IceHL EAST Predictions, Part I

With both leagues finally drafted and now in the midst of making moves, what better way to spend the time during the lockout by analyzing teams as if there were a real season coming up? You’ll find division-by-division breakdowns of all 16 teams in the EAST, with brief analyses of offensive, defensive and goaltending capabilities followed by my ratings.

Note: Potential rank is calculated using last year’s stats as the base with this year’s rosters. (2012-2013 rosters with stats as from 2011-2012) These, among other stats will be discussed in a future metrics post.


Baltimore Blue Crabs

2865 points; Overall rank: 9th

+ Parise and Tavares lead a potent, but assist-heavy forward corps (Crosby, Hall, Read, Stastny, Tanguay).

+ Very offense-minded group on the defense. (Yandle, Wideman, Burns, E. Johnson, I. White)

+ Rask is definitely the man. Varlamov could make some noise if the team provides for him.

– The offense flies/dies on injury risk. Crosby and Hall, specifically.

– Would I want to invest in Varly? Not really. Colorado still can't support him.

– Defense has a concerning lack of blocked shots. They can make a large difference.

Overall Ranks: 3.67/5
Offense: 4/5
Defense: 3.5/5
Goalies: 3.5/5
Playoffs: Baltimore’s roster is an interesting bunch of theoreticals plugged into one roster. Will Crosby play at the level we know him to? Can Varlamov win without a team in front? Will Hall be a stud again? Will Read slump as a sophomore? You get the picture. Bubble team at best.

Hamilton Steelcats

2703 points; Overall rank: 14th

+ A largely capable offense here, with great PPN out of most of the top 6. (H. Sedin, Franzen, Iginla, Oshie, Marchand)

+ Good offensive defense, with lots of points coming from the blueline. Bolstered by Campbell, Chara and Gonchar.

+ Luongo has potential if he lands somewhere else. That's a big IF though.

– The one goalie fly is too risky for my liking, especially when Luongo is that one guy.

– Havlat, van Riemsdyk and Perron are injury risks.

– Zidlicky and Martin are questionable, the former much moreso.

Overall Ranks: 3.33/5
Offense: 3.5/5
Defense: 4/5
Goalies: 2.5/5
Playoffs: There are a lot of ways Hamilton’s team can blow up, several of them involving their offense and their goaltending situations. With a real lack of depth at goaltending and a precipitous dropoff after the top guys, there could be some tough issues to overcome. The Steelcats might be in for a rough year without some changes.

New York Guardians

3021 points; 1 injured; Overall rank: 6th

+ In an offensive dogfight, this team will be hard to beat. (Pacioretty, Hartnell, Lupul, Wheeler, Alfredsson, Ladd)

+ Lots of capable production from tons of guys (Keith, Karlsson, Del Zotto, Coburn, Leddy).

+ Nice tandem in net with Miller and Brodeur, as both have experience and get lots of stats.

– Brodeur concerns vs. expectations. Will he be an average schmo or the playoff man?

– Will the offense outpace the need for blocked shots on this team?

– Dubinsky—will he shine or falter in a new location? And will Ennis bounce back?

Overall Ranks: 4/5
Offense: 4/5
Defense: 4/5
Goalies: 4/5
Playoffs: The Guardians have a well-rounded team that should be able to provide competition for many teams in the IceHL East. There isn’t a guy on the roster that can’t do his job and this team should be competitive enough to make the postseason. Whether or not it wins a division depends on Washington.

Washington Sentinels

3075 points; 2 rookies; 1 injured, no replacement; Overall rank: 3rd

+ Gifts aplenty on the offense, with Stamkos and three 30-goal guys. (Ryder, Couture, Pominville)

+ Good top 4 with lots of balance between points and blocked shots. (Subban, Carlson, Girardi, Hamonic)

+ Nice duo of Howard and Price. Tons of starts and tons of potential for points.

– The double rookie spin. Kreider and Huberdeau must produce.

– Reproduction of performance--can Pominville, Ryder, Landeskog put the numbers up again?

– Will Price and Howard have teams in front of them that can produce and keep them up?

Overall Ranks: 4.16/5
Offense: 4.5/5
Defense: 4/5
Goalies: 4/5
Playoffs: Washington looks to be the top team in their division, with a killer bunch of players. The biggest concerns are in the forward corps, with guys needed to replicate their performance and others need strong debuts. Aside from those concerns, there’s nothing stopping Washington from making a pretty deep run.


Chicago Hitmen

2803 points; Overall rank: 13th

+ Strong top 6 forwards including two 30-goal scorers (Ryan, Kane) and balanced talent (Backes, Nugent-Hopkins, Zetterberg, Ray Whitney).

+ Solid shotblocking defense that can also put up some points (Bieksa, Leopold, Vlasic, Hamhuis, Green).

+ Gustavsson might get some opportunities, and Backstrom, when healthy, is decent.

– But, the absence of a true, healthy number one goaltender raises lots of concerns.

– A slight overinvestment in Vancouver's defense and the lack of a real number 1 guy is concerning.

– How will Dupuis and Clowe pan out? Clowe needs a bounceback and Dupuis needs a Crosby.

Overall Ranks: 3.67/5
Offense: 4/5
Defense: 4/5
Goalies: 3/5
Playoffs: Chicago’s team has a recurring theme throughout most of its roster: quality guys, but not many stand-out guys. The offense is probably in the best shape, but the rest of the team lacks a true number one at either defensive of goaltending positions. The lack of a guy who can stand up might sink the Hitmen. They’re not entirely out of the picture, but they might be a frustrating spoiler team.

Detroit Motorheads

3018 points; Overall rank: 7th

+ Decent offense that can put up the points (Burrows, Simmonds, Erat, Doan). Three 30-goal scorers lead the way (Spezza, Kessel, Sharp).

+ Tough defense with good PPN (Phaneuf, Giordano) and guys who will get new looks this year will benefit (Wisniewski, Salo, Spurgeon).

+ Interesting goaltender duo with Kiprusoff and Vokoun.

– But, how many starts will Vokoun poach from Fleury? That's a tough one right now.

– Will there be repeat performances from Spezza, Doan, and Sharp?

– What kind of looks will Spurgeon and Salo get?

Overall Ranks: 4/5
Offense: 4/5
Defense: 4/5
Goalies: 4/5
Playoffs: Detroit’s roster looks competitive enough, but until we get to the track, we won’t know if all cylinders are firing. For now, the balanced offense, gritty defense and goaltending tandem with arguably one of the best non-starting goalies in the NHL should give the Motorheads enough gas to make it to the postseason. This team reminds me heavily of Minnesota, and the two should be fighting for the top spot in the division.

Milwaukee Lagers

2844 points; 1 injured; Overall rank: 11th

+ Solid base on offense with good balance (Kopitar, Nash, Neal, P. Kane, Okposo).

+ Nice balance on defense between points/blocked shots (Letang, Shattenkirk, Fowler, Faulk, Gilbert).

+ Niemi is solid, and Crawford should make for a good backup.

– Present injuries to Nash, Setoguchi, Kesler and Voracek take a HUGE bite out of the offense.
– Is Crawford the man in Chicago?
– How much will Gilbert and Turris benefit from full seasons in new territories?

Overall Ranks: 3.83/5
Offense: 3.5/5
Defense: 4/5
Goalies: 4/5
Playoffs: The Lagers are in good position to be a successful team. Most of the pieces are there, but the elephant in the room is the early decimation of the offense with all of the injuries. They’re going to need to recover soon to make it in the division. Milwaukee has a shot, but their offense needs to get back in action to make it more realistic.

Minnesota Mammoths

3062 points; 1 rookie; Potential rank: 5th place

+ Potent offense leaves little question about the scoring ability of the Mammoth (Callahan, Moulson, Toews, Bergeron, Pavelski).

+ Strong, balanced defense with few concerns at the blueline (Carle, Garrison, Liles, Harrison, Stuart).

+ Smart tandem in net with Fleury and Lindback. Guarantee vs. projected starter balance.

– But if Lindback doesn't prove himself, there could be some issues.

– What kind of value does Yakupov have? Will Toews return to form?

– Tough to pick on the defense, but how will new destinations for Garrison and Carle work out?

Overall Ranks: 4.16/5
Offense: 4/5
Defense: 4.5/5
Goalies: 4/5
Playoffs: Minnesota should make it as the division winner in the Midwest. If they don't, they should come in 2nd in the Midwest and still make it in the postseason. Their biggest competition comes in the form of the Motorheads, who have a solid squad built similarly to the Mammoths.