2011-12 nhl season preview

Associated PressOctober 7, 2011 

Team-by-team capsules are listed in order of finish last season.

Eastern Conference

ATLANTIC DIVISION

Philadelphia Flyers

LAST SEASON: 47-23-12, 106 points. Lost to Boston 4-0 in conference semifinals.

COACH: Peter Laviolette

BOTTOM LINE: The Flyers took a big risk by trading captain Mike Richards and leading goal scorer Jeff Carter on the same day in a pair of stunning deals. The team has a new look, but the question is whether the club has improved.

Pittsburgh Penguins

LAST SEASON: 49-25-8, 106 points. Lost to Tampa Bay 4-3 in first round.

COACH: Dan Bylsma

BOTTOM LINE: The addition of veteran Steve Sullivan will help, but no one will be able to fill Sidney Crosby's place if he remains out due to concussion symptoms. He hasn't played since January.

New York Rangers

LAST SEASON: 44-33-5, 93 points. Lost to Washington 4-1 in first round.

COACH: John Tortorella

BOTTOM LINE: General manager Glen Sather stood up in Philadelphia and guaranteed a victory over the Flyers in the Winter Classic and then promised that the Rangers would carry the Stanley Cup in June.

New Jersey Devils

LAST SEASON: 38-39-5, 81 points. Out of playoffs.

COACH: Peter DeBoer

BOTTOM LINE: DeBoer replaced Jacques Lemaire and is in the rare position of trying to get the Devils back into the playoffs after they missed the postseason for the first time since 1996.

New York Islanders

LAST SEASON: 30-39-13, 73 points. Out of playoffs.

COACH: Jack Capuano

BOTTOM LINE: The Islanders have proclaimed that the rebuilding process is over and now is the time for them to start winning.

NORTHEAST DIVISION

Boston Bruins

LAST SEASON: 46-25-11, 103 points. Beat Vancouver 4-3 to win Stanley Cup.

COACH: Claude Julien

BOTTOM LINE: The Bruins set the bar high last season and completed Boston's recent run of championships in the four major sports.

Montreal Canadiens

LAST SEASON: 44-30-8, 96 points. Lost to Boston 4-3 in first round.

COACH: Jacques Martin

BOTTOM LINE: Early playoff departures are hardly tolerated in Montreal, where the Canadiens are going through their longest stretch without a Stanley Cup title in team history. Not since 1993 has hockey's winningest team brought home the Cup.

Buffalo Sabres

LAST SEASON: 43-29-10, 96 points. Lost to Philadelphia 4-3 in first round.

COACH: Lindy Ruff

BOTTOM LINE: If they capitalize on last season's playoff heartbreak and use it as a building block, the Sabres could make some noise in the East.

Toronto Maple Leafs

LAST SEASON: 37-34-11, 85 points. Out of playoffs.

COACH: Ron Wilson

BOTTOM LINE: Wilson has failed to get the Maple Leafs into the playoffs in his first three seasons as coach, and Toronto hasn't been in the postseason since 2004 - before the NHL lockout.

Ottawa Senators

LAST SEASON: 32-40-10, 74 points. Out of playoffs.

COACH: Paul MacLean

BOTTOM LINE: Since the Senators reached the Stanley Cup finals in 2007, they have missed the playoffs twice and been ousted in the first round twice.

SOUTHEAST DIVISION

Washington Capitals

LAST SEASON: 48-23-11, 107 points. Lost to Tampa Bay 4-0 in conference semifinals.

COACH: Bruce Boudreau

BOTTOM LINE: With Crosby and Evgeni Malkin sidelined in Pittsburgh in last season's playoffs, Washington seemed to have an open road to the finals. It didn't happen. It will need to soon for Alex Ovechkin to raise himself to the championship level of his rival Crosby.

Tampa Bay Lightning

LAST SEASON: 46-25-11, 103 points. Lost to Boston 4-3 in conference finals.

COACH: Guy Boucher

BOTTOM LINE: If Steven Stamkos and seemingly ageless Martin St. Louis can both put up 90-plus point seasons again, and Dwayne Roloson can remain strong in goal at age 42, the Lightning will be able to prove that last season's run to the NHL final four was no fluke.

Carolina Hurricanes

LAST SEASON: 40-31-11, 91 points. Out of playoffs.

COACH: Paul Maurice

BOTTOM LINE: The losses of veteran forwards Erik Cole and Cory Stillman will be felt on and off the ice.

Winnipeg Jets

LAST SEASON: 34-36-12, 80 points as Atlanta Thrashers. Out of playoffs.

COACH: Claude Noel

BOTTOM LINE: The new Jets will enjoy a honeymoon period in Winnipeg, which has been longing for a team since the former Jets left in 1996 to become the Phoenix Coyotes.

Florida Panthers

LAST SEASON: 30-40-12, 72 points. Out of playoffs.

COACH: Kevin Dineen

BOTTOM LINE: The Panthers certainly won the offseason as far as adding the most big names to the roster.

Western Conference

CENTRAL DIVISION

Detroit Red Wings

LAST SEASON: 47-25-10, 104 points. Lost to San Jose 4-3 in conference semifinals.

COACH: Mike Babcock

BOTTOM LINE: The Red Wings have been knocked out in the second round by San Jose in two consecutive years following opening-round victories against Phoenix.

Nashville Predators

LAST SEASON: 44-27-11, 99 points. Lost to Vancouver 4-2 in conference semifinals.

COACH: Barry Trotz

BOTTOM LINE: The Predators reached the playoffs for the sixth time in seven seasons and made their first trip to the second round.

Chicago Blackhawks

LAST SEASON: 44-29-9, 97 points. Lost to Vancouver 4-3 in first round.

COACH: Joel Quenneville

BOTTOM LINE: The Blackhawks had their second roster overhaul in two years. Much more is expected out of them than squeaking into the playoffs on the last day of the season and a first-round ouster.

St. Louis Blues

LAST SEASON: 38-33-11, 87 points. Out of playoffs.

COACH: Davis Payne

BOTTOM LINE: After missing the playoffs in five of the past six years, the Blues hope a youth movement will get them back in.

Columbus Blue Jackets

LAST SEASON: 34-35-13, 81 points. Out of playoffs.

COACH: Scott Arniel

BOTTOM LINE: Anything other than a playoff appearance will be a disappointment for Columbus, which has been on the outside for two straight years following the franchise's only trip to the postseason.

NORTHWEST DIVISION

Vancouver Canucks

LAST SEASON: 54-19-9, 117 points. Lost to Boston 4-3 in Stanley Cup finals.

COACH: Alain Vigneault

BOTTOM LINE: The disappointment of the Game 7 home loss to Boston in the finals, and the bitter taste of the subsequent riots in Vancouver is fading. It has been replaced by optimism that the Canucks are getting closer to their first championship.

Calgary Flames

LAST SEASON: 41-29-12, 94 points. Out of playoffs.

COACH: Brent Sutter

BOTTOM LINE: The Flames have missed the playoffs by just a handful of points in the two years Sutter has been head coach after five consecutive trips.

Minnesota Wild

LAST SEASON: 39-35-8, 86 points. Out of playoffs.

COACH: Mike Yeo

BOTTOM LINE: The loss of All-Star defenseman Brent Burns will hurt.

Colorado Avalanche

LAST SEASON: 30-44-8, 68 points. Out of playoffs.

COACH: Joe Sacco

BOTTOM LINE: Colorado has missed the playoffs every other year since falling short in 2007. Former captain Foote retired, leaving the team in the hands of rising star forward Matt Duchene and a whole lot of new faces in the Rockies.

Edmonton Oilers

LAST SEASON: 25-45-12, 62 points. Out of playoffs.

COACH: Tom Renney

BOTTOM LINE: Renney is used to rebuilding projects, and this one won't be accomplished quickly.

PACIFIC DIVISION

San Jose Sharks

LAST SEASON: 48-25-9, 105 points. Lost to Vancouver 4-1 in conference finals.

COACH: Todd McLellan

BOTTOM LINE: San Jose has gotten to the Western Conference finals the past two years but is still seeking the elusive first appearance in the Stanley Cup finals.

Anaheim Ducks

LAST SEASON: 47-30-5, 99 points. Lost to Nashville 4-2 in first round.

COACH: Randy Carlyle

BOTTOM LINE: The Ducks are packed up front on offense and they will rely heavily on goalie Jonas Hiller.

Phoenix Coyotes

LAST SEASON: 43-26-13, 99 points. Lost to Detroit 4-0 in first round.

COACH: Dave Tippett

BOTTOM LINE: As usual, the biggest question surrounding the Coyotes is who will eventually own the team and where it will play once a sale is completed.

Los Angeles Kings

LAST SEASON: 46-30-6, 98 points. Lost to San Jose 4-2 in first round.

COACH: Terry Murray

BOTTOM LINE: The Kings could be gearing up to be a major force in the West.

Dallas Stars

LAST SEASON: 42-29-11, 95 points. Out of playoffs.

COACH: Glen Gulutzan

BOTTOM LINE: The Stars will be hard-pressed to break their three-year playoff drought or even match their 95 points from last season.

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