NHL Franchise Lifecycle - Team by Team Analysis (Northeast Division)

TORONTO, CANADA - MARCH 6: Nikolai Kulemin #41 of the Toronto Maple Leafs battles for the puck with Dennis Seidenberg #44 of the Boston Bruins during NHL action at the Air Canada Centre March 6, 2012 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)

In this installment we go to the place where half of the Original 6, and a majority of the hockey media reside - the Great Northeast.

Prior postings in this series:

  1. NHL Franchise Lifecycle
  2. Southeast Division
  3. Central Division
  4. Atlantic Division
  5. Pacific Division

Eastern Conference - Northeast Division

Boston Bruins 2012-2013

Core Players: David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic, Tyler Seguin, Zdeno Chara,

Transitional Players: Brad Marchand, Johnny Boychuk

Geriatric Stars: Zdeno Chara, Shawn Thornton

Cap Space: Basically none

Lifecycle Phase: Climax

Analysis: One year removed from riding a hot goaltender and playing just well enough to win, the Bruins were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in 7 games. The difference this time is that they didn't get the goaltending. Boston remains a strong team in the East with a talented and bruising core. This team is at its peak, and without Chara, the defense is ho-hum. Tyler Seguin will provide the offensive lift they need for the foreseeable future, but Chara's window will close in the next 3-4 years. They need to succeed now, and with the players they have. They don't have the cap space to make any major upgrades, even if Savard returns to IR at the beginning of the season. Yes, Thomas is taking the year off, but he has a 35+ contract, meaning only $100k of his contract can come off the books, and only if he gets shipped to the minors (thanks Capgeek).

Buffalo Sabres 2012-2013

Core Players: Tomas Vanek, Jason Pominville, Drew Stafford, Nathan Gerbe, Tyler Meyers, Ryan Miller

Transitional Players: Ville Leino, Christian Erhoff

Geriatric Stars: None

Cap Space: $9.9M

Lifecycle Phase: Rebuilding

Analysis: This team is difficult to classify. The core of the team is in their prime years, but they're just not very good as a team. They have good young players like Gerbe and Meyers, and more down in the minors and in junior working their way up. This team is structured to be Contending, but quite simply, they need to make the playoffs to be contending for anything. They have an impatient owner, so expect the unexpected. They picked up Steve Ott to raise their douchebag quotient, but there should be more moves around the trade deadline if the Sabres are still in the hunt.

Montreal Canadiens 2012-2013

Core Players: Carey Price, P. K., Subban, Tomas Plekanec

Transitional Players: Max Pacorietty, Lars Eller, Yannick Weber

Geriatric Stars: Erik Cole, Andre Markov, Brian Gionta

Cap Space: $6.3M

Lifecycle Phase: Death's Door

Analysis: Welcome to Montreal, home of the No Trade Clause, where every player is part of the core, and the team stinks. You get the impression that the current management group would like to blow this up and start over, but the profusion of NTCs gets in the way, and most of those under-performing contracts extend through 2014. There are quality young players in this organization, but they need to clear the decks before bringing up the kids. This is also a team of smurfs, and they need more people shaped like Erik Cole. Expect at least one more season of futility before the rebuild begins in earnest.

Ottawa Senators 2012-2013

Core Players: Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson, Milan Michalek, Erik Karlsson, Sergei Gonchar, Craig Anderson

Transitional Players: Guillaume Latendresse, Jared Cowen

Geriatric Stars: Daniel Alfredsson, Sergei Gonchar

Cap Space: $19.6M

Lifecycle Phase: Rebuilding

Analysis: The pieces are starting to fall together in the Canadian capital. Ottawa has a good balance of youth and experience in their core, young players on their way up, and solid goaltending. Yet, something seems to be missing. Talent, that's the ticket. This is just not a frightening team. Paul MacLean did a masterful job of matching scheme to the players available, and squeaked into the playoffs as the 8th seed. This team is reminiscent of the 2009-2010 Avalanche in that they were picked to finish at the bottom of the conference, but managed to make the playoffs. Is it a coincidence that Craig Anderson backstopped both teams? That they both had an under-appreciated first line centerman? That they both had a grizzled veteran defenseman? That they both had a rookie coach? Creepy.

Toronto Maple Leafs 2012-2013

Core Players: Mikhail Grabvoski, Phil Kessel, Jeoffry Lupul, Doin Phaneuf

Transitional Players: James van Riemsdyk, John-Michael Liles, Tim Connolly, James Reimer

Geriatric Stars: None

Cap Space: $9.0M

Lifecycle Phase: Death's Door

Analysis: So, which is it this year? All Blowed Up or Death's Door? What does it mean when a franchise is paying two players, Darcy Tucker and Colby Armstrong, $1M each to NOT play for them? Poor management. The core of this team is at its prime, suggesting a Contending team or one at Climax, but there are simply not enough core players. Goalie is a continuing problem. They actually have reasonable depth across the board, but not enough top talent. Another problem is a profusion of No Trade Clauses which will limit Burke's ability to trade for picks and prospects to re-fill the talent pool. Toronto is the center of the hockey media world, and the pressure on the Leafs to be competitive every year is another major factor that prevents management from blowing it all up and starting again. Unfortunately, that's what needs to be done. The recurring attempts to patch and reload are just prolonging the suffering.


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