Friday, August 5, 2011

Cold-Stove NHL Predictions

I apologize for yet another long hiatus from yours bad guys...

Anyways, I've been following NHL senior writer Dan Rosen pretty faithfully this offseason, and with some of his insights, I'd like to give my midsummer predictions for the upcoming season:

Eastern Conference

  1. Philadelphia Flyers
  2. New York Rangers
  3. Pittsburgh Penguins
  4. New York Islanders
  5. New Jersey Devils

  1. Boston Bruins
  2. Montreal Canadiens
  3. Buffalo Sabres
  4. Ottawa Senators
  5. Toronto Maple Leafs

  1. Tampa Bay Lightning
  2. Washington Capitals
  3. Winnipeg Jets
  4. Florida Panthers
  5. Carolina Hurricanes

Western Conference

  1. Nashville Predators
  2. Chicago Blackhawks
  3. Detroit Red Wings
  4. Columbus Blue Jackets
  5. St. Louis Blues

  1. Vancouver Canucks
  2. Minnesota Wild
  3. Colorado Avalanche
  4. Calgary Flames
  5. Edmonton Oilers

  1. San Jose Sharks
  2. Dallas Stars
  3. Anaheim Ducks
  4. Los Angeles Kings
  5. Phoenix Coyotes

As far as the Eastern Conference as a whole goes, there is ZERO doubt in my mind that this will be a season that comes down to Boston and Philadelphia absolutely battling it out. The Bruins basically have done nothing in this offseason, save acquiring a defensemen and a left winger to fill in a few gaps left from the free agency, but there's no reason they would need to make any adjustments. This was a team scoring more than 5 goals in a Stanley Cup final game. The Bruins are one of the deeper teams in the league. The Flyers, however, have been making many many moves. They acquired a great talent in net with Bryzgalov, a gritty forward with Maxime Talbot, and some supreme veteran leadership/locker room booster with (my all time favorite hockey player) Jaromir Jagr. This is a team who is scaring me. They are almost as deep as the Bruins, and they are going to be playing with some fire in them. Philly will not forget their conference rivals sweeping them in the playoffs. Mark my words, Boston and Philadelphia will get nasty this year. Other teams of note in the Eastern Conference in my mind are the Rangers, Jets and Lightning. The Lightning will most likely take the Southeast division with little problem. They were revitalized with the re-signing of Stamkos, and they were able to keep most of their free agents. They picked up former Ranger and Terrier Matt Gilroy, along with others from around the league (Including Garon, who will most likely get more net time than the geriatric Roloson). I would watch out for the Rangers to have a decent season. They signed one of the biggest free agents, Brad Richards, and between him, Dubinsky, Callahan, and Gaborik, there's a lot of talent to go around.

The one team that will be under the most scrutiny/bandwagoning is the Jets. I am very intrigued to see them play, and I would not be surprised to see them have an alright season. They got a couple great draft picks, and re-signed soon-to-be captain Andrew Ladd to a 5 year deal. Dustin Byfuglien will be looking to have a great season to try and cement his name up in Winnipeg and in the minds of the team as a potential future captain.

The teams in the East that will, and I promise you, suck - Devils, Isles, Canes and Maple Leafs. The only one of them who might come out alright at best would be the Islanders, ONLY because they have a bunch of excellent prospects who might be suiting up for them to pump some life into that ever-struggling team.

Now, for the Western Conference, I would not be surprised to see the Canucks with another President's Trophy season. This is due, yes, partly to the soft feel to the West, but also to this team's roster being almost as stacked as the Bruins. The Canucks organization absolutely covered all its bases with the losses of Erhoff and Torres with the acquisitions of Marco Sturm and Alex Sulzer. This team will have one of the best defenses in the league, with Sulzer, Sami Salo, Kevin Bieksa, and Keith Ballard. The offensive talent will lie again with the Sedin twins and most of those first and second line guys, but watch out for Malhotra this season. He's a faceoff winning machine, and has pretty good offensive prowess. The only thorn in their side will be Ryan Kesler being out for the rest of the offseason due to surgery. His recovery takes 10 weeks, and the season starts in 9.5 weeks, which means he'll most likely miss a few games at the beginning of the season, and will have a lot of catching up to do. All this team needs is for Luongo to forget about his abysmal display in the Stanley Cup Finals, and they should take the West quite easily. The two Western teams that will be duking it out the most are San Jose and Nashville. I would give the edge to Nashville on three skaters - Pekka Rinne, Shane Weber, and Ryan Suter. Shane Weber, who recently avoided arbitration, and signed long-term with the Preds, will be an offensive standout for them this year. Pekka Rinne was a beast in net in the playoffs last year, and will be looking to use that as momentum to make him a force to be reckoned with in the West. Rinne and Suter, a defensive tactician, are entering their last year of their contracts, and will most likely be fighting to have great seasons to get good offers at the end of the season. San Jose was able to nab some decent offensive talent with Handzus, Havlat and Andrew Murray, but I don't think they'll be able to match Nashville.

One team I will be looking to make a massive comeback this season is the Dallas Stars. They lost some major talent but balanced it out with major acquisitions, such as Michael Ryder, Radek Dvorak, Sheldon Souray, and Eric Godard. I'm expecting big things from a very frustrated franchise. Their GM, Joe Nieuwendyk, made front office changes, appointing Glen Gulutzan head coach, and he'll be looking to take this team out of their dark days.

The only crappy team I want to focus on is the Coyotes. This is a dying organization. I give the Phoenix Wastes of Money 1 to 2 seasons before they do not exist. My bet is that they move north to either Seattle or Quebec. This team is hemorrhaging money, and shows no signs of turning around. They traded away one of their biggest assets, Ilya Bryzgalov for draft picks. This is going to be a tough year for them.

only 62 more days until the first NHL puck soon...

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