Must-haves: Jarome Iginla, Dion Phaneuf, Jay Bouwmeester, Olli Jokinen, Miikka Kiprusoff
Contributors: Daymond Langkow, Rene Bourque, Craig Conroy
Sleepers: David Moss, Dustin Boyd
Specialists: Curtis Glencross, Cory Sarich, Nigel Dawes, Mark Giordano, Robyn Regehr, Anton Stralman, Brandon Prust, Jamie Lundmark, Brandon Prust, Adam Pardy, Curtis McElhinney, Eric Nystrom, Fredrik Sjostrom, Brian McGrattan
Offseason analysis: The two biggest offseason headlines for the Flames were the addition of Bouwmeester and head coach Brent Sutter, who left his post with the Devils to be closer to home. It's good news for Sutter, who goes from one contender to another. We saw a surprising offensive outburst from the Devils in 2008-09 and some would argue Calgary has even better skaters than New Jersey. Sutter likes a tight defensive game, but he also knows how to capitalize on the rush. Bouwmeester could pair with Phaneuf to make one of the best defensive pairings in the NHL. Losing Mike Cammalleri, the Flames' leading goal scorer last season, is going to sting, but they still have Iginla and Jokinen on the top line. Two real sleepers in the equation are Moss and Boyd. Both players have the skill to be factors in the NHL, but Calgary is still waiting for their breakout runs. Another key element is getting Bourque back to full strength. He posted a career-high 21 goals in '08-09 and proved to be an effective scorer before going down late in the season with a serious ankle injury. If healthy, Bourque could jump on the team's top scoring line in place of Cammalleri. We also know Fantasy owners are itching to see how 2007 first-round pick Mikael Backlund performs in camp. He is going to get a long look, but if Backlund is not ready, Calgary will not rush him to the NHL and hurt his development.
|With Joe Sakic retired, Colorado's offense needs Paul Stastny to take the next step. (Getty Images)|
Contributors: John-Michael Liles, Kyle Quincey, Wojtek Wolski
Sleepers: Craig Anderson, Tom Preissing, T.J. Hensick, Brett Clark, Chris Stewart, Matt Duchene, T.J. Galiardi
Specialists: Peter Budaj, Marek Svatos, Cody McLeod, Ruslan Salei, David Koci, David Jones, Scott Hannan, Darcy Tucker
Offseason analysis: The Avalanche really cleaned house after an abysmal 2008-09 campaign. It wasn't so much an overhaul of player personnel as much as the coaching staff and front office. Replacing Tony Granato behind the bench is former AHL coach Joe Sacco. It could definitely be a smooth transition for the Avalanche since a lot of their younger talent played for Sacco at Lake Erie (AHL). Part of the reason Sacco was promoted was because of how he developed talent in the minors. Sacco is keeping the Avs' game plan close to the vest, but in the minors his teams were lauded for their dogged persistence and ability to create offense from their defense. While Colorado is celebrating the dawn of a new era, it is also a somber time for the Avs as they said goodbye to longtime captain Joe Sakic, who retired after 20 seasons. However, his absence definitely opens the door for some new faces to emerge. Stastny, who has endured two straight injury-plagued seasons, is now the team's unquestioned No. 1 center. Sakic's departure also creates an opportunity for AHL standout Hensick and possibly a roster spot for Duchene, who was taken third in the 2009 NHL draft. Colorado traded winger Ryan Smyth to Los Angeles and let fan favorite Ian Laperriere head to Philly, but while they lost some talent up front, they bolstered their blue line in the Smyth trade. Colorado added Quincey and Preissing in the trade, and if everyone is healthy, Colorado's strength heading into the season will be their blue line, as they have a solid seven-man rotation. The goalie situation also got a minor makeover. Anderson was brought in from Florida to supplant Budaj, who will now pull backup duty. This is Anderson's first run as a full-time NHL goalie, but he has the full support of the Colorado front office.
Must-haves: Sheldon Souray, Ales Hemsky, Lubomir Visnovsky
Contributors: Nikolai Khabibulin, Tom Gilbert, Shawn Horcoff, Denis Grebeshkov, Dustin Penner, Andrew Cogliano
Sleepers: Patrick O'Sullivan, Sam Gagner, Jeff Drouin-Deslaurie, Jordan Eberle
Specialists: Ethan Moreau, Robert Nilsson, Zack Stortini, Steve Staios, Gilbert Brule, Ladislav Smid, Fernando Pisani, Marc-Antoine Pouliot, Steve Macintyre, Jean-Francois Jacques, Jason Strudwick
Offseason analysis: The trade that didn't happen was probably Edmonton's biggest offseason development. The Oilers were set to acquire Senators winger Dany Heatley in exchange for Cogliano, Penner and Smid, but the former All-Star blocked the deal. Edmonton persisted for a few more weeks before finally pulling the trade off the table. They were upset the deal couldn't be finalized, but are ready to move on with what they have. Edmonton doesn't have a bad stable of players for first-year coach Pat Quinn to work with. The Oilers' biggest acquisition was signing Khabibulin to a four-year contract. However, Edmonton really needs to develop Drouin-Deslaurie and Devan Dubnyk quickly since the 36-year-old Khabibulin has played more than 55 games just once in the last five seasons. It might not have seemed like a huge deal, but re-signing Grebeshkov for a year keeps intact a pretty good blue line that features Souray, Gilbert and Visnovsky, who is working his way back from a serious shoulder injury. While Horcoff is a do-it-all center for Edmonton, he had a pretty disappointing offensive campaign in 2008-09 coming off a shoulder issue of his own. Horcoff flashed point-per-game potential in 2007-08 and perhaps a legendary coach like Quinn can once again bring the best out of him. Two players to watch are O'Sullivan and Eberle. O'Sullivan missed training camp last season while a holdout with the Kings and never found his groove, even after being traded to Edmonton at the deadline. O'Sullivan has 20-goal, 50-point potential. Eberle, Edmonton's 2008 first-round pick, is pretty much assured a spot out of training camp. He is too young to play in the AHL and too advanced to be sent back to junior hockey. Eberle definitely wants to follow in the steps of Hemsky and Gagner, who both had success as first-year players after making the jump from the junior ranks.
Must-haves: Martin Havlat, Niklas Backstrom, Marek Zidlicky, Mikko Koivu, Brent Burns
Contributors: Andrew Brunette, Antti Miettinen
Sleepers: Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Owen Nolan, Benoit Pouliot, James Sheppard, Kyle Brodziak
Specialists: Josh Harding, Kim Johnsson, Eric Belanger, Cal Clutterbuck, Colton Gillies, Shane Hnidy, Wade Dubielewicz, Greg Zanon, Nick Schultz, John Scott, Derek Boogaard, Craig Weller
Offseason analysis: Even though the Wild reached 40 wins and were mere points away from making the playoffs, they opted for a major front office overhaul. They said goodbye to the only coach they knew since entering league play in 2000-01 -- Jacques Lemaire -- and welcomed in Todd Richards, who takes on his first NHL head coaching gig. Also, longtime general manager Doug Risebrough was replaced by Chuck Fletcher. Minnesota and Fantasy owners should get excited about the change since Lemaire takes with him his dull style of defensive hockey. Fletcher and Richards have preached a more up-tempo style of play, but alas, it was not enough to keep the Wild's all-time leading scorer in Marian Gaborik from fleeing to the Rangers. Still, Minnesota picked up a capable replacement in Havlat, who is coming off a career season with the Blackhawks. He will take Gaborik's spot on the top line. Richards has opted to move Bouchard back to center since his experiment at right wing didn't go as planned in 2008-09. Another important development for the Wild is the health of Burns, who spent a great deal of time on injured reserve last year. Burns says he is recovered from a concussion that ended his '08-09 campaign, and he is expected to be a key catalyst in Minnesota's new offense. Although it seemed like a minor trade, the Wild's addition of Brodziak is huge. He used to play for Richards in the minors and is quite familiar with his style. It could be an easy transition and could end up paying major dividends for the Wild and Fantasy owners. Two players to watch in camp are Pouliot and Sheppard. Both are former high-end first rounders that never seemed to impress Lemaire or adapt to his defensive system. Perhaps Richards will be the guy who gets the most out of both skaters.
Must-haves: Daniel Sedin, Kevin Bieksa, Henrik Sedin, Roberto Luongo
Contributors: Christian Ehrhoff, Pavol Demitra, Alexandre Burrows
Sleepers: Mathieu Schneider, Alexander Edler, Ryan Kesler, Mikael Samuelsson, Sami Salo, Steve Bernier, Cody Hodgson
Specialists: Shane O'Brien, Willie Mitchell, Andrew Raycroft, Kyle Wellwood, Mason Raymond, Cory Schneider, Jannik Hansen, Darcy Hordichuk, Brad Lukowich, Ryan Johnson, Rick Rypien
Offseason analysis: Vancouver did a very good job of addressing a weakness they felt they had -- their blue line. After losing Mattias Ohlund to Tampa Bay in the offseason, Vancouver spent weeks trying to find a capable replacement and ended up with two -- Ehrhoff and Schneider. They pretty much got Ehrhoff for nothing in a trade with San Jose and even got a little added insurance with Lukowich. However, Schneider could end up being a steal for both the Canucks and Fantasy owners. He is a solid offensive blueliner that always seems to perform better on a contender, which the Canucks are. Schneider definitely has serious Fantasy potential, as long as he is healthy. The re-signing of the Sedin twins was also important because now the team keeps their two best offensive players, both of whom are quite familiar with Alain Vigneault's system. Luongo landed a 12-year extension in early September, but don't worry about him resting on his laurels. He is hungry for a Stanley Cup and even wants to help Team Canada win gold in the upcoming Winter Olympics. Vancouver let Jason LaBarbera leave for Phoenix in the offseason and replaced him with the struggling Raycroft. It's not a big deal because Schneider is still in the system just in case Raycroft proves inadequate. Vancouver could have to start the season with Demitra on injured reserve as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery. He doesn't seem to be the 30-goal scorer Vancouver envisioned when they signed him last summer, but he still serves his purpose as a top-six forward. Two more players of interest to Fantasy owners are Samuelsson and Hodgson. Samuelsson is a free-agent addition from Detroit. There have been some whispers that Samuelsson could play on the top line with the Sedin twins, an area of concern for Vancouver the last few seasons. As for Hodgson, the 19-year-old rookie is all but assured a spot on the roster. The 2008 first-round pick projects as a future top-six skater and is excellent at both ends of the ice.
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