It is the time of year hockey fans dread most: the summer lull. The draft and all of its speculation has come and gone, as has the excitement of the opening of free agency and subsequent feeding frenzy. There remain a few unsigned players and perhaps a trade or two looming (and for us, a coach to be named), but for the most part we have a pretty good idea what each team will look like to start the 2011-12 season.
There, of course, remains some debate amongst fans about who should play on what line and how the newcomers and departures will affect each team, but in general most hockey fans are anxiously looking at their calendars wondering how to fill their time until the training camps begin.
In that frame of mind I thought, "What better time for rampant speculation?!" and so I present this off-season thread to discuss, dispute, argue and throw around statistics about how we see the upcoming season turning out.
In the East: Will Boston repeat, or has Thomas had his moment in the sun? Does Vokoun help make the Capitals the odds-on favorites in the East? Does a healthy Crosby and Malkin reinstate the Penguins as the best team no one seems to be talking about? Have all of the changes in Philadelphia improved the team, kept them about the same or actually made them worse? Are the Lightning contenders or pretenders? Does Richards help legitimize the Rangers' chances? Will the kids in NJ step up and help get the team back into the playoffs?
In the West: Will Havlat help the Sharks over the hump? Will Vancouver rebound or will ghosts of the past and their so-close-and-yet-so-far end to the season bring them back to Earth? Is Detroit still an elite team? Will the Predators build upon their (relative) success last season or will it just be more of the same down in Nashville? Is Chicago, with the loss of Campbell, completing its come-down from their cap-strapped Cup victory a couple of years ago or are they back on the upswing?
These questions and more will all be answered eventually, but for now all we have are gut-feelings, statistical projections and personal hopes.
How do you think things will unfold? Who will make the playoffs next year and who is the team to beat?