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2010 NHL preview

Order on the ice: Judging the winners and losers

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / October 7, 2010

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Players on the move
1. Tomas Vokoun, G, Florida: With the Panthers not playoff-ready and youngster Jacob Markstrom pushing for crease time, Vokoun gets flipped for picks and prospects at the deadline. Or even before.

2. Brad Richards, C, Dallas: Steady, point-per-game producer will provide an instant upgrade for any playoff wannabe.

3. James Wisniewski, D, Islanders: Is already with his third organization in the last two years. Should be on the move again, unless the Islanders need his $3.25 million salary to reach the cap floor.

Top fighters
1. Derek Boogaard, LW, Rangers: The undisputed heavyweight champ. Feared because of his reach (6-foot-7) and power (275 pounds). Recorded only 105 penalty minutes last season with Minnesota, mostly because other guys were too wary of fighting the Boogey Man.

2. Steve MacIntyre, LW, Edmonton: Like Boogaard, MacIntyre doesn’t scrap often (just four times last year) because he finds it hard to engage in a fight. The 6-foot-5, 250-pounder locked up with Brian McGrattan last year in a full-tilt beaut. Big Mac can hurt guys with his thunder.

3. Colton Orr, RW, Toronto: Doesn’t have the punching power of the super-heavyweights, but isn’t afraid of anyone and will fight at any time. Milan Lucic doesn’t lose many bouts, but Orr delivered a beating to the Bruins forward last year.

Most hated
1. Steve Ott, LW, Dallas: The supreme agitator. Will hook, claw, scratch, trip, cross-check, and slash his way into an opponent’s head. Still talked about in Boston dressing room for his antics two years ago.

2. Matt Cooke, LW, Pittsburgh: Players around the league would line up (and pay money) to see Cooke get his.

3. Patrick Kaleta, RW, Buffalo: Happy to take runs at anybody. More of a banger than chirper, but doesn’t shy away from mouthing off at other players.

Best atmosphere
1. Bell Centre, Montreal: No other building comes close. Sellouts for preseason games. Frenzied for playoff matches. Perfect, unparalleled example of rink as stage.

2. United Center, Chicago: The excitement starts when the crowd goes wild for national anthem singer Jim Cornelison. Fans go home humming Chelsea Dagger for the next three days.

3. RBC Center, Carolina: Far quieter when the Hurricanes aren’t playing well. But given the area’s SEC bloodlines, the Raleigh rink is as noisy as any in the playoffs.

Coaches on the hot seat
1. John Tortorella, Rangers: GM Glen Sather is more culpable for the state of Broadway’s frozen aisle. But coaches usually go before GMs.

2. Ron Wilson, Toronto: If the Leafs sputter early, GM Brian Burke might have to turf his fellow Friar.

3. Peter DeBoer, Florida The former Kitchener boss could pay the price for not being GM Dale Tallon’s guy.

Best bargains
1. Jimmy Howard, G, Detroit: The Wings’ No. 1 goalie carries a cap hit of $716,666 this season. The perfect example of general manager Ken Holland’s approach of paying skaters instead of goalies.

2. Claude Giroux, C, Philadelphia: Third-year pro will only pull in $765,000 this season. Chump change for a player who was almost a point-per-game guy in the playoffs.

3. Matt Carkner, D, Ottawa: Paying a glue guy $700,000 to stay healthy (81 games last year) and stick up for teammates (190 penalty minutes) is the definition of efficient cap management.

Worst contracts
1. Wade Redden, D, Rangers: New York wiped Redden’s $6.5 million annual salary from the books by assigning him to Hartford. Will not be seen in the NHL this season.

2. Brian Rolston, C, New Jersey: The ex-Bruin scored 20 goals in 80 games last season. But at just a shade north of $5 million annually, the 37-year-old is getting paid franchise bucks for a supporting role.

3. Jason Spezza, C, Ottawa: On the books for five more years at $7 million per. Too much scratch for a floating one-dimensional player.

Raises due
1. Drew Doughty, D, Los Angeles: If the Kings don’t extend the Norris Trophy finalist ($875,000 base salary), he’ll be the target of multiple offer sheets next summer. Projecting to be a once-in-ageneration defenseman.

2. Steven Stamkos, C, Tampa Bay: The shoot-first center, due to make $875,000 in base salary, could be a 50-goal scorer for the rest of his career.

3. Zach Parise, LW, New Jersey: Could double his $3.125 million salary. And be worth it.

Top Massachusetts players
1. Keith Yandle, D, Phoenix: The Milton native would get more attention if he wasn’t toiling in the desert.

2. Tom Poti, D, Washington: Poti, who hails from Worcester, sees ice time in all situations.

3. Mike Mottau, D, Islanders: The Avon product will get big minutes on the Island.

Long shifts
1. Alex Ovechkin, LW, Washington: Averaged 1:06 per shift last year. Is often on the ice for full two minutes of power play.

2. Ilya Kovalchuk, RW, New Jersey: Between NewJersey and Atlanta, Kovalchuk averaged 1:04 per shift.

3. Mike Green, D, Washington: The offense-first defenseman’s average shift was 1:02, most of it watching opposing forwards blowhis doors off.

Breakout stars
1. Tyler Myers, D, Buffalo: As a second-year pro, already a better skater than Zdeno Chara.

2. John Tavares, C, Islanders: Netted 24 goals as a rookie. Should plow through the 30-goal mark no problem.

3. Joe Pavelski, C, San Jose: With top pairings focused on the other Joe, Pavelski could hit point-per-game status.

40-and-over
1. Nicklas Lidstrom, D, Detroit: One of the best-ever defensemen doesn’t show any signs of wear at 40.

2. Mark Recchi, RW, Boston: Credits red wine for his longevity in the game.

3. Mike Modano, C, Detroit: As a depth player in veteran machine, he could see spike in production with Red Wings.

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