As long as the Bruins have their brilliant defenseman, Ray Bourque, and their crashing forward, Cam Neely, Buffalo will have a hard time finishing ahead of Boston. However, for the Bruins to unseat the Canadiens as division champs, center Craig Janney must continue developing into a top-quality playmaker, and one more scorer must be found.
Even in Hartford, you can't take out insurance on losing your best defenseman. The Whalers will have to endure until Christmas without Ulf Samuelsson, who tore up his left knee while training in the off-season. Their right side, with former Devil Pat Verbeek on one line and 45-goal scorer Kevin Dineen on another, is a bright side. But new general manager Eddie Johnston has some fast shuffling to do at left wing and on the back line.
If Quebec's kiddie corps gels, the Nordiques, who have been patiently accepting beatings while stockpiling draft choices and talented young players like center Joe Sakic, could make a serious run at the playoffs. But Quebec, which had the worst record in the league last season, has to find a stabilizing defenseman and a big league goaltender.