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Season 6 of the CMHL - A Mid-Season Review Written by habsfan93 - February 1st, 2010

Half a season into the new simulator and with the All-Star game behind us, the GM's of the CMHL are starting to look towards the second half the season, the trade deadline and the playoffs. Let's take a look at who's there, who we thought should be there and who we can't believe isn't there.

Everything starts in the East with the Washington Capitals. In my preseason preview of this team, I said that the Southeast Division was pretty much wide open, and that if they played their cards right, the Caps had a chance to sneak in there and make some noise. And that they did and more. The Capitals have been without competition the best team in the CMHL so far this year, and they've done it with a roster that, on paper, should not be anywhere near this good. The key to everything has been the tremendous offence generated by their top six forwards, all of whom are on near point-per-game paces this year. And the key to that offence has been the power play, as the Caps rank #1 in the league with the man advantage.

Beyond the Caps in the East, a number of teams have risen to prominence this season after missing the playoffs last year. In fact, there is such a big gap between teams 1 through 7 and the rest of the conference that there may only really be one spot left for grabs among the 3-5 on the outskirts right now. And of those top 7 teams, only 4 made the playoffs last year. Standing alongside Washington are Toronto and Pittsburgh as teams that have turned the corner this year. Unlike Washington, Toronto has been putting up stellar numbers based on their sparkling, stingy defence which has given up a league low 92 goals through 43 games. This has put goalie Pascal Leclaire way out ahead at the front of the pack for the Vezina Trophy with some absolutely stellar numbers. Meanwhile, in Pittsburgh, Zach Parise has emerged as a bone fide franchise player who trails only Alex Ovechkin for the league scoring lead.

On the flipside are the teams that haven't lived up to the preseason hype. After finishing 4th last year, the Canadiens came in as early favorites to top the East but instead plummetted to the bottom of the standings and never recovered. A number of roster changes haven't helped change their fortunes and GM mikeyevil looks exasperated as he is running out of options in Montreal. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, appears to finally be turning the corner on a disastrous first half of the season as they have climbed back to within 2 points of 8th place.


In the West, Phoenix is following up on a strong playoff showing in which they ousted top seed Vancouver in the quarter-finals by leading the West through most of the first-half. Phoenix may be one of the more balanced teams in the league with some terrific offence, solid defence and a Vezina candidate in Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury, meanwhile, is finally rewarding the patience of fans and the GM in Phoenix, who for 5 years have watched him play mediocre hockey as their starting goalie. More telling may be the emergence of Jordan Staal as a bona fide two-way player in the mold of his older brother Eric.

Not far behind the Coyotes lie the Cup defending Columbus Blue Jackets. Though they got off to a rocky start, GM habsfan93 quickly righted the ship with a big trade sending Vincent Lecavalier out of town. Since then, the team has quietly gone about their business of winning and Pavel Datsyuk has finally emerged as more than just a good first line player, but a true franchise forward. Henrik Lundqvist, meanwhile, appears headed for his 3rd straight Vezina nomination. Unlike in the East, the gap between the top and the bottom is not so large and a number of teams beyond #8 remain in the picture. Quite likely the biggest surprise this season is the emergence of the Colorado Avalanche as a veritable playoff team. Having missed the playoffs for three straight seasons, for them to make it in would be a huge boost to hockey in the Rocky state. Much like Washington, Colorado has seen a number of players step up and perform beyond their paper value including goalies Dan Ellis and Curtis Sanford.

I've been predicting for several years now that the LA Kings are on the verge of making some real noise. Two years ago, they won the Invitational Classic only to lose that momentum in the regular season, but that time appears to finally be here as the Kings have consistently been on the coattails of the Coyotes and Ducks all year long. Led by All-Star Goalie Tim Thomas and Mike Richards, the Kings are just doing all the little things right and winning the games when it matters.

The Edmonton Oilers on the other hand appear to have taken a step backwards. A perennial playoff team for the past two seasons, the Oilers have played only average hockey at best all year. While Iginla continues to sparkle, the supporting cast has done anything but. After putting up a terrific rookie season, Patrick Kane is barely on pace for 40 points, while Robert Lang didn't score a goal until the 30th game of the season. Looks like a shakeup is needed in Oiltown.

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