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Ray Shero Discusses Life After the Stanley Cup
The John Tavares Handbook
I'm not afraid to say that I'm rooting for a Pittsburgh and Detroit three-peat in the final, and I hope it happens. But like I've said, we haven't seen one team, let alone two, go to three straight Finals in nearly a quarter-century. I'm rooting for it, but I just don't think it's realistic to expect them to both do it again.
I think Los Angeles ends its playoff drought, Buffalo returns to the postseason, and the Islanders, Avalanche and Coyotes battle it out for the lottery in 2010.
I predict that two teams are going to crash the playoffs in the East this year -- Tampa and Toronto. Neither are at the point yet where they can compete with the top teams in the conference -- not by a long shot -- but they've both made strides in the offseason and have energetic, exciting rosters. That's going to lead to a lot of growing pains and mistakes, but I think both teams are going to play that scrappy, nothing-to-lose game given the low expectations they each face. Teams that play like that are always dangerous.
Like Derek Jeter, Martin Brodeur will have another season when he proves he's got plenty left. The Bruins will miss Phil Kessel. Marian Gaborik will score 35 goals, John Tavares will score 25. The Flyers will be a blast to watch and Emery will be okay, but they will not make the conference final. Eric Staal will continue to fall a little bit short of being looked at as a star. The Panthers will come in ninth or 10th. The Leafs have a chance if they can mesh before Christmas. Atlanta -- wisely giving Kovalchuk guys he can have fun with -- will not be bad, but not good enough. Victor Hedman will receive raves as the quiet draft pick who will one day get a Norris nomination. With the East much improved, some solid teams won't make the playoffs. Examples are Buffalo, Montreal and Ottawa.
In the West, welcome a healthier Dallas club back to the postseason, Calgary will stifle opponents most of the year, and Vancouver should be lots of fun. But if Anaheim can avoid the perilously slow start that nearly sank the Ducks last year, the team's new sense of balance will propel them past the cap-weakened Wings and the annual unfulfilled promise that is the Sharks. Anaheim won't be able to throttle teams every night, but should be able to score more consistently, and Ryan Getzlaf is coming into his own as one of the biggest stars in the game. What's not to like about two-time finalist Pittsburgh? Boston and Carolina might make things interesting, Montreal is a bunch of steady pros and Washington will get a lot of the spotlight, but the window is still there for the Penguins and they'll take it.
In the year 2000 ... wait, wrong show. Ray Emery will return from a Russian exodus to play for a talented team that's trying to get over the hump. Too bad he's not the answer to getting over it, although an aging Chris Pronger should help. The Devils won't be quite the same team they have been in the past. They'll still be solid, but they've lost way too many players to win the Atlantic. The Rangers will be about the same -- I don't think additions put them over the top -- and the Leafs will be better when Kessel is healthy. And speaking of Kessel, the Bruins may be hurting a bit after losing him. Good thing they can comfort themselves with all those lovely draft picks. And finally the Canadiens should at least be interesting to watch with so many new faces in town.