Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Division and subtraction

Well, seeing as how it's already September and whatnot, and pretty much all activity on the whole free agent/trade front seems to have more or less stopped, I figured now might be a good time to take a look at just how the Oilers might do. Now, given that the NHL has switched to its "rivals" (ie This will save each team a tonne on travel costs) format, arguably the most important external factor to a team's success is its division. Now, a weak/strong division is a lot more than the difference between finishing third or sixth: like football, it really has to be considered, maybe even more than the actual make-up of a team, in final standings.

With that in mind, I present our main opponents' depth charts, and a brief analysis of each (oh, just a note, I took this from CBS Sportsline.com, which seems pretty accurate, though it took some adjusting to what I understand, to the best of my knowledge, the actual projected lines of each team--oh, and what I feel are important players are bolded. So there).


Colorado Avalanche

Alex Tanguay/Joe Sakic/Milan Hejduk
Andrew Brunette/ Pierre Turgeon/ Riku Hahl
Steve Knowalchuk / Ian Laperriere / Dan Hinote
Darby Hendrickson / / Brad May

Patrice Brisebois / Rob Blake
John-Michael Liles / Karlis Skrastins
Kurt Sauer / Bob Boughner
Curtis Leschyshyn / Ossi Vaananen

David Aebischer
Peter Budaj

Compared to last season, the Avs have taken a pretty significant step back. Not only is everyone older (especially Rob Blake, who could easily be playing 25-27 minutes a game at 36), but they've essentially lost their entire second line, even if Forsberg was hurt last year and Selanne and Kariya underperformed. Turgeon is well past his prime, though Brunette is a generally solid if somewhat unspectacular player who will probably benefit from the fact everyone will be keying on Colorado's still-impressive top line. Their defence is really going to miss Foote, as none of the remaining guys can really match his utter defensive tenacity. Considering he was basically replaced by Patrice Brisebois, who's a decent puck-mover but pretty lax on his own end, it shouldn't be terribly hard to take it to the Avs in their own end.

That said, though, they still have Tanguay and Hejduk, two of the best young snipers out there, John-Michael Liles had a fairly quiet 34 points last season as a rookie (though he is, again, nowhere near as sound defensively as Foote), and Aebischer is a fine goalie, though maybe not as fine a goalie as they'll need with a defensive core as soft as this one. I have no idea who Peter Budaj is, but I can't see how he couldn't be an improvement over Sauve, so at least their other goaltending option is better than a moth-eathen Shooter Tutor. I think the real key, though, will probably be Sakic. He's undeniably talented, but he's getting older, and he's spent the last several years having Peter Forsberg to take heat off him (though only for part of last year). If he plays the way most people expect he would, Colorado still probably has enough offence to make up for suspect defence and do pretty well. If he falters to even a 40-point level, which isn't entirely ludicrous, Colorado is in serious trouble, especially since both Hejduk and Tanguay have never really played without an all-star centre (I couldn't see it affecting Hejduk too much, but I don't think Tanguay is as dominating alone). Either way, though, they're certainly not a team that strikes fear into the hearts of men the way they used to.

Vancouver Canucks

Markus Naslund / Brendan Morrison / Todd Bertuzzi
Daniel Sedin / Henrik Sedin / Anson Carter
Matt Cooke / Trevor Linden / Jarkko Ruutu
Artem Chubarov/ Jason King / Richard Park

Mattias Ohlund / Ed Jovanoski
Wade Brookbank / Sami Salo
Bryan Allen / Johnathen Aitken
Sven Butchenson / Nolan Baumgartner

Dan Cloutier
Alex Auld
Brent Johnson

The Canucks' forwards have essentially remain unchanged, which bodes well for them. Provided they can get Cooke back (which most people seem to suggest is a decently big question mark), they'll have one of the more solid combinations of top-three lines. Ruutu tends to take some retarded penalties, but that's sort of what pests do, and if Naslund/Morrison/Bertuzzi click again, they're one of the best, most-balanced lines in hockey.

The defence, though, is another story. They've lost both Brent Sopel, probably a number two d-man on any other team last season, and Marek Malik, who was a solid defensive guy. As well, as Benjamin pointed out, last year, five of their defencemen (Jovo, Ohlund, Sopel, Salo and Malik, I believe) played something like 54 minutes per game. With two of those gone, their defence has to take a hit, unless Allen and others take a pretty big step up, and Cloutier isn't the type of goalie who you can trust to his own devices most of the time.

That said, they'll still probably score like, uh, a whore, or something, provided two things: Bertuzzi deals with the pressure of being everything that's wrong with hockey (which he probably will, but hey, he'll probably be booed for the first 30 games, and for the next 50, if it shows any effect) and Carter regains the form he had in Edmonton. If Carter can score even 40 points again, Vancouver has two of the best offensive lines in hockey, and won't be easy to stop. Still, though, if this team dies, it will be because Ohlund and Jovanoski can't play the entire game themselves.

Calgary Flames

Oleg Saprykin / Daymond Langkow / Jarome Iginla
Chris Simon / Matthew Lombardi /Tony Amonte
Marcus Nilson / Stephane Yelle / Chuck Kobasew
Lynn Loyns / Steve Reinprecht / Darren McCarty
/ Byron Ritchie / Shean Donovan

Jordan Leopold/ Robyn Regher
Roman Hamrlik / Steve Montador
Rhett Warrener / Dion Phaneuf
Andrew Ference

Mikko Kiprusoff
Phillip Sauve

Yeah, yeah, they almost had the Cup and stuff, and they look really good on paper now with a few key additions. And, uh, yeah, they are. Daymond Langkow is more or less Craig Conroy, Lombardi has a year of experience, Phaneuf will more than likely be an outstandingly even defenceman in his first year (and if he isn't, he'll be behind six other quality d-men), Iginla is one of the best players in the league and Amonte and McCarty make them deeper.

There are, of course, a few question marks, but most will probably be answered in Calgary's favour. Amonte could fall off, but even if he's only a 30-pointer, he's playing behind Iginla, so it shouldn't really matter. Hamrlik has never been an elite defenceman, and his offensive skill has dropped off a bit, but he's a still a solid player both ways, and again, there are a bevy of other talented (though not as offensively inclined) players around him. Now, Kiprusoff might be another story. He stood on his head both the last half of last season and the playoffs, but he hasn't played a whole season, really, and he wouldn't be the first goalie to have a great year and fall off if he did. Now, though it's fair to assume Kipper probably won't play as well as he did a year-and-a-half ago, he'll still probably be an above-average goalie. That said, Calgary better hope he doesn't mind playing 70 games, because Sauve is an apallingly poor back-up.

Minnesota Wild

Brian Rolston / Todd White / Marian Gaborik
Pascal Dupuis / Pierre-Marc Bouchard / Alexandre Daigle
Andrei Nazarov / Wes Walz / Chrisoph Brandner
Matt Johnson / Marc Chouinard / Brent Burns
Eric Chouinard

Fillip Kuba / Nick Schultz
Willie Mitchell / Alex Henry
Andrei Zyuzin / Scott Ferguson

Dwayne Roloson
Manny Fernandez

This is essentially the same really mediocre but tight defensively team it was last season. Brunette left, but now they have Rolston, who's probably actually a bit better, but it's not as if he'll be set loose offensively anyway. Daigle, who had something of a renaissance last season, might actually turn into a first-line type player, which would give Minnesota a pretty solid top line to play with. I also think Wes Walz is probably one of the better third-line players out there, though he doesn't get a lot of credit for it, considering he plays on pretty much a whole team of checkers.

Far more important than the personnel, though, is whether or not the rule changes will change the way the game goes. If it changes it as drastically as some people hope, Minny is pretty much hooped, considering they really only have one line that can score regulalry and some pretty weak centres (though, that said, Roloson and Fernandez are both pretty good goalies, and that fact sometimes gets overlooked because of the perceived help they get from the defensive system. They do get help, of course, but they're not stiffs, either). If the rules don't really change anything, though, which could just as likely happen, Minnesota's trap will be just as effective. You know, come to think of it, their overall success will probably serve as a decent benchmark of how the rule changes are taking effect.


-------
Well, that's sort of it (I, or maybe one of you, will do the Oilers later). What we have here is a division where even the worst team probably has a decent shot at the playoffs (Minny was 10th last season, of course, though, again, their odds this year depend on the effect of the rule changes). Colorado, even worse, is still probably a playoff-capable team, Vancouver is about as good as their third-place team last season and Calgary, barring some unlikely implosions, is definitely better, and probably the team with the least-discernible weakenesses at this point. The Oil definitely have their work cut out for them.

19 comments:

Chris! said...

Oo! I totally call doing the Oilers; I was planning to do something up like this anyhow once I had some time tomorrow.

Also, good analysis, Mikey. I'll respond once this issue's done.

mike w said...

Dammit Chris, that was Dave who wrote this!

I only do cartoons about Oilers now...

mike w said...

Well, one team has to tank and I'm gonna pick either Colorado or Minnesota. They have a premier PP and first line, but Colorado has no depth at all, especially on defence and they have a few soft players to boot. Of all the players I was afraid of, it was Forsberg. Enjoy, Eastern Conference.

Minnesota didn't do anything in the offseason and they missed the playoffs last time. Call them a cult, or Lemaire a genius, but if Gaborik plays below expectations the team is doomed (this goes back to my you "need one great player" opportunities generated theory). And their defenceman don't exactly blow me over, especially if Scott Ferguson ends up making the team.

One thing is constant: some supposedly good teams will do poorly. Could be us, could be Detroit. Atlanta may kicks ass. So much has changed that none of us really know what to expect and it's been two years so maybe Linden or Sakic will bottom out. And of course we have the usual biggest deciding and most unpredictable factor which is injuries. That's why I'm interested in the first 2 months in the season...a lot may change.

It also makes wish I lived in Edmonton because watching training camp might actually be interesting this time around. If any of you go to the UofA/Rookies game or Oilers exhibition matches, feel free to write up game reports or whatever. I would but can't. You are my nerd eyes and nerd ears out here in the big smoke, you fucking warriors.

First game is Friday the 16th against the Flames.

Also, the Oilers uploaded their livechat with Schremp and Svyret today...

http://www.edmontonoilers.com/news/livechat.php

Let there be Rock said...

Canucks -- Platnum rated first line. The Sedins are essentially the black-face example of why people talk the way they do about Europeans. Is Anson Carter the answer? I doubt it, but a hell of a third line is Cooke, Linden, Ruutu could be.
Still, this team was off the rails under Brian Burke and I think also today. Goaltending is nothing but suspect. Has Marc Crawford ever won anything that wasn't handed to him? He won the Cup in the team's first year in Colorada, but Crawford has seen the second round exactly once in the last seven years, which have included 101 and 104 point seasons.
PS - The line on Bertuzzi is that he's semi-retarded. If Crawford promises him a milk-bone, I gaurantee that Todd will be flattening defencemen on his way to 35 goals.

FLAMES -- I watched Phaneuf this year and surmissed that he'd have been a No. 5 or 6 NHL guy last calender year. He's basically a natural born ass-kicker. He controls a game and has an NHL quality shot -- which is downright scary aimed at a 17-year-old kid in the WHL -- though i'm not sure of his offensive potential. I'm playing it safe and will predict a mid-range role this year. Basically Hamrlik is holding his spot. Offensively, Leopold needs to have a big year.
The Flames are pretty much the Pleasure Motors way of going about things. A lot of potential 20 goal guys here, though I'm shocked Shean Donovan rates so low on the depth chart.
If Kipper is halfway decent, Iginla is Iginla, and Sutter stays Sutter, I see them as one fucking tough team to beat.

MINNESOTA -- I think they will attempt to revamp their system this season and will struggle. Or they'll lock themselves in a safe and sink to the bottom of the sea.
Money says they don't have the talent. Wes Walz and Andrei Nazarov are cast offs from the Flames' dark days. Gaborik, Rolston, Kuba are pluses, but the team needs a remake, and the question is whether Doug Risebrough is up to it.

COLORADO -- Half a ton is still pretty heavy but they veered into Ranger-esque territory in 2003-04 and there's no continuity here.
Is Joe Sakic still the guy you'd want as top-line centre? Your heart may say yes, but, he's 36 and he's been a blood and guts leader/important-goal-guy for a while. You need someone else to take that over and the heir (Forsberg) is gone.
However, Sakic scored 118 points as a 31-year-old in a low scoring NHL (though as a top-line guy on the second line) but he'll probably slog his way to 75 points on pride alone this year.
Despite all this, I can't see them being less than on par with the Oilers, especially with their top-four firepower which means, I suppose, they're the team Edmonton has to beat up to make the playoffs, besides the Wild of course.

--randy

Ball Breaker said...

PS - Dave, you really turned that sucker out, so to speak, on the original post.
You, along with joe Sakic, are my hero.

--Randy

Pleasure Motors said...

You know, I was surprised about Donovan, too, but I assume it has something to do with the whole "he's listed as a RW, so we have to put him as a RW." I looked around, but I couldn't really find any solid information on him playing on a higher line, so I left it. I imagine he'll probably switch to left and see time on the second line, though, unless people really believe Chris Simon is anything but a really good fourth-line energy guy.

Oh, also, a note about Colorado's depth: After Hejduk, their other three projected right wings had a whopping 23 points combined last season. After looking into it, Konowalchuk will probably play second line (39pts, but he's 33, and he's the type of player who has seemed like he's 30+ since he came in the league), but still, unless Ian Laperriere gets bit by a radioactive goal scorer, their bottom two lines are going to be among the weakest in the league.

Squealer said...

Radioactive goal scorer. You crack me up. I'm stealing that.

Speaking of the UofA/rookies game. . . The only reason that I give the Wild a chance at ending the ongoing abortion in the Twin Cities, is that they hired UA head coach Rob Daum to teach all their AHL prospects how to play without a redline. Vancouver hired a guy from UPEI to work with the Manitoba Moose/Canucks.
I think it'll be interesting to see how teams react to the new rules. Initially, some will likely run the same stuff with the odd two-line pass, whereas others will reinvent the game.
The Oilers? The logic has always been that they have the team for it, but how will they seize advantage?

-Randy

mike w said...

I cribbed this from HF, The Hockey News Top 8 predictions:

Calgary
Detroit
Anaheim
San Jose
Colorado
Vancouver
LA
Edmonton

There's that damn Colorado team, again. Anaheim is rated too high and Detroit ain't all that a bag of chips.

Pleasure Motors said...

That's an ambitious assessment of Calgary, but who knows, it just might turn out to be right. I agree that Detroit is rated awfully high, but hey, they're in a ridiculously weak division. Columbus is still bad, Phoenix still has Brian Boucher in goal most of the time, Chicago is better but not by that much, St Louis is probably worse, barring some veterans outperforming themselves, and Dallas will probably be the biggest drop in terms of points this year in the Western Conference (Turco is not the goalie people seem to think he is, and the Stars have relied on slow, clutching players for about ten years now). Detroit, even somewhat disabled, is better than all of these teams by a fair margin, though this will probably rival the Southeast for the title of "Worst Overall Division" this year.

That said, there's no way Anaheim will top San Jose (Niedermayer is not that big a difference, and Gigeure has proven he was pretty much a one-hit wonder, to say nothing of the fact that pretty much everyone has pin-pointed him as the main goalie to suffer from the equipment decreases), and I don't think the Kings are that much improved (lost Palffy, gained Demitra and Roenick, but they're defence and bottom lines are nothing spectacular). I also don't think Colorado will beat out Vancouver.

With that in mind, though, their actual prediction of who will make the playoffs isn't half bad, it just won't be in this order.

Maximum Overdrive!!! said...

The order of finish within the divisions in 2003 (remember the top finisher is ranked No. 1 thru No. 3):

Detroit, St. Louis, Columbus, Nashville, Chicago

Vancouver, Colorado, Calgary, Edmonton, Minnesota

San Jose, Dallas, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Phoenix

Detroit has nothing to worry about from that bunch and will beat up divisional rivals teams en route to a 100-plus point season. Calgary vs. Vancouver is a toss up in Calgary's favour, I'd say. I'd pick San Jose over Anaheim, but THN is a big fan of Brian Burke, plus they won "the Neidermayer sweepstakes."
At this stage, however, I'd go with "in tact" team like San Jose (and I guess Edmonton) over teams which have undergone major changes without obvious improvement (Colorado, Kings, Phoenix).

ALSO -- Is it just me, or did the Oilers payroll come in under the radar at $28.6 Million (accoring to Tsn.ca) without anyone noticing. Smyth is still out, but at this point, why not sign Smyth and a couple free agent cast offs for $4 mill combined. The total is about $2.5 million less than was spend last season. They really could use more scoring, plus a shake up in the the mid-to-low range in terms of competing for jobs.

Also, Boston *still* doesn't have a goalie and Sergei Zinovjev will play in Russia -- cleaning up loose ends from a old post. Russian Prospects.com says their are "echos of a marijuana problem," plus he'll make more smoking dope in Russia that the Bruins can pay him in Providence -- though he's a sure fire second liner after another god year with AK Bars. Who knew?

-Randy

Chris! said...

> ALSO -- Is it just me, or did the Oilers payroll come in under the radar at $28.6 Million (accoring to Tsn.ca) without anyone noticing. Smyth is still out, but at this point, why not sign Smyth and a couple free agent cast offs for $4 mill combined.

Yeah, I was looking at that the other night, too, and I agree it does seem pretty weird that the Oilers are technically spending less this year than they did under the old CBA--but really, why should that be strange? The Oilers have an arguably better team with a marquee player for less money than before; isn't that what the new CBA was supposed to do?

Also, word on the street (and by that I mean a few forums I've been hanging around in but can't remember the names of) is that Smyth is looking for something in the neighbourhood of $3.3-3.5 million over a minimum of three seasons, while Lowe is sticking hard to a one-year, $2.5 mil contract. Obviously, what Smyth wants wouldn't leave us much room for anything else this year (and the pickings are slim on the FA market--and every new guy we bring on to the third or fourth line is another young player whose development gets set back a year.)

Is Smyth worth what he thinks he's worth? On the Oilers? Maybe. But anywhere else? Probably not. Still, it's a pretty penny that Lowe obviously thinks is better spent elsewhere, otherwise Smyth would have been one of the first guys signed.

Pleasure Motors said...

Huh, wow, I sure was wrong about those divisions there. That's what 3:30am gets you, I guess.

Let me put my love into you said...

I'm a little confused, PMotors. I didn't see your post before I threw in mine, but your thinking is correct by my account.
Northwest is obviously the toughest here. When you subtract winners from losers, the central with be more even this year, but Detroit will still win it. Anaheim can probably mount a challenge to San Jose, but the rest don't seem to have the Zazz. Likewise Chicago and Columbus have taken a step forward, but will it be enough in the initial year of a rebuild?

SMYTH — The Edtn Sun took a shot at Smyth the other day, but, hell, the guy is one of the best guys still unsigned and the Oilers NEED scoring badly.

By my thinking Lowe should have made Smyth a top priority or gone out to get one of the many, many, many available snipers three weeks ago.

True the Oilers are a better team for about 25 per cent the cost of the last payroll, but, let's not stand on principal here.

The Oilers are currently spending $7 million less than in the previous season.
Does not Smyth ($3m), plus another $1.5m-ish scorer, AND $2.5m less in payroll, sound just as good?
They're going to have to do something.

--Randsy

mike w said...

Hi guys, no better time to post than when you're at work...

Smyth:

I think he's worth about the $3 mill- $4 mill range. Some dolts on the webboards seem to think Smyth is acting like a typical holdout, but all he wants is a longterm deal in that range. I hate how fans hate a player for not taking a "home discount", as if the new CBA wasn't enough in itself. Whatever happened to market value, you hypocritical capitalist redneck pigs!?

Uh, sorry. ...Anyway, I think it's smart to sign Smyth now and wait till January when the team will be able to resign him again for a longer deal. With a cap, seeing just how the team and Smyth play after 2 years off is always a safe bet.

Salary cap room:

I don't think we'll see a move for a centre until the team show that we'll need one in late Sept/Oct. But the money is there. Lowe seems to big one Horcoff/Reasoner having years. We'll see...

Anyone gonna see some Exhibition Games?

Chris! said...

>Anyway, I think it's smart to sign Smyth now and wait till January when the team will be able to resign him again for a longer deal. With a cap, seeing just how the team and Smyth play after 2 years off is always a safe bet.

I totally agree that this would be the way to go (and I think Lowe's alleged position of one-year, $2.5 mil is a good offer), but Smyth, like every other half-intelligent and useful hockey player out there, wants a commitment. That, apparently, the Oilers aren't willing to give. If they were, like I said, Smyth would have been one of the first guys signed. I agree that he holds a lot of value to the team as a scorer and crease-crowder, and if they were going to drop him to pursue someone else, you think they would've back when there were players worth going after.

>The Oilers are currently spending $7 million less than in the previous season.
Does not Smyth ($3m), plus another $1.5m-ish scorer, AND $2.5m less in payroll, sound just as good?

I agree, Randy, that that sounds fine. But obviously, something's preventing the whole Smyth-for-$3-million thing from happening like it should. And are there even many players left on the market who would actually bring quality scoring to the Oilers for $1.5 million? Maybe Bondra, but chances are the Oilers have already tried that. And I was surprised to see the other day that Adam Deadmarsh is still listed as a UFA; I'd have no problems with him. I don't know... thoughts?

mike w said...

I'm thinking that with a few teams near or over the cap, Lowe won't sign a free agent and is more likely to trade for a player (he seems to like doing that). New Jersey, Philly?

Back to Smytty, he's ours for a year, at least. I think the reason he's sought after by other GMs isn't because his a top shelf, 1rst line winger, but because he does a bunch of smaller things well (like deflections in front of the net, worming his around defenders along the boards, playing hurt, etc).

This goes back to what I meant by having players fill roles on a team. Having a decent point man on the powerplay, with a guy in front who can tip the puck, can do wonders for the PP (it remains to be seen if we have a good set-up man along the boards). This is why a powerplay full of skilled players can suck (ie. 25th ranked 2004 Rangers).

I hope we keep him. But for no more than $3.5 mill past two seasons.

PS: Chris you doing a Oilers write-up?

Retarded boner-rock song title said...

Kind of what I didn't explain very well was being on the upside of a salary dump. Trade, let's say, Jani Rita, for a guy who's worth Rita's $450K plus $1.5 million. A $2million sniper/centre would look really good on this lineup.
Gomez/Friesen McGillis?
Toronto, New Jersey are over, and a few teams are dancing on the cap, so there is still dealing to be done.

Lots of teams are waaay under, like Buffalo, Carolina, Florida, Nashville so the Oilers aren't completely out of vogue here. Of course none of those teams play in the NW-div.
Life will be very bad for the Oilers management if the team can't compete without a top centre, or Smyth, when that's all they talked about getting, then didn't.

Huh,
Randy

If you'll excuse me, I'm going to pour a 40 on the corner for Al McInnes -- the first pro athlete I got an autograph from, and first NHLer I ever interviewed.

Pleasure Motors said...

I still maintain that Smyth is a guy who's worth 3.5mil to us but maybe 2-2.5mil on the open market. Yes, he has intangibles, but really, his ability to score really does depend on the people around him (as with all crash-the-net, tip/rebound guys), though it is worth noting that there are very few who actually do what he does these days, and even fewer who do it as well as he does, if any. That said, he's still not the type of guy who will dominate games on his own, nor is he a cornerstone on any team worth its playoff salt--he is, and shall remain, a really good second-tier player, an energy guy who just happens to have enough talent to play on the first line.

Now, as to our payrolls: I think we benefitted from a lot of players being grossly underpaid. Considering that Horcoff, Dvorak and Hemsky could probably be our entire first line, the fact we have all three of them for less than 4mil is abosolutely amazing. I think the only reason we have a bunch of cap space now is because Lowe thought signing Horcoff and Hemsky would cost more than it did. We got lucky that they took one-year, we'll-ask-for-more-money-after-we-score-60-points deals (and here's hoping they do). Of course, by this time, that extra money is totally useless, given that there isn't one UFA out there worth more than a mil or so (I like Deadmarsh, too, for what it's worth, but he's still not a big-money guy).

I also agree that there will probably be a trade with one of the teams close to the salary cap, unless we see an amazing pre-season from Horcoff, Reasoner or Stoll (ha! Stoll is the epitome of a player who will never see more than third-line minutes). I just pray that we don't give up something valuable for what will probably be a salary dump.

PS My earlier apology was for the fact that I thought both Phoenix and Dallas were in Detroit's division. I still stand by assessment of those teams, of course. Also, Nashville will probably surprise some people: they've got better this year, especially if Kariya regains his form, and they were a pretty strong 8th last season anyway. I honestly wouldn't be surprised if they challenged a somewhat-weakened Detriot for their division title.

I love Rock'n'roll coochie said...

>PS My earlier apology was for the fact >that I thought both Phoenix and Dallas
>were in Detroit's division.


Might you have been thinking of the old four division set up. Pacific/central Northeast/atlantic? Ahh the nostalgia! Lou Lameriello was on a call-in show yesterday talking about the Patrick Division. It was sublime.
The hosts seemed to think that dishing John Madden was the only solution to the Devil's cap problems.
Nashville-- Don't know too much about them other than Detroit was ripe to be picked off last season in the playoffs and Nashville took them to seventh game. This is why Edmonton's plight was so tragic.
The Oil could have very easily gone tot eh second round, especially considering their ridiculously strong, though unsuccessfull, finish to the season.

--Randy