Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Fighting the "South Least" Label

Yesterday it was announced that the Tampa Bay Lightning traded goalie prospect Karri Ramo for Montreal Canadiens for goalie prospect, Cedrick Desjardins. Now this may seem like a very minor move since Desjardins will most likely be spending the season in Norfolk. However, it’s a sign of the depth they’re building. And a sign that the Southeast Division is changing.

Let’s take a look at just a few of the big moves each team in the division has made during the post-season.

The Atlanta Blackhawks, er, I mean Thrashers picked up Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager, Andrew Ladd, and Brent Sopel, all from Chicago. Obviously, these guys all know what it takes during playoffs. I think Dustin Byfuglien was a particularly good pick-up because his net-crashing abilities are needed. They also signed Chris Mason, a great veteran goaltender to compliment Ondrej Pavelec. A lot of great signings for a team that was starting to show their abilities at the end of last season.

The Tampa Bay Lightning lost Antero Niittymaki but gained Dan Ellis. They also got Dominic Moore, Marc Pouliot, and Simon Gagne, to name a few. They regained Pavel Kubina, who last played for the Lightning in 2005-2006. As I mentioned above, they have Desjardins now, along with a lot of prospects in Norfolk. Look for guys like Dustin Tokarski, Ty Wishart, and Radko Gudas to make an impact.

Florida Panthers haven’t been making too many ripples but have gotten Marty Reasoner and Steve Bernier. Bernier is improving every year and, barring any injuries, should continue to. Dennis Wideman is also a new addition, an underrated player last season with the Bruins. They could still use a few pure scorers but are a scrappy team and put up a good fight.

Carolina Hurricanes have also had a fairly quiet offseason. They re-signed Joe Corvo after his brief stint in Washington. I think that once guys like Jamie McBain and Brandon Sutter gain a bit of confidence and steady playing time, they will take off. They’ll also bring a touch of youth to a somewhat “older” team.

Besides re-signing some key components, the
Capitals have not done too much in the offseason. They added an enforcer and mostly seem to be relying on prospects like Neuvirth, Carlson, and Alzner to take over.

I’ll be the first to admit that it can be a little intimidating when I see the other teams in our division loading up while the Caps (mostly) sit quietly. However, take a closer look at these teams. Our opponents are picking up pieces that they desperately need, pieces that will hopefully keep them in the top of the rankings. The Caps already have the major pieces they need. Sure, some might say we need a veteran D-man but I think we did alright last season without one. And the Caps are notorious for playing to their opponent’s level, in a good way or not. Think about it. How many games did the team seem to still be a little sleepy or lazy when they played against teams who were at the bottom of the rankings? Too many. But they were always awake and giving a good effort when they faced teams who they knew they stood a good chance at seeing during playoffs.

The Caps play 24 games a season against other Southeast division teams. I’d much prefer to Caps to play those 24 games against solid competitors than against some bottom rung teams. It’s more experience and more talent to face, similar to playoffs. Maybe it’ll be that little push or reminder that you do not get handed a win based off of who “should have” won.

Last season, Southeast teams took up 4 of the bottom 8 teams in the league. This season they work to change that. So, what do you think? Is the Southeast Division working its way out of the “South Least” label? I guess we’ll have to let this season do the talking.


  1. Keep in mind that the Thrash also lost great talent in Afinogenov. But I am interested to see how all these moves are going to pan out.

  2. Sutter and McBain already started to pick up lots of playing time last season. I think Sutter had around 55 points in 65 games or so.

    Related: NW ~ SE

  3. @Erika
    I think they did a good job replacing Afinogenov's presence. Especially with a maturing Evander Kane.

    @ Red Army Line
    That's true about Sutter, I was thinking more of the confidence and experience with him. McBain only played 14 games last season because he was a call-up.