Gazette Sports 1997-98 NHL Forecast: Central
The Stars will shine bright in Dallas late into May with the possibility of a visit from Mr. Stanley himself. With Ed Belfour now guarding the Texan home front, the final piece of the puzzle was added during the summer. The Stars should finally realize their true potential come playoff time. The team is coming off a franchise record 104 points last season, including a division title, so the team has high expectations to live up to. But scorers like Pat Verbeek and Joe Nieuwendyk should hit the twine on a regular basis and put points in the win column.
The Chicago Black Hawks looked prepared to fly into this season and add a 29th consecutive playoff appearance. Speedy Tony Amonte should lead the team in scoring, but Chicago's success will depend on how well a veteran blue-line can help out journeyman goaltender Jeff Hackett who will become either the heel or hero of the Windy City.
Drinking from Lord Stanley's cup is still fresh in the minds of many players and fans in the Motor City. Hockey guru Scotty Bowman is still at the wheel and it appears that the Detroit Red Wings will once again drive deep into the playoffs with a finely-tuned engine. However, the team failed to improve their defence and without a solid goaltender to back up Chris Osgood a repeat title is unlikely.
The lights will be flashing red in Phoenix this winter, with Coyote sharp-shooters firing the puck past league netminders in a well-balanced attack including Keith Tkachuk, Jeremy Roenick, Mike Gartner and newly-acquired Rick Tocchet. Too bad the Coyotes lack a solid goaltender to hold the score.
"Can't buy me love" will be the latest Blues remix classic released by St. Louis fans this season. Brett Hull is demanding more money, Grant Fuhr and Al MacInnis are overpaid and on their last legs and let's not mention Mike Keenan's name in the state of Missouri. It appears conflict and confusion will leave coach Joel Quenneville with little to work with.
Goaltending will make or break the Toronto Maple Leafs' hopes this season. No matter how hard netminder Felix Potvin will try to bring back respectability to Toronto's storied franchise, inexperienced general manager Ken Dryden will likely destroy it. Questionable off-season pick-ups, a lack of defence and direction will leave Mats Sundin alone to fend for the team.