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