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Poll: Who will win the Southeast Division?

Aug 4, 2012, 5:17 PM EDT

Jordan Staal Eric Staal

The Southeast Division was the closest in the NHL last season, with only 12 points separating the last place Carolina Hurricanes and first place Florida Panthers. Going into the 2012-13 campaign, the race for the division title seems equally open.

So, as an extension of this being Lightning day, we’re passing along the question to you. However, before we do that, let’s take a quick look at the arguments for each team.

Why the Florida Panthers could win: They did it last season and have only gotten stronger. Yes, Jason Garrison‘s gone, but Peter Mueller was a great diamond in the rough pickup and this might be the year that Jonathan Huberdeau breaks into the NHL. Who knows if they’ll end up acquiring Roberto Luongo, but their current combination of Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen, with Jacob Markstrom ready to take over should an injury occur, is pretty solid.

Why the Washington Capitals could win: If Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green stay healthy, then the Capitals are a pretty imposing team. It would certainly help if Alex Ovechkin bounces back, but even in a bad season he gets 30-40 goals. They have a pair of promising young goaltenders in Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth. There’s also plenty to like about their summer acquisition of Mike Ribeiro and their decision to name Adam Oates as their new head coach.

Why the Tampa Bay Lightning could win: I don’t think I really need to sell you on Tampa Bay’s top-six forwards. Last season they bet on Dwayne Roloson having one more good year left in him and that didn’t work out. They’ve adapted over the summer by getting two young goaltenders in Anders Lindback and Riku Helenius. They also bolstered their defense to help balance the squad.

Why the Winnipeg Jets could win: The Jets were a team that had to make huge adjustments last season and that won’t be an issue this time around. They have two of league’s the best offensive defensemen in Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom. Their top goaltender, Ondrej Pavelec, was terribly inconsistent last season, but he’s still young and might bounce back. Plus there’s always a chance that Evander Kane meshes with Olli Jokinen or just otherwise takes another step towards stardom.

Why the Carolina Hurricanes could win: Uniting Jordan and Eric Staal is a move that should pay dividends this season. Jordan has a lot of offensive potential and should shine if given the opportunity to play with his brother on the top line. Another one of their major off-season acquisitions, Alexander Semin, is more of a gamble, but if he bounces back after two rough seasons, then the Hurricanes will have a very effective one-two-three attack. That’s not even getting into their solid supporting cast led by Jeff Skinner and their goaltender Cam Ward, who was dominant after the All-Star break.

  1. wingsfan40 - Aug 4, 2012 at 5:23 PM

    If it’s carolina there gonna have to count on ward there offense is pretty good now but if ward has a bad season like last season I dont even think they have a playoff spot there defense isn’t to good at all!!

  2. mathieug79 - Aug 4, 2012 at 5:27 PM

    tampa bay!!!!!!!! :)

  3. jacketsfan7 - Aug 4, 2012 at 5:29 PM


  4. jrzdiablo - Aug 4, 2012 at 5:33 PM

    Regardless who wins the SE division, in ‘real points’ they won’t be better than a 7th seed.

  5. mathieug79 - Aug 4, 2012 at 5:51 PM

    When is Winnipeg suppose to change division?

  6. chrisbrunson17 - Aug 4, 2012 at 6:06 PM

    Bolts will raise the cup, I think tokarski wins goaltending battle in camp. And as for Winnipeg I think the new CBA will work out realignment.

  7. sampulls - Aug 4, 2012 at 6:28 PM

    Jets will take this division.

  8. devo2the9s - Aug 4, 2012 at 6:50 PM

    Canes top 2 lines should be a force. If they can score 5 goals a night it shouldn’t matter if Carolina’s D isn’t good. They take the division.

  9. rushledger - Aug 4, 2012 at 7:25 PM

    Won’t be the jets know that much all they did was add Oli Jokienen yeah that’s not enough for a non playoff team just ask Calgary.

  10. rockthered1286 - Aug 4, 2012 at 8:08 PM

    Caps had a completely defensive minded coach for most of last season, a terrible goaltending situation with the oft injured Vokoun and an inconsistent Neuvy, long term injuries to Backstrom AND Green two of their top scorers, and STILL ended up making the playoffs and one win from the taking the Rangers out in round 2.

    This year we’ve lost an inconsistent Semin, a terrible defender in Wideman, and a few fourth line alternates. And Knuble and Vokoun but eh… BUT we did snag Ribeiro and WW who should help with the offensive production. You’re also looking at a HUGE jump in talent between the pipes with Holtby who everyone saw had a phenomenal post season, and really no loss on the defensive end whatsoever. Add a coaching change along with an offensive minded mentality coming to the district with Oatesy and there’s no way you can tell me this team doesn’t take the division.

    • theenutty - Aug 5, 2012 at 11:57 AM

      Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, Jeff Skinner, Alex Semin and Cam Ward is why the Caps dont win the division.

      • rockthered1286 - Aug 7, 2012 at 7:21 AM

        Really? Do you need me to counter with Ovechkin who tops anyone on your list, Backstrom, Mike Green, Brooks Laich, Mike Ribeiro, and Holtby between the pipes? And defensively superior with young guns like Alzner, Carlson and Orlov holding down the fort so you know. There’s that.

  11. broadstbully33 - Aug 4, 2012 at 8:53 PM

    its should say ” Who wins a 8th spot”

    • aaTman - Aug 4, 2012 at 9:53 PM

      Last season, an 8th seed won the cup.

  12. capsfan19 - Aug 4, 2012 at 9:05 PM

    Wont one of them be a 3rd seed…..

    Florida only won because of points they were lucky enough to achieve through OT.

    Im callin wash or tampa

  13. danphipps01 - Aug 4, 2012 at 9:44 PM

    If Holtby can perform consistently near the level he’s shown so far, the Caps take it. If not, I’ll bet on the ‘Canes and Bolts fighting it out.

  14. ray21230 - Aug 4, 2012 at 11:57 PM

    Your all nuts none of those teams can defend against a healthy Capitals they will be back to their president cup days and Ovie and Bacstrom will be unstopable

  15. chubbedjox - Aug 5, 2012 at 1:34 AM

    Somehow The Franchise will manage to win this division along with their own. Soup Can will go undefeated and they will end up giving The Franchise this division title, just face it people.

  16. lsxphotog - Aug 5, 2012 at 10:40 AM

    It’s going to be between Tampa and Carolina.

    The Capitals DID NOT get better…so I don’t see where people actually think they’ll be a better team based on what we know now. A whole year with Holtby might be interesting.

    The Panthers were lucky and won’t repeat again if you ask me. I don’t think they have the talent nor did they make the appropriate moves to become better. Remember, last year was one of the worst years in the South East we’ve ever seen! Every team sucked when it came to points. But they represented very well in the playoffs by upsetting the Bruins and fighting a battle with the soon-to-be Eastern Conference champion Devils.

    ‘Peg….well, they’re really a novelty team at this point. I don’t see the worth in some of their commitments, especially to Pavelec – the most average starting goaltender in the league. They’ll play good hockey and entertain the thirsty fans in Winnipeg, but they’ll hover outside until they can make some core moves or if Kane can continue with another big stride.

    Tampa had a great team in 2010-2011…they had a terrible one in 2011-2012. The regression was alarmingly obvious – poor goaltending and awful defense. Pretty much a recipe for disaster! When Tampa decided to have the oldest goalie tandem in the NHL, I knew it wouldn’t be a good year. Roloson was fabulous for Tampa in ’10-’11, but he was still a little shaky. Smith had to come in and save the day for Roli a few times during the playoffs…not good. Then his numbers the following year were comically terrible. This forced Tampa to ride a career backup as its starter, Garon. Not a bad goalie by any means, just not consistent enough to keep up in net with the demands the team needed. Combined with injuries to key players, dismal blueliners, and calling up half its farm system, the Lightning were still only a few points out of playoffs. This summer, they stuck to a plan and attacked the goaltending position and defense immediately. I feel they made the most significant improvement of any team this offseason. They’ve improved the only areas they had problems last year they where they STILL almost made it to the dance.

    Carolina…yeah…tremendous surprise there. Welcome to the big leagues again! If Ward doesn’t play like Pavelec, this team is going to be very hard to beat. Much like Tampa, they improved in the areas they lacked in a big way.


    • lsxphotog - Aug 5, 2012 at 10:43 AM

      TYPO! Capitals upset Bruins. Florida played well against New Jersey.

    • jdouble777 - Aug 6, 2012 at 9:59 AM

      They got better by adding a stud C (Robiero) to spell Backstrom. They got better because there is a chance Backstrom plays the whole season. Better because Vokun is finally where he should be, somewhere else, and someone at least as good if not extremely better has replaced him. Losing Semin hurt more than most are proclaiming, IMO, but I agree it will be stomached without too much heartburn. Moreover, they are all VERY young which makes simply years passing improve the team:
      Holtby (22), Neuvirth (24), Green (26), Alzner (23), Carlson (22), Ovie (26), Backstrom (24), Brouwer (26), Johansson (21).

      When Backstrom came back (he missed 40 games!) and Holtby replaced those other guys the the Panthers were one game from losing the division, the defending champs got sent home (#2 seed), and the #1 seed was 30 seconds from elimination.

      I am not saying the Capitals have it locked up, at all. But they should be VERY tough if healthy given how good they were at the end, another year of seasoning and meshing, and the way the off-season shook out. Tampa is going to be really tough, Panthers could be, and Hurricanes will be interesting…

      • lsxphotog - Aug 6, 2012 at 2:10 PM

        Excellent points. I feel that the Southeast overall has improved greatly. I see what you’re saying now about Washington, but hopefully Oates will bring the team together and they’ll play the style the team was built around: punishing, brutal offense. Their defense is better than it has ever been and Holtby is ABSOLUTELY the best goaltender I’ve seen on the team, so maybe that will allow them to get away with their bread and butter with no consequence.

        I just want the season to start so I can watch this division fight harder than ever.

  17. lonespeed - Aug 6, 2012 at 9:09 AM

    The last time there was a shortened season, Carolina won the cup. Looking that way again.

  18. jdouble777 - Aug 6, 2012 at 10:04 AM

    Here is what Vegas thinks:

    Tampa and Washington even (20 to 1), Carolina (30 to 1), Florida (40 to 1), Winnipeg (60 to 1)…sounds pretty accurate…

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