New faces in New places, who challenges Flyers in the East in 2010-11

The off-season of 2010 has been a wild one; many players have found new homes as the NHL looks drastically different then it has last season.

Your Philadelphia Flyers have been one of the more active teams so far bringing in forwards: Jody Shelley, Nikolai Zherdev and what many believe will soon be veteran forward Bill Guerin. The blue line has become a lot deeper as well as the most expensive in the league with the additions of Andrej Meszaros, Sean O’Donnell and Matt Walker.

But if the Flyers want to repeat the success that they had last season, two things must happen. Continued success must carry over from last season and they must bring that high level of play into the arena every night to win games against much improved teams! So lets look around the NHL to see which teams have improved and which have regressed.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have always been a tough team to play and with 6 games against them in the regular season that rough task will continue.

Our former friend Arron Asham has joined the Pens this off-season and this gritty 5’11, 200 lb winger will bring a lot more to this team then most people will give him credit for. Ash is a hard-nosed guy with soft hands, and when he is given the room to do so he is actually able to light the lamp a bit. But the success of the Pens comes down to Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and standout goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

Another team to keep your eye on is the Atlanta Thrashers. This is a young up-and-coming team that just missed the playoffs last season by five points. All this after they traded their former Superstar Ilya Kovalchuk to the Devils . But don’t count these guys out of the playoff picture at all.

Atlanta just re-signed  young forward Bryan Little, but don’t let his 5’11, 185 lb size fool you, this former 30-goal scorer has all the tools to shed his 13 goal last season and regain his old form.

The Thrasher stayed busy this off-season  and continued to shop. Most of this shopping was done in the city of Chicago. Atlanta acquired five former Blackhawks tough guys: Forwards  Andrew Ladd and Ben Eager, who both just signed one-year contracts. Dustin Byfuglien and Brent Sopel were both acquired via off-season trade from Chicago as well with Sopel adding much-needed defensive depth and a ton of offensive punch when speaking of Byfuglien.

Byfuglien, who broke out during last years Cup run is a 6’4” 250+lbs, is a combo guy can not only put the puck in the net but can also play solid D. That combined with young guys Zach Bogosian, Niclas Bergfors(acquired in the trade with NJ), Evander Kane, and new goalie Chris Mason make this team a legit threat in the East and a dark horse in the NHL playoff race.

Toronto Maple Leafs star, Phil Kessel

A GM Known all over the NHL for his quick and fast changes of a franchise is Brian Burke, who also happens to be president of the Toronto Maple Leafs has been very busy as well not just this year, but the last two off seasons rebuilding this team in hopes of a Stanley Cup run for the great city of Toronto.

Last Years Prized acquisition Phil Kessel spent most last year injured or doing his best to rehab from his injuries to still end up with 30 goals. The Leafs  hope with a full season hopefully injury free that he can lead this team the way that they expected him too after a trade from Boston.

The  Leafs spent a lot of this off-season rebuilding the front line of their team trying to get a bit more offensive punch to add to a solid back like that starts with new Captain Dion Phaneuf, Mike Komisarek and Tomas Kaberle(who still could be dealt sometime soon). So they acquired Kris Versteeg  from Chicago, forward Mike Brown from Anaheim, and signed forward Colby Armstrong to a multi-year contract.

With these additions along with youngsters Tyler Bozak, Luca Caputi, Luke Schenn, and first round draft pick(7th Overall) Nazem Kadri. The future looks bright for a team that missed the playoffs last season.

Even though this next team has had a quiet off-season, The Washington Capitals are going to be a team in the mix as long as they have a guy  named,  Alex Ovechkin. This 24-year-old SUPER STAR has played in almost 400 games in his NHL career and has 269 Goals and 260 assists for over 500 points and over a 1-point per game average.

The Caps have much more talent then just Ovi. Former Flyer Mike Knuble  will enter his second season in Washington, Alexander Semin  is a number one type caliber player on any team which goes the same for young gun Nicklas Backstrom.

The only downfall to this team might be the goaltending. If Semyon Varlamov can hold up as the every day number one goalie, then this team will be one of, if not, the beast in the east. But, if he were to struggle so to may the Caps.

Overall the Flyers have the talent and ability to get back to the promise land next season, but with high power teams such as Pitt, Wash, Habs, as well as young up-and-coming teams in the Thrashers, Leafs, and Islanders, the road wont be an easy one at all.

-Eric “Turtle” Golden

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