by PuckStopsHere on 10/30/08 at 04:57 PM ET
The Southeast Division has been the weakest division in the NHL for the last several years. Last year, only the Washington Capitals made the playoffs of the southeast teams. Washington won the division. They needed a very strong stretch run to get 94 points which tied for the lowest total of all east playoff teams. The other four southeast teams all missed the playoffs. Given the large number of intra-division in the unbalanced schedule last year that is quite an achievement.
This year doesn’t look like it will be much different. If the season ended right now, based on current point totals only Washington would make the playoffs again. They would tie for the worst point total among east teams again.
At this point in the season, the problem with the Southeast Division is clearly defined. The Southeast Division is the division of weak defences. The four teams with the most shots allowed per game so far this season are the Tampa Bay Lightning (37.5 shots allowed per game), Atlanta Thrashers (35.7 shots allowed per game), Florida Panthers (34.9 shots allowed per game) and Carolina Hurricanes (34.4 shots allowed per game). Washington is the only one missing from this list, their 27.3 shots allowed per game places them seventh in the league. Some of these teams (especially Tampa Bay) so they are not all among the league leaders in goals allowed.
The Southeast Division is a division of weak defences. Tampa lacks any defensive stars. They rely on Andrej Meszaros and Matt Carle as their top defenceman. Neither of them has been a number one guy in the past in the NHL and there is little reason to believe they are ready now. In Atlanta it is Ron Hainsey and Mathieu Schneider who play the most minutes. Schneider may have once been an NHL star, but his best days are gone. Neither is a top level NHL defencemen today. Florida in theory should have a good defence. Jay Bouwmeester and Keith Ballard should be a good number one pairing, but they have not been successful in keeping the shots down so far this year. The problem is more likely the lack of a solid checking forward on the Panthers. They attempt to use players like Ville Peltonen and Kamil Kreps in that role, but nobody would mistaken them for Selke candidates. Carolina’s weak defence uses Dennis Seidenberg and Tim Gleason as their top defenceman with Joni Pitkanen injured. That defence won’t scare anyone.
Only Washington escapes the group of weak defences. Mike Green is a star and is playing like one. Jeff Schultz and Shaone Morrisonn are solid defensive guys behind him. They have defensively responsible forwards in former Selke winner Sergei Fedorov as well as Boyd Gordon and Brooks Laich. This is what makes Washington the class of the Southeast Division. They have a solid defence.
The Southeast Division is a weak division. The main reason for this is it houses some of the weakest defences in the NHL. Until that gets fixed, the offence of players like Ilya Kovalchuk, Vincent LeCavallier and Eric Staal will go to waste
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