NEWS
10/02/2011 10:47 EDT | Updated 12/02/2011 05:12 EST

Sabres on the rise, Flyers to fall as NHL teams' fortunes should swing

Every season, some teams rise and others fall in a new NHL season. Here's a look at which teams should move up and which should take a tumble (with predicted changes).

UP

Buffalo Sabres

Last season: 7th in East. This season: 4th.

A new free-spending owner has suddenly turned the poor cousin Sabres into big stakes players. Add defencemen Christian Ehrhoff and Robyn Regehr to a group that already has the towering Tyler Myers, and add veteran Ville Leino on attack and Buffalo should be a contender in the East. Having scoring ace Derek Roy back from missing 47 games with an injury won't hurt. Neither does having one of the league's best in goal, Ryan Miller.

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New York Rangers

Last season: 8th in East. This season: 5th

Adding a first line centre of the calibre of Brad Richards can't be bad for a team that also has a semi-dormant star in Marian Gaborik on the wing. Making the gritty Ryan Callahan the captain looks like another good move. There are concerns for the health of rising defenceman Mark Staal, but having Henrik Lundqvist in goal covers a lot of lapses.

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St Louis Blues

Last season: 11th in West. This season: 8th

Even if Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner aren't the players they once were, their veteran presence should help a team with a lot of young talent. It starts on defence with Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk and carries into the attack with T.J. Oshie and David Perron. And they have a solid goalie in Jaroslav Halak.

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Edmonton Oilers

Last season: 15th in West. This season: 14th.

OK, it's only one spot, but this team is so loaded with youthful talent that every step takes them closer to being a scary offensive force. This year's No. 1 draft pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins joins last year's Taylor Hall, and add Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi and others. Even if it takes time to win more than they lose, it should be entertaining.

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New York Islanders

Last season: 14th in East. This season: 10th.

One of these years, the high draft picks the Isles have amassed have got to pay off and it should start this season. John Tavares became the team scoring leader as a sophomore with 67 points and that total should only keep rising. Having defence veteran Mark Streit back from injury and naming him captain adds a large dose of skill and smarts.

DOWN

Philadelphia Flyers

Last season: 2nd in East. This season: 9th

GM Paul Holmgren took a gamble when he blew up his team last summer, trading away first-line stars Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. They also lost steady Ville Leino. For sure, centre Claude Giroux is a rising star and they still have the dangerous Daniel Briere, but they're betting heavily on the still suspect James van Riemsdyk to be a key winger.

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Nashville Predators

Last season: 5th in West. This season: 9th

The threesome of goalie Pekka Rinne, defencemen Shea Weber and Ryan Suter is formidable but it's not certain they can repeat last year's franchise-best performance. Having Mike Fisher for the whole season will help, and there are a load of good young prospects, but it is still a team in dire need of offensive force.

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Dallas Stars

Last season: 9th in West. This season: 11th

Subtract Brad Richard's team-leading 77 points, add Michael Ryder. Not a winning formula is it? Even if Ryder knows new No. 1 centre Mike Ribeiro from their Montreal days. They still have a solid captain in Brenden Morrow and a sniper in Loui Eriksson, but having Richards walk away has to hurt.

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Phoenix Coyotes

Last season: 6th in West. This season: 12th

Despite Keith Yandle's emergence as a top defenceman, the feeling won't go away that the Coyotes have overachieved during the two seasons they have been under threat of bankruptcy or moving to another city. It can't go on forever, especially with goalie Ilya Bryzgalov gone.

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Detroit Red Wings

Last season: 3rd in West. This season: 4th

It's hardly a drop, but the Wings will be hard-pressed to win the Central Division with the Chicago Blackhawks now in the second year of their rebuild following their 2010 Stanley Cup triumph. The Wings saw some key figures retire in Kris Draper, Brian Rafalski and Chris Osgood. Nik Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom can't go on forever. And all Chicago's top guys are young.