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Ryan Getzlaf

Which NHL team is the biggest surprise?

Panthers on the prowl

Harvey Fialkov

Sun Sentinel

Give Panthers general manager Dale Tallon props. The architect of the Blackhawks' 2010 Stanley Cup championship team brought in 11 new players and rookie coach Kevin Dineen to transform last year's Eastern Conference cellar-dwellers into the most surprising and aesthetically pleasing team in the NHL.

The Panthers, featuring blossoming scorer Kris Versteeg and rejuvenated goalie Jose Theodore, sit atop the Southeast Division, a perch they hadn't occupied this late since March 2000, coincidentally the last season they reached the playoffs.

Conversely, the Canucks and their six ex-Panthers...