Brownlee's who's who guide

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 5:08 PM ET

As I was saying before we were so rudely interrupted by the lockout ... here's a guide to who's who and what's what from this corner of the rink as we get ready to drop the puck on the 2005-06 season.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

On the rise: The half-dozen teams that will make the most significant gains in the standings over their 2003-04 points totals:

Western Conference

1. Columbus Blue Jackets (62). Jackets are better on the back end, with the additions of Adam Foote and Bryan Berard, and have plenty of offence.

2. Calgary Flames (94). They've got arguably the best player in the game, in Jarome Iginla, and depth at all positions.

3. Edmonton Oilers (89). Chris Pronger and Michael Peca will make the difference. Ales Hemsky looks ready to blossom.

Eastern Conference

1. Pittsburgh Penguins (58). Lost nobody of consequence and added Sidney Crosby, Mark Recchi, Sergei Gonchar, Ziggy Palffy, John LeClair and Jocelyn Thibault. On paper, Penguins are 30 points better.

2. Atlanta Thrashers (78). Marian Hossa for Dany Heatley might be a wash, but Peter Bondra and Bobby Holik have bolstered the forward lines.

3. Florida Panthers (75). Relics Gary Roberts, Joe Nieuwendyk and Martin Gelinas will show the kids what it takes to win.

Going The Other Way

No chance these teams will match their 2003-04 points totals:

Western Conference

1. Detroit Red Wings (109). Red Wings will slip because of cap cuts and the birth certificates of Steve Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan and Chris Chelios.

2. San Jose Sharks (104). Haven't filled the holes created by the loss of Vincent Damphousse, Mike Ricci and Mike Rathje.

3. Colorado Avalanche (100). Avs lost Peter Forsberg, Adam Foote, Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya and got Pierre Turgeon, Antti Laaksonen, Patrice Brisebois and Brad May. Say no more.

Eastern Conference

1. Tampa Bay Lightning (106). Loss of Nikolai Khabibulin will hurt. As defending Stanley Cup champs, Bolts can't sneak up on anybody.

2. New Jersey Devils (100). There's a gaping hole on the back end with the retirement of Scott Stevens and the loss of Scott Niedermayer.

3. Toronto Maple Leafs (103). Too much riding on the questionable durability of Eric Lindros and Jason Allison.

A LITTLE FANFARE

Hot tickets around the league:

1. Calgary. After their unlikely run to the Stanley Cup final, the Flames will sell out all 41 home dates this season.

2. Columbus. Blue Jackets had a streak of 58 straight sellouts snapped before the lockout. What happens when these guys get good?

3. Edmonton. The Oilers produced 33 sellouts for a team that missed the playoffs. Fans are pumped about Chris Pronger and Michael Peca.

4. Montreal. Habs played to 96.6% of capacity. That still translated to an average of 20,555 fans per game.

5. Toronto. Gluttons for disappointment are the fans in Hogtown.

Anybody Need Tickets?

Can't give 'em away ...

1. Carolina. It's college hoop, football, NASCAR and tractor pulls before the Hurricanes on Tobacco Road. Return of the NHL has meant pre-season crowds of 6,000 a night at the RBC Center.

2. Washington. The Capitals are lousy and nobody is interested in watching them stiff again.

3. Chicago. Remember when Chi-town was the best place, bar none, to watch a game? Average crowd before the lockout was 13,253, leaving the Blackhawks 27th in the league. Bigger crowds at Maggiano's these days.

4. New Jersey. Even with a good team, a bad building means empty seats on any given night in the swamp.

5. Nashville. Predators will need another playoff berth or an Elvis sighting to average 14,000 a game. Don't count on either.

Feel The Noise

Loudest Barns in the NHL: These joints don't need canned crowd noise and scoreboard prompting for fans to raise the roof when the puck drops:

1. GM Place, Vancouver

2. Rexall Place, Edmonton

3. Corel Centre, Ottawa

I'll be in the library

Don't cheer; you'll wake somebody ...

1. RBC Center, Carolina

2. Arrowhead Pond, Anaheim

3. National Car Rental Center, Florida

Best media grub

Fat city, baby! Mmmm ...

1. Xcel Energy Centre, Minnesota

2. Bell Centre, Montreal

3. American Airlines Center, Dallas

BEHIND THE BENCH

The coaching carousel and who's on it:

New Faces

Wayne Gretzky, Phoenix

Randy Carlyle, Anaheim

Trent Yawney, Chicago

Mike Kitchen, St. Louis

Changing Places

Mike Babcock, Detroit

Jacques Martin, Florida

Joel Quenneville, Colorado

Larry Robinson, New Jersey

Tom Renney, New York Rangers

Who's next?

Coaches in the firing line:

1. Tom Renney. At least the Rangers can't blow $70 million on a payroll that misses the playoffs with the new CBA, but the fans at MSG will get restless if they don't see results. It's a sure bet some nut will bray, "Renney, you're a bum" during the national anthem at the Rangers' first home game.

2. Mike Babcock. Dave Lewis didn't get it done as the boss after stepping in for Scotty Bowman, and Babcock has his hands full meeting expectations in the Motor City. Nobody cared in Anaheim, but this is Hockeytown.

3. Glen Hanlon, Washington. Like it matters who's coaching this team?

Best of the bunch

Top candidates for the Jack Adams Award:

1. Darryl Sutter, Calgary. No fluke in Cowtown.

2. Ed Olczyk, Pittsburgh. Penguins take flight.

3. Marc Crawford, Vancouver. A swell guy.

BY THE NUMBERS

Milestones within reach:

500 Goals - Pierre Turgeon (495), Peter Bondra (477), Jeremy Roenick (475), Mats Sundin (465).

400 Goals - Gary Roberts (397), Tony Amonte (392), John LeClair (382), Eric Lindros (344).

600 Assists - Brendan Shanahan (593), Sergei Fedorov (588), Rod Brind'Amour (560), Nicklas Lidstrom (553).

1,000 Points - Brian Leetch (996), Teemu Selanne (951).

1,000 Games - Mathieu Schneider (992), Sergei Fedorov (988), Peter Bondra (984), Andrew Cassels (984), Alexander Mogilny (956), Darryl Sydor (943), Tie Domi (943), Geoff Sanderson (928).

400 Wins - Curtis Joseph (396)

300 Wins - Dominik Hasek (296)

Historically Speaking

Career Wins:

1. Patrick Roy 551

2. Terry Sawchuk 447

3. Jacques Plante 437

4. Ed Belfour 435

5. Tony Esposito 423

6. Glenn Hall 407

7. Martin Brodeur, Grant Fuhr 403

Hello, and goodbye

A FOND FAREWELL

These first-ballot Hall of Famers called it quits:

Mark Messier: With six Stanley Cups, two MVP awards, 694 goals, 1,887 points and 1,756 career games, not to mention the steeliest stare in the game, the magnificent Moose will go into the hall second to Wayne Gretzky in career scoring.

Ron Francis: Classy Ronnie Franchise hangs 'em up with 1,798 points in 1,731 career games. The two-time Stanley Cup winner went out the same way he always played - quietly. Not even a news conference to announce he was done.

Al MacInnis: Has there ever been a more feared shot from the point? MacInnis scored 340 goals and added 934 assists in 1,416 games. A Norris Trophy winner, MacInnis won his only Stanley Cup with Calgary in 1989.

Scott Stevens: You talkin' to me? With three Stanley Cups, 908 points in 1,635 games and countless concussed and crumpled opponents, the New Jersey captain was one of the most devastating hitters in the history of the game. You can hear sighs of relief all over the league.

Good Ones Gone

Vincent Damphousse

Adam Deadmarsh

Igor Larionov

James Patrick

IN WITH THE NEW

Keep an eye on these freshmen:

Homegrown

Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh. Next One has a supporting cast.

Corey Perry, Anaheim. OHL scoring champ.

Cam Ward, Carolina. Alberta boy makes good.

Ryan Suter, Nashville. Slick and smart.

Jeff Carter, Philadelphia. Can't miss.

Mike Richards, Philadelphia. Neither will he.

The imports

Alexander Ovechkin, Washington. Too bad about the team.

Thomas Vanek, Buffalo. Ready for prime time.

Vojtech Polak, Dallas. Sneaky smooth.

Wojtek Wolski, Colorado. Adds skill on wing.

Niklas Kronwall, Detroit. Wings keep finding these guys.

Tomas Plekanec, Montreal. Dominated AHL.

The sleepers

Ryan Miller, Buffalo. The real deal.

Antero Nittymaki, Philadelphia. Late bloomer.

Andrew Hutchinson, Car. Hot in pre-season.

Robbie Schremp, Edmonton. Power play his calling card.

Gilbert Brule, Columbus. Jackets have a keeper.

MONEY MATTERS

Team Cheap: Here's the best lineup I could put together for the NHL's new minimum wage of $450,000. The Bill Wirtz dream team

Goal - Chris Mason, Nashville, and Steve Passmore, Phoenix

Defence - John-Michael Liles, Colorado, and Andy Delmore, Detroit

Forwards - Niko Kapanen, Dallas, Tomas Surovy, Pittsburgh, Jason King, Vancouver

Team Balaclava: All-overpaid team.

Goal - Ed Belfour, Toronto ($4.56 million)

Defence - Vladimir Malakhov, New Jersey ($3.6 million), Alexei Zhitnik, New York Islanders ($3.51 million)

Forwards - Alexei Yashin, New York Islanders ($7.6 million), Jeremy Roenick, L.A. ($4.94 million), Keith Tkachuk, St. Louis ($7.6 million)

ROCKET MEN

Leading candidates for the Rocket Richard Trophy. Twine will be bulged:

1. Jarome Iginla, Calgary

2. Rick Nash, Columbus

3. Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay

4. Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh Penguins

5. Marian Hossa, Atlanta Thrashers

BIG BLUE

Norris Trophy candidates:

1. Zdeno Chara, Ottawa

2. Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit

3. Scott Niedermayer, Anaheim

4. Chris Pronger, Edmonton

5. Sergei Gonchar, Pittsburgh

STOP RIGHT THERE

The Vezina Trophy sweepstakes:

1. Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary

2. Martin Brodeur, New Jersey

3. Roberto Luongo, Florida

OK CORRAL

With the NHL adopting shootouts after overtime this season, these guys will give the fans something to shout about:

1. Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh. With his wingspan, the Penguins owner is still the best on the planet one-on-one.

2. Rick Nash, Columbus

3. Ziggy Palffy, Pittsburgh

4. Jarome Iginla, Calgary

5. Peter Forsberg, Philadelphia

NOW WHAT?

The NHL's crackdown on obstruction will put these, ahem, physical blue-liners to the test:

Derian Hatcher, Philadelphia

Mike Rathje, Philadelphia

Bryan McCabe, Toronto

Jason Smith, Edmonton

Hal Gill, Boston

No Sweat

These D-men will continue to get the job done because of their mobility and smarts:

Jay Bouwmeester, Florida Panthers

Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings

Scott Niedermayer, Anaheim Mighty Ducks

Wade Redden, Ottawa Senators

Mattias Ohlund, Vancouver

FREE AT LAST

Forwards who'll dangle like sailors enjoying shore leave on payday without defencemen draped all over them:

1. Jaromir Jagr, New York Rangers

2. Todd Bertuzzi, Vancouver Canucks

3. Marian Hossa, Atlanta

4. Mike Modano, Dallas

5. Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh

PLUG IT IN

Watch these teams light it up on the power play:

1. Ottawa Senators

2. Pittsburgh Penguins

3. Philadelphia Flyers

4. Toronto Maple Leafs

5. Tampa Bay Lightning

LAST DANCE

Jason Allison, Toronto

Eric Lindros, Toronto

Gary Roberts, Florida

Curtis Joseph, Phoenix

Dominik Hasek, Ottawa

ODDS ON

2006 Stanley Cup odds, according to Vegas.com:

Top Shelf

4-1 Philadelphia

5-1 Detroit

6-1 Ottawa

7-1 Colorado

8-1 Tampa Bay

Next Best

10-1 Boston, Calgary, New Jersey

12-1 Vancouver, Dallas

15-1 Toronto, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh

17-1 San Jose

20-1 New York Islanders

22-1 Edmonton, Montreal

25-1 St. Louis

Also-rans

30-1 Nashville, Chicago, Anaheim

40-1 New York Rangers

45-1 Atlanta

50-1 Florida, Minnesota, Phoenix

Thanks for Coming

60-1 Columbus, Buffalo

70-1 Carolina

100-1 Washington


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