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.

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Islanders go Brooklyn

Islanders go Brooklyn

After everybody knowing they were going to do it, the New York Islanders recently revealed their new, Brooklyn-inspired third jerseys.

For a team with a long history of some pretty awful third jerseys and questionable uniform-related decisions all around (the swirly, wave like bottoms of the notorious Fisherman jerseys comes to mind), fans of the team were pretty nervous to see what concoction they would come up with this time. Moving to Brooklyn from Nassau County, it was clear that the team was going to go black and white, to match their arena mates, the Brooklyn Nets.

isle6The results are…pretty good.

The Islanders have come up with something simple yet pleasing to the eye. Looking at these unis, it is clear that they will look pretty good on the ice, contrasting the white of the team the ice, and of the team that they will be playing against.

isle5Here are some of my thoughts on the new third jerseys:

  • The “NY” logo, started last year for their outdoor game, is a nice, simple design that really stands out on the jersey. It is not too radically different from their classic logo, yet works very well as something different.
  • The four orange stripes on the stick portion of the “Y” is a great element. It offers the slightest amount of pop in colour, and of course is a nod to the teams four Stanley Cup wins.
  • I love the thin striping on the sleeves, matched by the same ones on the socks. It looks classy. Again, related to the four Cups.
  • Thankfully, there is a stripe at the waist. Every team that has gone away from the bottom stripe looks awful, and makes their unis looks like pajamas.
  • The name and numbers font is clean, uncluttered, and easy to see. isle2
  • I like the simple white stripe around the wrist, as well. It offers a nice contrast, and again, avoids the PJ look.
  • The new BKLYN wordmark that will be worn on the helmets looks really good. It is dangerous to change things up, but the designers have done a good job in blending the classic with the new. Again, the four orange stripes make an appearance. isle
  • On the pants, there is a pretty large NY on the left thigh. I have a read a couple of reviews that don’t like this element at all, but I don’t mind it. I feel it breaks up the black nicely, providing a nice visual contrast. Of course, we know what team it is, since the jersey logo isn’t too far away, but I think it adds a certain amount of flash to the uniform.
  • The white ring that goes almost all the way around the collar also provides that nice contrast. It is simple, and not gimmicky. It works for me.

isle3Overall, I would say that this is a big jersey win for the Islanders. After so many debatable ones, this black-and-white comes across as a winner. They will wear the new threads a dozen times in the upcoming season, and for the first time in a while, it will not be an eyesore to see them on the ice. They are clean, and have a level of sophistication, which makes them one of the better thirds in the entire league.

30 for 30: Big Shot (Film Review)

30 for 30: Big Shot (Film Review)

John Spano was supposed to save the New York Islanders. A team mired in a ton of poor decisions, from the players on the ice to the management choices at the top, they had quickly turned from legendary dynasty at the start of the 80’s to the laughingstock of the NHL. And rightfully so.

They even messed with tradition, trading out the iconic Islanders logo for the new fisherman jersey in the mid-90’s, leaving fans crying out for changes all the way through the organization.

bigshotSpano, a business man from Dallas, stepped up and was going to buy the team, keep them on Long Island, and return them to the form of their glory days.

But there was a problem.

He had no money.

As always, ESPN manages to tell a really interesting story here in their 30 for 30 series. Big Shot lets us know how a man could possibly buy a professional sports franchise without any capital, and in the meantime, lets us behind the scenes into the minds of the long-suffering Islander fans, and their further dashed hopes of organizational stability.

Directed by Entourage alum and Islander die-hard fan Kevin Connolly, they story in Big Shot is solid. He goes back to tell the tales of the making of the team, and their rapid and sad fall from grace. The buffoonery of the 90’s is brought out with candid interviews with key players, like Mad Mike Millbury, and Spano himself. It weaves an interesting story, of how he actually did manage to gain control of the team, based on lies and promised bank loans, lame excuses, and really, only a $17,000 deposit on the team. It tells us the story about how it really is more important to know rich and important people than it is to be a rich and important person yourself.

This series is so consistent in its level of storytelling. A fan of the New York Islanders myself, the subject area is definitely of interest, even if this is not the best 30 for 30 out there. One of the major flaws is Connolly himself. While he proves adept at putting together a documentary, telling the story, and directing it, his major flaw was using himself as a narrator. Not that he was terrible, and his personal connection to the Isles definitely added to the story, but his voice just doesn’t sound…right for the part. Although this is only a superficial complaint, it really did take a little bit away from the story, hearing him jump in with his stories. It was hard not to picture Eric chiding Vince on screwing up another movie role on Entourage.

30Besides that, you get what you expect here: another great behind-the-scenes look at a strange moment in sports history. The Islanders still have not fully recovered from their disastrous 90’s, and only with their impending move to Brooklyn next year is there a glimmer of hope for the franchise to truly begin turning things around.

For fans of hockey, this one should definitely be high on the list of great stories from the series, if only because there aren’t that many stories about hockey.

End of Season NHL Thoughts

End of Season NHL Thoughts

With the year coming to an end in the National Hockey League tomorrow, I figured I would jot down a few thoughts I’ve had on the season that is wrapping up. It has had a ton of interesting stories, none being bigger than the Olympics (which really isn’t about the NHL, but at the same time, really is).

Hahah, not exactly a new map. Let's pretend it doesn't have the Thrashers on there.
Hahah, not exactly a new map. Let’s pretend it doesn’t have the Thrashers on there.
  • Congrats to the Bruins on winning the President’s Trophy. They are definitely the class of the East, and have been all season. It is really tough to pick anyone but them to make it out of the East to the Stanley Cup Finals.
  • Could the team to challenge the Bruins be the Flyers? This season was a pretty incredible comeback from what was a terrible beginning to the year, for a team that always seems to be involved in some turmoil.
  • About the Flyers, I am shocked that Steve Mason has led them to the playoffs and regained some of his form.
  • Interesting that the two teams who really wanted to move East, the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Detroit Red Wings, both made the playoffs in their new conference. The team moving the other way, the Winnipeg Jets, did not.
  • Strange, but not surprising, that there will only be one Canadian team in the playoffs.
  • The Edmonton Oilers have to be the worst team in the league this year. The other miserable franchises, the Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers, were not expected to be anywhere close to good, and their expectations were to be bottom feeders. The Oilers often showed no effort or care, and this is why they are below teams like the Calgary Flames.
  • Great to see Sidney Crosby healthy and playing a full season. He has of course, shown what he can do, leading the league in points by a mile and probably on his way to the Hart Trophy as well.
  • Tough call to choose a Norris (best defenceman) Award. Weber, Chara, Keith, Pietrangelo, Vlasic, Doughty, Karlsson, are all worthy candidates.
  • I picked the Blues and Rangers to make the Finals at the start of the year. They are both in the dance, so I guess there is a shot that I’m right?
  • Should we be worried about the Blues, and their end of the season slump? It is poor timing on their part, but it just seems like they are too deep a team to have another early exit.
  • It seems impossible to decide who will come out of the West. Seems like every team who is in the playoffs has a legitimate shot.
  • Do the Oilers need to look at the Avalanche as a model of how to rebuild quickly and successfully? Part of the Avs getting to where they are was from making big trades. Something that doesn’t happen in Edmonton.
  • I have to give it to the Flames. They over-achieved purely based on heart.
  • Breakout season from Mark Giordano. An excellent defender in Calgary. And worthy of being their captain. Exploded offensively, unfortunately he missed some time with injuries, or he would be in the Norris conversation.
  • I have been ranting for years to friends about Alex Ovechkin being overrated and generally terrible when it comes to everything hockey that is not scoring goals. His league worst plus/minus and obviously giving up on plays is making him look really bad. He will never be a defensive specialist, but he is a poor leader, and the ways in which he coasts when not in the attacking zone is pretty embarrassing. Sure, the guy can score, but would anyone choose him to build their team around? When there are so many quality, all-around players out there? I doubt it anymore.
  • Countdown to the Penguins falling flat in the playoffs begins very soon.
  • Thank god the Islanders are up for sale. They need a change, and it begins with the owner. It is sad to watch so many bad things happen to one franchise. Poor choices mixed with bad luck equals another pathetic year on Long Island. Sad.
  • How crazy good were the rookies this year? MacKinnon, Palat, Johnson, Maata. Impressive.
  • What happened to Martin St. Louis in New York? Wonder if he regrets wanting out of Tampa, and not getting to play with Steven Stamkos anymore. Stamkos is one of the best, and makes everyone around him better.
  • The Lightning had better hope that Ben Bishop can play in the playoffs. He has been a revelation. And they are done without him, I think. Although the Canadiens aren’t the toughest first round match up.
  • Love Ryan Callahan in Tampa. Hope they get to keep him. Good all around player, solid leader.
  • Tuuka Rask for Vezina.
  • Enough with the outdoor games. If you want to keep doing it, make it one per year. It seemed like they kept coming, and like nobody cared. The Heritage Classic in Vancouver was a sham, being indoors. Feel bad for the fans who thought they were getting something special.
  • Incredible that the Red Wings have now made the playoffs for 23 straight years. Seems impossible.
  • I’m bored of shootouts. I’m sure the New Jersey Devils are as well, being the worst ever at them.
  • How many more career points would Jaromir Jagr have if he hadn’t gone to the KHL for those three years? You could probably pencil him in for an extra 160-200 points. Amazing career.
  • Goodbye, Teemu Selanne. You were always fun.
  • Is it fair that the Anaheim Ducks have 3 quality starting goalies? And they traded another of them, so they had 4 at one point. That is smart drafting.

Enough of this regular season business, let’s get the playoffs going! It’s always an exciting time of year, in what is the most gruelling tournament to win a championship in any of the major sports.

Review: First Edmonton Oil Kings game

I have been to many, many Edmonton Oiler games over the years. Back in the day (when the team won games instead of simply embarrassed themselves during them), my family was lucky enough to split season tickets. It was always a good time.

The past few years, however, it has stopped being fun. Watching an inferior team makes for most contests to be quite boring, and the prices have spiraled so out of control, that seeing a game is unaffordable for the average person, like me. Now, seeing an Oilers game may be a once-in-a-season occurrence, most often tied into scoring some free tickets.

oil kingsTherefore, to satisfy our hockey needs, a friend and I went to our first Edmonton Oil Kings game last night, versus the Calgary Hitmen. I like WHL hockey, and the quality is good, so we figured to give it a try.

And it was excellent. Superior to an Oilers game on many levels.

Here are some notes (mainly positives):

  1. Nice to see a winning team! The Oil Kings took over first place with their 7-3 win last night.
  2. Those cool alternate jerseys. I am not a fan of the gaudy blue and reds they usually wear, but I like the black and neon green they are sporting. You can tell the fans reacted well to them as well, since there was a significant number of fans wearing the new colours. Not too sure about the logo, but the design is modern, bright, and fun.
  3. The price. Seats in row 14 nearer to one of the corners were $25 each. Those same tickets for an Oilers game would probably be $175.
  4. The lower price also contributes to a better environment. Tons of people decked out in Oil Kings gear, which is always great to see. I guess you don’t mind buying your kid a t-shirt or jersey when the games themselves aren’t costing you an arm and a leg.
  5. The quality of the hockey is strong. Again, it’s a winning team here. The Oil Kings went to the WHL finals last season and went o the Memorial Cup the year before. They are solid. And, to be fair, it’s not really that big of a drop off from the quality of Oiler games, aside from the opposition. The Oilers are terrible and make rookie mistakes. When the Oil Kings make those mistakes it is ok. This is junior.
  6. Family atmosphere. Tons of families there. And that was great to see. The Oilers have pretty much priced families out, so it is nice to see they still come out in droves to see good hockey in this town.
  7. Overall, much younger crowd.
  8. Great players. It was awesome to see New York Islander Griffin Reinhart play. Along with other future NHLers like Curtis Lazar. These kids are good.
  9. No drunken a$$holes. These are common at Oiler games. Not so much here.
  10. Leaner crowds. It is nice they block off part of the upper deck. Having fewer people in the arena makes the concourse area, washrooms, and concession lineups, much more pleasant to deal with.
  11. Only negative: concession and beer prices are the same. I thought maybe they would have dropped their beer prices a little for the Oil Kings, but they remained the astronomical $8.25 for a cup.

Great job by the Oil Kings. It was a fun game to watch, lots of good highlights. I will definitely be going back this season.

Because I can afford to.

The Worst Pro Jersey Ever?

I love sports uniforms. There is something so amazing in a lot of the design that goes into these things, and there are so many great examples of teams that look absolutely amazing on the field or on the ice. And there are, of course, so many incidents of them going horribly wrong.

I can be a bit of a junkie for unis. I have a collection of about 60, across a variety of sports. I also am a loyal follower of uniwatch.com and icethetics.info. Hearing about the upcoming rumors of new jerseys, tweaks and the impressive concepts submitted by dedicated fans. It’s amazing. I love to critique them when they come out, debate their merits, compare them to older versions, pick apart what I like and don’t like. I still have debates at work about the new Team Canada Olympic pyjama jerseys.

For all of us uni junkies out there, a new third jersey is always exciting. The anticipation of something new has a certain fun to it. Debating on what it will look like, what the primary colours will be, will they butcher it as they always tend to do with thirds (I’m looking at your latest, Islanders).

And then this happened over the summer…

Oh yeah, don't forget that the back is a different colour.
Oh yeah, don’t forget that the back is a different colour.

I think a lot of people thought it was a joke, but now that the team has finally started wearing this abomination on the ice, in actual professional hockey games, I guess we have to look at it in the pantheon of all-time terrible hockey uniforms. Giving a lot of the accidents that happened in the 90’s, such as the Kings Burger King uniform, or the brutal Blues thirds that Mike Keenan refused to have his team wear, or the incredible Wild Wing uniform out in Anaheim, the new Buffalo Sabres jersey has to be considered one of the worst ever.

This is awful. I like the idea of a yellow Sabres jersey. But there is so much wrong here, it’s almost hard to make the list. Two shades of yellow. Ridiculous white piping that doesn’t go all the way down. A wrist area that looks like it was wrapped in duct tape. The absolutely, completely unnecessary “Buffalo” wordmark above the emblem. The mishmash of colours around the collar. And maybe the potentially most interesting idea, but yet another flub on this mess: the different colour on the back (it is dark blue, the same as on the shoulders).

Disaster. The people who made this, and even worse, those who approved it, should no longer have jobs.

The Sabres thirds are an ugly joke. Much like their season, so I guess it is all pretty fitting. I love when new unis come out. Especially when they are such easy targets, as this one is. I have yet to talk to someone who thinks they are nice. I wonder how the sales are? I can definitely see that they will have some kitsch value down the road. Much like the now, sort-of-beloved-but-still-really-hated Islanders fisherman jerseys. I would kill for one of those.