2011-12 NHL Preview The Musical: 30 Teams, 30 Songs

The new NHL season is just a couple of days away after a spectacular seven-game Stanley Cup Final saw Boston lift the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1972. For the first time in a few years, it doesn’t look like much of a changing of the guard heading into this year. Around here, we have a unique way to preview the upcoming season. We compare every team in the league to a song.

Anaheim Ducks
Song: Lady Gaga – Edge of Glory
Not to make it seem like I’m being a homer by proxy for Jackie’s team but we’ve talked it out and think that Anaheim is in with a shot this season. They’ve got a solid top two forward lines and an all-star goalie in Jonas Hiller. The only missing piece is the defence which isn’t stellar but probably a piece or two from being competent enough to not cost them a tight game. They’re in good shape this season and are a bounce or two away from being Cup contenders.

Boston Bruins
Song: John Anderson – If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It
This seems to be the defending Stanley Cup champions’ motto heading into their title defence season. No major changes have been made heading into this campaign apart from letting Kaberle go in free agency and picking up Joe Corvo as a replacement. If you were to talk to Leafs fans, they’d say that the Bruins made a massive defensive upgrade solely because they were able to replace Kaberle. I suppose that would qualify as an improvement.

Buffalo Sabres
Song: AC/DC – Moneytalks
Unfortunately, no one in Buffalo has done an ode to new owner Terry Pegula yet so I’ll have to make do with talking about all the money that Buffalo is spending instead. For the first time that I can recall, the Sabres are among the top spending teams in the league. It’s almost as if they’re trying to put a complete team in front of their goalie which is a new concept for the previously frugal Sabres. With the new owner comes a new attitude and I’m guessing that it’ll take them far this season.

Calgary Flames
Song: Linkin Park – Forgotten
With all the focus on Vancouver and Edmonton over the last couple of seasons, it seems as thought the Flames are Canada’s forgotten Western Conference team. Without the playoff failures or 1st overall draft picks, they’re relatively ignored in the grand scheme of Canadian sports media. But with Iggy and Kipper at the helm, they’re easily the second-best team in the Northwest Division. They’ll definitely be in the hunt for a playoff spot this season but will anyone notice?

Carolina Hurricanes
Song: Jordan Pruitt – Outside Looking In
So if getting rid of Tomas Kaberle was an improvement, that must mean that signing Kaberle makes your team worse. And if signing one ex-Leaf is bad, then signing Alex Pocahonski is worse. Let’s face it, unless Cam Ward has a Vezina calibre season, this team won’t have done anything to improve. Let’s face it, this team has been an utter disaster in the five seasons since winning the Cup. They’ve made the playoffs once in that stretch and rode Ward and Jussi Jokinen to the conference final. They’ve actually got quality young players on the roster but I don’t think they’re quite ready to make the playoffs again this season.

Chicago Blackhawks
Song: Hoobastank – Same Direction
Quick: Name one player that the Blackhawks added besides Toews’ younger brother. I couldn’t do it without having done some research first. I did remember that they traded Brian Campbell to that gullible new Panthers GM Dale Tallon. They also unloaded Tomas Kopecky and Marty Turco. In their places come Andrew Brunette and Dan Carcillo. In other words, some warm bodies for the bench. They’re okay players but I doubt either of the paid will get 50 points. It looks like it’ll be more of the same for the Hawks this season. Given the trouble they gave the Canuckleheads in the playoffs, that might not be a bad thing.

Colorado Avalanche
Song: Switchfoot, Relient K and Ruth – Rebuild
I thought that the Avs were ready to pounce last season. Then things didn’t go as planned which led to Scott Hannan, Kevin Shattenkirk, Chris Stewart and Craig Anderson being shipped off during the season and John-Michael Liles heading north this summer. They’ve retooled this season but I wouldn’t say that they’ve reloaded. Their post-Sakic rebuilding process is still ongoing with Stastny and Duchesne leading the youth movement in Colorado. The only thing these guys will contend for this season is the #1 overall draft pick.

Columbus Blue Jackets
Song: The Beatles – Getting Better
I have to admit, it’s getting better. The Blue Jackets seem to be getting better this time. The addition of Jeff Carter will take the scoring pressure off Rick Nash who was really their high-calibre forward prior to Carter’s arrival. Umberger and Voracek are both top six forwards but they aren’t even close to Jeff Carter’s level. The Jackets finally have a #1 center to pair with Nash on the wing. It’s an added bonus that Carter is a quality penalty killer too. I don’t think they’re playoff bound but Columbus seems to finally getting some quality building blocks in place.

Dallas Stars
Song: Jewel – Standing Still
Quick: Name one good off-season move that the Stars made. I definitely couldn’t tell you. They did sign Sheldon Souray but since he couldn’t hack it in the AHL (apparently, since he didn’t sniff the Oilers roster again), I wouldn’t call it a quality signing. The Stars came close to making the playoffs last season but I haven’t seen anything from them that would indicate that they’re trying to make that next step. Instead, while LA, San Jose and Anaheim are all geared for a big run, Dallas is content to wait on realignment to improve their playoff chances.

Detroit Red Wings
Song: Europe – The Final Countdown
I thought that last season would officially be the end of an era in Detroit. I thought Lidstrom would retire and take Ozgood and Draper with him. Well, two out of the three retired and fortunately Lidstrom wasn’t one of them. The old man is still one of the best players in the game as evidenced by his Norris Trophy win last season (though even I’m willing to admit it was probably a retirement present). This season looks to be the last chance the Wings have to win the captain another Stanley Cup. And without Lidstrom running the defense, who knows how far this team might fall.

Edmonton Oilers
Song: Lou Reed – No Chance
That’s what the Oilers have this season. They don’t have a chance in hell of getting to getting to the playoffs. Hell, getting out of the lottery spots in the standings is questionable after getting consecutive #1 overall picks. I just don’t see any way that the Oilers have improved this season. And getting Ryan Smyth is not enough of an improvement. I’m not sold on these guys and won’t be until they get some scoring, defense and goaltending. Until then, you won’t get a chance to say goodbye to the Oilers’ chances this season because they’re already gone.

Florida Panthers
Song: DragonForce – Valley of the Damned
Florida: Where careers and big contracts go to die. Where Dale Tallon is destined to repeat the mistakes of the past (i.e. Brian Campbell). Where snowbirds will go to watch their teams play for far cheaper than they would have paid if they didn’t spend winters in Florida. Let’s face it, since 1996, the Panthers have just been on a downward spiral with no apparent bottom. Most fans wouldn’t stand for a 15-year stretch with only nine playoff games and one playoff win. Then again, that would be assuming that the Panthers had fans.

Los Angeles Kings
Song: Airbourne – Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast
I liked the Kings last year but they didn’t pan out as well as I had hoped. This season, they’ve sent Wayne Simmonds, Ryan Smyth and AHLer Brayden Schenn all packing with Mike Richards being the key cog in their place. He’ll easily fill Smyth’s leadership role and pick up the scoring slack from all three. It’s probably the best move of the off-season when you get right down to it. It’s just a matter of if the team can live up to their potential because a division title is certainly within reach this season.

Minnesota Wild
Song: Hoodie Allen – Swimming with Sharks
You know that old phrase “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em?” I think GM Chuck Fletcher might just be a firm believer in that adage. A good number of hockey “experts” believe that the Sharks are the top team in the Western Conference. So how do you improve your team enough to beat them? You trade them for Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi, prospect Charlie Coyle and their 2011 1st round pick. So can the No. Cal. crew make a difference in the Midwest? I’m inclined to think that the Wild might be biting off a bit more than they can chew this season.

Montreal Canadiens
Song: Green Day – 21 Guns
Pop quiz: Who was the highest scoring skater on the Habs last season? I’m sure most of you guess Plekanec. Now, tougher question: How many points did he get? If you guessed anything above 60, I’ll freely admit that I would’ve guessed the same for a guy who played 77 games last season. However, the correct answer is 57. No one on the team scored 30 goals or tallied 60 points last season. To call that offence anaemic would be a massive understatement. And they haven’t done much to fix that this season. Bonne chance, suckers.

Nashville Predators
Song: Chimaira – Overlooked
You thought I’d go with a Carrie Underwood song here but you’d be wrong. That’s still to come. Instead, I’d like to mention how perpetually overlooked the Preds are. It’s easy to see how when you have a top-heavy Western Conference with the likes of Detroit, Vancouver, San Jose, Chicago, LA and Anaheim making up the top half of the conference. But the Preds never say die under the leadership of head coach Barry Trotz. They’ll be overlooked for now but people will take notice when push comes to shove.

New Jersey Devils
Song: Airbourne – Bottom of the Well
We used this song last year to describe how Tampa would pull itself out of the dregs to be a contender. Well, last season was one to forget for the Devils. Kovalchuk looked uninspired for the first two-thirds of the season. Brodeur forgot how to play goalie. And Zach Parise was out for almost the entire season. They got hot near the end of the year which bodes well for this season once everyone is healthy. I’m not sure Brodeur is still among the goaltending elite but he should still be good enough to help this team to the playoffs.

New York Islanders
Song: Lonely Island – Jack Sparrow
This one definitely requires explaining and no this choice has nothing to do with my assumption that Charles Wang listens to Michael Bolton. Though that would explain why he wouldn’t listen to common sense in signing DiPietro to that massive contract or thinking voters would care enough to support a plebiscite on public funding of a new arena for his team because he couldn’t hear common sense suggestions because he was listening to Michael Bolton. Like the song, the Isles seem to not have a set identity. They were going to build around DiPietro but have a revolving door system between the pipes. They could be a youth team built around Tavares but they picked up Nabakov and Rolston. This could’ve been a finesse team but they’re prone to line brawls with Pittsburgh. This is a team lacking identity… Kinda like Michael Bolton.

New York Rangers
Song: Keane – Try Again
Brad Richards is probably one of the top two playmakers in the NHL right now (with Savard playing, I’d rank BR 3rd). The man’s assists totals are absolutely otherworldly. However, he’s missing his former sniper wingman Loui Eriksson and now has the often injured and occasionally inconsistent Marian Gaborik. Dubinsky on the other wing isn’t giving Richards a lot of help either. The Stars thrived when Richards had the right guys on his wings and I don’t think the Rangers have found the finishers to help Richards live up to his potential. I think Glen Sather has to go back to the drawing board if he wants this team to contend.

Ottawa Senators
Song: Carrie Underwood – Jesus Take The Wheel
I’ll level with you guys. I know the titles of two Carrie Fisher (née Underwood) songs and this one fit best for the Sens now that Heatley’s gone and Spezza doesn’t want a trade. The Sens really don’t have a prayer anymore. How many coaches does Bryan Murray (no relation) have to go through before Eugene Melnyk realizes that someone else need to take the wheel of the franchise before it returns to its early 90s glory days of being a joke? I’m assuming that blackmail is the only thing allowing him to keep his job. The only thing that can salvage Ottawa’s season this year is divine intervention.

Philadelphia Flyers
Song: Fort Minor – Where’d You Go?
The Flyers are in a bit of trouble this season. For some reason that is completely inexplicable to people who are capable of logical thought, Philly traded Mike Richards and Jeff Carter during the off-season. If you thought that not having goaltending was their big issue, they’ll find it’s nothing compared to not having their two top players. The Flyers are really going to be missing their leader and their biggest gun this season. And it probably wasn’t a good idea to do it right before hosting the Winter Classic.

Phoenix Coyotes
Song: Green Day – Boulevard of Broken Dreams
Remember when the media absolutely loved the Coyotes? If memory serves, a good number of them predicted an upset of the Red Wings in the playoffs last year saying that they’d pull it off in 2011 after coming up one game short in 2010. Instead, the Coyotes got decimated and Bryzgalov got sent to Philly. The only thing that would have made the ending of last season more perfect was if the Coyotes were moved to Winnipeg. Anyway, without @Bryzgoalie30, they have nothing to fall back on except support from @BizNasty2point0’s Twitter followers. Yeah, this former contender is now just a pretender.

Pittsburgh Penguins
Song: Roger Daltrey – One Man Band
Let’s face it, even though you might think otherwise after last season, the Pens are a one man show. The team is Sidney Crosby and that’s it. Sure, they have Malkin and Fleury and Letang but none of them are on Sid’s level. Without Crosby at 100%, does anyone in their right mind expect Pittsburgh to contend for the Cup? Or think of it this way: If Sid rushes back and gets hurt, how down will everybody be on the Pens? As much as they should be now.

San Jose Sharks
Song: Bowling For Soup – Almost
It’s a perennial thing for the Sharks since trading for Jumbo Joe Thornton. The media and experts love the team every year but every year they fall short of expectations. Almost but not quite Western Conference champions is a perpetual state of being for San Jose. While getting rid of the Heatley curse can’t hurt, I don’t see how they’ve improved enough to win it all this season.

St. Louis Blues
Song: 3 Doors Down – It’s Not My Time
I really thought that the Blues would turn the corner and become contenders like the Kings did last season.  It turned out that I was really wrong. Not only did I get it wrong that they’d become young contenders, I think by extrapolation, I got it wrong that they’d contend going forward. I don’t think they’re in the hunt for the playoffs this year. Trading away their top defensive prospect in Johnson sure didn’t help their case either. I think it’ll still be a few years before we hear from the Blues again.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Song: Kazzer – Pedal to the Metal
It’s going to be a full-throttle run for the Cup this season for the Bolts. Stamkos and St. Louis will lead this team on offense while the defence and goaltending should be competent enough to not blow any big leads. The TBL have quietly assembled a Cup contender once again.  By the way, not a huge fan of the new jerseys and logo for the Lightning. Mind you, I thought the old ones sucked too. At least they’ll play better than they’ll look.

Toronto Maple Leafs
Song: Susan Boyle – I Dreamed A Dream
The Make Believes keep dreaming of contending for a playoff spot. But can you actually do with scraps for goalies? Their last starting goalies have been Vesa Toskala, JS Giguere, Jonas Gustavsson and James Reimer. Were/are any of them NHL starter calibre when they started for the Leafs? And, no, Optimus Reim fans, a hot streak doesn’t make you an NHL starter. Let’s face it, the Leafs, as they are right now, are dreaming of the playoffs but they aren’t going.

Vancouver Canucks
Song: War – Why Can’t We Be Friends?
There are three reasons for this song selection. The first is because Canucks players have the uncanny habit of turtling anytime they get close to a fight. Secondly, there was that whole riot thing after Game 7 which was really a self-fulfilling prophecy because the media kept talking about the 1994 riot which definitely gave some morons some ideas. And third, everyone seems to have it out for the Canucks as being playoff chokers. Fans wanted Luongo out because he was going to choke. They thought that the Canucks would choke against the Blackhawks because they usually lose to them in the playoffs. If the fans would support the Canucks rather than abandon them at the first sign of trouble, this team might have a shot.

Washington Capitals
Song: Eminem – Lose Yourself
Bruce Boudreau took over the Caps and made an immediate impact. They got off to a flying start under him and have stayed among the top teams in the league since. There was that epic losing streak last season that nearly cost him his job and the repeated playoff failures can’t have made management happy either. I think we’re down to one last shot for Boudreau to take this team somewhere. He finally has a proven starter in Voukun and now he has to make something of it in order to keep his job.

Winnipeg Jets
Song: Willie Nelson – On The Road Again
So explain this to me: The NHL had two schedules prepared for this season. One was for use if the Thrashers stayed in Atlanta. The other was for use if the Thrashers moved to Winnipeg. So if the NHL was prepared for both possibilities, why are the Jets in the Southeast Division? I think a few teams, like Detroit and Columbus, would’ve been happy to re-align this season. Instead, the Jets will have to play 3 road games against each of the other Southeast teams. In other words, they’ll have the toughest road schedule in the league. That’s going to be a tough season for the necro-Thrashers.

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