Monday, January 7, 2013

League Wide Predictions

This is gonna be an awesome season. One reason to love the shortened season is how competitive it will be. This season is going to pack a lot of living in half the time it usually has. It just makes every win that much more important. Another thing to consider is the older guys - Jagr, Selanne, Alfredsson - who are coming back to play. A shortened season is gonna be good for these guys in the sense that they don't have as many games to get fatigued, and should be fresher come playoff time.

So for all of you whose heads are still in NCAA mode, I'll break down each division and what to expect from them.

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division
Barring any unfortunate series of crippling injuries, the New York Rangers will be the force of the Atlantic. With a first line of Nash-Gaborik-Richards, and the Vezina winner between the pipes, it's clear to me that the Rangers are going to be the team to watch. Pittsburgh is the only other team in the Atlantic that has Cup potential. Crosby looks to be healthy, and Malkin is..well...Malkin. The only place where I see shakiness is in net. Fleury had a playoff to forget. With the acquisition of Vokoun, I see mistrust is Fleury. Offensively, they'll be fine. New Jersey and Philadelphia will be pests, but in the end I don't see them having the playoff-worthy seasons they had last year. NJ lost Parise, and are all getting old. Philadelphia lost the Shea Weber sweepstakes, but have promise in Giroux, and are expecting huge things out of Jakub Voarcek. Bryzgalov could be a buyout candidate, but I guarantee they give him at least one more season before calling it quits on the Spaceman. The New Yo- I mean Brooklyn Islanders will not even make a splash this year. Visnovsky literally would rather stay in the KHL than come back to the Isles. Pull a Columbus move and trade away your team and start fresh.

I mentioned in my Bruins preview post that the Northeast will be dominated by the Bruins. It's pretty obvious to me. The Habs? Toronto?  Useless teams. Buffalo would be the team I put my money on upsetting Boston. They lost Derek Roy, but got a lot tougher with Ott (Jack Edwards is so happy Ott is in the Bruins division...) and John Scott, and it's tough to doubt Ryan Miller in net. Ottawa is usually a team that has some level of success, but I don't see it for them this year. Alfredsson coming back amidst retirement rumors could spark some fire in them. Sorry everyone else in the Northeast, I think this is the Bruins year in this division.

This division is intriguing me. All five teams have excellent potential. My money this year is on either Tampa or Carolina. Tampa is already a great team with Vinny Lecavalier, Stamkos and St. Louis. They have a great mix of old and new talent. This team also got a boost from 6'6" goalie Anders Lindback, who I thought never got a fair shot in Nashville. Carolina quietly became contenders over the summer, making some big acquisitions. Perhaps the biggest was acquiring Jordan Staal (they're literally one Staal away from having all the brothers in the Hurricanes organization). Then they sign Alex Semin amidst rumors of him moving permanently to the KHL. Semin has been ruthlessly criticized in Washington, but the kid still put up numbers. He gets lazy, but he's a hell of a hockey player. Cam Ward is always a great force in net, and I guarantee this team will be the thorn in every Southeast team's side. Florida's got a good team, but they're getting old. They had zero gas in the tank at the end of their playoff last year. Winnipeg has some promise, but I think they'll fall short. Wellwood, Byfuglien and Evander Kane have all gotten very out of shape during the lockout, and I think they're gonna have a tough start.

Western Conference

Poor Columbus. They gain SOME strength with the Rangers trade (Acquired Dubinsky, Anisimov, top prospect Tim Erixon and a 1st round pick) and even get John Davidson's brilliant mind as director of Hockey Operations, but they're gonna have a tough time in this division. Look for Nashville to lead the way. Watching the press conference when they announced Weber was staying in Nashville, it was clear that this team is excited. Weber is a beast, and he's leading a young talented crew. Plus, it doesn't hurt having a Vezina finalist backstopping you. Chicago and Detroit should have decent seasons, but Detroit needs to realize that players get older and do in fact age. They're getting old, and I don't trust Jimmy Howard in net as far as I can throw him. Bless Shattenkirk's heart, he's becoming a top D-man, but I don't see it for the Blues this season. They looked FLAT in the playoffs, and I think that Brian Elliot's cinderella career is waning. 

This division is gonna boil down to Vancouver and Minnesota battling it out. Life got breathed into the Wild with the signings of Parise and Suter, and they're going to be doing everything in their power to prove that they were worth every penny. I still see Vancouver taking the division, but it's not going to the usual dominance that they're used to. I don't buy Edmonton THIS year. I know they have the youngest team with the most potential blah blah blah but every year, bringing in another top draft pick doesn't allow for much chemistry to build. Couple that with a shortened season, and I think it will take awhile for them to really gel and figure themselves out. Look out for them in 2013-2014 though. The Avs aren't going to make any waves, and as long as Calgary has Miikka Kiprusoff, they're going to be having a tough time. The Fin is past his prime but those in Calgary can't accept that fact. Flames fans should be watching Hockey East closely, as Mark Jankowski is their top prospect.

If you don't think that LA is going to be the powerhouse, you need to reevaluate your hockey knowledge. They steamrolled everyone they saw in the playoffs and made it look easy. They have a great balance of physicality and smart hockey sense. Oh and a goalie who plays like a brick wall. Seriously, I have never seen a goalie with better lateral movement than this guy, he looks like a spider when he moves. Phoenix will be pests to LA, and most likely wind up in another postseason conference battle with them. San Jose and Anaheim, god bless their hearts, aren't going to do anything. Both are shaky in net and aging horribly. I would give the edge to Anaheim purely on the shoulders of Perry, Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan. HOWEVER Bobby Ryan has expressed extreme displeasure in playing in Anaheim, and I wouldn't be surprised if he finishes the season in a different sweater. The Stars are a curious case. The Jagr acquisition peaked my curiousity, but Dallas had my full attention when they brought in Derek Roy. Look at their lineup. Suddenly Jamie Benn, Jagr, Roy, Brenden Morrow and Michael Ryder jump off the page, and their top 6 looks pretty damn good. If Lehtonen stays consistent (which is a big ol' issue for him), Dallas could be looking at some postseason time.

Whew. That's a lot. If you took the time to read all of that, I salute you. Now let's go play some damn hockey.


  1. Why in the world would the Isles trade Moulson, Tavares, Grabner, Oposko, Streit? They have a better depth in the AHLcompared to anyone not named the Oilers. Also lets not forget Strome. Just a bitter Ranger fan.

    1. Why in the world would they Trade Moulson Tavares, Grabner, Okposo and Streit? Let's look at things here. Out of all those players, Okposo joined the team earliest, in 2006, when they lost in the opening round of the playoffs. Since then, not only have they not made the playoffs, they've finished dead last in the Atlantic, not cracking more than 35 wins. They're an organization that needs a turnaround desperately.

      On a personal note, the Rangers became one of the strongest teams in the League in the offseason, with promising youth talent, a Vezina winner in net, and great leadership. What in the world would I be bitter about?

    2. Look at Tavares numbers last year. I guess we should trade him according to you. Guess when you increase your point total from 54, 67, 81 in 3 seasons means nothing to you. Oh and finishing tied for 7th in league in points and avg 0.99 points per game is a worthless accomplishment. Not to mention Tavares had more points than the best player, who isnt a goalie, the last 2 years. Also the reason nobody comes to the Islanders is based on the fact that nobody wants to play in that horrible coliseum. Living and raising a family on LI is perfectly fine (ie- Islander greats that still live on LI).

      Also Moulson has been the greatest steal for a legit goal scorer who scores 30+ goals for 3 years straight in the NHL. Oh and yeah he finished in 10th place.

      Oposko hasnt had a clean season since the team made him assistant captain. But when he is healthy he would get around 50+ a season for 2nd liner that is one of the better 2 way players we have.

      Grabner had a off season last year mainly due to the fact he didn't have a center man that could feed him in the open ice. 2 years ago he scored over 40 Gs and was in contention for the ROTY.

      Streit would be 1st liner defensemen on any team not named Nashville. Finished top 10 in the league for points from a defensemen. A smart reader would point at his +/- at -27. Yes the highest for defensemen but considering the fact the Islanders dont have a worthy enough defensemen to pair him with and the always puzzling question on how our goalies will play, I'd say thats pretty good.

      The 'turn-around' is actually happening as we speak. And you will laugh and say we've been doing that for the last 6 years. Well for a small market team, a transition isnt going to happen magically overnight. Sorry they aren't like the big market Rangers who have NYC as one of their wild cards in recruiting players.

      But as you said lets get rid of Tavares, Moulson, and Streit to start with. #GoodJobGoodEffort

    3. I'm not arguing the fact that they are great individual hockey players but the last time i checked hockeys a team effort, and this great team has consistently been a disappointment. I'm not sitting here going "HURRR PUT ALL DEM GUYS ON THE TRADING BLOCK AND LETS GET A COUPLE TWO TREE DRAFT PICKS." You're right, a transition doesnt happen overnight. But as an organization, you owe it to your team and fans to do what you can to bring your team to the best success it can. Wanna talk about small market teams making a turnaround? Columbus started an organization-wide effort to change their losing ways. Will they sweep this season and win a cup? No. But you can be sure that they'll be plenty active in the offseason with trades and free agency.

      All I'm saying is that if this team wants to find success they're gonna have to realize that some of these strong individual players are great trade bait, and could help bring in some players or picks that could help turn the team around.

      Also, why are we talking about quality of life on LI?

  2. Spiders don't move laterally, Raymundo. I'd equate Quick's movement through the crease with something more like a crab on cocaine.

    1. Great point. 5 bonus points to you.