In The Crease

print article archives RSS

The Southeast Division

Friday, August 06, 2010


The Southeast Division in 2010-11

by Brett Lockwood

The teams in the Southeast Division will certainly have supply intriguing storylines in 2010-11. While there are no new big-time players to enter the division, there were huge front-office shifts amongst the division's teams that will no doubt lead to some water cooler talk amongst fans. The division has three new General Managers. In Tampa Bay, the Lightning chose former Red Wing great Steve Yzerman to take over the reins. The Florida Panthers inked ex-Blackhawks architect Dale Tallon to a contract. In Atlanta, Rick Dudley has taken action immediately, adding key pieces to his squad. There are plenty of new coaches in the division as well. The Southeast is geared up to become one of the best divisions in a few short years.

WASHINGTON CAPITALS
Roster Movement
The Washington Capitals will once again be the cream of the crop in this division. While many of the other teams are rebuilding, the Caps will set their sights on winning another Presidents Trophy in 2010-11.

In the off-season, the Capitals focused on retaining their incredible forwards. They re-signed center Nicklas Backstrom to a 10-year, $67 million contract. As well, they locked up wingers Eric Fehr in a two-year, $4.4 million deal and Boyd Gordon in a one-year, $800,000 deal. Adding tough grinder Brian Willsie was also another off-season priority for GM Brian McPhee.


Projected Top Two Lines
Alex Ovechkin-Nick Backstrom-Mike Knuble
Brooks Laich – Tomas Fleichsmann – Alexander Semin


Battle for Jobs
The goaltending battle in Washington looks to be resolved, with Semyon Varlamov finally getting his shot. The real battle will be on the blue line, with young defensemen
Karl Alzner and John Carlson looking to nab full-time positions. With Mike Green still in town, he will be able to lend a helping hand in teaching the fine art of goal-scoring to these young guns.

Key Injuries
Both Milan Jurcina and Tom Poti were injured last season, severely hurting the Capitals' defense corps. With young reinforcements, these injuries should no longer be a problem. An injury to goalie Semyon Varlamov could be a catastrophe.




Player to Watch
A budding superstar, Nicklas Backstrom is the player to watch. He has built upon his season totals every year in the league. If this pattern continues, he is in for a monster year, points-wise. Feeding Alex Ovechkin really has its benefits. If Backstrom improves in the upcoming season, he will reach top-five draft status.

Team Projection
The Capitals are a force to be reckoned with. They should have no problem conquering the Southeast again, making a deep run into the playoffs.


TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
Roster Movement
The Lightning were extremely active this off-season, patching their many holes with some quality. With new GM Steve Yzerman, the Lightning have become very aggressive in restructuring their team. Their goal is to return to the Stanley Cup. Their biggest addition was sniping forward Simon Gagne. Gagne will benefit from having a playmaker like Vincent Lecavalier beside him. Another key acquisition was the signing of goaltender Dan Ellis. Ellis will push Mike Smith in net, while on the back-end, Pavel Kubina will be unloading bombs on the power play. His production is likely to increase in sunny Tampa Bay.

Projected Top Two Lines
Steve Downie – Steven Stamkos – Matrin St. Louis
Simon GagneVincent LecavalierRyan Malone

Battle for Jobs
The Lightning's number one training camp battle will be between goaltenders Mike Smith and Dan Ellis. While Ellis has a much better pedigree, Tampa Bay seems to be giving Smith every opportunity possible to turn himself into a reliable full-time goalie. In the end, we predict these two will split time, with Coach Guy Boucher going with the hot hand each game.

Key Injuries
The injured player to watch is Victor Hedman, the stud Swedish prospect who went second behind John Tavares in the 2009 draft. Hedman proved to be oft-injured in his rookie campaign, missing eight games with upper body issues. Keep an eye on Hedman's training camp to see if he can rebound from an assortment of maladies.


Player to Watch
All eyes are going to be on newcomer Simon Gagne. His high-profile nature in the hockey community will lead many to draft him in the upper tier of wingers. His penchant for goal scoring is intriguing. If he clicks with offensive guru Vincent Lecavalier, Gagne may be a steal of a draft pick.

Team Projection
Newly hired coach Guy Boucher should shape this team into a contender, challenging Washington for the top spot in the division. Their glaring problem will be secondary scoring.


ATLANTA THRASHERS
Roster Movement
The Thrashers had a very busy off-season. Atlanta hand-picked players off the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks to help bolster their team. Key additions include Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager, Brent Sopel, and Andrew Ladd. To go along with their talented forward additions, Atlanta signed free agent goaltender Chris Mason to man the pipes. Mason, who will forever be underrated, will help lead a much improved team to the promised land of the playoffs.

Atlanta lost some key players, most notably Maxim Afinogenov and Pavel Kubina. The team will need to re-stabilize its power play. A player to man the point will become increasingly important.

Projected Top Two Lines
Niclas Bergfors – Nik AntropovDustin Byfuglien
Evander KaneRich PeverleyBryan Little

Battle for Jobs
The top six forward spots are practically set for the emerging Atlanta Thrashers. The real battle will be between the bottom six forwards. Those who make an impression will grind out power play time along with some solid secondary minutes. Of the forwards in this potential group, Andrew Ladd and Jim Slater are the most intriguing. Both bring a lot to the table and could be fantasy sleepers if they crack a solid lineup spot.

Key Injuries
The Thrashers had a number of hip-related injuries throughout the season. Defenseman Christoph Schubert missed 35 games with lower body and hip injuries. Forward Nik Antropov also sustained a hip injury that forced him to miss some time.



Player to Watch
Our breakout candidate on Atlanta is forward Evander Kane. Kane had a remarkably consistent rookie season, scoring 14 goals and registering 26 assists. With some maturity he will be a top-notch forward capable of big numbers. Look to see who he plays with in training camp. If he forms some chemistry with Rich Peverley and Bryan Little, look out.

Team Projection
New coach Craig Ramsey will have to figure out the right line combinations in order to make this team tick. Atlanta is a team on the rise with expectations of gaining a spot in the playoffs.


CAROLINA HURRICANES

Roster Movement
The former Captain and heart of the Carolina team, Rod Brind'Amour, has retired. This makes way for new leader Eric Staal to emerge and become one of the top players in the NHL. Once again, the foundation for the Hurricanes will be Staal, Erik Cole, and Cam Ward. Forward Riley Nash was brought in to help the offensive scoring punch. On the backend, new faces will be Joe Corvo and Bobby Sanguinetti.

The team will continue to be one of the deeper teams in the league, often going to the AHL affiliate (Albany River Rats) to find scoring. Their farm system ranks as one of the best in the NHL.

Projected Top Two Lines
Chad LaRoseEric StaalJussi Jokinen
Zach BoychukBrandon SutterErik Cole

Battle for Jobs
The battle for a spot on the second power play unit may prove important for fantasy owners. While Joe Corvo will definitely be manning the blue line, up front there are an abundance of productive forwards who can put the puck in the net. If Brandon Sutter can land this coveted spot, his numbers will explode.

Key Injuries
Forward Tuomo Ruutu had his season cut short due to a right shoulder surgery. He is planning on being ready for training camp but this is a situation to watch carefully. When healthy, Ruutu is able to be a consistent fantasy contributor . Tim Gleason, who had a broken foot, should be good to go for the upcoming season.

Player to Watch
This spot is reserved for emerging center Brandon Sutter. While putting up a rather unimpressive 40 points in 72 games, he did score 21 goals. He seemed to pick up his play when the team needed him most. His explosiveness will make him a great option for fantasy owners. Keep on eye on him. Sutter is definitely entering the season with the sleeper tag attached.

Team Projection
Carolina seems to be in a bit of a rebuilding mode. The playoffs look like a distant memory at this point. A big season by Cam Ward would go a long way in helping Carolina reach the playoffs, however, it will be an uphill battle.


FLORIDA PANTHERS

Roster Movement
Florida will enter the 2010/11 season without some familiar faces. Forward Nathan Horton and center Gregory Campbell were shipped to Boston in exchange for stud fantasy defenceman Dennis Wideman. Joining the Panthers this off-season will also be enigmatic forward Chris Higgins. Higgins was a relatively useless piece of the puzzle for the New York Rangers last season before being jettisoned. Marty Reasoner will also join the team as a depth player.

Florida's nucleus of David Booth, Stephen Weiss, and Michael Frolik remains intact. These young guns will all be fantasy relevant in the upcoming season.


Projected Top Two Lines
David BoothStephen WeissRadek Dvorak
Cory StillmanMichael FrolikMichael Grabner


Battle for Jobs
A spot on the second line is truly up for grabs at this point. While we have temporarily penciled in Michael Grabner, there are many options available to Coach Peter DeBoer. Others fighting for this coveted spot include Steven Reinprecht, Rotislav Olesz, and Gregory Campbell. Whoever emerges will have the benefit of playing with blossoming center Michael Frolik.


Key Injuries
David Booth has the most serious injury of the bunch. Normally, Booth is a huge fantasy asset to owners looking for points, but his brutal concussion last season had him seeing stars the whole year. If he is able to fight back with no signs of post-concussion syndrome, Booth could surprise. Other injuries of note include Gregory Campbell who had a broken foot last season while a member of the Boston Bruins. He should be 100 percent by training camp.

Player to Watch
Forward Michael Frolik has been an enigma the first few seasons of his career. While oozing with potential, he has registered two mediocre seasons of 45 and 43 points, respectively. Look for Frolik to have a nice bounce-back season and push for the 65-point mark. A lot of this will depend on who his line-mates are.

Team Projection
With a great draft consisting of Erik Gudbranson , Nick Bjugstad, Quinton Howden, and John McFarland, the Panthers look destined to be a great team in the future. For this season, new GM Dave Tallon may have to take his lumps. If you couple their potential with all-star goalie Tomas Vokoun, you will soon see Florida as a Stanley Cup contender. Just wait a few short years, Panther Fans.






Highest Searched Players over the last 7 days



Video Center

  •  
    Beer

    Beer's NFL 6-Pack: WR & TE
  •  
    Friday

    Friday's Fantasy Minute
  •  
    Levitan: Week 9 Tough Calls

    Levitan: Week 9 Tough Calls
  •  
    Beer

    Beer's NFL 6-Pack: QB & RB
  •  
    RotoPat: Week 9 Rankings

    RotoPat: Week 9 Rankings
  •  
    Thursday

    Thursday's Fantasy Minute
  •  
    Levitan: Buy-Low Candidates

    Levitan: Buy-Low Candidates
  •  
    Levitan: Consistency issues

    Levitan: Consistency issues