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October 5, 1988


Last S (AP) _ 1-28-11, 92 points (1st)

Coach-Jacques Demers (3rd season)

STRENGTHS-Demers, a two-time coach of the year, gets the most out of the players he has. ... Steve Yzerman became 50-goal and 100-point scorer last season and appeared in playoffs to have survived serious knee injury. ... Defense is solid, forwards check diligently and goaltenders Greg Stefan and Glen Hanlon complement each other well.

WEAKNESSES-Will Wings come apart after playoff incident in Edmonton last season, in which several players, including Probert and Klima, were benched after breaking curfew? Both players, who have been battling alcohol problems, were sent to the minors during camp for disciplinary reasons, then suspended. ... Yzerman, Wings’ captain and offensive fulcrum, must show his surgically repaired knee is OK for a full season. ... Defense, largely a group of overachieving journeymen, is effective but not particularly mobile.

COMINGS AND GOINGS-Wings acquired forward Paul MacLean, a 40-goal scorer, from Winnipeg for Brent Ashton. ... Miroslav Frycer, a right wing, came from Toronto for Darren Veitch, Wings’ best offensive defenseman last season.

OUTLOOK-In two years, Demers and company have buried the ″Dead Wings″ tag and made Detroit one of the league’s top teams. Despite problems with Probert and Klima, they still are easily the class of the NHL’s worst division. CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

Last Season-30-41-9, 69 points (3rd)

Coach-Mike Keenan (1st season)

STRENGTHS-Line of Denis Savard, Steve Larmer and Rick Vaive is one of NHL’s top scoring units. Savard and Larmer also are dangerous while killing penalties ... Keenan, who replaces Bob Murdoch, has a history of success with Philadelphia, where he was NHL’s most successful coach over past four seasons. ... Darren Pang had spectacular rookie season in goal.

WEAKNESSES-After Savard’s line, which scored 45 percent of Chicago’s goals last season, there isn’t much punch up front. ... Defensively, the Blackhawks were among worst in league last season, with goaltenders seeing more rubber than any others in NHL. ... Hawks will have to adjust to Keenan, who will find that his new team doesn’t check nearly as well as his old one did.

COMINGS AND GOINGS-The biggest addition is Keenan, who antagonized many of his players in Philadelphia. Questions: how much clout will he have, and does he have his eyes on Bob Pulford’s job as general manager. ... Trade of goaltender Bob Mason, who played well in last year’s shooting gallery, opens up chance for junior star Jimmy Waite. ... Doug Wilson, team’s best defenseman, will try for comeback after missing most of season with shoulder injury.

OUTLOOK-Keenan won’t win any popularity contests with his new team, but will teach them that there are two ends of the rink. Hawks should be able to pass St. Louis, but don’t look to have enough to challenge Detroit. ST. LOUIS BLUES

Last Season-34-38-8, 76 points (2nd)

Coach-Brian Sutter (1st season)

STRENGTHS-Trades have reunited the combination of Mike Bullard and Brett Hull, who worked well together in Calgary last season. ... Bernie Federko and Tony McKegney also are solid scorers. ... Greg Millen is a dependable netminder.

WEAKNESSES-Not much depth offensively, unless some younger players come through. ... No proven backup for Millen. ... Defense is decidedly ordinary, though adding Dave Richter gives Blues more size.

COMINGS AND GOINGS-Brian Sutter, one of top players in Blues history, traded in his jersey for a suit and tie and is now coaching his former teammates after Jacques Martin was let go. ... Bullard, a 48-goal scorer last season, and tough guy Craig Coxe came from Calgary for Mark Hunter, Steve Bozek, Michael Dark and Doug Gilmour, who was accused in a sex scandal. ... Vincent Riendeau, a top minor-league goaltending prospect, came from Canadiens in Jocelyn Lemieux deal and will get full chance to win a job. ... Richter, a hulk on defense, was acquired for Robert Nordmark.

OUTLOOK-This team bears only slight resemblance to the one that began last season. But the Blues are still stuck in a rut; their skate-your-wing and wait-for-a-break style is good enough to finish ahead of Toronto and Minnesota, and maybe Chicago, but not to challenge Detroit. MINNESOTA NORTH STARS

Last Season-19-48-13, 51 points (5th; last in NHL)

Coach-Pierre Page (1st season)

STRENGTHS-Dino Ciccarelli (if he reports), Brian Bellows and Neal Broten (if he’s healthy) are productive forwards. ... Goaltending, led by Don Beaupre and Kari Takko, is good enough to win if the rest of the team improves. ... Stars, who used 43 skaters last season, can’t have any more injuries than they did last season, when last 30 games resembled a tryout camp.

WEAKNESSES-Hard to say which is weaker, offense or defense. ... Stars need much more production from under-achievers like Brian Lawton, Brian MacLellan and Scott Bjugstad, who all had poor seasons, and last year’s top rookie, Dave Archibald, who showed some promise. ... Defense, aside from often-injured Craig Hartsburg, is leaky at best and not helped by sizeable number of non- checking forwards.

COMINGS AND GOINGS-Biggest additions are Page, an assistant with Calgary last season, and new GM Jack Ferreira, who came from the Rangers and cleaned house in the front office. ... Mike Modano, No. 1 overall in entry draft, will get thrown into the fire early - if and when he signs. ... Several veterans have asked to be traded, and Ferreira may accede to their wishes and try to rebuild with younger players.

OUTLOOK-If Stars stay healthy, Ciccarelli and Modano work out their contract problems and younger players improve, they can beat out Toronto for the final playoff spot. In any other division, they’d be dead last on Day 1. TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

Last Season-21-49-10, 52 points (4th)

Coach-John Brophy (3rd year)

STRENGTHS-Ed Olczyk blossomed into 40-goal scorer last season and Leafs also got some production from Gary Leeman and Mark Osborne. ... Return of Wendel Clark, Leafs’ best player, from back problems would help. ... 22-goal scorer Al Iafrate and 1987 top pick Luke Richardson are promising defensemen.

WEAKNESSES-Start in the front office, where owner Harold Ballard is the NHL’s version of George Steinbrenner. ... Brophy, who won a power battle last season with ex-GM Gerry McNamara, has antagonized several players, most of whom are now elsewhere. ... On ice, Leafs have little offense, a weak defense and questionable goaltending, plus the worst power play in the league. They’re not called the ″Maple Laughs″ for nothing.

COMINGS AND GOINGS-Gord Stellick, the new general manager at age 31, has to live with Brophy, a coach he didn’t select, and figures to take the blame if Leafs flop again. ... Leafs signed ex-Devil winger Paul Gagne, who missed last two seasons with injury, former Penguin forward Doug Shedden and ex-King Craig Laughlin. ... No. 1 pick, left wing Scott Pearson, could also make team. ... Darren Veitch, acquired for winger Miroslav Frycer - a frequent Brophy target - should help porous defense.

OUTLOOK-If front-office follies were worth points, Leafs would lead NHL standings easily. Since they don’t, making the playoffs again will be a major accomplishment, even if Clark is healthy and some of the younger players mature. PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH:

1-Detroit; 2-Chicago; 3-St. Louis; 4-Minnesota; 5-Toronto.


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