2011-2012 Northeast Division Preview - Part 2
Yesterday, we took a look at what we think are going to be the top two teams in the Northeast Division. Now, we take a look at the bottom teams in the division.
The Maple Leafs finished the season 10th in the Eastern Conference with 85 points, nine points outside of the playoffs. The team allowed the third most goals in the Eastern Conference with 251 goals and had a goal differential of -33.
The Maple Leafs did upgrade at the center position with the addition of Tim Connolly. Connolly, who was the Sabres' scapegoat for much of his career, is able to slide into a role that is slightly less out of the spotlight for the Leafs. While still injury prone, if Connolly continues his average career production for the Leafs this season, it would be an upgrade at that position for Toronto. Also, the Leafs added Matthew Lombardi from Nashville as well. Lombardi had a lost season last year, playing in only two games for the Predators, but has a career average of .5 points/game.
On defense, the Leafs added John Michael Liles from the Colorado Avalanche. Liles played seven seasons for the Avalanche and last season had six goals and 46 points in 76 games for Colorado. The addition shores up some major holes on the Leafs defense, but it may not be enough to overcome one of the worst defenses in the league.
No major players left the Leafs during the offseason but the keys to the net will be left squarely in the hands of James Reimer after Jean Sebastian Giguere was let go. Reimer played well in the second half of the season for the Leafs and should now have the starting role for the team.
What To Watch For
The Leafs defense and goaltending are going to be the key areas for the team if they want to make the playoffs. The questions of whether James Reimer can handle a full season and whether the defense is going to be better are the keys to a playoff season for the Leafs.
The Leafs will be improved and will probably end the season with 92 points. Whether that point total makes the playoffs is yet to be seen.
The Senators young team finished the season with 74 points and ended the season 13th in the Eastern Conference. The Senators had questions at pretty much every spot in the lineup last year. Their offense scored 192 goals, the least in the Eastern Conference. Their goal differential of -58 was the lowest in the Eastern Conference as well.
Zenon Konopka is the team's major addition in the offseason, bringing his aggressive nature to the team and giving the Senators some added grit. Konopka had 307 penalty minutes last season which led the NHL. The Senators also brought in Alex Auld as a backup goaltender to Craig Anderson. Auld has bounced around to eight different teams and is settling down in Ottawa for the second time in his career.
The Senators didn't move anyone overly important either in the offseason, with the biggest player moved was winger Ryan Shannon. Shannon played with the Senators for three seasons and played in 79 games last year with 11 goals and 16 assists.
What To Watch For
The Senators are a young team that will still go through growing pains and continue to struggle this season as well. The team still has some impressive forwards in Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza, but those two players aren't going to completely turnaround this team. They should compete for lottery pick as well.
The Senators will finish with 70 points and compete for a lottery pick.