NHL Eastern Conference: Power Rankings (2010-11)

15. New York Islanders

I do not trust Rick DiPietro, but can’t blame him for his lengthy contract followed by his even longer injured reserve stint. I’d prefer to see him hurt, and let the second fastest glove in the NHL, Dwayne Roloson, get some nibbles. Regardless, every other notable mention is already plagued with injury, and not that notable to say the least. Keep a look out for Blake Comeau to slowly cool out, and the rest of the team to never appear on the stats leader board. Michael Grabner and John Tavares both have show up potential, so keep an eye out, but they are both too young, to be smart yet. Doug Weight should retire.

14. Florida Panthers

Erik Gudbranson, third pick overall, will start the season back in the OHL. Don’t worry however, the Panthers defense is highlighted by none other than Bruins legend, Dennis Wideman. I feel bad for Tomas Vokoun, who, with the departure of Nathan Horton (to the Bruins), will be the only shining star. Florida is already deep into a rebuilding season, and at this point, there not looking for a Cup anytime soon.

13. Atlanta Thrashers

Evander Kane is a unique talent, a lost art type of player, with gritty-ness and the ability to score goals. Dustin Byfuglien, former Blackhawk, could very well be called his defense counterpart, a veritable bash brothers tandem. This however will not be enough to pull the Kovalchuk-less Thrashers out of the basement, and goal scoring will continue to elude them.

12. Carolina Hurricanes

I am by no means a Cam Ward fan, nor would I ever call myself an Eric Staal follower, however I do like Jussi Jokinen, and he will remain a quick and flashy standout talent. Carolina will bring a “prove something” mentality to this season, and this overzealous outlook will not be matched by talent, and their gritty-ness will be their downfall. Period.

11. Montreal Canadians

I am not a Canadians fan, however a glimmer of support towards them, from this avid Bruins fan, came with the implementation last season, of post season wonder, Jarislav Halak. The ever so smart and Copernicus-like future “foreshadwers” dropped this emerging veteran star as quickly as they hopped back on the very shaky Carey Price band wagon. The Canadians can rock Price to sleep if they want after each loss, but personally I feel like the handling of this goaltending situation, was just that; a little rocky. Gomez and Gionta will be as successful as they will be continuously annoying. I can not watch this team without wondering when they plan on building chemistry. I want them to fail, and thank my luck stars, this year they will not disappoint me.

10. New York Rangers

Henrik Lundqvist remains an elite goaltender. Marian Gaborik remains one of my favorite NHL players to watch, outside of the Bruins organization. Their defense however, is weak, and aside from Ryan Callahan, I do not care for any of their healthy players, and there are too many notables currently battling injury. With a healthy Chris Drury, maybe they will slip into a playoff spot. Without him, they won’t make nearly as much noise as last year, come playoff time.

9. Toronto Maple Leafs

Phil Kessel and Kris Versteeg both have star potential and will have solid offensive seasons. Dione Phaneuf remains the hardest hitting defenseman in the league, and Tomas Kaberle and a healthy Mike Komisarek round out a great defensive core. J.S. Giguere was a great pick up last season, and is a great go ahead at number one this season. Their downfall is line depth. After the handful of players I named, the rest will have trouble keeping up. They may be the Rangers of last year and hang on the fence of playoff eligibility until game 82.

8. Ottawa Senators

I do not trust anyone who looks like goaltender Pascal Leclaire, nor do I truly believe marrying Carrie Underwood will have no effect on Mike Fisher’s play. I don’t even play, nor am I married to her, and every now and then I trip on the stairs fantasizing about her. That being said, they have steady talent and the defense is moderate at best. This all translates into, what should be, a very boring season for anyone following the Senators. Why might they make the playoffs? Because Daniel Alfredsson remains a competitor, and will not allow them to slip too far in the standings.

7. Tampa Bay Lighting

I am on the Mike Smith bandwagon, and believe he is a top-tier starting goaltender. I am also a fan of GM Steven Yzerman, and his acquisition of Simon Gagne, to compliment Lecavelier and Malone on the Lightining’s second line. It is hard to believe the first line is better, but with the quick emergence of Stamkos, and Marty St. Louis remaining so steady (and small), they have the offense to compete, especially in the playoffs. I do not see them falling too far off this season, however with All-Star defenseman Mattias Ohlund out indefinitely, defense will be their make or break it, gating factor.

6. Boston Bruins

I should get scrutinized for putting a weaker offense and aging goaltender, in the Sabres and the Devils, ahead of “my” team, however after last year’s disappointment in the playoffs, and the off-season cleaning house to make way for offensive threats lile Nathan Horton and Tyler Seguin, it will take a while to MAINTAIN chemistry. With a great goaltending core, young and developing defense, and what has potential to be a steady offense, I would not be surprised if the B’s jump out of this six hole into some better territory, however their will be moments of doubt, and like last year, expect some mid-year confusions and inconsistent play. With Claude Julien, inconsistency seems to come with the territory.

5. Buffalo Sabres

Ryan Miller is the Sabres. They have a good set of offensive tools, but they are mundane at best. The Sabres will live and die by Miller, and coming off of his best season as a goaltender to date, I don’t think he will fail with this responsibility. Derek Roy, Justin Pominville, Thomas Vanek, etc…etc…The Sabres are boring without Miller in the spotlight. Lindy Ruff is great however, and coaching always factors in.

4. Philadelphia Flyers

I do not want to get into the Flyers too much, because I remain bitter towards them now, and more than likely for the remainder of my career as a Boston Bruins fan. There remains confusion at the goaltender position, I do not trust Mike Richards as a first line center / captain and they are a dirty team yet an intimidating team, without consistent offensive flare. They remain, however, highly ranked, because they dig and will bully more wins than losses out of their opponents. I do not care for the Flyers, and I hope they fail.

3. New Jersey Devils

Martin Brodeur will some day age and lose a step and not be the starting goalie for the Devils. This year could be that year, but I doubt it. I am a strong believer in this man’s ability to continue to conduct this well oiled machine accordingly, and with Lou Lamoriello maintaining the system Julien left them years ago, and making it better, and with Kovalchuk and Parise staying healthy, they are always prepared to be a top three team in the East. I could play defense for the Devils, and they would still win games.

2. Washington Capitals

No, they will not repeat the monumental regular season they had last year. They still have all the tools however, if you consider a young, inexperienced shot-in-the-dark goaltending core a tool. I do, when you have Ovechkin, Backstrom and Semin playing each season like a bottle of fine wine, and a defense that will score more goals than half the teams in the East. Who is in net, will not matter, considering last year they did it with Jose Theodore. Can they make it through the playoffs however? We’ll see.

1. Pittsburgh Penguins

Crosby and Malkin make every player better, and depth with a team like this is not built, but developed. They will continue to get better, and better the team around them. All that, and they have Marc-Andre Fleury. Not much needs to be said, however with an injury plagued defense, can they maintain a high level of two-way play from their forwards, and will Fleury be streaky, or will he maintain, like we all know Brodeur and Miller can, throughout all of the competition in the Eastern Conference?

Note: With the Canucks looking even better in the West, than last years offensive picnic, and Roberto Luongo remaining the number one goaltender in the NHL, it will take the Capitals or the Penguins making it out of the playoffs alive to dethrown them from an inevtiable Cup. I do not think even this will happen, and in the wake of not ranking the West, I will appease the masses by making this Stanley Cup Prediction:

The Vancouver Canucks will defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins in 7 games.

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Upset Saturday: Week 7 in College Football

For the second week in a row, the number 1 team in the country was upset as the Ohio St. Buckeyes were beaten by a tough Wisconsin Badger team.  While this is an upset, it shouldn’t be as much a surprise as Alabama’s loss to the Gamecocks last weekend.  Many experts had the Badgers as a top 10 team this year and they showed how good they are by thrashing Terrelle Pryor and the sweater vest (Jim Tressell) 31-18, ending the Buckeyes hopes of competing for the national championship.  John Clay ran for 104 yards and 2 scores for Wisconsin and Terrelle Pryor’s Heisman candidacy took a hit as he threw for just 156 yards and one interception.

With Ohio State going down, the Oregon Ducks are the new number one team in the land.  Oregon does have a semi difficult schedule the rest of the way facing UCLA (beat Texas), USC (took Stanford down to the wire), Washington (beat USC and Oregon State) , and  number 18 Arizona.  Oregon has been impressive all season long but I do feel that they may be susceptible to an upset as they haven’t faced any true competition yet this season.

Also benefitting from the Ohio State loss are the Oklahoma Sooners.  They are the number one team in the first release of the BCS standings and number 3 in the AP Top 25.  Oklahoma has 2 challenges the rest of the way at Missouri and at Oklahoma State.  If the can beat both these teams on the road and win out the rest of their easy schedule they will seal a bid to play for the national championship.  I like Oklahoma’s chances because they have a seasoned quarterback in Landry Jones (Sam Bradford’s season ending injury last year could be the best thing to happen to this year’s Sooners) and a healthy, dynamic running back in DeMarco Murray.

Before anyone starts to ask me about Texas’ upset over Nebraska on Saturday, understand that this wasn’t an upset.  I don’t care that Nebraska was ranked 5th in the country at the time.  I will be the first to tell you that they were insanely overrated.  I don’t care that Texas lost 2 games in a row going into Saturday, looking atrocious in both of them.  I don’t care that Texas won on the road in a hostile environment.  The fact of the matter is Texas has one of the best defenses in the country against a freshman quarterback that hadn’t faced any challenges at all until Saturday.  I still think Texas has a long way to go to be considered in the same sentence as the Alabama’s, Oregon’s, and Oklahoma’s of this season but they aren’t as fraudulent as Michigan either.  Nebraska is still a couple years away from being actual contenders.

After Auburn’s exciting 65-43 victory over Arkansas, I strongly feel that Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton is the leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy.  Newton threw for 140 yards and a touchdown while running for 188 yards and 3 touchdowns in Auburns win.  On the season Newton has thrown for 1.278 yards and 13 touchdowns for a rating of an eye-popping 180.53.  More importantly he has lead his team to a 7-0 overall record and 4-0 record in the minefield that is SEC football.  The schedule doesn’t let up for Newton either as his squad will host LSU on Saturday.  I like Auburn in this matchup because I don’t think that Newton will pull a Denard Robinson or Terrelle Pryor, buckling under the pressure of the moment.

Big Games to watch for in Week 8: (Rankings are BCS rankings)

UCLA @ #2 Oregon  Thursday, October 21 @ 9:00

#6 LSU @ #4 Auburn Saturday, October 23 @ 3:30

#1 Oklahoma @ #11 Missouri, Saturday October 23 @ 8:00

 

With the season half way done, I am going to start taking a look at NFL draft prospects as well.  I am thinking that the Buffalo Bills will be getting the first pick in the draft and they desperately need a quarterback.  This week I will start by looking at the top 5 quarterbacks that are the closest to NFL ready.

1) Ryan Mallett, Arkansas

2) Ricky Stansi, Iowa

3) Kellen Moore, Boise State

4) Cameron Newton, Auburn

5) Jake Locker, Washington