The Southeast this week

The biggest news for the Lightning this week, other than losing both games so far, and the return of Steve Downie to the lineup, was that of the new contract extension for Victor Hedman.

Most people look at the deal - 5-years, $20 million - as a win for Steve Yzerman and the Bolts, as Hedman's market value was expected to be much higher. Hedman's predisposition to frustrating turnovers and missing the net may have brought his value down, but more likely it was his willingness to take a "hometown" discount as it was widely reported that Hedman told his agent to take as many years as the Lightning were willing to offer because of his fondness for playing in Tampa.

Personally, I think Hedman still has a lot of developing to do to reach the potential we were told he had when he was drafted second overall. As far as the contract goes, my initial reaction that it was a bit steep, but he does log a lot of minutes, and is a big body. And besides, he's certainly become one of my favorite targets.

As a side note, it's been a crazy week. For as disappointing as those losses have been this week, and the coaching changes elsewhere, the division standings are entirely unchanged and we're still a lone point behind the Caps. And, just two points out of the final playoff spot.

After the jump: new coaches; Paul Maurice is classy; Jets fans aren't; and Bruce Boudreau is a scapegoat.

Carolina Hurricanes: The Canes started the week by dumping Paul Maurice and replacing him with Kirk Muller. It hasn't helped as they went on to drop games against the Florida Panthers and New York Rangers. The loss to the Rangers was their fifth in a row. This team is too good on paper to be this bad. There must be something going on in the dressing room.

Muller's high energy approach as a player is how he'll also approach coaching.

He's got work to do though, that's for sure.

Hoping to help, John MacLean has joined the coaching staff. Let's hope that role is a little more forgiving than his one with the New Jersey Devils.

Former Bolt Jussi Jokinen has a new baby girl! Congrats Jussi. I always liked him, was sad to see him go.

Very classy move by Paul Maurice. Hard not to appreciate stuff like that.

The Canes seem miles away from a playoff spot, as they currently sit just two points ahead of the New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference basement.

Florida Panthers: Had you told me that the Panthers would be winning the division in December at the beginning of the season, I probably would've laughed. Or called you Rick Tocchet. Or both. But, reality if stranger than fiction sometimes and the Cats keep on rolling just enough to maintain their stay at the top. It might be time to start looking at them as for real.

The Panthers being relevant has been a long time coming. And while it sucks for Lightning fans, it is good for the division.

Shawn Matthias has stepped up and made the most of his opportunities.

The Panthers announced some new initiatives focused on education. Love, love, love this.

The Panthers currently hold the keys as they sit five points ahead of the Capitals, and six points ahead of the Lightning and Jets for the division lead.

Washington Capitals: After years of speculation and constant calls for his job, Bruce Boudreau was finally canned by the Caps on Monday. While his antics occasionally rubbed me the wrong way, I am by-and-large a Boudreau fan, and I think this whole thing has been a raw deal. That team has more egos than the New York Yankees, and not one iota of manhood when things get tough. Boudreau switched systems almost yearly to give them the best chance to win it all, and at the end of the day, the players, and George McPhee's constant interference are what couldn't get it done. For shame. And even though he thought it was the right call, I don't. Glad Bruce landed on his feet with the Anaheim Ducks.

I think this season will finally prove it's time to blow this team up. Odds and ends pickups in the offseason are not the solution.

Dale Hunter will be the new bench boss. It's a fitting gig. It seems to be a theme, the change hasn't helped yet, as the Capitals have looked even worse under Hunter.

Like Muller and the Hurricanes, Hunter has a tough task. It'll take some time though.

The Caps also brought Jim Johnson onto the coaching staff. That should really help with those races to loose pucks. *Rimshot I'll be here all week.

Mike Knuble is not a fourth liner. Duh.

The Caps are far from out of things, just one point out of a playoff spot, but the wheels could be falling off fast.

Winnipeg Jets: Jets fans treated the Phoenix Coyotes rather poorly in their return to Winnipeg.

That's just dumb. The Coyotes did not bail on Winnipeg, they were forced out by league politics and poor infrastructure, and financial struggles caused by years of inconsistency. The way I see it, if that's how Jets fans are going to act, then this realignment mess can't happen quickly enough.

At any rate, it turns out Kyle Wellwood may finally be at home with the Airplanes. A look at his importance to Winnipeg.

Young stud Mark Scheifele has been invited to camp for the Canadian National Junior Team. I think he'll make it. The kid is legit.

When the aforementioned realignment goes down, there's a good chance the Jets will be playing most of their games in the Central Time Zone.

Despite looking so good against the Coyotes, the Jets "lacked intelligence" in their game Tuesday against the Ottawa Senators.

The Jets are making some noise, threatening to overtake the Caps and Bolts, but still sit 13th in the Conference. They are, however, just two points out of a playoff spot.

Important matchups over the weekend: Rangers at Lightning (Saturday), Devils at Jets (Saturday).

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