It’s predictions time!
In the East….
1 Washington – Vokoun is s safety net, holtby and neuvirth will carry the torch, Ovy will bounce back
2 Pittsburgh – With or without Sid this team takes the shockingly weak Atlantic
3 Buffalo – Pegulas return on investment will be high…very high, enough to bounce the Bs
4 Boston – Might even be better on paper this year, but so are the three teams ahead of ‘em
5 Philedelphia – Will take time to gel but expect JVRD to live up to the contract
6 Tampa Bay – Still not enough D, can Rollie (and the aging stars) make it?
7 New York Rangers – Could be a dark horse this spring, more forward depth than you think
8 Toronto Maple Leafs – Just picked up Steckel, and one of the best teams down the middle
9 Montreal – I expect Price to have another stellar year, but Cole and Pacioretty aren’t enough
10 Florida – This is a better team than anyone acknowledges…yet, but they sure will
11 Carolina – Just not enough to really be a competitor but a challenge night in, night out
12 Winnipeg – Team of the future, collection of young stars to rival Pitt, Chi or Edm
13 New York Islanders – Ditto for this group, Tavares to break out this year in a big way
14 New Jersey – No puck moving D, aging tenders, missing top line centre, who wants Parise?
15 Ottawa – Absolutely amazing young D shaping up in the Nations Capital, be a few years tho
And in the West….
1 Vancouver – Will survive early injury problems, lotsa points to be had in weak northwest division
2 San Jose – Gritty Bottom six, Havlat could lead team in scoring, Burns and Boyle amazing tandem
3 St. Louis – Halak needs to play well and he will, perhaps best four line team in league
4 LA – Can Penner and Gagne keep up? No questions on D or in the crease.
5 Chicago – Still very much a contender – Leddy and Bickell to break out in a big way
6 Detroit – Helm ready to step up, core is healthy and Howard will continue to improve
7 Anaheim – Healthy Hiller the key. If the vertigo comes back the ducks could free fall
8 Edmonton – It’s the 80s all over again. This team will run n gun to a playoff spot
9 Columbus – Tough division will keep ‘em out, might make it if they were in the NW
10 Calgary – Too many health questions with Iggy – Backlund might shine even without him
11 Minnesota – Some young talent and improved offense, but still not enough to compete
12 Colorado – Healthy this is a playoff team, but there top 3 forwards are all bandaids
13 Nashville – Will probably score fewer goals than an MLS team this season
14 Dallas – Crease questions abound and the D is paper thin – Ok top 6 – long year in lone star state
15 Phoenix – Even Kyle Turris wants out and he hasn’t done squat.
If it all comes out this way (which it will) we’ll see some interesting playoff match-ups.
Buffalo and Pittsburgh will meet in the second round with Pegula’s crew winning a nail biter, but losing out to the eventual cup champion Caps in the East final.
Chicago will beat the Nux in the second round adding another chapter to this growing rivalry, and San Jose will make the West final yet again, only to lose out to the Hawks in the West final.
ART ROSS: The Sedins are a perennial threat, but Stamkos and Ovi will battle all year – could be a surprise like a Kopitar, Malkin or Tavares, but I think Ovi will nudge Stamkos for the lead.
RICHARD: Perry, Stamkos and Ovi will duke it out all year. I like Stammer to win it.
CALDER: So many questions, who stays who goes back to the minors. Based on the preseason stats I’d say RNH is here to stay, and if that is the case he’ll take the Calder. If not Brayden Schenn will get lots of opportunity in Philly. This season could be the most highly contested Calder race in decades, the list of possible winners includes: Luke Adam, Tim Erixon, Adam Larsson, Nazem Kadri, Ryan Ellis, Gabriel Landeskog, Sean Couturier to name a few.
NORRIS: I think Alex Pietrangelo will take this by a hair over the likes of Shea Weber and John Carlsson, but look for Duncan Keith to bounce back this year and don’t discount PK in the MTL.
VEZINA: Jimmy Howard is going to keep the Wings in the top tier teams this year and Carey Price is going to perform under the pressure of a weak offense, but Pekka Rinne will win out playing in offensively starved Nashville. I do think Ryan Miller’s numbers in Buffalo will warrant a nomination, but goalies on stellar teams like Lou, Bryzgalov, Fleury and Co. are getting less and less consideration.
SELKE: If Sid is out for a while then Jordan Staal might just have the offensive numbers to compliment the stellar defensive play, and Manny Malhotra might just earn a nod if healthy but Dean Lombardi didn’t bring Mike Richards in for nothing – look for him to get the icetime in key situations to earn the hardware.
JACK ADAMS: Ron Wilson is going to get the Leafs in to the playoffs, and Tom Renney is going to break all his own rules and run and gun with the kids in Oil Town, but Davis Payne gets the nod for bringing the Blues to the Central Division title.
And the MVPS???? I’d say both Ovi – it’s just Washington’s year.