September’s come and gone and the hockey disciplines are ready to worship. Anticipation for the new season is at a crescendo following the antics of last year's epic post season. So what can we expect from the South East division?
It’s BACK! While for some, summer is all about sunshine and bruskis, for others it’s the hibernation months when there’s no hockey to keep us up. Fear not, the NHL returns and here’s your guide to the South Eastern Division.

The 2011–12 NHL season will be the 95th season, mark the date with a big red circle on your calendar as hockey season starts on October 6, 2011 running through to the final regular season game on April 7, 2012.  

In case anyone missed it during off-season, the Atlanta Thrashers relocated to Winnipeg, Manitoba to become the Winnipeg Jets. So while the Thrashers are no more; long live their new direction as the Jets. The league has not changed its divisional structure so the Jets will play in the place of the Thrashers in the South-east Division. Time to change those shirts cheapskate.

Likely winners 

The Washington Capitals had such an easy roll in the South East that they look good, and to be honest they are good (you wouldn’t win four straight division champions if you weren’t). Last season ended with the Caps four points clear at the top of the Division and don’t forget The 2009–10 Capitals won the franchise's first-ever Presidents' Trophy for the team with the most points at the end of the regular season. It won’t be an easy run this season and you lucky NHL bettors out there can be the ones to reap the profit. The Capitals are still Stanley Cup-less, and at this early stage they might be worth a cheeky bet (just keep the betting slip under your pillow for a while). If you want this bet check out the NHL odds as they vary at this stage, but 8/1 is a popular one.

Recently there’s been a change of pace with Washington as Head coach Bruce Boudreau changed the way his team played, with more importance on defence. This meant that they dipped all the way to 19th in scoring. The trick is to have a tight defence that stops you losing games, yet keep a strong enough offense to win you games, the trick for Boudreau is to find that happy medium. Depending on how soon this balance is struck will have a huge impact on Bourdreau. Many fans feel that the team hasn't done enough in off season, and Coach Bourdreau might be just one bad run away from the unemployment line. 

The South Eastern is no one-team Division as Tampa Bay souped up the division's image. Runners-up in the league last season they had an impressive Stanley Cup run to go with their “near miss” under Washington. This division now has two of the game's elite scorers in Steven Stamkos and Ovechkin. This coming season promises a proper battle royale after the Bolts unceremoniously swept the Caps in the playoffs last year.

Washington Capitals have added Joel Ward, Troy Brouwer and Tomas Vokoun amongst others to their ranks, obviously expecting a scrap with Tampa. Despite a second straight disappointing showing in the playoffs, the Capitals are still one of the favourites to win the Cup. 

Tampa Bay are looking to coach Guy Boucher, who had such success with 1-3-1 and Tampa would like a return on their faith in him and his system and Boucher will be out to prove that his team (and therefore himself) is bigger than a system. He’s got no real excuse to fail as almost the entire roster is intact after last season.

If you want a less scientific and more emotive bet, back the Carolina Hurricanes to do something this time in the Cup. They’ve been the bridesmaids for far, far too long. 

There’s a tasty match on the 8th of October when the Lightning go to Carolina, it’s a tricky bet as sportsbooks have Tampa Bay at 18/19 and the Hurricanes at 13/15. Still some people claim that tea leaves are useful for predicting season end positions, on early season games. Tampa Bay are also offered up at 5/6 for their 30th September match against the Montreal Canadiens, if that pay check is burning through your pocket.

They didn’t miss the playoffs by much in 2010-11, finishing just two points behind the New York Rangers for the East's eighth and final berth. Good news came in the shape of a fantastic debut season for 18-year-old scoring sensation Jeff Skinner, who won the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie. Plus they have and excellent and experienced captain in Eric Staal, to lead from the front. The goals will likely come from Stall, Skinner, Jussi Jokinen and Tuomo Ruutu, nut after that it gets a little thin in the shooter stakes, there is a recession on you know…

The Florida Panthers are often seen as just making up the numbers in this league and they hardly worried the Capitals last season.  It’s not just opinion that damns the Panthers, it’s also the stats, they’ve set an NHL record for most consecutive seasons out of the playoffs. That’s more than bad luck! There’s been a shake up as Florida's general manager (appointed or anointed, depending on your faith) in May last year, Dale Tallon, has unloaded a handful of players at the trade deadline which has left Florida with tons of salary cap space. To fill the void The Panthers got busy in the free-agent market in July, adding a slew of veterans to help the youngsters develop. The Panthers are getting better but considering their history that is far too easily done. They could hardly get worse after all. Not that it matters but the Panthers are offered up as over 100 to 1 to lift the Stanley Cup, but why through your money away, even at that return?

And finally we come to the Winnipeg Jets 

Winnipeg is a Canadian city with a proud hockey fanbase and they are going to expect results, much like strict scholarly adoptive parents. Improvements must be made as this newly adopted team missed the playoffs altogether. Home advantage might be telling as the Jets (it’ll take a little while to get used to saying that) have the gift of 10 home games in 11 contests that stretches from the end of November through December. The Power Play seems to be the making of the Jets as last season they finished 12th in the league (on Power Plays) mostly thanks to Byfuglien and Enstrom. The Jets are offered at 50/1 at several places to win the cup but if you can find the rumoured 100/1, that’d be worth a “what if” bet.

Prediction: Tampa Bay to unseat Washington on the top of the Division.