the arrogant attitude he has, and forget about the second career he will have as a professional diver, question number one is - can this guy still dominate?
Secondly, I rate the forwards very high, and I think you'll see guys like Spezza and Havlat have break-out years. The loss of Hossa doesn't damage them in my opinion, partly because I don't think that the team needs a player with the attitude he seemed to carry (demanding Iginla money is idiotic).
But, my second question is - will Dany Heatley return to All-star form? If the answer to both of the above questions is yes, then I have no problem counting the Senators as early favorites to win the division. But I don't think it's that simple.
Enter the Boston Bruins. They haven't earned much respect, at least out west, despite earning 100+ point seasons in two of the last three seasons. They did lose a few players, but made up for it by signing Zhamnov, Leetch, Scatchard and adding Brad Isbister by way of trade. The Bruins should be more than capable of putting up some offensive numbers. True, there are some minor question marks, but overall, a strong forward group.
The defense is looking a little on the thin side with Leetch, Boynton, Slegr, Girard et al, and Gill may not return. There's a definite edge to the Senators here.
In goal, Raycroft will be solid and is much less of a question mark as Hasek. But, given that Hasek and his Gumby-esque body may have returned to full health, it's a toss-up who has the edge here. Just for kicks, I'll give it to Boston.
Overall, I think these two teams will battle for the Northeast crown, but I guess I have to pick one team. In that case, I predict Dany Heatley to return to form (at least mostly), and the Ottawa Senators to win the division.
Direct your calls, questions, and derogatory comments to my secretary.