Sunday, January 13, 2013

NHL 2013 Preview: Southeast Division

5. Winnipeg Jets-Last year, the Jets were a surprise team in the East. They didnt make the playoffs, but they were in the race until mid-March. The Jets return in 2013, as virtually the same team from last year. Their biggest offseason acquisition was F Olli Jokinen (Woof!), and they saw two of their biggest stars (Ondrej Pavelec and Evander Kane) have some off ice issues. With the other teams in this division making bigger moves in the offseason, the standing pat Jets will suffer greatly in 2013, coming in last in the division and out of the playoffs.

4. Florida Panthers-Another surprise in this division last year, found the Florida Panthers winning the Southeast division. They were a replica of what the 02-03 Wild were like. Not a flashy goal scoring team, won games with defense and goaltending, and had no huge star on the roster. But unlike the 02-03 Wild, Florida was unable to get past the first round of the playoffs. They lost their best defenseman in the offseason (Jason Garrison-Vancouver), and added no one of great consequence (Unless you are high on Peter Mueller or Filip Kuba). Florida has some regression in 2013, and will ultimately miss the playoffs as well.

3. Tampa Bay Lightning-2011, Tampa made it all the way to the Eastern Finals. 2012, Tampa made it all the way to the golf course when the playoffs began. Why? One reason: Goaltending. Tampa had the worst goaltending in the league last year (Allowed a league high 282 goals). So of course, it was addressed this offseason, when the team got Anders Lindback from Nashville. They also added Matt Carle to help bolster their blue line and solidify their play in the defensive zone. Tampa is lead on offense by 60 goal scorer, Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, and Vinny Lecavalier. This team rebounds quite nicely from the bad 2011-12 campaign and finds its way into a playoff spot.

2. Carolina Hurricanes-It was the Carolina Hurricanes who made the biggest splash of the offseason, on draft night, when they pulled the trigger on a trade that sent two players and the #8 overall pick to Pittsburgh in exchange for C Jordan Staal. Staal had put good numbers for Pittsburgh as a third line center, but his numbers should increase now that he is playing first line next to his brother Eric. The Canes also added Alex Semin to a one year deal, and he is slotted to play top line with the Staals. This team is decently assembled defensively, and they have former playoff MVP Cam Ward between the pipes. Carolina doesn't take the division, but they are a sure bet for a playoff spot.

1. Washington Capitals-This division is wide open. And yet, it will be the Capitals who come out of it with the title. They let Alex Semin leave, and they now have former Cap Adam Oates behind the bench now. Despite the loss of Semin, the team still has good depth. Again, a big concern for Washington will come from between the pipes. Braden Holtby stepped up for them during their playoff run last year, and is slated to start the season as the team's #1. The Caps will need to get big production from their leader Alex Ovechkin, who is averaging 35 goals over the last 2 seasons after frequently scoring 50 in his first 5 seasons in the league. The Caps figure it out, and win the division over Carolina and Tampa by a narrow margin.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

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