|Carey Price will lead the way for the Habs.|
continue to be contenders for the next three years, no doubt. If the Habs can get strong development from Galchenyuk, Gallagher and Beaulieu while the main tandem of Subban, Pacioretty, Price and Eller continue to produce. I might suggest adding some size to their Top-6, wouldn’t hurt the team’s chances of going all the way. I’d be leaning towards a stronger playoff team the further down the road you look. With more playoff experience for the Habs, they will get stronger and stronger every season.
Ottawa Senators: Despite a rough start to the season, the Sens have an extremely bright future. As Chris Phillips and Craig Anderson are close to the end of their tenure in Ottawa, young guns like Cody Ceci, Matt Puempel, Mika Zibanejad and Robin Lehner are ready to step into the Sens line-up and if they can develop and contribute to the main team of Turris, Spezza, Ryan, MacArthur and Michalek with Karlsson on defence, the Sens could be serious contenders in a couple of years. For now, the team is still trying to find an identity. Adding some depth on defence wouldn’t be a bad idea, considering Phillips won’t be with the team for much longer. Once Lehner steps in as the #1 goalie (as he should be already if you ask me), The Senators will have a chance to redeem themselves and prove they’re a playoff team once again.
Toronto Maple Leafs: The Leafs have come a long way in the past three years, and the next three look more promising. With tonnes of talent in Kessel, Lupul, Van Riemsdyk, Bozak, Phaneuf and the tandem of Bernier/Reimer (which should be broken up by the end of next season if you ask me) and not to mention the young talent of Nazem Kadri and Moran Rielly. The biggest concern for the Leafs is depth for me, which I think they’ve realized this past offseason, adding Clarkson and Bolland. I think the Leafs still have some speed bumps, but they could become contenders in a few years. After all, they lost to the Eastern Conference Champions by just one goal last season. The talent is there, Nonis and Carlyle just have to figure out how to win using that talent. Like a few other teams listed, I’d lean towards further playoff runs the further you look down the road.
Winnipeg Jets: The Jets are the most interesting team to me. They have a lot of really high end talent (Kane, Ladd, Byfuglien, Enstrom, Wheeler, Little) and yet they still can’t find a way to make
|Evander Kane is the X-Factor for the Jets.|
it to the post season. The Jets do have age on their side, as many of their core players are still awaiting their prime days of hockey. For me, the Jets need to be in the market for whoever the Leafs decide to let go in Bernier/Reimer. Pavelec can be a good #1 goalie, but he hasn’t shown that consistency yet. the Jets could also look to add more on the defensive end, helping out Pavelec instead if they believe he is the #1 that will lead them to the playoffs. The Jets could be anywhere in three years depending on what Cheveldaye and Maurice decide to do with their team, but I personally believe that they will still be on the bubble in terms of a playoff berth in a few years.
Calgary Flames: The Flames are going through a full blown rebuild, and it will take time. The Flames current leadership group is all under pressure to support their younger players that are breaking into the league, all while being rumoured to be on the way out day in and day out. Cammalleri, Stajan, Giordano and Backlünd lead the way for now, as Monahan and Jankowski are expected to carry on the torch once they’re gone. The Flames still need to find a true #1 goalie and add some defence to their prospect pool. I don’t expect the Flames to be much further than they are right now in three years.
Edmonton Oilers: The Oilers are probably the biggest question mark in terms of where they will be in three years. With Hall, Eberle, Schultz and RNH considered the future of this team, other guys like Gagner, Yakupov, Jones and Hemsky have all underachieved during their tenure in Edmonton. David Perron has been great this season for the Oilers, and in my opinion is the lone bright spot on the team thus far this season in terms of all-around play. It’s entirely up to MacTavish and Eakins on where they are headed for the future, most of it depending on Nail Yakupov and Darnell Nurse, who has had an underachieving season in the CHL this year. The Oilers are still searching for a winning core.
Vancouver Canucks: With the slow decline of the Canucks’ main core in the Twins and Luongo, players like Ryan Kesler and Chris Higgins are expected to make the step up with some big shoes
|Can Luongo overcome his Playoff woes?|
to fill. With Hamhuis and Bieksa on the tail end of his peak, guys like Garrison, Edler and Tanev will be expected to fill the void once they’re out of the mix. The Canucks do have a bright future in Eddie Lack, Bo Horvat, Hunter Shinkaruk and Frank Corrado in their prospect pool. I don’t expect the Canucks to make it far past the first round in the next three seasons. If Zack Kassian can fulfill his potential as a hockey player, maybe the Canucks have one more good run in them, but the Sedins, Burrows, Hamhuis, Bieksa, Luongo and Kesler all have to be at the top of their game with a good supporting crew in Higgins, Kassian, Edler, and Garrison. The Canucks may be trying to find a new identity in a few years, and a change of scenery as well, but I still expect the Canucks to be a playoff team for at least next season before they go through any downgrades.