Tag Archives: CCM

Ultra Tacks Protective and Gloves

Ultra Tacks Protective and Gloves
Ultra Tacks Protective and Gloves

Designed for state-of-the-art protection, the CCM Ultra TACKS family redefines the standards by adding the innovative D3O® foam technology to its line. Engineered to react to fluctuating intensities, the round-breaking smart foam will keep its soft consistency to absorb low impacts while instant hardening at higher intensity impacts to protect against big hits.

CCM Ultra Tack Protective
CCM Ultra Tack Protective

CCM Ultra Tack Shoulder Pads offers Dual Core HD Foam shoulder caps with D3O smart foam and adaptable shoulder systems. While the Shin Pads offers PE Cap with D3O smart foam on the knee joint and new Neo wrap lock strapping system. With an already popular design by Jofa/Reebok CCM redefines the art of protective equipment in the elbow pads with the joint discharge PE cap with D3O smart foam and new Lycra strap & lock strap.

What is D3O? D3O is an extremely clever, globally unique technology that is based on the innovation of capturing the benefits of non-Newtonian shear thickening material in polymers that can then be engineered for real world impact protection solutions. These enhanced properties offer a number of different performance benefits depending on the base polymer used and the intended application.

How D3O works? D3O materials in their raw state flow freely when moved slowly, but on shock, lock together to absorb and disperse energy, before instantly returning to their flexible state. This reaction is counter intuitive. The greater the force of the impact, the more the molecules lock together and the greater the protection.

CCM Ultra Tack Shoulder Pad
CCM Ultra Tack Shoulder Pad

 

Many factors to consider with helmet safety

Many factors to consider with helmet safety
Many factors to consider with helmet safety

There’s something very important that has been overlooked recently in virtually every facet of sporting culture; helmets alone don’t prevent concussions.

That can be a bit unnerving to read and think about because if the helmet you’re wearing can’t prevent you or your child from getting a concussion, how can you be at ease? Don’t worry, the helmets on the market today are the most technologically advanced helmets ever made and offer protection from a wider variety of injuries than ever before. The point that needs to be considered is that the helmet alone won’t prevent from concussive impacts.

Plenty of research has been done in this field and a great deal of it paints the picture that all the bells and whistles in the world won’t limit the impact and results of high speed collisions. Helmet’s like the Bauer RE-AKT and CCM Resistance have added groundbreaking features that help keep the head protected from both direct and rotational impacts experienced during a hockey game. This was a big step forward in both design and safety as limiting the effect of an impact against a player’s head.

So what does this all mean? Does it mean that you’re no safer with a mop bucket on your head versus a state of the art helmet like the IMS 11.0? Of course not. But simply picking the most expensive helmet you can find and expecting your problems to be solved is far from the solution as well.

When it comes to buying a new helmet, comfort and fit are just as important as the protective qualities of the helmet. I have a handful of helmets in my locker and they all offer a different fit. There is one that I don’t ever wear because it doesn’t provide a snug, safe fit that will keep me protected. The helmet in question is a CCM V08. It’s a phenomenal helmet that is wildly popular at the NHL level that simply doesn’t fit my head. It looks great and I was incredibly excited when I got it. And then I found out it wasn’t going to fit and I’ve never worn it on the ice.

Meanwhile, my Bauer IMS 9.0 is the most comfortable helmet I’ve ever owned. It sits a little higher on my head than other helmets, but the combination of HD foam, Poron XD foam and other protective elements provides a great fit that I know provides adequate protection.

CCM Resistance Hockey Helmet
CCM Resistance Hockey Helmet

Obviously none of that means that if I was to hit my head on the ice the wrong way I wouldn’t be concussed, because the most likely result of that would indeed be a concussion. The key is that I made sure to try on a number of different sizes of helmets with a Great Skate sales representative before making a decision. I tried on different makes and models of helmets before settling on the one that had the best overall fit and, therefore, offered the most overall protection.

After making my purchase I’ve made sure that all the hardware is up to par and that the helmet is stored properly. This ensures it dries properly after games and the padding will stay intact. BY making sure the hardware is taken care of means that I won’t lose a screw halfway through a game. Proper maintenance and care for your helmet is just as important as finding the right helmet with the right fit. If padding is falling out of your helmet due to poor care, it’s time to reconsider how you store and take care of your equipment. Furthermore, if padding is falling out of your helmet, it’s probably time to get a new one.

Helmet Protection
Helmet Protection

It can be worrisome to hear that as different and protective a helmets can be, that they all can’t prevent against concussions. New helmets are able to lessen many impacts – and in turn help to reduce concussive impacts – but many times concussions aren’t avoidable. It’s important to do all the necessary research when you’re planning to buy a new helmet. Know your pricepoint, know the style you want and then make sure to find the model that fits you best.

Take some time to fully evaluate the helmet you wear. Maybe you’ll find that the fit isn’t idea or that some of the interior padding has deteriorated. If that’s the case, take the time to research a replacement before heading to Great Skate for a new lid.

Gift Guide: Apparel

Gift Guide: Apparel
Gift Guide: Apparel

Hockey apparel wasn’t always as prevalent or as readily available for purchase as it is today as there was a time not too long ago that branded apparel was very hard to come by. Now every manufacturer has a bevvy of hats, t-shirts and sweatshirts adorned with their logo and products. The same goes for hockey lifestyle brands like Gongshow which cater exclusively to hockey players.

In the event that you haven’t found the right gift for the hockey player you’re shopping for, take a look at the hockey apparel at Great Skate. Great Skate’s hockey apparel includes products from CCM, Bauer, Easton, Gongshow, Reebok, Warrior and many others.

Whether sporting it at the rink or just when they’re hanging out, products like Bauer hoodies and CCM hats are always a go-to for hockey players of all ages. What’s even better is that these great gifts can be found without worrying about breaking the bank.

The Bauer New Era 3930 hat might be the hottest item of the year as it’s nearly impossible to walk into a rink without seeing one or two of the great looking hats. CCM’s national pride inspired hats are also popular with every age group and they have a very cool set of knit winter caps out for this holiday season. Another great hat for the cold winter months is the Great Skate Bauer winter hat. It’s warm, attractive and sports the very cool Great Skate logo on the front.

In the event that the player you’re shopping for isn’t a hat guy (or girl), there are plenty of other apparel options available with Great Skate. For example, Warrior’s hockey t-shirts are expressive and unique. They also happen to share many similarities with other popular athletic apparel shirts that are popular on the market today. Given that so many hockey players have to trudge through sub-30 degree temperatures and snowy sidewalks, a hoody is always a great option for a gift around the holiday. You can find Bauer hockey hoodies along with many other outerwear options from nearly every manufacturer at Great Skate

A pair of personal favorites happen to be the Bauer softshell jacket and the Easton Synergy midweight jacket in case you need a little more protection from the elements.

These products represent a small portion of the terrific hockey apparel at Great Skate that could check off the gift needs of any hockey player on your shopping list no matter how young or old they happen to be. Whether shopping online or at our store you’ll be sure to find what you’re looking for.

Gift Guide: Stocking Stuffers

Gift Guide: Stocking Stuffers
Gift Guide: Stocking Stuffers

Hockey is almost tailor made for stocking stuffers. Well, aside from 40” leg pads, and sticks that don’t lend themselves well to wrapping paper. But take those out of the equation and there may not be a better sport for finding stocking stuffers than hockey.

Training aids like the Smart Hockey Training Ball or the Green Biscuit Training Puck are the perfect size to slip into a stocking and are even better gifts since they can be used at home or at the rink with ease.

Of course every hockey player needs tape and there never seems to be enough of it no matter how many rolls you buy. Toss a few rolls of white or black tape into a stocking with a couple rolls of clear tape for a fail-safe gift that will never need to be taken back because it was the wrong size. One note on buying tape, double check the color the person you’re buying for uses as hockey players are a finicky bunch when it comes to superstitions like the color of their tape.

There are even some cool accessories from the hockey apparel at Great Skate. For example, Bauer’s skate lace bracelet would make for a very cool, unique stocking stuffer that many hockey players would love to have.

Some of the hockey stocking stuffers at Great Skate are a bit more practical than a skate lace bracelet or even a composite mini stick. Everyone loves having sharp skates but sometimes you’re running too behind to get a sharpening taken care of. A Sweet Stick solves that problem as the pocket-sized blade re-edger can fit into a side pocket of a bag and be used in a pinch when a sharpening is out of the question. Another skate-related accessory that makes for a great stocking stuffer are Elite skate guards. These are the exact same skate guards used around the NHL and offer protection for skate blades while also preventing rusting. The Elite skate guards can be found in many different colors to match the team of the player you’re buying for.

One newer item that could make for a nice addition in a stocking this holiday season is the Tacki-Mac stick grip. Great Skate carries three different versions of the Tacki-Mac grips and each provides a pre-cast, tacky butt end for a stick. Colors and styles all vary but these are becoming more and more popular as they’re designed to extend the life of gloves while offering more grip and command than a regular tape buttend offers.

If you find yourself without a few extra stocking suffers as the holiday season wraps up, check with a Great Skate sales associate to help round out the final items on your shopping list this year.

Gift Guide: Gift Cards

Gift Guide: Gift Cards
Gift Guide: Gift Cards

Not all the items on a hockey player’s wish list can be picked up in one shopping trip. Maybe you know a goalie who is hoping for a new Bauer NME 8 mask or a defenseman who is hoping the STX Stallion stick will help bring a bit more power to their slap shot. While you may not be able to check off a box that big you can certainly help to check it off by picking up a Great Skate gift certificate.

Gift certificates at Great Skate Hockey are available in any denomination you can think of and serve as the perfect gift for the player whose wish list is a little too long. A Great Skate gift certificate also absolves you of having to pick the right colorway on the new Warrior Dynasty AXLT gloves. Rather than picking the wrong color or the wrong size of an item, why not buy a gift card and let the player pick themselves?

That’s the beauty of picking up a gift card at Great Skate. If you’re unsure of the size or style a certain someone wears, you can sang a gift certificate for the amount you were going to spend and let them pick out the present on their own.

This is an especially effective practice when it comes to tricky items like skates and helmets. In fact, if you’re planning on getting a stick as gift for someone you may be better off grabbing a gift certificate lest you know the proper hand, flex, lie and blade pattern you need to buy. It may seem a little odd to think that you would need to consider each and every one of those factors when buying a stick, but never underestimate the intricacies of a hockey player’s preferences.

If you think that a Great Skate gift certificate will allow the hockey player on your holiday shopping list to get the gift they really want this year, you can stop into our store to pick one up.

Great Skate Black Friday Sale

Great Skate Black Friday Sale
Great Skate Black Friday Sale

Starting on Friday November 28, 2014 for 12-hours, receive 25% off your purchase at both Great Skate and Greatskate.com. If you are going to be shopping online you can take advantage of early shopping and In-Store pickup.When shopping online please use Promotional Code BLACKFRIDAY (Please note that your discount will be deducted at the time of shipping)

Great Skate will be opening a bit early on Friday morning starting at 6am, so if you or someone you know is out shopping at Best Buy, Target, and Kohl’s tell them to stop by and check out our great deals. Choose from all major manufacturers such as Bauer, CCM, Easton, STX, Reebok, Warrior, & Vaughn. If a Bauer ToalOne MX3 stick is on your list this year you won’t find a better deal than at Great Skate!

Don’t forget to ask about our door buster deals such as Bauer Vapor X70 Sticks at $29.98, Warrior HB AX3 Hockey bags $19.98, All Composite Mini Hockey Sticks $19.99 . How can you beat these deals?

When it comes down to Fit, Feel, Performance, Dedication look no further than Great Skate. Stop by Friday morning at 3395 Sheridan Drive / Amherst / NY / 14226. If you aren’t from WNY give us a call at 1-800-828-7496. As always some restrictions may apply (MAP) This will Exclude minimum advertise price item. see the full offer here

Take advantage of this sale today. It won’t last long. GAME ON!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Teams going with more custom looks with alternate uniforms

Teams going with more custom looks with alternate uniforms
Teams going with more custom looks with alternate uniforms

The Pittsburgh Penguins took to the ice in their new third jerseys on Wednesday night, marking yet another alternate uniform to grace the NHL’s growing collection of jerseys.

While those fans who collect jerseys and add all the newest duds to their collection each year are abundant, I’ve noticed something even cooler than the jerseys themselves in recent years. As teams get more creative with their marketing strategies, implementing more unique designs and traits to third jerseys is a growing trend. Unique socks – which are always cool to add to your practice or pick-up arsenal – special pants or pant covers and even different decals for the helmets are all common for teams who add alternate jerseys.

The Penguins and Islanders have taken that to the next level by adding new gloves to their alternate uniforms that work perfectly within the design of the overall uniform. The Islanders decision to add white fingers to their gloves is interesting and unique. It took some adjusting, but now seeing the entire uniform in use makes me think there is more than enough room for more contemporary designs when it comes to alternate jerseys (Buffalo excluded).

Pittsburgh’s gloves, however are a real treat. As their new uniform hearkens back to their Cup wins in the early 90s as do the gloves. Leaving no detail unnoticed, the Penguins are donning black based gloves with basic white trim just as their team gloves looked back in the 90s.

This is an awesome addition. Many “throwback” uniforms feature the team’s normal or slightly altered gloves that use the same colorway. Not this time. The Penguins went full-on 1991 with their look and it really helps bring everything together.

Luckily virtually every company features a basic black and white colorway with their gloves. Which means that you can replicate the Pens’ look with relative ease. The Bauer Nexus, Warrior Dynasty and CCM 4Roll Prime both offer a vintage look and feel, especially if you’re going the black and white route.

If you’re thinking of switching your look around for the upcoming year, consider grabbing a pair of alternate Reebok Edge Socks and a pair of gloves that give a vintage feel to bring it all together.

Connor McDavid dazzles during his trip to Buffalo

Connor McDavid dazzles during his trip to Buffalo
Connor McDavid dazzles during his trip to Buffalo

Connor McDavid has always been worth the price of admission, that’s really never been a topic of debate. However, the McDavid show took center stage in Buffalo on Wednesday, October 22 as the Erie Otters topped the Niagara IceDogs 8-4 at First Niagara Center.

As the Sabres are in the midst of a full organizational rebuild, the team took the opportunity to play host to an Otters home game, giving Sabres fans a chance to see McDavid play on the Sabres’ home ice. The phenom didn’t disappoint, putting up a goal and three assists and dazzling the crowd throughout the night.

To see McDavid play in person is nothing short of a visual treat. His speed, vision and hands are so far above that of anyone else at the junior level that the chance of a highlight each shift far surpasses the 20% chance that the NHL’s 30th place team will have of drafting him in June.

Wednesday marked my fourth time seeing McDavid play in person. The other three occurrences came in Erie and he has put up 13 points in those four games. To say he’s on another level doesn’t even begin to explain his on-ice exploits at times.

For example, on a penalty kill Wednesday night, McDavid took a loose puck in the Erie end and proceeded to create a partial breakaway all by himself.  He didn’t score on the break, but the move he used to create the scoring chance was the most mesmerizing thing I’ve ever seen done on an ice rink. The First Niagara Center crowd reacted as expected with a roaring “Oh!” after the deke to free up the scoring opportunity.

Given the thin seasons the Sabres have suffered through lately, the reaction elicited by McDavid was almost as impressive as the play on the ice. He was the center of attention the entire game and he performed like someone well aware that all 11,000 fans were there to see him play.

There are well over 70 games left to be played by each NHL franchise and those sitting in the basement – including the Sabres – are likely dreaming of McDavid donning number 97 for them a year from now. Sabres fans have been to McDavid, Jack Eichel and even Noah Hanifin this fall and the team’s minor league club will take to the First Niagara Center ice at the end of October to give the fans a full preview of what the future may hold.

Connor McDavid dazzles Buffalo
Connor McDavid dazzles Buffalo

The divide between fans talking about tanking the season or rooting for the first pick is broad. As someone who knows the likely end game for this particular Sabres roster, I have never rooted for my team to lose. It’s an awful feeling to root against your favorite team and I could never turn off the TV or leave the arena happy with a loss. However, knowing that this roster is built more for a last place finish rather than a playoff spot makes the losses easier to handle. It’s one thing to accept a loss and quite another to root for a loss. I certainly count myself as part of the former but McDavid’s on-ice exploits even had me feeling goosebumps and hoping the Sabres leave the draft lottery with the first pick. He’s that good and that inspiring.

If you have the chance to go see him play live, do it. Don’t wait, don’t hesitate and don’t miss the chance to truly see him dominate. He’s going to be a star in the NHL but to see someone with world-class skill absolutely dominate a game like he does at the OHL level is a rare treat that every hockey fan should get to experience.

CCM/Reebok changeover

CCM/Reebok Hockey  Changeover
CCM/Reebok Hockey Changeover

Keep your eyes peeled this season. You’re going to start seeing more and more CCM products around the rink and on television.

While they never technically left, CCM’s return to the rink just over five years ago was a notable milestone for the manufacturer. Part of the Reebok family (which also took over Koho, Jofa and Titan in the early 2000s), CCM has a strong presence in today’s equipment landscape. Sticks like the RBZ SuperFast and the return of the Tacks skate have elevated CCM to new heights in equipment design and innovation.

Of course, their line offered, in some ways, a direct competition to the equipment being built and sold by Reebok. Instead of having the two companies fight for attention and players, they altered the landscape they operate on. CCM will maintain their status as a brand leader for elite equipment while Reebok will be entry level to mid-price point in senior, junior and youth equipment.

That means that players who previously used Reebok equipment in the NHL will be wearing more CCM just as products like the Ribcor stick will now be sold with CCM branding as opposed to Reebok. The quality certainly won’t change, just the window dressing.

It’s still a cool development, particularly with the strength Bauer has shown in recent years and the obvious push coming from CCM. The RBZ stick line is beyond revolutionary and both the RBZ and Tacks skates are excellent products which offer a true challenge to Bauer.

There is one other front that could see CCM grow even more and that’s in the crease. The Reebok goal line is still being worn by quite a few netminders and exactly what will come of the Reebok goal collection doesn’t seem as clear as the player line. However, the CCM Extreme Flex goal pads are a monster hit and continue to find their way into more and more locker rooms in the NHL and beyond.

The CCM goal mask line was far superior to that of the models released by Reebok a few years prior and the same can be said for many other aspects of CCM’s goal equipment line. Perhaps the only sector Reebok truly had an edge in was skate design. The Reebok skates – both goalie and player – have been quite popular since their inception and while the RBZ and Tacks are phenomenal skates, models like the Ribcor are still elite in their own right.

While many of CCM’s products may be seen as superior to begin with, the company ought to see a boost thanks to the quality in skate design that Reebok has established.

At the end of the day this transition doesn’t change much in terms of the big picture. In fact, based on equipment that I’ve personally used, much of CCM’s elite level gear is superior to begin with. So while there will be more exposure and equipment choices for CCM, the product quality certainly isn’t going to change. Simply put, this is a wise decision to allow a growing industry leader get that much bigger.

As the changeover continues, players will see more and more Reebok products change over to CCM. In the meantime, have fun scavenger hunting for the CCM logo in places you’re not used to seeing it.

CCM Tacks Hockey Gear
CCM Tacks Hockey Gear
CCM RBZ Superfast Hockey Sticks
CCM RBZ Superfast Hockey Sticks
CCM Resistance Hockey Helmet
CCM Resistance Hockey Helmet
CCM Ribcor Hockey Sticks
CCM Ribcor Hockey Sticks
Reebok Hockey
Reebok Hockey

 

Great Skate Blog NHL: Eastern Conference

Great Skate Blog NHL Preview: Eastern Conference
Great Skate Blog NHL Preview: Eastern Conference

Metropolitan Division

Pittsburgh PenguinsUntil proven otherwise, the Penguins boast the world’s best player and another dynamic superstar who is likely in the top-5. Changes behind the bench and along the blueline defined Pittsburgh’s offseason and as the reigning division winner I expect to see much of the same from the Pens. Marc-Andre Fleury is perhaps their biggest question mark but his play was far more stable last year than in 2012-13. The Penguins still sit atop the Metro Division and will be in the President’s Trophy conversation if Fleury plays well.

New York RangersThe Rangers seem to have found a way to improve but stay nearly the exact same team as last year. They unloaded the contract of Brad Richards, re-upped with their key core players and made some interesting signings. They also let a key player walk in Anton Stralman and will not be without Derek Stepan for a number of weeks. They still have the world’s best goaltender and an impressive blue line. The addition of Dan Boyle ought to give their power play a nice jolt and should Stepan return from injury in full form, they’ll be a formidable opponent again this year.

Columbus Blue JacketsA slightly tumultuous offseason followed a very promising 13-14 season for the Jackets. Another serious injury to Nathan Horton is likely to shelve the forward for some time while Ryan Johansen remains unsigned. Sergei Bobrovsky has proven that he wasn’t just a one year wonder and has been dominant at times for Columbus. This is still a team whose parts don’t eclipse the sum of its whole. Johansen is the star in waiting and Horton is perhaps their biggest name and it looks as if they’ll be without each to start the year. However, I still count on the Jackets to improve and finish third in the Metro.

Philadelphia FlyersClaude Giroux could wrap himself in bubble wrap each summer and manage to get injured ahead of camp. This year’s ailment is far less severe than the cut tendon he suffered last year, but he probably won’t be 100% at the start of the year. As is always the case, the Flyers will live and die with their goaltending. Steve Mason, despite his improvement last year, still doesn’t represent a confidence inspiring goaltender and if his play is average the Flyers will be as well. Philadelphia made an interesting decision in parting ways with Scott Hartnell and they could have a little trouble scoring goals in some areas. I still expect to see him in a wild card spot, but they’ll be battling down to the wire for it.

New York IslandersThe stats say that even with average goaltending the Islanders would have been an average team last year. The arrival of Jaroslav Halak should represent the improvement between the pipes that the Isles need to improve in the win column. John Tavares headlines a young, talented forward group who will be able to provide the necessary goal support for their new netminder. There may be a few defensive question marks that remain but the Isles have a lot of youth to be excited about. I’m expecting to see them finish just shy of the wild card.

New Jersey DevilsLike the Islanders, the Devils should have been far better than their record showed last year. However, their inability to win a single shootout cost them a number of wins and a number of precious points in the standings. In fact, those shootout losses accounted for more than enough points to make the playoffs had they found a way to win. Ultimately I think the Devils fall short of a playoff berth this year. Not because they haven’t improved but because they’re in a deep division that will be tough to succeed in.

Washington CapitalsI’m expecting regression for the Capitals this year. They overpaid both Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen and I’m not sure they represent the defensive improvement the Capitals need. Niskanen will likely rack up power play points as he feeds one timers to Alex Ovechkin but I still think he was able to cash in on a big year on a great team. The Capitals still have a number of holes to fill and I don’t think they plugged each of them last year.

Carolina HurricanesCarolina wasn’t going to be a great team before Jordan Stall was injured. With Staal on the shelf for upwards of four months, the Hurricanes are closer to the Connor McDavid sweepstakes than they are to competing for a playoff spot. Depth and goaltending are among the biggest question marks they will deal with and with rumors of Eric Staal being available via trade doesn’t help those who are worried about the outlook for the Canes.

Atlantic Division

Boston BruinsMuch in the same way the Penguins will likely earn the Metro Crown, the Bruins enter the year as the prohibitive favorite in the Atlantic. No team has demonstrated that they’re better over the course of a season and I don’t expect that to change this year. While Zdeno Chara is beginning to show signs of aging, the Bruins are far too well constructed for that to be a major issue. The Bruins will have the first seed in the east at the end of the year and will likely be the team who is predicted to represent the East in the Cup Final.

Tampa Bay LightningThe Bolts bolstered their lineup this offseason with some very smart moves. Anton Stralman is a possession driving two-way defenseman and Jason Garrison will add another dynamic to the power play. Ryan Callahan will be on board for a full season and should Steven Stamkos stay healthy he’ll likely lead the league in goal scoring. It’s possible that the Bolts would have knocked off the Canadiens in the playoffs had Ben Bishop been healthy and he’ll be a big part of any success Tampa has this season. They probably don’t have enough to get by Boston in the Atlantic, but I won’t be surprised to see them in the conference finals.

Montreal CanadiensPK Subban is under contract, PA Parentau is in the fold (coming over in a great trade for Marc Bergevin) and Carey Price is still Carey Price. I still wonder about their play at center, but the Habs were impressive down the stretch last year and managed to knock off the Bruins on their way to the conference finals. I think Tampa took more steps forward this offseason, so I don’t see Montreal’s spot in the standings changing at all, but they’ll most certainly be a playoff team.

Detroit Red WingsThere’s a strong possibility that the standings in the Atlantic are the exact same this year. The Red Wings are still a strong club but they’re aging. They have a quality goaltender, one of the game’s most dangerous two-way players and a supporting cast that doesn’t have too many holes. They’re still flimsy on the blueline and it seems that their Eastern Conference rivals have done more to improve in the offseason. They’re still a full head better than Ottawa, Toronto, Buffalo and Florida which means they’ll be in the thick of the wild card race.

Toronto Maple LeafsToronto has been funny to watch the last couple seasons. They overachieved and took Boston to seven games two years ago. Then they couldn’t maintain last season and were on the outside looking in. The Leafs will live and die with Jonathan Bernier, Phil Kessel and James van Reimsdyk. I’m waiting to see if Jake Gardiner has a breakout season or if he’s stuck in the dog house again. There is some quality talent in Toronto and if the chips fall right they could certainly leap frog Detroit for a wild card spot.

Ottawa SenatorsI don’t see the Senators being a very good team this year. In fact, they are going to rely heavily on Craig Anderson to win them games based on their offseason work. Not only do I expect to see them miss the playoffs, I have a sneaking suspicion that Bobby Ryan will head out the door in free agency in the summer. Kyle Turris and Ryan should form a nice duo up front and Erik Karlsson remains one of the elite offensive defensemen in the world. However, there isn’t too much depth on the roster and I see this year as a step back for the Sens.

Florida PanthersDale Tallon still has plenty of work to do in Southern Florida. Aaron Ekblad is a very nice addition. He, along with other lottery picks Jonathan Huberdeau and Sasha Barkov will help drive the club. The Panthers do have some very impressive talent on their roster but it ultimately feels incomplete in some areas. Roberto Luongo’s presence alone should account for a number of wins and while the Panthers may not make any progress moving up in the Atlantic, I can see them beating out at least two teams from the Metro in the conference standings.

Buffalo SabresThe Sabres were woefully short on goal scoring last year. They also happened to be woefully short on defense, the power play and penalty killing. Before and after Ryan Miller’s departure the goaltending was strong, but that was really one of the few silver linings from last year. The Sabres did a lot of work to bring in more veteran support and skill and that will account for a few things. First, a full year of Matt Moulson and Brian Gionta will help in the locker room and on the scoreboard. Drew Stafford and Chris Stewart are both in contract years and have looked motivated in the preseason. The defense corps is an interesting group as Ted Nolan is going to have some very difficult decisions to make regarding his lineup. The Sabres lone competition this season will be for last place, although the hockey should be a bit more tolerable this time around.