Financial responsibility is not something that many sports teams are known for, at least not the successful ones. But when the NHL season begins on Saturday - with the global credit crunch now feeling like a full-on bodycheck on wallets across the globe - the Detroit Red Wings will have every right to feel pleased with themselves.
The general manager Ken Holland has once again managed to squeeze the most talent under the wage cap, with star winger Marian Hossa and goaltender Ty Conklin bolstering the ranks of the defending Stanley Cup champions. Holland's mantra is simple: take less money but have a greater chance of winning. Star players such as Niklas Lidstron, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg have bought into this and this is why the Wings are well-placed to repeat their success.
But while the Wings are expected to be kings of the Western Conference in the regular season, Sam McCaig, who cover the NHL for Hockey News and previews the season, thinks they will be shot down by a puck from the Lone Star State in the play-offs. @Email:thn.com PLAYERS TO WATCH Evgeni Malkin (Pittsburgh) - An MVP candidate last season, the centre carried the Penguins when Sidney Crosby was injured. Malkinwas a force in the first three rounds of the play-offs, but was invisible in the final.
Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay) - The 18-year-old rookie centre keeps being compared with Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic, so you know he is doing something right. Marian Hossa (Detroit) - The right winder spurned a multi-year offer from Pittsburgh (and Edmonton) in favour of a one-year deal in Detroit, where the talented scorer figures he has the best shot at winning the Stanley Cup. Patrick Marleau (San Jose) - Forget last year; it was awful. The Sharks have a new coach, so the captain should be able to get back on track to 30 goals and 90 points.
Carey Price (Montreal) - No pressure, son, but can you please backstop the Canadiens to the Stanley Cup in their centennial season? PREDICTIONS Stanley Cup winners - Dallas Stars Western Conference champions (playoffs) - Dallas Stars Eastern Conference champions (playoffs) - Philadelphia Flyers Western Conference champions (regular season) - Detroit Red Wings Western Conference champions (regular season) - Montreal Canadiens
Hart Trophy (MVP) - Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Art Ross Trophy(Most points) - Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Norris Trophy (Best defenceman)- Chris Pronger, Anaheim Vezina Trophy (Best goalie) - Evgeni Nabokov, San Jose Calder Trophy (Best rookie) - Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Rocket Richard Trophy (Most goals) -Alex Ovechkin, Washington