First of all, sorry for the lack of updates. Here are two reasons why I havent been updating as much as I usually do.
a) Work has been crazy for me the last two months, but things should finally slow down starting next week, so thats good news for all of us.
b) there really isn't much going on in the rumour mill. I go on twitter everyday and see "wannabe" insiders spewing rumour garbage everywhere. Unfortunatly, as good as twitter can be, it has been taken over by people with no insight at all and thus we are being spammed with false rumours. I advise you to stick to sites that have been around for longer than just this summer, as they've been around this long for a reason. Spectors, The Fourth Period, Kukla's, ourselves and even Eklund (you cant deny that every once in awhile he nails something nobody else was talking about) are the sites I recommend, as they've been around for years (we're in our fifth year) and they have more cred than most of these "new" websites.
So on to the blog, which is about the five teams that I really think took a step backwards this offseason. Whether they let big UFA's walk without replacing them, or whether they made moves that just didnt make sense, here are the five teams that I believe simply are not as good as they were four months ago.
Anaheim, New Jersey, Florida,Buffalo, Washington
5) Washington Capitals: While they still have a great shot at winning their division (as they play in the weakest of them all), I feel the Caps have taken a minor step back this offseason. This team has made no real improvements since last season, while they lost two of their biggest leaders in Kozlov and Federov. Yes, Mike Green and Alexander Ovechkin are two of the best players in their position in the league, but Washington's supporting cast is extremely lacking. In net, while Varlamov had a great post-season, the kid has played less than 10 regular season games in his career. If he faulters, Theodore surely isn't the goalie to carry this team should the offense or defense take extended time off. One injury to Green or Ovechkin and this team could be in trouble.
4) Buffalo Sabres: A few years ago, this team was in the top five in the league, with stars like Briere and Drury, and while post those players have taken a step back since leaving Buffalo, the Sabres have faltered just as bad. The team has lost Afiniganov and Moore, while Drew Stafford is still an un-signed RFA. On defense, the team lost their most experienced defender in Teppo and replaced him with hit-or-miss defenseman Steve Montadore. Ryan Miller is going to have to play like a possessed man for the Sabres to have any chance at the playoffs, but in my opinion, it's going to be a long season for Sabres fans.
3) New Jersey: A quick playoff exit for the Devils meant the team was bound to hire another coach, and they did. With that said, I don't believe a new coach will solve the decline that is the New Jersey Devils. Last year, Scott Clemenson led this team into the playoffs with his amazing play while Brodeur was injured. This year, if Brodeur should get injured or falter (both seem likely), the task will be up to Yann Danis, not someone who is capable of carrying a team or really evening keeping one in the game. While the team has one of the most underrated D in the game, they still are not that great. Up front, the team's offense remains generally the same, though you have to assume the loss of Gionta will sting a little. Every year I pick the Devils to miss the playoffs, and this finally may be the year I am right.
2) Florida Panthers: At last year's trade deadline, the team had the opportunity to trade Bouwmeester for a package that would set the team up for future success. Instead, they decided to keep him for a playoff run that failed miserably. Now with Bouwmeester gone, the Panthers seem a sure bet to finish near the bottom of the league. The club also lost Craig Anderson, who was by far the best goalie the Panthers had last season. These two big losses, and no real replacements, mean the Panthers are 100% going to miss the playoffs and are likely draft-lottery bound.
1) Anaheim Ducks: This is a team that faught all season long to make the playoffs, and it appears they will be even in more of a fight to do so this season. At the beginning of last season, I called Anaheim's defense the league's best. This season, it's near the bottom. Without a bounce-back season by Giguere, or another breakout run by Hiller, I believe this team will find themselves in the bottom seven in the West. Pronger and Beauchemin are huge subtractions for this team, and while a full season of Ryan Whitney will help, he's not the answer, nor is Sbisa. Up front, the additions of Lupul and Koivu will help, but it's clear that both men's best seasons are behind them. Rob Niedermayer also doesn't appear to be back, which will hurt the team's third-line depth. The Ducks best years are behind them and it may be time for the team to take a step back and evaluate where they are.
Drop me an email at Cjohnson202@hockeyleaks.com with your thoughts on my list, and feel free to provide me with your own.