30 teams, 30 snapshots

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:39 AM ET

A quick look at the coming season in the National Hockey league:

Anaheim Ducks: They're the trendy pick in the West and they should be good. But how far can a team be expected to go with Andy McDonald as its top centre?

Atlanta Thrashers: If they can keep any of their top four goalies healthy -- something they couldn't manage last year -- they'll be in the playoffs.

Boston Bruins: They've made some moves and they're better. But if they worked as hard on the team as they do on media manipulation, they'd be odds-on favourites.

Buffalo Sabres: They're close, and perhaps a legendary GM like Sam Pollock could be the answer. Then again, Pollock is too young to be a GM in Buffalo. He's only 80.

Calgary Flames: Quebec used to be the least-favourite home for NHL players. Now it's Calgary. With an average salary of only $1.8 million, the players can't afford to buy houses.

Carolina Hurricanes: They finally had a good season so their faithful fans got rewarded with a parade around the parking lot and exponential increases in ticket prices.

Chicago Blackhawks: There are those who think GM Dale Tallon will get the Hawks out of the old Bob Pulford mould. But consider this: Who taught Tallon everything he knows?

Colorado Avalanche: This edition will establish another important milestone in NHL history -- the first great team to be decimated by the salary cap.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Last season, it was Rick Nash going down early. This time, it's Sergei Fedorov. The talent is spread too thin for that not to take its toll.

Dallas Stars: Like so many NHL teams, the Stars have trouble getting media attention in their hometown. Too bad Terrell Owens isn't a hockey player.

Detroit Red Wings: Cagey GM Ken Holland suggested the Wings might have trouble making the playoffs. With expectations lowered, the Wings will make him look good.

Edmonton Oilers: They lost a lot of good players, but their staunch fans insist they'll be stronger than ever. You can read those fans every day in the Edmonton papers.

Florida Panthers: 1. It's a fairly a good team; 2. Can the coaching staff do it? 3. Can the front office help out? To paraphrase Meat Loaf: One out of three ain't good.

Los Angeles Kings: Another team craving media attention. But the antics of Sean Avery, not to mention Marc Crawford after a four-game losing streak, should change that.

Minnesota Wild: For the first time in franchise history, they're stacked with talent. But will they use that talent to score, or will they continue to be insomnia's worst enemy?

Montreal Canadiens: If they have another good year, perhaps the owner can give himself another $70 million dividend. No wonder he wanted a salary cap so badly.

Nashville Predators: There should be a law that players as flashy as Paul Kariya and Steve Sullivan shouldn't have to wear the league's ugliest sweaters.

New Jersey Devils: GM Lou Lamoriello formulated the salary cap but can't figure out how it works. He needs a few more Martin Brodeurs to donate their salaries to his cause.

New York Islanders: The NHL may have found the answer to low television ratings. All you have to do is turn a hockey team into a sitcom.

New York Rangers: This could be a great year for the Rangers. If that is indeed the case, they'll be breaking out the champagne in the NHL's head office.

Ottawa Senators: Ownership can't figure out why attendance isn't as high as the team seems to deserve. Give the chauffeur the day off and you'll find out.

Philadelphia Flyers: For years, Bob Clarke had a gaping hole in goal. Now he has got goalies but he can't keep them healthy. And he still has got a gaping hole left by Keith Primeau.

Phoenix Coyotes: They're expecting improvement. They're also expecting apologies for the media's mishandling of the "gambling" story. Guess which will come first.

Pittsburgh Penguins: This is a team built in the image of Mario Lemieux. That makes them a lot of fun to watch, but there's not a hint of defence.

San Jose Sharks: The Wilson who pulled off the theft of Joe Thornton should have been GM of the year. But when will the other Wilson make the deal pay serious dividends?

St. Louis Blues: Talent is fairly thin but president John Davidson has the answer. He expects each player to perform as many functions as he did when he was in the media.

Tampa Bay Lightning: The talent is there, but coach John Tortorella is about as popular as Jack Layton at a Legion hall. If this team starts slowly again, he'll be in trouble.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Everyone knows the Leafs are God's team. But it's still not clear how they managed to get Pope John Pohl on the roster.

Vancouver Canucks: The biggest problem is that the Sedin twins weren't triplets. Anson Carter is gone. Jan Bulis has disappointed and Markus Naslund is needed elsewhere.

Washington Capitals: Here, as in places like Columbus, Long Island and Florida, the owner is a non-hockey investor lured into the league by Gary Bettman. Spot a trend?


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