2015-16 NHL Predictions

2015-16 NHL Predictions

I guess it’s that time of year, to make ridiculous predictions in relation to how the National Hockey League will play out this season, and to make an attempt at guessing the order of finish for the four divisions in the league.

The new year always promises excitement, with questions to be answered, and results to be seen.

Here we go!

(x- denotes playoffs)

Atlantic Division

  1. x-Tampa Bay Lightning: No reason to see any regression in one of the more exciting, young, teams in the league. Goalie health will always be the main question; the rest of the team is solid.
  2. x- Montreal Canadiens: Carey Price. PK Subban. That is all. Will all lead to another playoff flameout because of lack of grit and secondary scoring.
  3. x- Detroit Red Wings: It has become impossible to not pick them to make the playoffs. They always find a way.
  4. Boston Bruins: Weird off-season, no signs of improvement.
  5. Florida Panthers: A team on the rise, but there are still too many teams to overcome to be a serious threat.
  6. Buffalo Sabres: A lot of excitement around the changes to this bottom-feeder, and rightfully so. Should be entertaining to watch, at least.
  7. Ottawa Senators: Goalie regression. That is all.
  8. Toronto Maple Leafs: It’s great to have Babcock at the helm, but he is basically trying to coach a raging tire fire of a roster.

Metropolitan Division

  1. x- New York Islanders: They are one of the more entertaining teams in the league, filled with a ton of offense. There will be a lot of 5-4 games. Which is awesome. Time for them to take the leap.
  2. x- New York Rangers: Becoming a perennial contender. Good looking roster, with plenty of depth.
  3. x- Columbus Blue Jackets: A team destroyed by injuries last year. Their top line will rack up the points this year. An underdog, but should not be overlooked.
  4. x- Pittsburgh Penguins: I still see the same problems with the Pens: very top heavy, with very little depth once you get past the first line and a half of players.
  5. x- Washington Capitals: A trendy Cup pick that I don’t see doing much more than it usually does.
  6. Philadelphia Flyers: Not enough change on a roster that failed next year. They will be playoff contenders, however, and should make it interesting down to the end.
  7. Carolina Hurricanes: The team that most people forget even exists in this league. Nothing to really report on here. Just become the Quebec Nordiques already.
  8. New Jersey Devils: A weird looking roster filled with dinosaurs. The lone bright spot is Cory Schneider.

Central Division

  1. x- St. Louis Blues: So much depth. Need to break the playoff curse against the ‘Hawks.
  2. x- Minnesota Wild: Underachieved for most of last year because of terrible goaltending. The problem seems to be fixed, and it is time they made an upwards move instead of simply being a fringe team.
  3. x- Dallas Stars: The Islanders of the West. All offense, questions on whether or not they can actually prevent goals. Upgrades all around during the off-season. Tyler Seguin for the Art Ross?
  4. x- Chicago Blackhawks: They have to get tired after all the playoff games at some point, right? Right?
  5. x- Winnipeg Jets: A solid looking team (as long as Ondrej Pavelec gets fewer and fewer starts in net) stuck in a very good division.
  6. Nashville Predators: How many off-seasons can they have where they do nothing to improve their middling offense?
  7. Colorado Avalanche: Probably better than they were last year, with bounce-back years from their kids. But not good enough to take over from any of the teams above them, all of whom have playoff potential.

Pacific Division

  1. x- Anaheim Ducks: Just a strong team all around. They will grind their way to the top.
  2. x- Los Angeles Kings: The roster is too good to miss the dance for a second year in a row.
  3. x- Calgary Flames: All heart, wanting to prove that last year was no fluke. Many are calling for them to drop in the standings because of poor fancy stats. I don’t see much of a drop.
  4. San Jose Sharks: Maybe one of the tougher teams to get a read on. Questions in goal will doom them.
  5. Edmonton Oilers: After nearly a decade at the bottom, they will finally begin to rise. Should be entertaining to watch, and oh yeah, I see McDavid as a legitimate threat to win the scoring title in his rookie season.
  6. Vancouver Canucks: There is basically nothing to like about this roster. They have done very little from their heyday a few years ago, and now they look old and boring.
  7. Arizona Coyotes: A ton of potential and young talent with this team, and should be scary. In a couple of years.

Insane Stanley Cup Prediction

In the West, I see the Blues finally breaking through, beating the Kings in the Conference Final. On the other side of the continent, I’ll go with a crazy prediction and take the Islanders to top the Blue Jackets in the semis.

Blues vs. Islanders final. The Blues win the Cup, and the Islanders re-establish themselves as legitimate contenders for years to come.

Heartbreak for McDavid

Heartbreak for McDavid

You really could see the crushing disappointment in his face, and hear it in his voice.

This kid, along with every hockey fan, is not happy that the Edmonton Oilers have again won the NHL Draft Lottery, making it the 4th time in the past 6 years that they will get the #1 overall pick in the upcoming draft.

mc6And this time, they have the chance to draft Connor McDavid, who is widely viewed as being a generational talent, the likes of which we haven’t seen since Sidney Crosby.

Normally, a Canadian kid would probably be pretty happy that a Canadian team won the lottery. But not when that team is the raging dumpster fire that has been an Oilers franchise that has missed the playoffs for the past 9 straight seasons (longest playoff drought in the league).

The hate of the Oilers began before the lottery even began. Nobody wanted to see them win, and this includes many of the fans in Edmonton. Sure, it is incredibly exciting that the future best player in the league will be coming to town, but it is also terrifying for many fans, because we have seen first hand what has happened with the other three #1s that currently litter the Oilers roster. Fans around the league would have preferred to see McDavid go absolutely anywhere outside of Edmonton. An Eastern team (aside from Carolina) where his profile would be massive, and he would help the game continue to grow. Or the Leafs, because even if their season was an absolute train wreck, they have someone in charge now who isn’t afraid to make the needed changes to get better. Or how about Buffalo, the team that tried the hardest to get him by giving up on this season two years ago?

mc3Even Arizona, a team that everybody is simply waiting to move to Quebec City, would have been a better option than Edmonton. They have some great young talent coming up, and having McDavid down there would have helped the team as much as possible. If the Coyotes couldn’t make it with him, then it really is time to pack there things and head for La Belle Province once and for all.

There was a such a league-wide groan of disbelief when the gold Oilers placard was pulled from the envelope, signalling that they had won the lottery. Absolutely, there was a ton of excitement among fans. But it is also embarrassment that this is the 4th time they are doing this. Facebook messages and sports message boards all over the place are lighting up with renewed vitriol towards the incompetent Oilers management, that has brought them to this place of being so unbelievably terrible.

Most of that hatred, naturally, is focused on Kevin Lowe, the team president that has engineered the entire downfall of the organization over the past decade, and keeps getting promoted because of it.

Also, there is focus on Craig MacTavish, the General Manager that doesn’t seem to really get it, and what it takes to win in this league. He was even quoted as saying that “offense wins championships,” after winning the lottery. Does it really? Ask the last few Cup winners about the importance of their defense and goaltending in the playoffs.

mc4Immediate calls are being made by the fans to finally see that there is a player to build around, and make some moves to help the poor kid out, so that he doesn’t need to be a part of the poisonous losing culture that exists in Edmonton until he is a free agent at age 27. Trade Taylor Hall, a dynamic offensive player with a long injury history, painfully obvious defensive flaws, and a divisive attitude in the community for a D-man. Package a couple of these guys, like Nail Yakupov, one of their other high picks, for a goalie that can at least be competent in the net to give the team a chance to win. Moves need to made, or Connor McDavid will be wasted.

Already, he is going to a market where the majority of the fans of the sport will never hear much from him. Edmonton loves hockey, there is little doubt about that, but they are buried deep in the West, and McDavid will not get the coverage that he deserves because he is in a small market. Think of how underrated John Tavares is, simply because he plays for the Islanders. If he was as good as he is on the Flyers, he would be a megastar. It will be the same for McDavid.

mc2So what can this kid do? Does he have any options if he truly doesn’t want to be a part of this team that is eternally rebuilding, and seems pretty clueless about how to do it? Or does he just need to suck it up, come be an Oiler for the first 8 years of his promising career, and hope it doesn’t destroy him, like it has other top talent that are doomed to come to this team?

1. He can pull a Lindros. He can tell Oiler management before the draft that he never intends to play for them, so that they should trade the pick and get a massive haul for him while they can.

Pros: He would force the team’s hand, and he would be dealt somewhere else. The Oilers would probably get so much back for him that they could fill in the massive gaps in their roster with just this one move. There would be no shortage of trading partners that would drool at the idea of getting McDavid. Think that when the Nordiques traded Lindros after drafting him, they got the pieces that won them two Cups.

Cons: McDavid would quickly become public enemy #1 in Edmonton, not that he would really care. He would only need to see them once a year. And even still, if this happened, I feel that many fans would continue to hate the team management, and not really blame the kid for not wanting to come here. The perception of McDavid then would be that he was a whiner, but again, I don’t know that too many people would actually blame him for pulling a Lindros move.

2. He can go to the KHL for 2 years. If a player doesn’t sign with the team that drafts them, after two years they will either re-enter the draft (if they are still under 20), or become Unrestricted Free Agents. There have been cases of this before.

Pros: He would avoid the Oilers completely. He would still get to play pro hockey, even if it isn’t in the best league in the world, where let’s be honest, he is so good that he needs that kind of challenge. When he came to the NHL, if he was a UFA, he would get to choose where he would play, and it would create the biggest and most exciting bidding war in league history.

Cons: Upon entry to the NHL, he would be forced to sign a rookie contract. Not the biggest deal, but he would essentially be losing out on a lot of money (but would he? Some KHL magnate would be sure to pay him ridiculous money to go play in Russia). He wouldn’t be playing in the NHL, which is really the biggest drawback.

3. Count the days until he is 27. Being the good soldier, and then moving on, is probably the most likely choice.

Pros: He would be the most sought after free agent of all-time, assuming he lives up to the hype, of course. He would be starting his prime, at age 27, and could play anywhere he wanted to, including for his beloved Maple Leafs.

Cons: 8 years in Edmonton is a long time. If he hasn’t been broken by the losing, or tired from shaking his head at the incompetent managerial moves, or confused over the number of coaches he has probably had to work with, then he really might be the next Great One. In Edmonton, he will play in relative obscurity, while at the same time having to face the tough media and fan base here. If losing continues, how long until fans turn on him as well?

4. Hope the Oilers do something very Oilers-y at the draft. There is no question that the group running this team is incompetent. Are they incompetent enough to do something ridiculous before the draft, and not end up getting McDavid? They have arguably taken the wrong player with each of their previous #1 picks…could they do it again?

Pros: You never know with this team. You just never know.

Cons: Even the clueless MacT has to know that McDavid is a twice-in-a-lifetime player. Doesn’t he?

There really is no win here for McDavid. Surely, if you could get an honest answer out of a hockey player, he would say that he would rather be in Phoenix, or Buffalo, or Toronto, or anywhere but Edmonton. But he will never say that. He will be drafted by the Oilers, and come play here like a good soldier.

He will be awesome, and he will be a hero in the city.

mc5But sadly, this is just giving this terrible management another life to live. MacT will keep his job, because he was the guy that got them McDavid. So will Kevin Lowe. Well, that, and the fact that he is best friends with an owner more concerned about money and hanging out with his 80s friends than money. The management team will soon forget that it is because they are so absolutely terrible at their jobs that they have been able to put this losing waste of a team together, which in turn landed them a stud like McDavid. No skill was involved in getting this kid. In fact, it is the complete opposite.

My heart genuinely breaks for this kid, having to walk into this complete mess, and be expected to be the savior of the whole thing. Even though what the management has done is put together some good players that barely look like a cohesive team on most nights.

Personally, as a citizen of this city, I am torn. My entire life, I have cheered against the Oilers, even during the dynasty years that nobody here will ever let go. I want them to fail and continue to be a laughingstock for the rest of my days. But I just feel bad for this kid, because I truly feel that elsewhere, he would have been one of the greats. That by no means that his career is over by becoming an Oiler, as some have suggested.

It just won’t be the same.

Welcome to Edmonton, Connor McDavid.

2014-15 NHL Predictions

2014-15 NHL Predictions

Hockey is back. So that means it’s time for me to make some wild guesses as to how the regular season will play out over the next 82 games. Maybe even make a way-too-early Stanley Cup prediction that will surely not come true, if only because I guessed it.

*denotes playoff team

Western Conference

east2

Central Division

st-louis-blues-logo1. *St. Louis Blues: Looking at that roster, it is just so deep. Their top-6 are among the best in the league, and that D is impressive. I think Elliott and Allen can get it done in net.

2. *Chicago Blackhawks: They are going to be Cup favorites again. Another incredibly deep team. No reason to think there is any drop off in them this season.

3. *Dallas Stars: Ok, I’ll bite. All offense, very little D. But that can work in the regular season.

4. *Colorado Avalanche: I don’t think the drop off will be as huge as the advanced stats say. This is still a young, fast, exciting team.

5. *Minnesota Wild: Made some good moves. Still a lot of questions in net, where not much has been done to improve themselves. They seem doomed to always be battling for a playoff spot.

6. Nashville Predators: Same old, same old. Solid D. No offense. I don’t know that James Neal makes that big a difference without Malkin on his line. There will be some good stories here, like a possible Ribeiro comeback, but that’s about it.

7. Winnipeg Jets: Still, nothing has been done to improve this team. They need to blow it up, if their GM realized that making trades was allowed. Horrible goaltending will sink the potential of the forwards and young D again.

Pacific Division

1. *Anaheim Ducks: Deep, big, strong. A regular season beast of a team again, even with the changes in net.

kings2. *Los Angeles Kings: The champs will coast through the regular season again, waiting to make their move in the playoffs, as usual.

3. *San Jose Sharks: Despite the weird off-season, they are still a strong and deep team. There is absolutely enough there to be a good regular season team again.

4. Vancouver Canucks: I hated the Ryan Miller signing, but this team will bounce back a little bit after the debacle that was the last year. Still not a ton there, and I feel this team needs some massive changes to get back into the race.

5. Phoenix Coyotes: Always underestimated. Strong D and goalies will carry them, but who knows who will score goals for them?

6. Edmonton Oilers: Blah, blah, blah, youth. They will be better, especially with actual NHL goalies on their roster this year, but there is too much ground to make up to be much of a threat in this scary conference.

7. Calgary Flames: They worked their butts off last year, and probably over-achieved. They will be in the running for Connor McDavid this year.

Eastern Conference

east

Atlantic Division

bruins1. *Boston Bruins: They remain the class of the East. Best goalie, best D, deepest forward crop.

2. *Tampa Bay Lightning: Another exciting team. Biggest question mark for me is in net. Is Bishop a one-year wonder?

3. *Montreal Canadiens: Mostly put them here because I don’t know who else I reasonably could. A decent team, but nothing special here, in my opinion.

4. Toronto Maple Leafs: Once they fire their terrible coach, they might be a decent team. Still, no playoffs.

5. Florida Panthers: I guess the only surprise pick so far. There is something going on here, and with a real goalie and a ton of youth, they could be pretty decent for once.

6. Detroit Red Wings: 25 years in the playoffs is a long time. The run ends this year. The forwards are either too old and frail, or too young and inexperienced.

7. Ottawa Senators: There just isn’t much to like here, except perhaps a nice bounceback year for both goalies.

8. Buffalo Sabres: I actually think they will be significantly better than last year. They are doing their rebuild right, and there is a lot to work with here, as they move forward.

Metropolitan Division

1. *Pittsburgh Penguins: I’m already going to pick another playoff collapse, but with two of the best players in the world, they will probably run away with this division.

Yup, I'm using the fisherman.
Yup, I’m using the fisherman.

2. *New York Islanders: Yup, you read that right. The Islanders. I feel they made a ton of improvements over the summer, and are ready to get back into the dance. I feel there is some serious potential on this team, and if Halak can be semi-competent in goal, they have a real shot at being a special team.

3. *New York Rangers: They lost a lot since the Cup finalists last year, but they will still be respectable. Especially since Lundqvist is still their goalie. That alone gets them in in this messy division.

4. *Columbus Blue Jackets: Quietly a respectable team again. They work hard, and have some skill and nice building blocks. Hopefully there isn’t too much of a drop off in net, or with their won’t be named training camp holdout forward. He needs to shake off the rust, and fast.

5. *Philadelphia Flyers: I really like a lot of the talent on this team. If someone like Giroux decides to play the whole season, I could see them finishing as high as third in this division.

6. New Jersey Devils: I don’t really get this team. But they will hang around for most of the year.

7. Washington Capitals: Where have you gone, Southeasy Division? Getting Trotz as a coach was the right move, but there are far too many gaps in this roster, and you have to wonder how long they will buy into his system.

8. Carolina Hurricanes: I predict that they will win the lottery, and sadly, will get McDavid. Which is too bad, because let’s be honest. Not many people care that Carolina even has a team. One of hockey’s most forgotten about franchises. They are going to be bad, I feel. Sabres bad.

Randoms, and Playoffs:

  • Hart Trophy (MVP): John Tavares, Islanders. It’s time. And with a better team around him, he will shine.
  • Art Ross (scoring): Sidney Crosby, Penguins. Betting against this is basically betting against him being healthy, or getting injured. He is by far the best in the game.
  • Norris (best D): Alex Pietrangelo, Blues. Changing of the guard. The potential is there. With a little more offense, he will be in the conversation again.
  • Vezina (best goalie): Tuuka Raask, Bruins. Such a good team. He benefits from that. Oh, and being really good as a goalie.
  • Stanley Cup Final: St. Louis vs. New York Islanders. Not only do I think the Isles will make it back to the playoffs this year and win their first series since 1993, I think they will go all the way to the finals, shocking absolutely everyone. This is how wide open, and weak, I feel the East is this year. There will be at least five teams from the West that could beat the Isles in a series, but that’s what happens when geography occurs. I will pick the Blues to do it this year.

NHL: Ryan Miller to the Blues

NHL: Ryan Miller to the Blues

With the trade deadline approaching in the NHL, we as fans are always glued to all of the rumours that swirl around the league prior to the day that is an inevitable disappointment.

There are some huge names out there this year, which has fans salivating at an active day and not a complete waste of many hours of TSN coverage: Martin St. Louis, Ryan Kesler, Ryan Callahan, Ryan Miller.

Well, there will at least be one big trade this year, as Miller and Steve Ott were traded to the St. Louis Blues for Chris Stewart, Jaroslav Halak, a prospect and a couple of picks, including the Blues’ first rounder in 2015 (the Connor McDavid draft).

millerMy thoughts on this trade is that both teams win. The Sabres get a handful of pieces that they can hang on to, or turn around and trade again for more picks and prospects. Buffalo seems to be doing this rebuild thing the right way. They have a ton of first and second round picks in the next two drafts, and this will help them build to a much brighter future. They are not a better team today than they were yesterday, but that’s not what we are expecting them to do, anyways. The players they got back aren’t scraps, as Halak has numbers similar to Miller’s, and has been a pretty solid goalie in the league the past few years. Granted, that was playing behind the Blues’ mighty D, but he’s no slouch in the crease. Stewart is a solid power forward, who has the ability to put up points if he is in the right situation. He was up and down in St. Louis, and I think Buffalo will be a better fit for him, as more will be expected of him.

As for the Blues, many people have argued that getting Miller is only a marginal upgrade over Halak, and if you are purely looking at the numbers, this is true. But the fact is, Miller was playing in Buffalo, where they are simply awful. Now, he is on a strong, contending team, with a stellar defence in front of him (the best in the league, I would argue). He will turn out to be strong for the Blues, and in my mind, is a definite upgrade. If anything, it will give the team some confidence with him back there, something they obviously lacked by trying to get him in the first place. Now the D doesn’t have to be as concerned with making a mistake, because they have a solid stopper to cover up some mistakes.

As for Steve Ott, he is a good depth addition, who makes the Blues even tougher to play against. He is a pest with some offensive upside, and he does well to fill in the void left by Stewart.

The Blues gave up a lot for two guys who could merely be rentals, but for a team that needs to get into the deeper round of the playoffs for the first time in forever, it was a move in the right direction. I am excited to see how Miller does once he settles into his new surroundings, and if this team becomes the true Western powerhouse I believe it to be.

St. Louis was my Stanley Cup pick at the start of the year (beating the Rangers, I figured), and this move does nothing, in my opinion, but help that.