The purpose of this post is to discuss and determine to the best of our (fans) ability where are the Canes as far being competitive for a playoff spot as things stand today. Even if it is true that the Canes have improved over the team that finished last season (this is open to debate), is that improvement enough to vault them into a playoff spot. This first installment of the discussion will focus on making the playoffs by winning the division. A subsequent installment will focus on the chances of making the playoffs by finishing in the top eight of the conference.
Why do I think this conversation is necessary, or at the very least helpful? My concern is not whether the Canes have improved the team over the one that finished last season. I believe they have with the addition of Jordan Staal and having Muller for the whole year. Others of you may feel they haven't even considering these factors. Which of us are right. If the naysayers are right, we are in trouble unless we make additional improvements. If I am right, a question still lingers. Have we improved enough? Improvement itself may be no guarantee, especially if the teams in our division have improved also. With this in mind let's look at what the teams in the division have done over the off-season.
Tampa Bay Gained:
Matt Carle, Defenseman, Philadelphia
Sami Salo, Defenseman ,Vancouver
Matt Taormina, Defenseman, New Jersey
Benoit Pouliot, Forward ,Boston
B.J. Crombeen ,Forward ,St. Louis
Anders Lindback , Goalie, Nashville
Kyle Wilson ,Forward, Nashville
Tampa Bay Lost:
Trevor Smith, Forward, Pittsburgh
Mike Kostka, Defenseman, Toronto
Bruno Gervais,Defenseman, Philadelphia
Tim Wallace , Forward ,Carolina
Michel Ouellet, Forward, Boston
Sebastion Caron ,Goalie ,Nashville
Mark Dekanich, Goalie, Columbus
Oli Jokinen, Center, Calgary
Alex Ponikarovsky, Forward, New Jersey
Chris Mason, Goalie , Nashville
Tanner Glass, Forward, Pittsburgh
Riley Holzapfel ,,Forward Pittsburgh
Peter Mueller , Forward, Colorado
Jean F. Jacques, Forward ,Anaheim
George Parros , Forward ,Anaheim
Filip Kuba, Defenseman ,Ottawa
Krys Barch, Defenseman, New Jersey
Woytek Wolski, Forward, Washington
Mikael Samuelsson, Forward, Detroit
Ryan Stoa ,Forward ,Colorado
Joey Crabb , Forward ,Toronto
Garrett Stafford, Defenseman, Montreal
Jordan Henry, Defenseman , Calgary
Mike Ribeiro ,Forward ,Dallas
Joel Rechlicz,Forward, Phoenix
Keith Aucoin ,Forward, Toronto
Dennis Wideman, Defenseman, Calgary
Cody Eakin ,Forward, Dallas
Alexander Seminm Forward, Unknown
Jordan Staal , Center, Pittsburgh
Marc-Andre Gragnani, Defenseman, Vancouver
Tim Wallace , Forward ,Tampa Bay
Joe Corvo, Defenseman, Boston
Brandon Sutter, Center, Pittsburgh
Derek Joslin ,Defenseman , Vancouver
Bryan Allen , Defenseman, Anaheim
Tampa Bay looks like it has addressed its glaring deficiencies from last season those being goal tending and defense. Carle and Salo are major upgrades on defense and lindback can't be worse than what Tampa had in goal last year (Roloson). Pouliot is a very good addition at forward. The other additions and losses are not key figures. At this point I would say Tampa Bay has improved its team more than the Canes on the ice. Even if this is true, some will say that because we will have Muller for the whole year that we will pick up points on Tampa Bay. My concern with making that argument is while he will no doubt (at least in my mind) improve our record during the first half of the season over what the team did last year, there is no guarantee that the second half this year will be as successful as what the experienced last year.
Winnepeg's main pickup has been Oli Jokinen at center. Other than that the other player moves don't appear to be earth shattering one way or the other. This pickup does not equate to the Canes pickup of J. Staal and the Canes would seem to have imp[roved more than Winnepeg IMO. One potential weakness for Winnepeg is if Pavlecz (goalie) has a bad year, then Winnepeg's backup goal tending would appear to be less than stellar. Of course, you could say the same thing about the Canes.
IMO Florida has lost ground versus what the Canes have done in the off-season. The loss of Barch, Garrison, and Samuelsson are significant losses. Barch was a physical force on defense. Garrison was an offensive dynamo as well as playing very well on defense. Samuelsson was an experienced forward who provided secondary scoring. These losses coupled with the Canes improvement leads me to the conclusion that the Canes have closed the gap somewhat on the Panthers. In fact, I believe the Panthers have lost ground on all of the teams in the division over the off-season. If this is the case, it would appear the Canes will surpass Florida in the division standings this year. It should be noted, if Peter Mueller lives up to his original potential, this would help Florida immensly. My surmise is he won't be a significant factor this year.
Washington's best pickup is Ribeiro. He will help at forward. IMO he just makes up for the loss of Alex Semin. A wash here. The loss of Dennis Wideman wil be felt although Jack Hillen will cushion it somewhat. Jeff Halpern was a valuable forward who could play on virtually any line if needed and was a good face-off man. I believe the Canes have at least improved as much, if not more than Washington.
My final conclusion is at this point the Canes are not capable of winning the Southeast Division title. This being the case, they will have to beat out 3 of their 4 rivals in the division (finish 2nd in the division) to have a shot at getting into the playoffs in one of the 5-8 slots. Assuming Boston, New York (Rangers), Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh will all have more points, at least 2 of the 5-8 slots will be filled by these teams. This leaves two slots. The Canes would then have to have more points than Ottawa, New Jersey, and Buffalo. If 2 teams in the southeast division have a better record than the Canes, the odds of the Canes making the playoffs drop significantly. The best solution to making the playoffs thus is to win the division. IMO to do this the Canes need to at least add that top-six forward all of you have been crying for (Semin) and they may will need the top-tier defenseman (Hannan or Roszival, appear to be only ones left barring a trade).) you all have been crying for.