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glance at all 30 teams in reverse alphabetical order, because that's how I roll:

Washington Capitals

We were young, 21, all those years ago
In came the fascination, everything was out of control
Alive, untried, from thickets and from thorns.
Out came a revelation, everything was out of control
Do you feel it?
Do you feel it now?
Cos, we want it, but we don't know how
Do we have it? As much as anybody ever has.
-- "Do You Love Me" by Guster

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• Why the song: Because Guster's new CD, "Easy Wonderful," came out this week. Because I discovered Guster when a blogumn reader mailed me a mix CD of different bands she liked. Because the melody of "Do You Love Me" is carefree and fun, like the Caps. Because the lyrics above remind us of the Capitals' beautiful mayhem and unfulfilled promise. They are most interesting team in the NHL because they have the most interesting player. Is this the season?

• Numbers: Points totals since Alex Ovechkin arrived in 2005: 70, 70, 94, 108 and 121. No drop-off yet. The Capitals lost five regulation home games last season and had the league's best power play, but ranked 25th on the penalty kill. They went on a tear in the second half of the season before losing in the first round to the Canadiens. Ovechkin is 31 goals away from 300 career goals. He's 25. Massive playoff numbers for Ovi, too -- 20 goals, 20 assists and 40 points in 28 games.

• Burning questions: Are they a regular-season heavyweight and a playoff lightweight? Is the defensive culture too loose to win a Stanley Cup? Can they improve their pathetic penalty kill with the same players and thin, unproven top-shelf goaltending?

Playoff Chances Percentage Meter: 95 percent.

Vancouver Canucks

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It's empty in the valley of your heart
The sun, it rises slowly as you walk
Away from all the fears
And all the faults you've left behind

The harvest left no food for you to eat
You cannibal, you meat-eater, you see
But I have seen the same
I know the shame in your defeat

But I will hold on hope
And I won't let you choke
On the noose around your neck
-- "The Cave" by Mumford and Sons

• Why the song: It's my favorite in the world right now. These guys from West London are legit. The Canucks, meanwhile, have played NHL hockey in Vancouver since the fall of 1970. Still no Cups. This is more painful from the standpoint that the Canucks have been one of the more appealing NHL teams this past decade. They have been good and they have been fun to watch, but it's time to take the next step.

• Numbers: They scored the second-most goals (268) in the NHL last season. They had the second-best home record (30-8-3), but were below average on the road (19-20-2). Their penalty killing was 18th and the power play was sixth. Roberto Luongo's playoff save percentage was .895.

• Burning questions: The Sedin twins are not a question. Will Alexandre Burrows score 35? Will Mikael Samuelsson score 30? Will Mason Raymond score 25? Will the three of them again score 90 goals combined? Will Keith Ballard and Dan Hamhuis help tighten up the Canucks defensively and improve their penalty kill and playoff chances? Will Luongo's weight loss mean a better season?

Playoff Chances Percentage Meter: 90 percent.

Toronto Maple Leafs

I wake up in the morning and I drink from the fountain
I wake up in the morning with the same unanswered questions
I don't know what's going to cure my unsettled stomach
-- "White Crosses" by Against Me!

• Why the song: Against Me's album "White Crosses" is terrific. Get it. This album's energy and appeal remind me a lot of Jimmy Eat World's "Bleed American" from 2001. The lyrics are self-explanatory. The Leafs' brass is confident and has slowly added positive pieces. Captain Dion Phaneuf can be an impact guy, but I don't think he is a "sun" that others can orbit around. The Leafs are a scrappy lot, but there are still unanswered questions (can they score enough?) and more unsettled stomachs in the foreseeable future, especially considering the Bruins have that first-round pick again in June. Right now, I would handicap the Leafs at being anywhere from fifth to 10th overall.

• Numbers: The Leafs were tied for 26th in goals scored last season and it's hard to see any signs of that number changing significantly. They were last in both special-teams areas last season. The Leafs had one win in their first 13 games last season.

• Burning questions: Will the Leafs be able to trade for (and avoid the draft lottery) or sign that linchpin free-agent player? Could Nazem Kadri be an unexpected jolt to add offense and hope? Is Kris Versteeg a first-line, go-to player? Can Colby Armstrong somehow pump in 20-25 goals? Do the Leafs have the weakest group of centers in the NHL? Will the Leafs consider playing a defense-first system since they appear to again be offensively challenged?

Playoff Chances Percentage Meter: 30 percent.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Now I'm ready to start
I would rather be wrong
Than live in the shadows of your song
My mind is open wide
And now I'm ready to start
-- "Ready To Start" by Arcade Fire

• Why the song: I had a convenient summer with my iPod in the car since my three go-to bands all started with the letter "A" (Against Me!, Arcade Fire and Avett Brothers). This is a deep album, and that is what the Lightning were looking for: depth. GM Steve Yzerman and new owner Jeff Vinik are ready to start and see if they can create a culture of success and if hockey in Tampa Bay can be successful and profitable. Yzerman has been thinking about this real-life fantasy hockey since the day he retired. He's not a former player wanting to be a GM. He is a GM. I believe he will be a success because it's in his bones.

• Numbers: The Lightning led the league in penalty minutes last season. I will bet my autographed Joe Sakic golf ball that will not be the case in 2010-11. This is a high-IQ organization. The Lightning had a good power play (eighth in NHL) and a poor penalty kill (22nd). Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos didn't miss a game last season.

• Burning questions: Can Simon Gagne play 75-plus games (he played 58, 79 and 25 games, respectively, the past three seasons)? Can Lecavalier return to elite-player status? What happens if the Lightning get hit by the injury bug? Will they get stable goaltending? Will they get any production from the bottom-six forwards? Is Guy Boucher an NHL-caliber coach?

Playoff Chances Percentage Meter: 45 percent.

San Jose Sharks

Drink up baby, stay up all night
With the things you could do
You won't but you might
The potential you'll be that you'll never see
The promises you'll only make
Drink up with me now
And forget all about the pressure of days
Do what I say and I'll make you okay
And drive them away
The images stuck in your head
-- "Between the Bars" by Elliott Smith

• Why the song: The Sharks have eclipsed 100 points in five of the past six seasons, and in the one season they didn't hit the 100-point mark, they had 99. Yet San Jose has yet to reach the Stanley Cup finals. The late, great Elliott Smith could have written about this organization; looking at the lyrics above, maybe he did in 1997.

• Numbers: They did everything well. There is no need to focus on anything. Every metric was positive except for overtime (1-5). Whatever your question is about the Sharks, the answer is seventh best or better.

• Burning questions: How much will they miss Rob Blake? Is there a chance Joe Thornton could be traded before the March deadline, or will he re-sign with the Sharks? Will two Finnish goalies get the Sharks to the finish line? Do the Sharks have the best top-six forwards in the West? How productive will Jason Demers be? Can Joe Pavelski emerge into a point-per-game player like he was in the playoffs? Will coach Todd McLellan's hair be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame?

Playoff Chances Percentage Meter: 88 percent.

St. Louis Blues

Make me sanguine
Help me genuinely
Kill the doubt that strangles my self-worth
Paint the picture that I swore I heard
-- "Sanguine" by Avett Brothers

• Why the song: The word sanguine means to be "cheerfully optimistic." It's not a terribly lyrical word, but the Avett Brothers have skills for days. When you consider the volume and breadth of their work, they are arguably the finest American songwriters going right now. This current run started in 2004, when Scott Avett was 28 and Seth Avett was 24. They were young, confident, energized and, in the end, clutch. They are now a force slowly spreading like lava. Check out their performance of "Kick Drum Heart" on "Jimmy Kimmel" last week. This kind of energy and confidence would be a good model for the young St. Louis Blues to follow.

• Numbers: The Blues were 23-15-4 after Davis Payne took over as coach at midseason. The Blues were a poor home team at 18-18-5 (28th in the NHL), but the sixth-best road team (22-14-5). They had the league's best penalty-killing unit, but were 21st on the power play. Brad Boyes' goals totals with the Blues have gone from 43 to 33 to 14 in the past three seasons (he has a $4 million cap number). The Blues have made the playoffs once since the lockout.

• Burning questions: Will goalie Jaroslav Halak play at the level he did for Montreal in the playoffs last spring? Is Patrik Berglund a player or not? Will defenseman Erik Johnson continue to improve and be in that Drew Doughty class for the next 10 years? How much ceiling does sweet stick handler David Perron have?

Playoff Chances Percentage Meter: 75 percent.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Well the truth be a lion stone cold messiah
It's time to watch the cash roll in
This ain't the kind of man I want to defend
It's the year 2010
-- "Water in Hell" by Broken Social Scene

• Why the song: New arena, new cash. Enough was written on this Monday.

• Numbers: The only two that really matter: goal prevention, where they were 18th last season, and power play, which was 19th. Just improving those two areas will go a long way. The Pens were 8-2 in shootouts, best in the NHL. Mike Comrie had four goals and five points in four preseason games, while Evgeni Malkin scored three times with three assists in four games.

Burning questions: Will D-men Paul Martin (who one of my Devils friends says is soft) and Zbynek Michalek help the Penguins' goal-prevention numbers? Will goalie Marc-Andre Fleury bounce back from a poor season? Will Malkin return to all-world status?

Playoff Chances Percentage Meter: 95 percent.

Phoenix Coyotes

And now after all my searching
After all my questions
I'm gonna call it home
I've got a brand-new mindset
I can finally see the sunset
I'm gonna call it home
-- "This is Home" by Switchfoot

• Why the song: Last season, the Coyotes proved even the threat of spending a winter in Winnipeg could not derail them. They got off to a good start and cruised to 107 points playing goal-prevention hockey. They seem to have a good program in place and the pieces to fit their schemes. But since the lockout, you can't be a good playoff team without having potent offensive players.

• Numbers: They were great in overtime (5-1) and shootouts (14-6). The power play was 28th overall. Ray Whitney could help there, but his power-play goals are 7-7-6-6 in the past four seasons. Phoenix had a 28-point improvement in 2009-10.

Burning Questions: Can the Dogs get off to a good start again so they can play their game throughout the season? Will 21-year-old Kyle Turris (third overall pick in the 2007 draft) become an impact player and give the Coyotes future offense? Will coach Dave Tippett's stolen 'stache be returned to its rightful owner?

Playoff Chances Percentage Meter: 70 percent.

Philadelphia Flyers

Well now the years have gone and I've grown
From that seed you've sown
But I didn't think there'd be so many steps
I'd have to learn on my own
Well I was young and I didn't know what to do
When I saw your best steps stolen away from you
Now I'll do what I can
I'll walk like a man
-- "Walk Like a Man" by Bruce Springsteen

• Why the song: I've never been a big Bruce Springsteen solo record fan, but I love 1987's "Tunnel of Love," which includes this song. The Flyers' young players allegedly like to have a good time (there are pictures all over the web) and one can never tell if it had any impact on their play or development. But the more they act like "men" (whatever that means to you) and crave a Stanley Cup, the better it will be for Flyers fans.

• Numbers: The Flyers had only 88 regular-season points last season. They had the third-best power play and 11th-best penalty kill. The Flyers gave $2 million to Nikolai Zherdev, which makes no sense to me.

• Burning questions: What kind of start will the Flyers get off to after a short summer? The defense is deep and experienced, but is the goaltending championship-caliber? Could James van Riemsdyk score 30 goals? No Cups in 35 years, so is this the season for them?

Playoff Chances Percentage Meter: 95 percent.

Ottawa Senators

I can do this, really, I'm good enough
I'm as good as them, but don't take it from me
Ask my friends, ask my sister
They all think my stuff is great
Up there with any of them
I just need a break
-- "Working Day" by Ben Folds with Nick Hornby

• Why the song: Well, it's a brand-new Ben Folds song, so enough said. Also, the Senators have been a 90-plus-point team in 10 of the past 11 NHL seasons. They had 94 points last season and Jason Spezza (22 games) and Milan Michalek (16) missed time. This is a really solid team that really needed Sergei Gonchar since its defense did not produce much last season. The Senators need good health from the geezers and breakout seasons from the pups.

• Numbers: The Senators' power play was 22nd last season. It will improve. The Senators were very good at home (26-11-4) and subpar on the road (18-21-2). Pascal Leclaire's save percentage was .887 last season. The Sens gave up 13 more goals than they scored.

• Burning questions: How healthy and productive will Gonchar, Daniel Alfredsson, and Alexei Kovalev be? Can Peter Regin and Nick Foligno step up and each give the Sens at least 20 goals? Is the goaltending good enough?

Playoff Chances Percentage Meter: 80 percent.

New York Rangers

Tiptoe through our shiny city
With our diamond slippers on
Do our gay ballet on ice
Bluebirds on our shoulders
We're half awake in a fake empire
-- "Fake Empire" by The National

• Why the song: We have only so much time in our lives and we listen to everything. That is my go-to line when I explain why it took me so long to bite into The National. So good ... Daddy like! The lyrics are self-explanatory: one Cup in 70 years. However, I must say, of all the New York sports teams, the Rangers do seem to have the most optimistic and hopeful fans. If the Rangers can just score a little more and give up just a tad less, they should make the playoffs.

• Numbers: The Rangers scored one goal or were shut out in almost a third of their games last season. The Rangers were an NHL-worst 1-7 in overtime and 3-4 in the shootout. They won more road games (20) than home games (18). The Rangers had 87 points, the Flyers had 88, and Philly almost won the Cup.

• Burning questions: Will the young defense continue to improve? Will Brandon Dubinsky and Derek Stepan infuse some much-needed offense? What if Marian Gaborik gets hurt? Why did coach Tom Renney lose his job, but GM Glen Sather keep his?

Playoff Chances Percentage Meter: 60 percent.

New York Islanders

Roll up your sleeves
We're heading for winter know
The nights will get colder
And I'll make my bed
Make sure I'm all fed and asleep
And awake when we're older
-- "Roll Up Your Sleeves" by We Were Promised Jetpacks

• Why the song: Well, these Scottish rockers are an excellent workout companion, and the Islanders are younger this season. Patience, people.

• Numbers: They haven't won a playoff round in 17 years. Only two teams gave up more goals last season. The power play was 26th and penalty kill 29th. They were good at home (23-14-4) and brutal on the road (11-23-7), and 12 of their first 17 games this season are on the road. John Tavares played all 82 games and had 24 goals. Mark Streit is expected to miss 4-6 months with a shoulder injury.

• Burning questions: Will goalie Rick DiPietro be healthy? What if Matt Moulson doesn't score 30 goals again? Who will replace Streit's nine power-play goals? What would the Islanders do if their arena burned to the ground in the middle of the night? Where would they play their games? Why don't we just go ahead with that plan, anyway?

Playoff Chances Percentage Meter: 25 percent.

New Jersey Devils

No one cares when you are wrong
But I've been at this far too long
To act like that when we should be
In perfect harmony
-- "I Stand Corrected" by Vampire Weekend

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• Why the song: The whole Ilya Kovalchuk thing was quite bizarre to me. Did Captain Lou really think that contract would pass the Gary Bettman test? And why were the Devils penalized so harshly when other sham contracts were approved? I guess the first Kovalchuk contract was the shammiest.

• Numbers: Since they won the Cup in 2003, the Devils have won two playoff series, but none in the past three postseasons. They allowed the fewest goals in the NHL last season, but were tied for 19th in goals scored.

• Burning questions: Are we really going to see a run-and-gun team that focuses more on offense under new coach John MacLean? Could Kovalchuk lead the league in goals playing with Zach Parise and Travis Zajac? Will Anton Volchenkov remind fans of Scott Stevens?

Playoff Chances Percentage Meter: 75 percent.

Nashville Predators

You wake up every morning and ask yourself
What am I doing here anyway?
With the weight of all those disappointments
Whispering in your ear
You're just barely hanging by a thread
You wanna scream but you're down to your last breath
And you don't know it yet
-- "One Day You Will" by Lady Antebellum

• Why the song: No playoff series win in franchise history (11 seasons). They keep kind of piecing it together, but you wonder if the attitude can stay high in such a competitive division.

• Numbers: They had the fewest penalty minutes in the league. That's a good thing since their penalty kill was 28th. They were 8-4 in shootouts (flip that around and they are down to 96 points last season). They had the fifth-best road record (23-15-3) and tied for 14th at home (24-14-3). They scored 225 and gave up 225.

• Burning questions: When is this franchise going to get that star player around whom everything revolves? What if Patric Hornqvist had his career season last season? Will lack of scoring put them out of the playoffs?

Playoff Chances Percentage Meter: 60 percent.

Montreal Canadiens

A man in my shoes runs a light and all the papers lied tonight
But falling over you is the news of the day
Angels fall like rain and love is all of heaven away
Inside you the times moves and she don't fade
The ghost in you, she don't fade
-- "The Ghost in You" by Psychedelic Furs

• Why the song: First off, Psychedelic Furs is a first-ballot Hall of Fame band name. Some songs remain fresh and crisp forever (this one came out 26 years ago). This song will sound good in 2143. Let's face it, Montreal remains hockey-mad with ghosts that never seem to fade. Perhaps the ghosts will fade as the Habs bring in more young players? Kids today view history as last week's order of chicken wings. But even a young pup can hear the desperate roar in fans' cheers. Cheering sounds different in Montreal. It's like 41-plus Ryder Cups over seven or eight months. Heavy stuff.

• Numbers: Montreal had 88 points last season, the same as Philadelphia, which it lost to in the Eastern Conference finals. Halak is 24, had five regular-season shutouts and a .923 playoff save percentage ... and he was traded. Montreal had the NHL's second-best power play last season. The Canadiens don't score much (23rd), which puts even more pressure on 23-year-old netminder Carey Price. Price is listed as 4 inches taller than Halak and about 30 pounds heavier.

• Burning questions: Is it confidence or hubris with Price? Can Price hold it together? Does he have the mental makeup to handle Montreal? Can one of the pieces Montreal got for Halak -- 21-year-old Lars Eller -- develop into a consistent player?

Playoff Chances Percentage Meter: 60 percent.

Minnesota Wild

I know bodies of water freeze over
I'm from a place with lots of lakes
But sometimes they get soft in the center
And the center is a dangerous place
It's been a long cold winter
And now you're standing on unsafe ice
You could probably do anything,
If you could just go and get yourself right
-- "Soft in the Center" by The Hold Steady

• Why the song: The Hold Steady lead singer Craig Finn grew up in Edina, Minn. He's a quiet, soulful person who unleashes his fury on stage. He's very hockey. I wonder if he has been to a Wild game?

The Wild have sold out every regular-season game and have made the playoffs just three times in their nine-season existence. Their highest draft pick was their first selection: Marian Gaborik, third overall in 2000. By not being terrible from the outset, they lost out on No. 1 overall draft picks Kovalchuk, Rick Nash, Eric Staal (they wouldn't have taken Andre-Fleury), Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and so on. Like Nashville, the Wild haven't had that star to build around.

• Numbers: They claim the season was lost after a 3-9 start, but they had a worse second half (18-18-5) than first half (20-18-3). Solid at home (25-12-4) and brutal on the road (13-24-4).

• Burning questions: As a result of not producing top-level homegrown talent, the Wild have outsourced a lot of their positions. Will this solid roster all come together? There is not a lot of organizational depth, so can they stay healthy? Can the Wild get 20-40-60 out of Pierre-Marc Bouchard (three more years at $4 million annual cap number)?

Playoff Chances Percentage Meter: 55 percent.

Los Angeles Kings

When nothing is owed, deserved or expected
And your life doesn't change by the man that's elected
If you're loved by someone you're never rejected
Decide what to be and go be it.
-- "Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise" by The Avett Brothers

• Why the song: Because the Avett Brothers and the Los Angeles Kings are both on the rise and one of my best fellow musical investors works in the Kings' front office. "Decide what to be and go be it." I've been preaching that coda for years to you young folk who e-mail me for career advice. If I had the Avett Brothers' writing chops, I would have summed it up like that. The Kings now have to decide what they want to be and go be it. That's players and ownership.

• Numbers: After missing the playoffs for six straight seasons, the Kings returned before losing to the Canucks in six games in the first round. L.A. had the seventh-best power play and was seventh in goals scored and 10th in goals against. Very solid. The Kings were 4-1 in overtime and 10-8 in the shootout. If those numbers don't go their way this season, they could find themselves battling for that last playoff spot.

• Burning questions: Will more ice time mean 20-plus goals for Wayne Simmonds? Is Drew Doughty the best defenseman in the NHL right now? The Kings appear to be a forward or two short, so will someone unexpected step up and produce? Is the front office willing to be aggressive and make the right move? Who will start more games in net, 24-year-old Jonathan Quick (72 games last season!) or 22-year-old Jonathan Bernier?

Playoff Chances Percentage Meter: 80 percent.

Florida Panthers

Roll away your stone I will roll away mine
Together we can see what we will find
Don't leave me alone at this time
For I am afraid of what I will discover inside
-- "Roll Away Your Stone" by Mumford and Sons

• Why the song: GM Dale Tallon takes over in Florida after putting a lot of pieces in place in Chicago. It's a great job for this avid golfer. Never question why a coach or GM would ever take this job or that job; the money is too good to pass up. But there are no hidden gems under these stones -- solid pieces, but no star.

• Numbers: All of them are pretty bad. Every meaningful metric was below par, except penalties, which was 14th overall. Since reaching the Stanley Cup finals in 1996, the Panthers have not won a playoff series and have missed the playoffs in 11 of 13 seasons (nine in a row now). No team has ever missed the playoffs 10 seasons in a row. They had three first-round picks this past June.

• Burning questions: How much longer will this team be in Florida? Will David Booth ever be able to play a full NHL season again? Will third overall pick Erik Gudbranson stay in Florida or return to Junior after nine NHL games?

Playoff Chances Percentage Meter: 20 percent.

Edmonton Oilers

I'm sorry, but I'm just thinking of the right words to say
I know they don't sound the way I planned them to be
But if you wait around awhile, I'll make you fall for me
I promise, I promise you, I will
-- "The Promise" by When In Rome

• Why the song: Not too difficult to figure out what is going on here. Play the kids, be terrible for a couple of more seasons and keep stockpiling draft picks and grow their own because it will be hard to attract prime free agents. But the Oilers may not be terrible if the veterans excel and the young players surprise. Over time, maybe the Oilers will build another organic team the city can fall in love with. Renney, who got the shaft in New York, takes over as coach.

• Numbers: Shawn Horcoff (13 goals and a minus-29) will make $6.5 million this season and carries a $5.5 million cap hit for five years. Ales Hemsky played only 22 games and had 22 points. Nikolai Khabibulin played in only 18 games. Dustin Penner did not play to his $4.2 million cap number in his first season as an Oiler, but did last season with 32 goals and 63 points (although, at 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, you'd expect more than 38 PIMs).

Playoff Chances Percentage Meter: 30 percent.

Detroit Red Wings

Every step, a victory it was
I was cheating death, just in time I woke
My memories start to wander off
Come to me, the remembrance of on my way back home
-- "On My Way Back Home" by Band of Horses

• Why the song: Fine bands like Band of Horses deserve a little pub, and one of the intriguing NHL stories this season is which way the Wings will go. Last season, we didn't like their chances after losing so much scoring (Marian Hossa's 40 goals, Jiri Hudler's 23, Mikael Samuelsson's 19 and Franzen's injury). Sure enough, they went from 295 goals to 229. Only Hudler and Franzen are back, so Valtteri Filppula needs to net around 18 and Johan Franzen 30-plus.

Pavel Datsyuk (age 32) and Henrik Zetterberg (30) need to rebound from subpar seasons and get back to elite form. The Wings are counting on a long summer off and putting Datsyuk and Zetterberg on the same line to help them find their way back home to the Cup finals.

• Numbers: The Wings have eight players who are 35 or older and more than half the roster is over 30. The Wings were 14th in goals last season. They may claim they were tired, but they had a better second half (23-10-8) than the first half (21-14-6). The Wings took the second-fewest penalty minutes (they are a great example of how you don't need moronic hockey behavior at any level).

• Burning questions: Were Zetterberg's and Datsyuk's drop-offs a blip? Will Nicklas Lidstrom's numbers drop for a third straight season (he'll be 41 in April)? Will the economic goaltending ($2.1 million combined for both goalies) pay dividends? Will coach Mike Babcock ever suffer one follicle of hair loss (at this point, he is just rubbing it in)?

Playoff Chances Percentage Meter: 95 percent.

Dallas Stars

It's looking like a limb torn off
Or altogether just taken apart
We're reeling through an endless fall
We are the ever-living ghost of what once was
But someone, they could have warned you
When things start splitting at the seams and now
The whole thing's tumbling down
If things start splitting at the seams and now,
It's tumbling down
Hard.
-- "No One's Gonna Love You" by Band of Horses

• Why the song: It's one of the best from 2007 and illustrates the state of the Stars, who begin a new, post-Mike Modano era. What a run it was. Now it's on to the future and there will be bumps. This is the last year of Brad Richards' $7.8 million cap number contract. As the season wears on, he is obvious trade chum. Among possible trade partners, the Rangers would make sense with coach John Tortorella there, although they may prefer to sign him over the summer. The Kings also make sense, slotting Richards behind Anze Kopitar and adding valuable experience. Richards tied a career high with 91 points last season and will be playing for that one last really good, although-not-$7.8 million contract. The Stars could get a nice return for Richards to help the rebuilding of their brand.

• Numbers: The Stars were ninth in the league in goals and 23rd in giving them up. Their penalty kill was 27th. For the first time since arriving in Dallas in 1993, they missed the playoffs for the second straight season.

• Burning questions: Will Richards be traded? How much will ownership issues hamstring the budget? Will he be Kari Lehtonen or Kari Let-em-in? Will James Neal get his proper props? Will coach Marc Crawford's hair challenge Babcock's salad at center ice during the first Wings-Stars game?

Playoff Chances Percentage Meter: 35 percent.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Dark and lonely is the ride
The devil always by my side.
Though no match for what lies between
The thought of you
Your trust for me.
-- "The Greatest Sum" by Avett Brothers

• Why the song: Because Aaron Portzline of The Columbus Dispatch is one of the coolest beat writers in the NHL and loves the Avett Brothers. Porty, this one's for you. Season-ticket numbers are dangerously low and the Ohio economy is struggling. The Jackets need to make a move now. Nine seasons, one playoff appearance, no playoff wins (swept by Detroit in 2009).

• Numbers: They were 25th in goals scored and 26th in goals allowed. Road record (12-23-6) was 28th in the NHL. They did play a little better in the second half than the first. Rick Nash (33-34-67) had Dustin Penner (32-31-63) numbers, and they don't pay him $7.8 million for that. If Nash doesn't improve, he'll be a Maple Leaf sooner rather than later.

• Burning questions: How good can Derick Brassard and Jakub Voracek be? Will the real Steve Mason please stand up, please stand up, please stand up?

Playoff Chances Percentage Meter: 40 percent.

Colorado Avalanche

I've got the magic in me
Every time I touch that track it turns into gold
Everybody knows I've got the magic in me
When I hit the flow the girls come snappin' at me
Now everybody wants some presto magic
-- "Magic" by B.O.B.

• Why the song: Because my 11-year-old son, Jackson, is a huge Matt Duchene fan and demanded I use this song. Because he went 2½ years with his last pair of skates, I let Jack get a pair of Matt's Reebok Pumps (size 3, of course). And Duchene does have the magic in him; it's ebullient, vibrant, magical players who bring hope and energy to an organization. "You can't start a fire without a spark." Duchene is a spark, he's magic, and that's a great sign for Avalanche fans for the next 10 years.

• Numbers: The Avs had a 26-point jump last season and made the playoffs when few thought they had a chance. They really pumped in the goals (244, sixth in the NHL). They had to score because they gave up 32 shots a game. If that doesn't change and goalie Craig Anderson is not Ken Dryden-like again, the Avs will have a drop-off. Going forward, they are in an outstanding position to trade and sign free agents since their cap number is in great shape. The Avs have been a 90-plus-point team every season except 2008-09. That's extraordinary.

Burning questions: How much will the young players improve? Will Anderson have his A-plus game again? Do the Avs have enough dynamic defensemen to return to the playoffs? How aggressive will the front office be with so much cap room? Will the fans in Colorado do a better job filling the seats this year? This is a very exciting team to watch.

Playoff Chances Percentage Meter: 55 percent.

Chicago Blackhawks

Money, it's a crime
Share it fairly
But don't take a slice of my pie
Money, so they say
Is the root of all evil today
But if you ask for a raise
It's no surprise that they're giving none away
-- "Money" by Pink Floyd

• Why the song: It was pretty obvious that once the champagne dried, salary-cap constraints were going to transform the Blackhawks. Kris Versteeg's 20 goals are in Toronto, Dustin Byfuglien's 17 goals are in Atlanta and Antti Niemi's combined 42-13-4 record (reg. season and playoffs) in net is in rival San Jose; not to mention glue guys like Ben Eager, John Madden, Andrew Ladd and assistant coach John Torchetti are all elsewhere. Those are significant losses. This will make it challenging for the Hawks to repeat, but they do have six months to figure it out.

• Numbers: The power play was below average (16th in the NHL), but everything else is top notch. A championship formula: third-most goals scored and fifth-fewest allowed. Brian Campbell has a $7.1 million cap number for six more years; that's bad, but cap relief for all 30 NHL teams could come in the form of a new television deal starting next season. It's difficult to forecast how much, but the cap could go up $3.5-4.5 million from new TV revenue.

• Burning questions: Can 35-year-old Marty Turco carry the load and/or stay healthy for the next 8½ months? Would the Hawks go over the salary cap if the Q-Stache left Joel Quenneville's face and suited up? The Q-Stache doesn't play for the minimum.

Playoff Chances Percentage Meter: 95 percent.

Carolina Hurricanes

He said the years seem to roll on faster
Than they did back when we were kids
Then we need us a break from the grindstone
That's exactly what we did
-- "Nights I Can't Remember, Friends I'll Never Forget" by Toby Keith

• Why the song: It's been strange decade. In 2002, the Hurricanes won their first playoff series and reached the Cup finals. Two seasons and a lockout later, they won the Stanley Cup. After two more springs with no playoff berths, they made a trip to the conference finals in 2009. Then, Carolina went back to 80 points last season. Very strange.

• Numbers: The Canes were 13th in goals and 24th in goals allowed. Most everything else was bad, too. One thing that was positive is Carolina had a strong second half. The Canes also have loads of cap room going forward.

• Burning questions: Is Cam Ward an elite goalie or not? Will the Hurricanes have a strict budget? Isn't it interesting people are OK with naming teams after natural disasters but probably wouldn't be OK naming them after diseases?

Playoff Chances Percentage Meter: 40 percent.

Calgary Flames

And tonight I realized
I really have no sense of myself
No way to take it back
I am frozen in my tracks
I'm frozen in my tracks
-- "Frozen in My Tracks" by The Tragically Hip

• Why the song: Despite making the playoffs every season and posting anywhere from 94 to 103 points, the Flames have not won a playoff series since winning the 2004 Western Conference finals. It's seems as if they can't figure out what they want to be. Their defense kept getting worse after the lockout as they tried to score more goals. Last season, they were again a good defensive team, but their offense was back to below-average.

• Numbers: They were dead last in goals scored and sixth best in goal prevention. They were 3-9 in the shootout (second worst in the league). Their power play was 27th and penalty kill was 15th. The Flames had a great start (24-12-5) and a terrible second half (16-20-5).

• Burning questions: Alex Tanguay? Really? Can Jarome Iginla return to 40-50 goals? Can Jay Bouwmeester improve on a disappointing first season in Calgary? Can Rene Bourque give the Flames consistent production over the next few years? Miikka Kiprusoff has played 70-plus games for five straight seasons. Is he wearing down?

Playoff Chances Percentage Meter: 80 percent.

Buffalo Sabres

Morning comes, and life moves on
And when it changed, you didn't know you belong
And I'll still catch you when you fall through a past that steals your sleep
And scroll these words upon your wall remind you to believe
-- "Not Broken" by Goo Goo Dolls

• Why the song: Since their back-to-back, heartbreaking conference finals losses in 2006 and 2007 and the exits of Chris Drury and Daniel Briere, the Sabres have yet to win a playoff series. It was one thing to replace Drury and Briere's production, it's another to replace their quiet class. They were gems and the Sabres fumbled the ball. How anyone involved in that management decision still has a job in the Sabres' front office is beyond me. This was a mistake of seismic proportion, and it remains to be seen if this group will ever get over it.

• Numbers: The penalty kill was second in the NHL; the power play was 17th. The Sabres scored (11th overall) and prevented goals (fourth). They took the fourth-fewest penalties.

• Burning questions: Can Rob Niedermayer return that sense of quiet professionalism to the slowly maturing Sabres? Can Jordan Leopold's skating help bring some mobility to the defense and dynamic offensive play to support Tyler Myers? Is Thomas Vanek a 40-plus goal scorer (he's done that twice) or a 20-plus goal scorer (he's done that twice). Is Jason Pominville the most overpaid player in the league?

Playoff Chances Percentage Meter: 75 percent.

Boston Bruins

I should warn you
When I'm not well, I can't tell
Oh, there's nothing I can do
To make this easier for you
You're gonna need to be patient with me
-- "Please Be Patient With Me" by Wilco

• Why the song: Blowing a 3-0 series lead can leave long-term scar tissue. What helps the Bruins is they have added new blood that wasn't involved in that Flyers series. Nathan Horton, Tyler Seguin and Gregory Campbell are all important components to the Bruins. But no matter what they do in the regular season, it won't matter until they get into the playoffs. Hockey is a blood sport; the B's will get over it.

• Numbers: One reason why the Bruins blew a 3-0 series lead and lost is they were not a dynamic offensive team and they had a depleted lineup. They were 29th in goals scored and second in goal prevention. Their style fits on the road (21-13-7), but they struggled at home (18-17-6). If they can dominate at home this season, they could battle for first in the East.

• Burning questions: Will Horton step up and become that 30-goal, 80-PIM player everyone expects him to be? Why doesn't he shoot more? Can Seguin make an immediate offensive impact and give the Bruins much-needed offense? What will become of the Bruins' goaltending and Tim Thomas? How strong are the Bruins on defense?

Playoff Chances Percentage Meter: 85 percent.

Atlanta Thrashers

All your sad and lost apostles
Hum my name and flare their nostrils
Choking on the bones you toss to them
Well I'm not one to sit and spin
'Cause living well's the best revenge
Baby, I am calling you on that
-- "Living Well is the Best Revenge" by REM

• Why the song: For the first time since 2000, the Atlanta Thrashers begin an NHL season without Kovalchuk. The Thrashers offered Kovalchuk a huge contract, but it was obvious he was done in Georgia. So the Thrashers move on. Now, it becomes about the team. I have a weird/good feeling about this team.

• Numbers: This team was 12th in goals scored last season, but that will take a hit as the Thrashers will play a very defensive system under coach Craig Ramsay. The numbers were not good last season, but the team will be more about culture than numbers in 2010-11. It has a very good, young defense and a superb defensive teacher in Ramsay.

• Burning questions: What is Evander Kane's ceiling? Will the Thrashers be so good at goal prevention that they battle for the eighth spot? How much will Zach Bogosian develop this season?

Playoff Chances Percentage Meter: 40 percent.

Anaheim Ducks

I stand before, a road that will lead
Into the unknown. At least unknown to me
I want to go, but I'm paralyzed with fear
Fear of a choice, where the outcome isn't clear
-- "Moving Forward" by Hoobastank

• Why the song: The Ducks missed the playoffs last season and then Scott Niedermayer retired. You would think with three young forwards like Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan, there would be a lot of hope. But there is no help after that, and the defense is anchored by Lubomir Visnovsky. The Ducks likely need another year to reload.

• Numbers: They scored the eighth-most goals and were 22nd in goal prevention. They had a good power play (fifth in the league), showing what a force Getzlaf is. They took a lot of penalties, so they must improve there. They were very good at home (25-11-5) and rancid on the road (14-21-6).

• Burning questions: How quickly can the Ducks develop their recently drafted young players to help out the cause? Can Jonas Hiller carry the load for years to come? Will the Ducks keep their big three on one line or split them up? Will coach Randy Carlyle still be coach at season's end?

Playoff Chances Percentage Meter: 30 percent.

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