1. Archive

Wings eye full finish // CENTRAL DIVISION


Last season: 24-19-5, eighth overall.

Playoffs: Lost to the Red Wings in conference finals.

Coach: Craig Hartsburg (first season).

Scouting report: The big question is what will become of center Jeremy Roenick, once the team's untouchable star? The 25-year-old spent most of last season feuding with then-coach Darryl Sutter and didn't endear himself to management with his sub-par season. He's been the subject of several trade rumors. ... If Roenick stays and returns to his previous form, he stabilizes an offense rejuvenated last season by Bernie Nicholls and Denis Savard. Tony Amonte and Joe Murphy add grit. ... Bob Probert, suspended all of last season for alcohol and substance abuse, used to score and terrorize opponents with his hard-nosed play. At 30, can he still do both? If he can, he gives the team a weapon it didn't possess. ... The Blackhawks had the best power play in the league last season, and there's no reason it won't be productive again. ... Goaltending is in good hands with Ed Belfour, who claimed his third Jennings Trophy last season. It's awarded to the team with the fewest goals allowed. ... Of course, the defense in front of him also contributed. Chris Chelios, named captain this season, leads a talented and tough group that includes Steve Smith, Gary Suter, Eric Weinrich, Cam Russell, Ivan Droppa and Keith Carney. The team's only loss was free agent Gerald Diduck, who signed with Hartford.


Last season: 17-23-8, 19th overall.

Playoffs: Lost to Red Wings in first round.

Coach: Bob Gainey (sixth season).

Scouting report: The team's chances of success hinge on the health and performance of Mike Modano. When the center went down with an ankle injury with 14 games left last season, it was a severe blow to the Stars' chances of advancing in the playoffs. ... Even with Modano's scoring prowess and Dave Gagner's team-high 42 points, the team finished 19th in goals scored. Free-agent center Bob Bassen will help at both ends of the ice. If Corey Millen can recapture his scoring touch, he also would help. ... The team is small at forward and could use some size. On defense, the team is exceptionally big, starting with the Hatcher brothers _ 6-4, 225-pound Kevin and 6-5, 225-pound Derian. Doug Zmolek is 6-2, 225; Richard Matvichuk is 6-2, 190; Craig Ludwig is 6-3, 217; and Grant Ledyard is 6-2, 195. ... Andy Moog was rock-solid in goal last season with a .915 save percentage, second among starting goalies. But he turns 35 in February. Backup Darcy Wakaluk likely will see more time but will need to improve on his shaky .883 save percentage.


Last season: 33-11-4, first overall.

Playoffs: Lost to Devils in Stanley Cup Finals.

Coach: Scotty Bowman (third season).

Scouting report: Even though the Red Wings were embarrassed in the finals last June, they still have all the ingredients to make another run this season and end their 40-year drought (the league's longest). But can they mentally recover?. ... The team finally signed Mike Vernon. But the goaltending situation is up in the air with up-and-coming Chris Osgood close to claiming the No.

1 spot. The pair will push each other. ... The Red Wings still feature one of the scariest offensive attacks in the league. Sergei Fedorov, the 1993-94 NHL MVP, had a quiet regular season, but was the top scorer in the playoffs. Steve Yzerman (if he's not traded), Dino Ciccarelli, Keith Primeau, Ray Sheppard (if he's not traded) and Vyacheslav Kozlov provide plenty of scoring punch. The six players accounted for 106 goals. ... Paul Coffey, the NHL's most prolific defenseman scorer, led the attack with 58 points. But he's surrounded by a defense that either is too young or too old. Former Lightning defenseman Marc Bergevin will add stability.


Last season: 28-15-5, fourth overall.

Playoffs: Lost to Canucks in first round.

Coach: Mike Keenan (second season).

Scouting report: Rangers general manager Neil Smith said, "If you show up five minutes after the store opens, they're in a Blues uniform." That certainly was the case this off-season. Keenan went on a shopping spree in which money seemed no object. He's going after the Cup now. He acquired proven veterans Dale Hawerchuk, Shayne Corson, Geoff Courtnall and Brian Noonan, who all will help add punch to an offense that begins with Brett Hull and his slap shot. Keenan got rid of two players in his doghouse _ Brendan Shanahan and Curtis Joseph. The acquired players should replace the grit and scoring of Shanahan. But Joseph still is a premiere goalie in the league. How far can Jon Casey or Grant Fuhr take the Blues? It didn't help that Fuhr showed up at camp chunky and out of shape after Keenan praised him for his commitment to fitness. ... The power play should be better this season with a healthy Al MacInnis. Last season he was riddled with injuries and had just two power-play goals. The addition of Chris Pronger, the No.

2 pick overall in 1993, also should help if he can begin to live up to his potential.


Last season: 21-19-8, 12th overall.

Playoffs: Lost to Blackhawks in first round.

Coach: Pat Burns (fourth season).

Scouting report: The Leafs went from two consecutive Final Four appearances to a first-round ousting last season. It again will be difficult for Toronto to advance very far in the playoffs. ... The team can't match the firepower or skill of Vancouver, Detroit, Calgary, St. Louis or Colorado. ... Toronto needs Doug Gilmour to return to All-Star form. He had just 10 goals and 33 points in an injury-plagued 44 games last season. Expect a healthy Gilmour to rebound. ... Mats Sundin should carry the offensive load again. The 24-year-old led the team in scoring last season with 23 goals and 47 points and still is getting better. The steady Dave Andreychuk can be counted on for 25-plus goals. ... New acquisition Larry Murphy, the fifth-highest scoring defenseman of all-time, will add scoring and the ability to get the puck out of the defensive zone. ... The team's strength is goaltending. Felix Potvin has been one of the best goalies in the league for the past three seasons and he's only 24. Backup Damian Rhodes doesn't play much, but in the games he did play he had a .916 save percentage (fourth best in the league).


Last season: 16-25-7, 21st overall.

Playoffs: None.

Coach: Terry Simpson (second season).

Scouting report: This will be the team's last season in Winnipeg. Nobody came up with the cash for a new arena, so the team will move, most likely to Minnesota. The fans fought hard enough to keep the team for this last season, but it likely won't be a winning one. ... Left wing Keith Tkachuk and his 22 goals and 51 assists can't wait for next season. He wants out of Winnipeg now and has been a camp holdout ... The Jets were able to sign Alexei Zhamnov and Teemu Selanne, two of the most talented forwards in the league. ... The biggest problem is on defense. There really isn't one. After Teppo Numminen, the talent level drops to about Ottawa's level. Dave Manson still is tough, but his skills are nowhere close to his heyday. Winnipeg allowed 177 goals last season. Only Edmonton allowed more. ... Goalie Tim Cheveldae, who was booed out of Detroit, didn't fare much better in Winnipeg. He had the worst save percentage of No. 1 goalies at .881. But the lack of defense did not help.