Over the past few weeks, we've done quite a bit of navel gazing here at the SCH Offices, so it's understandable if some of you out there on the ol' information superhighway have lost track of what's going on with some of the other teams around the league over the summer and through training camp. Well, because our magnanimity knows no bounds, I'm now here to take a quick trip around the league with all of you to see what the hell is going on with everyone else as the regular season finally opens on Thursday (don't forget, we'll be at the Bottom Lounge for Hawks vs. Avs, kids!)
Get in the van, I have candy...
- Atlanta Thrashers - Well this eases us into things nicely, doesn't it? I think we all know pretty well what they've been up to this summer. They're starting the season with Dustin Byfuglien on defense on a team starving for scoring in the wake of Ilya Kovalchuk's departure last year. Have fun with that one. That tells you pretty much all you need to know about his value as a forward.
- Carolina Hurricanes - Rod "The Bod" Brind'Amour finally retired, and the Canes (and the league) all got prettier as a collective when he did so. Rookie Jeff Skinner has been turning heads this pre-season, and Eric Staal, eldest of the Flying Staals and newly minted Cane Captain, and Cam Ward are both looking to rebound after disappointing 2010 campaigns.
- Florida Panthers - Uncle Dale hasn't started giving out the funny money down in FLA just yet, but he at least gave the Hawks Jeff Taffe for the legendary Marty Reasoner, saving the Hawks a very necessary $7 bucks in cap space, so thanks Dale. Tallon dealt Keith Ballard to the Canucks for Michael Grabner, then waived him, so that worked out well. Dale also sent Nathan Horton to the Bruins for Dennis Wideman, he of the -14 last year. He should also have fun finding a taker for Tomas Vokoun before the deadline, because that's pretty much inevitable, unless David Booth's brain got a hell of a lot less brown over the summer.
- Tampa Bay Lightning - Steve Yzerman took over, and promptly hired alleged mastermind Guy Boucher as his coach, shipped Andrej Meszaros and Matt Walker to Philly, and got some Simon Gagne guy back in return. They also signed Twitter sensation Dan Ellis, who is swimming around in a pool of money a la Scrooge McDuck. Now that the circus has finally left the front office, they've got some decent forward depth will probably get back into the post season.
- Washington Capitals - They apparently dicked over Eric Belanger, and they're going to be playing in the Winter Classic against the Pens, which no one saw coming at all. Alex Ovechkin was called a douche by Maxime Talbot at that press conference, and then he proved him right by not only not wearing a dress shirt or sport coat to a league event, but going with the official uniform of 'bags everywhere - the Affliction t-shirt. Oh, and they still have no one who plays defense.
- New Jersey Devils - Crazy Old Lou tried to get one over on the league with Ilya Kovalchuk's original 17 year, $102 million dollar deal, then re-worked it to 15 years after a whole lot of CBA prodding, and the league pecker slapped him pretty hard in return. At present, the Devils are still over the salary cap.
- New York Islanders - It seems that when the rink itself isn't spewing shit at the Islanders, it begins to rain on them. Sure, they went full time to the re-worked retro unis, which is awesome, and had a solid draft (which is what happens when you perpetually suck, as we well know), but then Kyle Okposo and Mark Streit promptly got themselves injured in the pre-season. Streit's medical bills are reportedly significantly less expensive than Brian Campbell's.
- New York Rangers - Glen Sather at work, ladies and gentlemen.
- Philadelphia Flyers - An already deep blue line got deeper with the aforementioned Meszaros and what's left of Sean O'Donnell, and took a chance on perennial underachiever and enigma (as we're required by law to refer to him as because he's Russian) Nikolai Zherdev. However, in the "Completely Predictable" department, they signed Jody Shelley and did nothing to shore up their shaky goaltending, and now Michael Leighton's hurt again. Live and don't learn.
- Pittsburgh Penguins - The Pens finally ditched the old Civic Arena in favor of the swank digs of the new Consol Energy Center, and upgraded their blue line with Zbynek Michalek and Paul Martin joining the fold, even though Sergei Gonchar left for Ottawa. As stated above, they'll annoyingly be on national TV yet again for the Winter Classic at Heinz Field against the Caps. The Pens also signed Mr. Hilary Duff to a league minimum contract, which naturally met great praise among the faithful media. Jordan Staal will start the season sidelined with a foot injury he sustained last post season, which could put plans on hold to move Evgeni Malkin to wing, who, at press time, still looks like someone put out a forest fire on his face with a screwdriver.
- Boston Bruins - One of the busier teams this off-season, the B's were able to nab Tyler Seguin with the 2nd overall pick thanks to Brian Burke's desperation, and sent Dennis Wideman's "talents" to South Beach for Nathan Horton. GM Peter Chiarelli has also been trying to frantically deal Marc Savard because the Bruins' goalie situation is as bad as the Hawks' was the past two years with Tim Thomas' completely silly $5 million dollar salary backing up Tukka Rask. But then it came out that Savard got so concussed by a "legal" Matt Cooke hit last year that he's still currently battling depression and won't play to start the season, so that nips that whole idea right in the ass.
- Buffalo Sabres - The Slug is finally dead, and Ryan Miller is still awesome. That's pretty much it.
- Montreal Canadiens - Tomas Plekanec was inexplicably signed to a 6-year, $30 million dollar contract, Jaroslav Halak was inexplicably traded to St. Louis in favor of the drinky, smokey Carey Price, and they inexplicably named an American who doesn't speak French captain in Brian Gionta in a town that usually demands francophone captains. So they've been pretty much daring the citizens of Montreal not to burn the city for four months, as they are wont to do occasionally.
- Ottawa Senators - An aging, increasingly disinterested Sergei Gonchar signed a 3-year, $16.5 million dollar contract to quarterback a power play with nothing else on it. And, much like the Flyers, to the shock of no one, the Senators tried and failed to deal Jason Spezza and still have no answers in goal. And Mike Fisher married Lurleen Lumpkin or something.
- Toronto Maple Leafs - In a rare bout of opportunism and competence, GM Brian Burke acquired everyone's favorite rapper, Kris Versteeg (MC VerBeauty) in the Hawks' salary purge, but had to give up Viktor Stalberg to do it. Versteeg and fellow new acquisition Colby Armstrong should improve the Leafs young (read: bad) corps of forwards and help out Phil Kessel, despite not having a real center on the roster. They do, however have about 900 mediocre defensemen, led by their over rated and frosted tipped new captain Dion Phaneuf.
- Columbus Blue Jackets - You know your off-season is bereft of anything meaningful when there are rumors circulating that you actually WANT to trade for Kevin Bieksa. They signed no one of import, leastwise a center for alleged wiener tucker Rick Nash, and apparently their season ticket holder base dropped significantly as a result of their perpetually being in the toilet. Guy Boucher was actually offered the CBJ job first, and chose the Lightning over them, which is about as big a kick to the nuts as there is.
- Scum - Jiri Hudler came back, and they signed Mike Modano to a one year deal. Modano looks odd wearing #90 rather than his trademark #9, but it worked out, because now he'll be a constant reminder of the average age of the team.
- Nashville Predators - John Buccigross has the Preds winning the division, despite losing the one-man Patrick Kane stopping army of Dan Hamhuis to Vancouver. Matthew Lombardi steps in as an a supposed top center for the traded captain Jason Arnott, so now all their forwards look even more alike. In Arnott's place, Shea Weber was named captain, a choice so solid and obvious I'm not even going to snark on it. However, I am going to snark on the fact that they just today acquired Shane O'Brien, to which I can only say "Thank you, David Poile" on behalf of the rest of the central division.
- St. Louis Blues - Acquiring playoff-hero-who-ultimately-didn't-win-a-damn-thing Jaroslav Halak is an upgrade in net for the Blues, but it doesn't change the fact that they're coached by a dickwad who doesn't have a first name, and that their roster is populated by bags of dicks like Cam Janssen, B.J. Crombeen, and Barrett Jackman who are only mildly interested in actually playing hockey.
- Calgary Flames - Darryl Sutter (which is apparently Canadian for "Kenny Williams") signed Alex Tanguay and Olli Jokinen, because both worked out so well on their first tours of duty with the Flames. The Flames will host an outdoor game of their own in February against the Canadiens in an elaborate plot to have a substantial portion of Calgary's population incur frostbitten genitals from attending the game, thus rendering them sterile and preventing the procreation of anyone from Calgary. Also in that game both Jarome Iginla and P.K. Subban will set the world record for the coldest temperature a black man has ever been outdoors in.
- Colorado Avalanche - Because the Avs also did pretty much nothing over the off season as well, the only thing we can really report Peter Mueller is still battling a case of the brown brain.
- Edmonton Oilers - From all early indications, first overall pick Taylor Hall is just as good as advertised, even if isn't going to single-handedly save the franchise. Too bad neither Sheldon Souray or Nikolai Khabibulin were allowed to be at camp to witness it first hand. I'm sure Nik celebrated appropriately.
- Minnesota Wild - The Wild tried to pass off signing Matt Cullen and John Madden as actual acquisitions. They're pretty much daring their loyal fan base and Mikko Koivu to continue giving a shit at this point. Marty Havlat, however, being ahead of the game as he is, stopped giving a shit as soon as his contract was signed last year
Vancouver Canucks - Ahh, the paper champions. Roberto Luongo has abdicated his captaincy, as if the C on his mask was what was kicking out rebounds in May. The debate now rages on as to who will be captain - Ryan Kesler or Henrik Sedin. It doesn't matter who wins, because they're both dicks. The Canucks acquired two second-pair defensemen in Dan Hamhuis and Keith Ballard, both of whom had circles run around them by Hawk forwards at one point last year, and let the dizzy Willie Mitchell walk away, yet somehow their defensive corps is now considered the deepest/best in the league. Not to mention that much like teammate Alex Burrows, the next playoff game that Keith Ballard plays in will be his first.
- Anaheim Ducks - Legendary defenseman and beard Scott Niedermayer finally called it a career this summer, leaving Ryan Getzlaf to now eat souls with the "C" on his sweater. Bobby Ryan engaged in one of the most pointless contract hold outs in recent memory as he basically ended up caving to Bob Murray's wishes in signing his 5-year $25.5 million dollar deal. It took nearly two months to sort out that Ryan didn't want to make as much money as Getzlaf or Corey Perry, likely because Murray was too busy telling Coach Q to worry about his goaltending more. Oh, and Teemu Selanne just won't go away.
- Dallas Stars - Adam Burish has been skating with their top line. That should tell you all you need to know about how Dallas is going to fare this year. I'm sure some lucky team with thank them greatly for Brad Richards at the deadline.
- Los Angeles Kings - So, they wanted Ilya Kovalchuk, but wouldn't genuflect at the throne of King Ilya and his salary demands, and ended up with Alexi Ponikarovski instead. Probably a smart move, but Poni didn't exactly set the world on fire when he had his opportunity skating with Sid and Geno last year, so I'd venture to say it's a bit of a step down from Kovy. A strong defense led by Drew Doughty got deeper by over-paying Willie Mitchell, who might not be out of the woods yet from his concussion. If they can keep Jonathan Quick from playing 870 games this season, they'll probably end up making some serious noise in the post-season
- Phoenix Coyotes - After all that feel-good bullshit last year, the Coyotes still don't have an actual owner, which is kind of sad. But Kyle Turris beat out Kyle Wellwood for a roster spot at center, forcing Wellwood to seek employment in the KHL, which is also kind of sad, but hilarious to boot.
- San Jose Sharks - After a decade, the Sharks parted ways with goalie Evgeni Nabokov who found a bigger pay day in Russia. Captain Rob Blake and his giant ass retired as well. To replace Nabokov, the Fin signed the Finnish duo of Anttero Niitymaki and Antti Niemi (departed from our beloved Men of Four Feathers) to battle for the number one job. To replace Blake and upgrade the blue line, Doug Wilson TRIED to sign Hawk Niklas Hjalmarsson, but the Hawks matched the offer sheet. Such a sordid state of affairs given Wilson and the Sharks' distant and recent history with the Hawks set off rampant conspiracy theories, almost all of which are likely bullshit. So after all that noise, as well as the retention of Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski, the Sharks are pretty much right back where they always are, which is positioned to roll in the regular season, and crap themselves sometime in April or May. They're hoping Niemi's the answer to that, but the defense they're going to put in front of him isn't going to do him any favors.