I'm glad to see the NHL season is coming soon. With the possible job actions at MLB coming, and the joke that is the N.O. Saints, I'm hanging my sports hat on (golf first) the NHL. My favorite team, the team I grew up with and attended many games at the old "Fabulous Forum" then the "Great Western Forum" is the Los Angeles Kings. I'll get back to them.
As for what I see this year, the Red Wings will not repeat. I had them winning last year from start to finish, just because of their depth. They could roll four lines consistently, and had one of the two top goaltenders in the NHL. I still think that whoever wins the West will win the Stanley Cup, no team in the East has improved themselves enough to make a solid run. My top eight in the West would be: 1) Colorado, 2) San Jose, 3) Dallas, 4) Detroit, , 5) St. Louis, 6) Edmonton, 7) Kings, 8) Anaheim. Out of the East, I'd probably start with 1) Philly, 2) Ottawa, 3) Toronto, 4) Islanders, 5) Boston, 6) New Jersey, 7) Carolina, 8) Montreal. I'll go with the Sharks and Flyers in the finals, and the Sharks win in 6.
As for the Kings, I believe their season rests in two places: first of all, a top-notch year from Felix Potvin, secondly, consistent scoring from the Allison/Palffy/Smolinski/Deadmarsh group. They also can't afford to give up leads in the third period, as they have sometimes done in recent years.
As for your Thrashers, they're definitely getting better. I don't see them making the playoffs, and hopefully (forget which it was who got injured late last year) Kovalchuk and Heatley can continue to improve. Their defense is likely suspect, as is the case with most new and fairly new teams.
Tom in NO (at MSY)
"The criminal ineptitude makes you furious"-Bruce Springsteen, after seeing firsthand the damage from Hurricane Katrina