Eastern Conference

October 01, 1999|By Orange County Register

Atlantic Division

New Jersey Devils

Last season: 47-24-11, first in East.

Coach: Robbie Ftorek, second season (47-24-11).

Outlook: The Devils have the best record in the East the past two seasons, only to be upset in the first round. The problem seems to be more in their heads than their talent. But the Devils have decided to go with a bit of a youth movement, opting not to re-sign veterans Dave Andreychuk and Bobby Carpenter. They have one of the top goalies in Martin Brodeur.

New York Islanders

Last season: 24-48-10, 13th in East.

Coach: Butch Goring, first season.

Outlook: Because of financial woes, the Islanders shipped out three of their top offensive players: Trevor Linden, Ziggy Palffy and Bryan Smolinski. So what's Goring got to work with? A young defense and a young offense.

New York Rangers

Last season: 33-38-11, 10th in East.

Coach: John Muckler, second season (41-53-13).

Outlook: The Rangers opened their wallets wide and bought Theo Fleury, Stephane Quintal, Valeri Kamensky, Kirk McLean, Sylvain Lefebvre and Tim Taylor. They're hoping that will help fans forget that Wayne Gretzky retired.

Philadelphia Flyers

Last season: 37-26-19, fifth in East.

Coach: Roger Neilson, third season (47-35-21).

Outlook: Eric Lindros begins his eighth season as the savior of the Flyers. Lindros suffered a season-ending lung injury on April Fool's Day. That led to the Flyers' second consecutive first-round exit. Goalie John Vanbiesbrouck is back at No. 1.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Last season: 38-30-14, eighth in East.

Coach: Kevin Constantine, third season (78-54-32).

Outlook: Mario Lemieux used to work his magic on the ice. Now he will try to do it as an owner. Too bad Lemieux can't clone himself. Jaromir Jagr is close, but the Penguins need help on defense.

Northeast Division

Boston Bruins

Last season: 39-30-13, sixth in East.

Coach: Pat Burns, third season (78-60-26).

Outlook: The budget-conscious Bruins elected to let last season's leading goal-scorer, Dmitri Khristich, go. They also are in a contract squabble with No. 1 goalie Byron Dafoe (1.99 goals-against).

Buffalo Sabres

Last season: 37-28-17, seventh in East.

Coach: Lindy Ruff, third season (73-57-34).

Outlook: Dominik Hasek said over the summer that this will be his last NHL season. The only thing missing from his illustrious resume is a Stanley Cup championship. He and the Sabres unexpectedly came tantalizingly close last season, losing in the finals to the Dallas Stars.

Montreal Canadiens

Last season: 32-39-11, 11th in East.

Coach: Alain Vigneault, third season (69-71-24).

Outlook: The leading goal-scorer last season, Martin Rucinsky, had only 17. Injuries hampered the team all season.

Ottawa Senators

Last season: 44-23-15, second in East.

Coach: Jacques Martin, fifth season (119-116-49).

Outook: The Senators' best player, Alexei Yashin (44 goals), wants to renegotiate his contract and says he won't play for Ottawa. Goalie Ron Tugnutt led the league in goals-against average at 1.79.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Last season: 45-30-7, fourth in East.

Coach: Pat Quinn, second season (45-30-7).

Outlook: The Maple Leafs improved by 28 points last season and made the conference finals, but had only one significant injury (Alyn McCauley).

Southeast Division

Atlanta Thrashers

Last season: First-year expansion team.

Coach: Curt Fraser, first season.

Outlook: Atlanta becomes the seventh new NHL team of the decade. Veterans Ray Ferraro, Nelson Emerson, Gord Murphy and Ulf Samuelsson give the team heart and experience.

Carolina Hurricanes

Last season: 34-30-18, third in East.

Coach: Paul Maurice, fifth season (128-143-45).

Outlook: The Hurricanes and their fans won't be sad to say good riddance to the Greensboro Coliseum, a 160-mile round-trip for "home" games. The Hurricanes move into their home in Raleigh.

Florida Panthers

Last season: 30-34-18, ninth in East.

Coach: Terry Murray, second season (30-34-18).

Outlook: The Florida fans got flashes of Pavel Bure's greatness last season. Between knee problems, he scored 13 goals in 11 games since he was acquired from Vancouver. Bure has been rehabilitating from reconstructive knee surgery in March.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Last season: 19-54-9, 14th in East.

Coach: Steve Ludzik, first season.

Outlook: There is reason for Lightning fans to be optimistic. Goalie Daren Puppa is healthy. The Lightning added defensemen Andrei Zyuzin and Bill Houlder and forwards Shawn Burr and Steve Guolla.

Washington Capitals

Last season: 31-45-6, 12th in East.

Coach: Ron Wilson, third season (71-75-18).

Outlook: The Capitals went from making the Finals in 1998 to missing the playoffs last season, and the biggest culprit was injuries. The team lost a league-high 510 man-games to injury. The Capitals are banking on a better season from goalie Olaf Kolzig. The Capitals have a solid defense corps when healthy.

Pub Date: 10/01/99

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