NFL Picks – Week 8

 

Ok allow me not to BS anyone here….this week SUCKS!!!  An NFL Sunday is always an NFL Sunday, A.K.A. never a bad thing.  But there are 4 teams on bye’s this week (and 4 teams again next week) and while looking for a picture to use for this weeks piece I usually look for one of the two teams playing the biggest game, or a player playing in a big game…and as of writting this I don’t have a picture!  Now, while you’re reading this I will, but not as these words are going from skull to finger tips.  But enough about that, down to business.  Bad news, I’m now 5 games under .500 (16-21).  The good news?  Well there really isn’t any, except for I’m hanging around.  I’m not able to have that great week/streak to help me out, but I’m still just a little hot streak away from going over .500.  So glass half full?  Who knew I was an optimist!

 

Cleveland at Kansas City

Kansas City -7.5

It is a lot of points to give, but then again….the other QB is Jason Campbell.  So Jason Campbell vs the best D in the NFL, on the road.  It isn’t like I believe Alex Smith will go off against a real good Browns defense here, but the Chiefs will force 2 or 3 turnovers and the Browns likely won’t because the Chiefs don’t turn it over.  That’s the big difference for me in this game.  Chiefs are moving to 8-0…maybe the worst 8-0 team in NFL history, but still 8-0.

 

NY Giants at Philadelphia

Giants +5.5

The Eagles really dominated the first meeting between these two, and they’re at home, and they aren’t the team with the short week.  But Vick is hurt, the Giants finally got the monkey off their back, and I think the Giants have found something in Peyton Hillis.  He looked GREAT on Monday against the Viks, and I believe we will see a lot more of him this week.  A good weapon out of the back field is something Manning really hasn’t had this season.  It will help with protection and open things up in the passing game.  I’m saying the Giants keep this one tight.

 

NY Jets at Cincinnati

Cincinnati -6.5

I didn’t have any plans on picking this game, but then I started to think about it.  The Bengals defense will get pressure on Geno Smith and he will try to force some balls and probably get picked 2 or 3 times.  Now the Bengals won’t put up a ton of points on this Jets defense, but the Jets coming off a huge, emotional win against the Pats….I’m expecting a big let down this week on the road.  Really like the Bengals despite needing a TD to cover.

 

Pittsburgh at Oakland

Oakland +2.5

East coast going out to the West coast.  So that’s not good for the Steelers.  Also the Raiders are coming off their bye week.  That’s not good for the Steelers either.  And finally, the Steelers are coming off playing the Ravens and those games always leave both teams black and blue.  So while 2.5 points isn’t a lot for a Steelers team that is begining to play well, I really think the Raiders are going to pull off the minor upset in this game.

 

Washington at Denver

Denver -12

The public loves the Redskins, so RGIII has a great game and it has everyone hoping on the bandwagon.  Sloooooooow down.  That Bears defense isn’t what it was, espeically with Lance Briggs going down.  The Broncos will be pretty ticked off after shooting themselves in the foot a lot vs the Colts.  Before last weeks games you would have said the Redskins are humiliating and the Broncos are the best team in the league.  Broncos in a blowout here.

 

 

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NFL Picks – Week 7

 

ANOTHER losing week, back to 4 games under .500…or is it 5?  I don’t know anymore, I’m just pissed about how this season is going that’s all I know!  3 straight weeks I’ve called the Vegas “bait” game.  The Bengals only 4.5 point favorites at Cleveland, the Pats only something like 1 point favorites at Cincy, and then last week the Chargers/Colts game was a pick’em at one point!  Why in the hell would the Chargers not be dogs to the Colts no matter where the game is played?!  Something was up, and they won.  Things have to start bouncing my way, and I’m saying this is the week!  A little tip before I start, R.J. Bell said on Colin Cowherd’s show yesterday that a trend has started to emerge.  With time off during teams bye weeks, players are going on vacation during their bye week and there for struggling the week before their bye.  So maybe a good idea to see who is on a bye NEXT week, and bet against them this week.

 

Chicago at Washington

Washington

It’s a pick’em….that’s right, a pick’em.  Here kitty kitty!  That is what Colin Cowherd says when a betting line is Vegas baiting you.  Well for the 4th week in a row I’m picking one of these games.  The Washingtonions (notice what I didn’t call them?!  I’m so politically correct!) should be at least 3 point dogs in this game.  They didn’t look good against Dallas, the Bears have looked dominant at times this season, no reason to pick the team from Washington with the racist name….pick the Redskins!  Damnit!  Forget I said their name of Redskins….DAMNIT!!!  But seriously, Washington in this spot.

 

 

San Diego at Jacksonville

Jacksonville +7.5

Yep, I’m rolling with the Jags.  The Denver game will give them a momentum boost, the Chargers are on a short week, the Chargers have to travel across the country to play which always hurts, and the Chargers much like the Bengals and Cowboys always seem to play down to their opponents.  Love the Jags getting this many points at home, although Justin Blackmon is a question mark, he has been HUGE for this team since returning from suspension.

 

 

St.Louis at Carolina

St.Louis +7

This one kind of feels like a Vegas “bait” game too, but 7 points I think is just too many here.  Cam Newton has all the talent in the world, but he’s a front runner.  That’s why he struggles in close games, that’s why you see the Panthers blow out a team like the Giants once they get rolling.  The Rams hammered the Texans last week and you all know I was HUGE on them coming into the season (big disappointment to this point).  I’ve never been high on the Panthers, and while I’ve lost a lot of faith in Sam Bradford, that offense put up a lot of points on a great defense last week in Houston, so that is a very good sign.  Take this boat load of points.

 

 

San Francisco at Tennessee

Tennessee +4

I am taking Tennessee completely based on what R.J. Bell said on Cowherd’s show yesterday.  I agreed with Colin, no reason San Fran shouldn’t kill them.  Fitzpatrick at QB, the Titans just played Seattle who are so physical and teams feel it the next week (see the Colts loss in San Diego), the Niners are getting healthy and playing better, and they are simply much more talented than the Titans.  But Bell said that the public is on the Niners most this week than any other team, yet the line has gone down from 6.5 to 4 points.  That is a huge sign that SOMETHING is up.  Don’t be like everyone else, take the Titans getting points at home here.

 

 

Denver at Indianapolis

Indianapolis +6.5

I don’t care who the team is, you can’t give a road team 6.5 points against one of the top teams in the league.  I believe this game will be a lot like the Dallas/Denver game, just a little slower out of the gates.  The Colts are apparently going to have a bunch of pre game ceremonies honoring the QB that only won them 1 Super Bowl (Jim Irsay’s words not mine…) and so I believe this could throw off both QB’s rythem at the start of the game.  But once they get in a groove the shootout will begin.  I doubt the Colts win, but Luck will be out to prove something in this game just as much as Peyton.  Peyton will likely shred this Indy defense, but the Broncos D even with Vonny football, Vonny drug taker, Vonny fake urine test, Von Miller back in the lineup has looked pretty average all season.  Love the Colts getting this many points here.  Obviously it might not be correct in the end, but it is the right pick weather it wins or loses.

 

 

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NFL Picks – Week 6

 

Man alive, 3-2.  It just feels like one of these years where things just refuse to turn around.  Now only 12-15 on the season ATS.  It might be time to start picking the over in every single game….had it in the Denver game 2 weeks in a row where it was nearly 60, had it in the Atlanta/NY Jets game which featured an offense that shouldn’t be putting up 10 put up 30.  But as last year’s playoffs proved, I’m awful at that.  So I’ll stick to what I’m normally pretty good at and see if I can get that big week I’ve been looking for.  You would think coming off a winning week I would be more amped.  Perhaps I’m just a bitter man…

 

Pittsburgh at NY Jets

Pittsburgh +2.5

Steelers coming off a bye week, and the Jets are coming off a short week.  But it doesn’t end there.  Roethlisberger is the better QB, Tomlin is the better coach, and the Steelers have a defense that will make Geno Smith look like a rookie again.  The public will overreact to Smith’s Monday night, but the fact is many people seen that coming.  The Falcons have a bad defense, in particular their pass rush, and it made it easy for Smith.  In this game, he will turn the ball over, and the Jets defense won’t be able to totally shutdown Roethlisberger.  And lets not forget, the Steelers got Le’Veon Bell back in London and he looked great so I’m thinking the Steelers take this outright.  Take the points.

 

Jacksonville at Denver

Denver -27.5

I have to pick this game don’t I?!  Nobody is going to be stupid enough to take this line…except me.  It has been a year where there is no trend.  Remember week 3 when the Jags were 19.5 point favorite’s in Seattle?  Everyone said to take the points, and the Jags got blown out 45-….well over 20 less points (I think it was 17 but I can’t recall).  The Jags will score some on the Broncos defense, but that Broncos D will be ticked.  They just gave up 48 to the Cowboys, so don’t think Jack Del Rio won’t have them fired up to play his former employers.  And Manning will put up at least 42…at least.  I believe Peyton is starting to see that some of these records are very attainable and he’ll want to see them, namely the ones set by the 07 Patriots.  This game is a great chance to get well out in front of that teams pace.  I expect something like 45-3 by the 4th, then the Broncos start sitting guys and the Jags get a couple of TD’s…28 point Broncos win.

 

Tennessee at Seattle

Seattle -13

Man when did you last see me go BIG on the favorites?!  I’m all about picking the dogs, but not this week!  Seahawks coming off a loss, so they’ll be fired up.  They’re at home, and we all know how amazing that home field advantage is.  The Titans don’t have Jake Locker and need to go with Ryan Fitzpatrick…who this defense will simply rip apart.  If Locker were playing, 13 would be pretty enticing.  The Titans are real good along the lines, so they could make it a long day for the Seahawks.  But for me it all just comes down to Ryan Fitzpatrick.  The Seahawks will put up 24-28 points on the Titans defense, and I highly doubt Fitzpatrick can put up more than 10.

 

Washington at Dallas

Washington +5.5

The more I thought about it, the more I liked this pick.  Washington is coming off the bye, the Cowboys just had a pretty deflating loss to the Broncos, an in division game (even in the awful NFC East) is usually a pretty tight and hard fought game, and the Redskins owned the Cowboys last season in 2 very big games.  RGIII will shred this defense.  There is talent all over that side of the ball for the Cowboys, but while heading into last week I wasn’t a big believer in the stats…I am now.  I’m starting to believe the game has just simply passed Monte Kiffin by.  No reason this defense shouldn’t be MUCH better than it is.  I’m thinking Dallas wins a tight one, so take Washington getting points.

 

Indianapolis at San Diego

San Diego +1.5

Well that doesn’t make much sense.  The Colts just beat the mighty Seahawks, while the Chargers got rolled by the lowly Raiders!  For the 3rd week in a row, I sniff out the Vegas bait.  TAKE THE CHARGERS.  There isn’t much logic behind this, but this is Vegas baiting you.  The one thing I can think of is that the Colts have had a lot of trouble playing in San Diego over the years.  Other than that I honestly can’t think of a real good reason why the Chargers should be the pick.  That’s exactly what Vegas wants you to think.  The money will be on the Colts, and the public is wrong a lot more than it’s right so take the Chargers.  Maybe the Colts win and things go as they should, but they usually don’t.

 

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NFL Picks – Week 5

 

Well it ain’t going good through the first 4 weeks!  1 winning week (only 3-2), although from the sounds of things it is going MUCH worse for many others in Vegas and making picks throughout North America!  I got to be honest though, I don’t feel like I’m making bad picks, just poor luck.  That will change this week though!  I promise…well I think so….I hope so….please just give me a winning week!!!

 

Detroit at Green Bay

Detroit +7

I just think this is too many points to give the Lions.  I know the thinking, the Pack are tough at home, the Lions are bad on the road, and the Pack are coming off a bye.  I get all that, but the Lions are playing really well.  They should have won the game in Arizona in week 2 and there for should be 4-0.  Even with an extra week to prepare I just don’t see how the Packers can do anything to slow down Stafford, Johnson and Bush.  Also, games within the division are tight more often than not.  Smart bet in my mind is the Lions here.

 

New England at Cincinnati

Cincinnati -1

Why are the Bengals the favorites in this game?  Sucker bet.  2nd week in a row I’ve been able to sniff out a classic Vegas sucker bet.  The public will be all over the Pats getting points after looking so good against the Falcons on Sunday night.  Then you have the Bengals who looked awful against the lowly Browns so OBVIOUSLY the Pats will blow out the Bengals.  Nope.  First of all, no Vince Wilfork.  That is a brutal loss for what was becoming an excellent Patriot defense.  Wilfork, Jones, Talib, great LB core, it was finally coming together.  Now they’ll need to get used to life without the big man and it will be an adjustment.  I would watch for a lot of Grisham and Eifert as Talib will take Green away, and the Bengals run game to be heavily featured without Wilfork.  The Bengals play up and down to their opponents, so they’ll be ready for this one.

 

Carolina at Arizona

Arizona +2

I know the Panthers are coming off the bye week, but really?!  The Cardinals are 2-2, have a tough defense, can win ugly, and Cam Newton has looked pretty awful outside of the game vs the Giants 2 weeks ago.  I just don’t see how the Cardinals are getting points at home between these teams.  I’ve been wrong lots already this season, but how do you trust the Panthers on the road?  Don’t, the Cardinals getting points is the smart bet here.

 

Denver at Dallas

Dallas +8.5

I realize the Broncos look like the greatest team of all time through 4 weeks of this season.  But to give a team as talented as the Cowboys 8.5 points at home is just too many.  Monte Kiffin is a great defensive coordinator and will have a great game plan for Manning and company.  The Cowboys also have corners who can stay with the Broncos WR’s.  DeMarcus Ware could also be a big problem for the Broncos in this one with no Ryan Clady watching Manning’s blind side.  Finally, the Cowboys offense has the talent to stay with the Broncos should it become a shootout.  I really believe the Cowboys keep this one close, may even win it outright.

 

San Diego at Oakland

San Diego -4.5

A lot of this bet kind of goes against the way I think.  Chargers coming off a big win at home, in division games are a tougher haul then expected, but the Chargers are damn good this year and nobody has really noticed yet.  I think we will after this week.  The Raiders are battling hard, but they just don’t have much talent.  Pryor back in at QB this week could help a bit, but he wasn’t setting the world on fire in the first 3 games anyway.  And while it wouldn’t be shocking for a team to have a let down after a big home win, the Chargers still aren’t getting any love from the media as a good team.  Phillip Rivers is back to being one of the best QB’s in the league and he’ll prove that again this week.

 

 

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NHL Preview – Predictions

 

This is a lot of work to put these together.  I probably don’t have to talk as much as I do about every team, but I simply can’t not….if that makes sense.  But as always I won’t waste too much time in this part of things, I’ll just make my predictions:

 

Western Conference Wildcard teams

 

Anaheim Ducks – Again, we never know what they’ll give us year to year.  But they’re top heavy, and Bruce Boudreau always gets the most out of his teams during the regular season.  Maybe not during the playoffs, but we’ll worry about that discussion come April.

 

Edmonton Oilers – As an Oilers fan I felt like I should not have them in, and there are definitely more than enough teams who are capable of finishing ahead of them.  But I look at all the talent, and I look at the guy they now have behind the bench, and while Dubnyk still scares the hell out of me I really believe they end up sneaking in.  Have to keep their heads above water the first month of the season though.

 

Eastern Conference wildcard teams

 

Toronto Maple Leafs – I only have them finishing 4th in the Atlantic, but I think they’ll be some what comfortably in a playoff spot come late March.  Love the offseason Dave Nonis had, love Carlyle, and I’m pretty big on this team entering the season.

 

NY Islanders – I had trouble with this one.  Philly, Washington, Carolina, Columbus, and the Islanders don’t have much seperating them.  But in the end I took the Islanders.  It is ironic that Doug Weight is an assistant coach on this team because they remind me a lot of those late 90’s Oiler teams.  Last year wasn’t a fluke, and they’ll prove that this season.

 

Western Conference final

St.Louis vs Los Angeles – I don’t know if I love this pick, but I just feel like the Blues are primed to do something big this season, and the Kings roster is perfect for the playoffs.  Blues fans would likely hate this idea as they’ve been bounced by the Kings the last 2 seasons.  If the series were played today I would take the Kings in 7, but it won’t.  By the time the playoffs get here, the Blues will likely add some scoring up front and hopefully for their sake they have established a number 1 guy between the pipes.

 

Eastern Conference final

Detroit vs Pittsburgh – I guess I’m not a fan of goaltending in the East.  For the 3rd time in 7 years it will be the Wings and Pens meeting up in the playoffs…just not in the final this time.  I have to assume that the Pens will do something about their goaltending.  Even if it means going out and getting Ryan Miller who hasn’t been that great the last few seasons, at least he can stop a puck!  Vokoun is ok but I’m not sure he is the answer at this stage of his career and while I think Fleury can bounce back, you can’t depend on him doing so.  But at the end of the day, they probably won’t be able to trade for the answer, no matter who they get.

 

Stanley Cup final

St.Louis vs Detroit

I never thought I would see the day where an old Norris division rivalry took place in the Stanley Cup final, but this could be the season it happens.  Now I’m not a big fan of either teams goaltending, but the more I look at things, the more I believe these are the 2 teams that are best setup to make deep runs in their respective conferences.  The Blues are far from flashy, but they’re suited for playoff hockey.  The Wings are pretty flashy, but lack big time grit.  They won’t need it near as much in the East though.  That blueline keeps improving, and Ken Holland will make the moves that need to be made.  Hitch vs Babcock in the final would be a heck of a chess match!

 

Stanley Cup Champion

St.Louis Blues

 

Player Awards

 

Hart

Sidney Crosby – I just can’t think of anyone else.  For someone else to win the Hart, an out of nowhere season for a team and player would have to happen.  If The Islanders end up a top 5 team in the league and Tavares is top 3 in scoring, then perhaps he wins it.

 

Norris

Shea Weber – If the Preds are going to bounce back this season like I believe they will, then Weber will need to be at his best.  Having Seth Jones to help him out will be huge, and the fact that the Preds didn’t lose this offseason they simply gained will help out a lot.

 

Selke

David Backes – Time for the guy to get his due.  One of the best defensive forwards in the game, playing in a system that enhances defensive play.  This goes with the trend of the Blues being my “it” team this season.

 

Vezina

Roberto Luongo – Going out on a limb here for sure!  Here is my logic: Torts system is all about blocking shots and dedicated defensive hockey (safe is death my ass).  Then you have strombone1 with a huge chip on his shoulder.  I think he either has an amazing season or bombs due to his dislike of the organization.  I’ll go with the former.

 

Calder

Valeri Nichushkin – He will impress.  6’4, 200 pounds, amazing wheels and really shoot the puck.  He is the type of kid who will step into the league and make media and fans drool.  Now down the line he will be overrated, but for this season he will get huge praise, probably have Oiler fans questioning the scouting staff for picking Nurse over him (the right move) and win the Calder.

 

Jack Adams

Dallas Eakins – Now this kind of contradicts my selection of the Oilers only finishing 5th in the division and just barely making the playoffs, but I just really believe this guy is going to be great.  Whoever wins this is likely coaching a team who overachieves this season, and Oiler fan or not I think most agree the Oilers have the most potential to make a big jump in the standings.

 

Richard

Phil Kessel – Probably not actually, it’ll probably be Stamkos or maybe Ovechkin.  But Kessel is playing for a fat new contract, is on the best team the Leafs have had in his tenure, and doesn’t play in a division with stifling defenisve hockey.  Neither does Stamkos, but whatever I’ll go out on the limb and take Kessel.  Wouldn’t build a franchise around him, but he can snipe.

 

Art Ross

Sidney Crosby – He would have run away with it last season had it not been for that freak injury when he broke his jaw.  As long as he stays healthy, he’s got the most talent, and the most talent around him.

 

Conn Smythe

Alex Pietrangelo – Sure why not?  I got the Blues winning the Cup, I’m guessing he would be incredible during the run.  25-30 minutes a night, QB their PP, face the top stars every night, and Bouwmeester only makes him better.

 

 

 

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NHL Preview – Metropolitan Division

 

I will never enjoy typing that or saying that division name.  How NHL of them.  Just ridiculous.  I remember the day it came out and I saw a few people say on twitter “who cares?”  It just makes the league look ridiculous, so the next time the American media is ripping on how terrible the NHL is, don’t complain about them because “who cares” right?!  Despite its ridiculous name, this is a TOUGH division, maybe the toughest in hockey right now.  The Caps and Canes are in for a rude awakening this season, this should be a war.

 

 

1741. Pittsburgh Penguins

As long as they stay healthy they should be the best team in the conference, if not the league.  Now I don’t think they’ll win the President’s trophy because other elite teams have some cupcakes to beat up on regularly.  But the Pens don’t.  Jersey SHOULD be, but you know they’ll be tough even though the talent on that roster is extremely limited.  I’m definitely watching for them to make a move on their goaltending by the trade deadline.  Ryan Miller is possible, Jonas Hiller, perhaps Tim Thomas should he have a good season for the Panthers, and MAYBE if he wanted one last shot at a Cup Marty Brodeur are all guys who could end up in Pittsburgh by the trade deadline.  But they’ll have to do something.  I’m a big Marc-Andre Fleury guy, but his confidence is completely shot and even if he does bounce back with a great regular season you just can’t trust him in the playoffs now.  As for the rest of the team…they’re fine.  They’re the best team in the league down the middle, both Sid and Geno have wingers that fit perfectly with them, Letang is overrated in my mind but he is one of the best PP QB’s in the game, and I loved them bringing back Rob Scuderi.  Not a flashy signing, but should be effective.  We know how good they’ll be in the regular season, but the focus is already on April after 2 brutal exits the last 2 seasons.

 

 

1442. NY Rangers

I don’t know if there is a bigger x factor in the league for a team than Brad Richards.  If Richards can comeback and have a big season then this team can compete for a Cup.  I think he’ll fit in perfectly playing for Alain Vigneault.  But its still a big “if”.  Rick Nash has never taken the step from star player to elite player.  Now it’s tough for wingers to do that, but he is one of the rare few guys who has the ability to do so.  It hurt them last season that Chris Kreider didn’t emerge as a 2nd line power forward for them.  If he can do so, they will have a lot of size and grit in their top 6 which is simply miserable to try to matchup with.  Henrik Lundqvist should be still elite, but they need to get him under contract so that could be a distraction (he won’t be leaving), and Luongo was a guy who was at the same level once upon a time and kind of erroded under Vigneault.  Then again, that took 3 or 4 years to happen, Luongo had his best season in AV’s first season behind the bench in Vancouver.  This blueline doesn’t have a stud, but they’re really great 1-6.  They have a kid who can log big minutes in Ryan McDonagh, they have a shutdown paring in Marc Staal and Dan Girardi, and both Michael Del Zotto and John Moore can be used on the PP.  So they’re very solid on the back end.  They’ll make the playoffs, but with so many question marks up front it remains to be seen if they can be a legit contender.

 

 

llrs2zxi127vkqgcsvfb3. Washington Capitals

Don’t confuse 3rd in a great division with going to go deep in the playoffs.  For me, they really cemented themselves last season as playoff choke artisits.  They didn’t have that feeling in 2012.  You really felt like they had learned to play playoff hockey despite getting bounced by the Rangers in 7 hard fought games.  And sure, had Lundqvist not completely stolen game 6 in the first round series last year, maybe they would have went on a run.  But the way they went out in game 7 was pathetic.  Don’t confuse being the Hart winner with being the best player in hockey.  Alex Ovechkin ripped apart the worst division in hockey in the 2nd half of last season.  I’m a big Ovechkin fan, but he doesn’t have many dimensions to his game.  If he isn’t scoring, this team can’t win.  It is nearly impossible for a winger to carry a team, but Ovechkin can do more than he has in the postseason.  But while I rip on him, I could probably rip on Nicklas Backstrom even more.  Backstrom is supposed to be a 1st line center, and can do so much more than he has!  He needs to become a 2 way player if the Caps want to go anywhere.  No reason Backstrom can’t be in the same class as a guy like Anze Kopitar.  Maybe I’m bias towards the hometown kid, but Braden Holtby is legit.  He is just so calm and collected and moves with such ease, he really does remind me of Carey Price.  And he actually has a good D core in front of him.  Mike Green finally got healthy last season, Carlson and Alzner are a great combo, and Dmitry Orlov is healthy this season who can really move the puck.  They have a great farm system built up, so the time has come for George McPhee to start making some deals to mold this club into the contender they should be.

 

 

79520qbne58r9i71zhuggbff04. NY Islanders

Can they continue their rise to the top?  It remains to be seen, but I will say this for them: last year didn’t exactly come out of nowhere.  This team despite being a total mess off the ice has been on the rise the last few seasons.  Now they don’t play that structured of a game, but Jack Capuano has them buying in.  And it helps when you have a superstar like John Tavares to rally around.  This forward group is starting to look sexy!  They’re really loaded down the middle with JT, Ryan Strome, Frans Neilson, Brock Nelson, Casey Cizikas and Johan Sundstrom all either on the big club or getting very close.  That’s an awesome problem to have.  They’re finally doing a nice job of building up this blueline.  I was shocked they made the Griffin Reinhart pick in 2012, but in no way disagreed with it.  He has some pretty high end potential.  Really liked the Ryan Pulock pick this year too, though he won’t be ready until at least next season.  Travis Hamonic has a fat new contract at a great cap hit, and Lubomir Visnovsky is getting up there in years but still should be an elite PP QB for them.  The big key for the Islanders is in net.  What will Evgeny Nabokov give them?  He was good enough last season, but I fear he is running out of gas at 38 years old.  I guess we’ll find out.  But the good news for Islander fans is that they’re now back.  They have a great young core who are locked down to long term deals.  Edmonton gets all the love as the future “it” team, but don’t sleep on the Islanders being that team.

 

 

1615. Philadelphia Flyers

I really don’t know what to make of this team.  They are freakin LOADED up front.  What else is new.  But the question marks remain….sketchy on defense, sketchy in net.  For me with Emery it’s not so much that he is sketchy when he plays, it’s weather or not he can hold up being the starter.  Then again, minus the hip injury he has never really been an injury prone guy.  I’ve given up on Steve Mason long ago, the kid was a product of the Ken Hitchcock system in 2009, but he did look OK when he got to Philly last year.  What a story that would be if the guy who finally was the answer in net for the Flyers was a kid who had completely lost it elsewhere.  The blueline is just ok.  Timonen is in his twilight, they tried to move Coburn this summer, Luke Schenn had a good year there but is limited, and Mark Streit isn’t a big upgrade…although the contract they gave him would suggest they think so.  The big issue I have with this team though is that I think the league has figured them out.  They’ll try to get under your skin, so don’t let them.  If you don’t lose your skull against them like the Pens did in 2012, they don’t have many forwards who are willing to play a 200 foot game.  Most fans and media believe a good defensive team must have good d-men.  No, you need the forwards buying in as well and the Flyers don’t give the D or goaltenders much help.  They shouldn’t make the playoffs, but this team has a winning culture so it wouldn’t surprise me to see them bounce back strong this season.

 

 

jhepegs329pc7ugyypebl28wg6. Columbus Blue Jackets

Just so I’m clear, COLUMBUS and CAROLINA are in a division called “Metropolitan”.  Got it, keep on NHLing NHL….stolen line, but it still makes me laugh so f*** off!  So the Blue Jackets, the shock of last season even though they just barely fell short of the playoffs.  Can they hold onto that lightning in a bottle they caught last season?  It will help that they’re now in the East.  Easier conference, easier travel.  But they went to a brutal division!  This division is better top to bottom then the Central.  And this team will still be challenged to score, although I would watch out for a monster season from Marian Gaborik.  Why?  Contract year.  He will be looking for one more big deal.  Injuries are always a concern for him, but I won’t be shocked at all if he plays 75 games and nets 40+ goals.  He’s capable of it.  But after him it is pretty scarce.  I like the Nathan Horton signing, but I really question how much drive he will now have.  He openly wanted a quiet market, and now has a fat contract so he has pretty much no pressure on him to perform.  Now maybe that’s a good thing for Horton.  But for most guys its a recipe for disaster.  Ryan Johansen needs to take a step this season.  He doesn’t need to take a giant step, but he does need to start showing some progress.  This blueline is starting to look very good.  Jack Johnson, James Wisniewski is healthy (overpaid, but healthy), and Ryan Murray is a kid that could make a run at the Calder.  The big key for them however this season of course is weather or not Bobrovsky was a 1 year wonder.  If he comes close to what he did last year, they’ll be in the playoff hunt.  But even with him standing on his head, they still missed last year, so I believe they’re in tough.

 

 

fotih31tn5r345nufo5xxayh37. Carolina Hurricanes

They have a lot of the vital pieces you need.  Cam Ward is a stud in goal and is now healthy, they are great down the middle, but that blueline is pretty bad and its even worse without Pitkanen.  Like this is an AHL calibure blueline, maybe worse than the Avs and the Avs is horrendous.  Ron Hainsey is the answer?!  Not a chance!  I don’t know how Jim Rutherford didn’t dangle Jeff Skinner for a top pairing guy this offseason.  When the Leafs were looking for a center prior to re-signing Bozak I thought Skinner for Gardiner made sense for both clubs.  Anyway, this is what the Canes and their “Caniacs” are left with…all 6 of them.  I do like the size this team has up front.  The Staal’s, Semin, Ruutu, and Tlusty are all big boys and it is a tough top 6 for opposing teams to handle.  If I were them, the game plan would be to get the puck in deep on teams and cycle, cycle, cycle!  Keep that puck as far away from their blueline as possible.  If Muller can take this team to the playoffs with that defense he should win the Jack Adams.  I have Cam Ward STILL to make team Canada, but man alive he won’t have much help.  Because it’s not just the blueline, other than Jordan Staal they don’t have good defensive forwards.  Much like the Buffalo Sabres, it just feels like this team is in no man’s land.

 

 

32tfs723a3bes0p0hb4hgcy1u8. New Jersey Devils

This isn’t saying the Devils will suck.  This is saying “wow, this division is TOUGH!”  If the Devils won this division I very literally wouldn’t be anything surprised.  Its just like the AL East in baseball coming into this season and I had the Red Sox to finish 5th but I said off the top that I wouldn’t be anything shocked if they finished 1st…here we are at the end of the season and they indeed won the AL East.  I could see that being the Devils, yet I have them 8th.  I just think that they’ve lost too much the last few seasons and that Lou simply isn’t the GM he was.  Clowe isn’t Clarkson, Jagr isn’t Kovalchuk, Ryder isn’t Parise, like it just doesn’t look good.  BUT…the Devils have pulled rabbits out of their *** before!  On paper this is the worst team in the division, and if they weren’t the Devils I would have them in the same category as the Flames and Panthers.  But Brodeur will perform well like he always does, and if he doesn’t Cory Schneider will step up and perform well for them.  They still have proud vets like Jagr, Elias, Clowe, Ryder, Salvador, Volchenkov, just too many guys who will play hard most nights.  I like what they have down the middle with Zajac and Henrique, and people forget about Adam Larsson but remember this kid was the 4th overall pick just 2 drafts ago, he’s only 21 in November.  But overall it just looks pretty bleek for this team, this season.

 

 

 

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NHL Preview – Atlantic Division

 

There isn’t a weak division in this league anymore.  With only 4 divisions it is pretty difficult to find 5 or 6 bad teams in the league let alone in a single division.  But if I had to pick one that is the weakest, this would be it.  Tampa, Buffalo and Florida really drag this one down.  Having said that, the top of the division looks pretty strong.  And now with 4 of the original 6 in this division, it won’t lack attention from fans and the media.

 

 

yo3wysbjtagzmwj37tb11u0fh1. Detroit Red Wings

This team is going to benefit greatly moving to the East.  They play a style of game that is better suited for the East, their travel is greatly decreased, and it is no secret that the East is the weaker of the two conferences.  So I fully expect the Red Wings to go back to the top of the standings this season after a down season last year.  Then they had a nice offseason adding Daniel Alfredsson and replacing Val Filppula with Stephen Weiss.  So the forward group looks amazing yet again.  But as you know it was the blueline that was the huge question mark last season for the Wings.  They came together pretty well in the playoffs, and I thought that Brendan Smith finally….FINALLY….started to emerge.  The guy had been so hyped up for years that there was really little to no chance that he could meet expectations.  But he looked like a top 4 guy in last year’s postseason and they really started to come together.  Still not great, but solid.  They’ll look to upgrade it like they always do.  Even when they had Lidstrom and Chelios they were looking to upgrade their D.  Then you have Jimmy Howard in net.  He still is a question mark in the postseason, but during the regular season he is among the best.  Great coach, great GM, great talent, the Wings are going to love the East!

 

 

2bkf2l3xyxi5p0cavbj82. Ottawa Senators

How about we switch to the O symbol?  The one of the Senator isn’t that bad, but those 3rd uni’s are sweet and they should roll with them as their regulars.  Anyway…they lose Alfredsson, they gain Bobby Ryan (although they paid a price to land him), so that should be at least a wash.  Ryan is far and away the more effective player at this point in their careers, but they’ll miss Alfredsson’s leadership for sure.  The big thing for the Sens this season is that they should be healthy.  Spezza, Karlsson and Anderson are among the best at their positions in the league.  How they made the playoffs without those 3 for a large part of last season I don’t know.  Anderson is great between the pipes and he’s a serious threat to Jonathan Quick for the number 1 job on the US Olympic team.  I doubt he can beat out Quick, but it just speaks to how good the guy is.  I love a goaltender who can play great without amazing defensive play in front of him.  The blueline is solid here though.  Cowen and Methot are good shutdown guys, the only problem might be that they won’t have much offense coming from the backend other than Karlsson, but he should provide enough of his own.  Up front, the pieces simply fit.  Spezza with Ryan, Turris, Zibanejad and Smith as the 2, 3, 4 centers, scoring, size, grit, it’s a great blend.  And to top it all off, this is one of the best coached teams in the league.  If you don’t love Paul McLean, you have a problem with you!

 

 

venf9fmhgnsawnxxvehf3. Boston Bruins

They were dead for a lot of last season.  It wasn’t just in game 7 against the Leafs.  This team played most of last season with no emotion, and just had zero life.  I don’t get many right (as you will see if you look back at all this in April), but I pretty much had that series bang on.  But I didn’t know that they would spring to life in the last 10 minutes of that game and ride that momentum all the way to the final.  And now they come into this season with perhaps a better team.  Iginla for Horton short term should be even but might be an upgrade (for this season), and Eriksson will fit in MUCH better than Seguin did.  You’re talking about going from a kid who was one dimensional and wasn’t a natural winger, to a guy who maybe is the most underrated player in hockey and maybe the most complete winger in the game outside of Marian Hossa.  Another thing they have going on is the youth on the blueline.  Hamilton, Krug, and now Joe Morrow who will likely be a regular by seasons end.  Chara is getting on in years but he is still among the elite and stays in amazing shape.  We all know what Tukka Rask will give them in net too, speaking of elite.  So why do I only have them 3rd in the division?  Deep run always takes a lot out of a team, but they’ll be a threat come April.

 

 

1994. Toronto Maple Leafs

I believe they had the best offseason of any team in the league.  Picking them to finish 4th in this division is more about this division being top heavy.  They’ll make the playoffs again this season.  The Clarkson signing was too much money, but he is such a valuable guy to have on your hockey team.  One thing I always say I love about the Bruins is just how many unique players they have like Lucic and Marchand and Chara.  Well Clarkson is one of those unique guys that are just near impossible to find.  He and Bolland give them a lot more grit and experience.  I know some wonder why they went out and got Jonathan Bernier when Reimer was solid last season.  Well watch Reimer play.  The kid battles and he’s extremely likeable, but he’s just limited.  Bernier has elite type of ability.  I think it will work well between the two of them.  Bernier might need to be pushed, and Reimer won’t quit working his bag off.  Most of the time these situations don’t work but this could be the exception to the rule.  I really like their blueline.  It’s deep, Phaneuf might be the worst legit number 1 in the league, but that’s like being the dumbest doctor…you’re still a doctor.  Gardiner, Franson, and Gunnarsson round out a very solid top 4 and as of typing this on Sunday afternoon Morgan Rielly appears to have made the team.  Don’t need to say much about the forwards, we all know it’s a highly skilled group that will put pucks in the net.  I’m a HUGE Randy Carlyle fan too.  This team will get in the playoffs and should be a threat to whoever they play.

 

 

1245. Montreal Canadiens

They had an amazing start to last season.  But then the wheels sort of fell off.  Not instanly, but gradually as the season wore on they shine wore off until we got to the playoffs and the Sens handled them in 5, really toyed with them in 2 of the last 3 games of the series.  Well sometimes teams breakout, and sometimes teams just have things go their way for a season.  I don’t hate this Habs team, but I just see them as a team that is on the cusp of the playoff picture rather than a team that gets in.  I expect Price to be great this season, I expect Alex Galchenyuk to take a big step in his development this season, and they’ve done a great job drafting there.  But while they have a lot to like, they don’t really have a lot to love.  I don’t see P.K. Subban having the season he had last year.  He’s a top pairing guy, but I just believe that was a career year for him.  I still don’t like the lack of size up front, although you can get away with that easier in the East then you can in the West.  To get back to the playoffs I believe they need Price to have a Vezina type of season, and Galchenyuk to make an even bigger jump then I’m expecting him to have this season (like becoming a 60-70 point guy type of jump).  Outside of that, I think they’re on the right track but will fall short of the playoffs this season.

 

 

97hhvk8e5if0riesnex30etgz6. Tampa Bay Lightning

To me this is the first of the trio of bad teams in this division.  Tampa has a lot of talent, but they were a mess for a lot of last season.  I think it was a safe move to send Jonathan Drouin back to Halifax.  I’m not sure weather or not it was the right move, but the safe move.  He won’t be hurt by another year in the CHL, playing at the WJC, possibly playing in the Memorial Cup.  If there is any doubt you are rushing a player, then you are.  Steven Stamkos needs to start becoming a better all around player, and until he does that this team won’t go anywhere.  He might be the most overrated player in the game right now.  Its great that he scores all those goals, and we all know the cliche that scoring goals is the toughest thing to do in hockey, but it doesn’t mean that’s all you need to do…especially when you’re a center.  Marty St.Louis will be Marty St.Louis, and I liked the Val Filppula signing to replace Lecavalier.  He’s better than you think.  Ben Bishop was great after arriving at the trade deadline, but the jury is still out on weather or not he’s the answer for them in net, and this blueline in Tampa is still very suspect.  I have time for Victor Hedman, but he needs to start taking steps towards being a legit number 1 guy.  Simply no reason he shouldn’t be, he has all the tools.  There is some high end talent with this team, but still too many holes to believe they’ll get in the playoffs.

 

 

i40oxcdbo7xtfamqqhqachoyo7. Buffalo Sabres

This organization has become a total mess.  I was big on them the last few seasons.  Talent was there, coaching was there, they were young and would seemingly just keep improving.  Well that was dead wrong.  Now they’re a train wreck and the worst may still be to come.  Get Ryan Miller out of the dressing room Darcy Regier!  It is a double edged sword with this guy, because he asks for just a ridiculous amount in return for his players that I’m sure it turns most GM’s off….but he has hit some home runs in doing so too with the Jason Pomminville and Paul Gaustad trades.  But it is clear that they just need to get Miller out of that room.  To make matters worse, they’ll have not just the Miller rumors but Thomas Vanek rumors will swirl around the team all season as well.  And if that wasn’t bad enough, you look at their roster and it just isn’t that great.  Cody Hodgson would be a nice 2nd line center, but he’s not a 1st line kid.  Tyler Ennis is really talented, but his size really limits him in an increasingly bigger league.  Christan Erhoff and Ville Leino were simply bad signings.  It just doesn’t look good right now in Buffalo, and I think its time to tear this thing down and completely rebuild it.  It feels like they’re in no man’s land right now.

 

 

948. Florida Panthers

I didn’t have many right last season, but I was spot on when it came to the Panthers.  Their 2012 season was a fluke, and last season was who they are.  But despite that, Dale Tallon is doing a good job in South Beach.  I agreed with them taking Sasha Barkov 2nd overall over Seth Jones.  Their big need was a 1st line center.  Jones with Gudbranson and Kulikov would have given them an amazing core on defense moving forward, but that blueline looks good moving forward without Jones.  But down the middle and up front in general they would have lacked had they not taken Barkov.  So the pieces are in place.  Young stud goaltender who will get his shot this season in Jacob Markstrom.  Not just Barkov, but Nick Bjugstad down the middle.  Jonathan Huberdeau is a stud winger for Barkov to play with.  And I already hit on the kids along the blueline.  But that’s moving forward, not now.  They won’t be good this season.  Now there is a chance that Tim Thomas turns back the clock a few years and steals them a bunch of games, but the best hope of them this season is for the season not to be a total write off by the Olympic break.

 

 

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NHL Preview – Central Division

 

It is tough to say which is the tougher division in the West, the Pacific or Central?  I don’t believe this division is as strong 1-6, but the top end teams I believe are much better.  The Hawks and Blues are among the top 3 or 4 teams in the league, so it probably isn’t about who will get the playoff spots in this division, but rather who will get the 3rd one and perhaps a couple of wildcard spots.  But while the Hawks and Blues are the tops in this divison, it is also very strong throughout.

 

 

1871. St.Louis Blues

I’ll let you in on a secret…this team will win the President’s trophy.  That blueline is ridiculous, and they’ll have all the pieces in place all season.  Bouwmeester and Pietrangelo is one of the top pairings in the league.  Shattenkirk would be a number 1 on most teams.  Jackman has slowed down a bit but is still tough as nails and very steady.  It is without a doubt the top D core in all of hockey.  The question will be weather or not they can score.  David Perron didn’t rip it up for them last season, so his production won’t be difficult to replace, but they don’t have a home run hitter…yet.  Tarasenko could become that guy this season, but if he doesn’t then they could end up trading for that type of player as they have a lot of trade chips to play with.  I would watch for them to ship a goaltender out early this season.  Jake Allen was actually their best during last season, and he looked great in camp but they had to send him down.  They seem to like Elliot better than Halak so with both being UFA’s after this season I guess that means Halak is probably the odd man out.  Nice problem to have, but that being said I don’t like any of their goaltenders come playoff time.  Halak is the most proven based on one amazing run with the Habs.  Scoring and goaltending will be question marks come April, but October through March, this will be the best team in the league.

 

 

562. Chicago Blackhawks

It was a shocking season for the Hawks in my opinion.  People forget what a mess they were at the end of the 2012 season.  Corey Crawford was beyond dreadful in the playoffs that season, and the rumors were that GM Stan Bowman and Joel Quennville hated each other and the only reason there wasn’t a coaching change was because Quennville refused to resign.  A year later, they’re lifting their 2nd Cup in 4 seasons.  I wonder if it is possible for a top 10 player in the league to be underrated, because it sure feels to me like Jonathan Toews is.  This kid is everything you want leading your franchise.  I firmly believe he is the 2nd best player in hockey, and is closer to Sid than Malkin.  This team is much better setup than they were going into the 2011 season.  Other than Dave Bolland, the key pieces are all back.  The guy to watch for me would be Bryan Bickell.  Can he build off of his incredible playoff run, or is he another Fernando Pisani?  We will see.  Being the defending champs, they’ll suffer some set backs.  Never fails to happen these days.  But they’ll get it going by midseason and while I don’t believe they’ll have the regular season the Blues will, they’ll still be a big force.

 

 

lvchw3qfsun2e7oc02kh2zxb63. Nashville Predators

There were a few teams that I was really shocked with last season, but no team more so than the Preds.  Year in and year out this team had been so consistent.  I realize they lost Ryan Suter in the 2012 offseason, but they’ve gone through those kind of changes before and comeback strong.  But that slide down to the bottom of the standings worked out well for them in the end.  Sure they didn’t get a playoff gate last season, but they got that stud d-man they needed in Seth Jones…a total gift from the Avs and Lightning.  Now he won’t step in and be Ryan Suter obviously, but he will step right into their top 4.  Scoring will be an issue as it always is for the Preds, but they always find a way to manufacture goals.  In net is the key for the Preds.  If Rinne returns to form then they should be a playoff team in this division.  But last season was shockingly bad for Rinne.  Is he on the decline after having played so much hockey in previous seasons.  I doubt it, but crazier things have happened before.  Had a tough time picking between them and the Wild for 3rd, but at the end of the day the Preds are deeper and better coached.

 

 

0kcehji928suy4ckk1pdo8s7l4. Minnesota Wild

Fans and media for the most part overrated this team last season.  I figured they would be a playoff team, but I by no means had them as a top end team in the West.  Parise and Suter are great, but this was a BAD team in 2012.  But now I feel like fans and media are forgetting all about this team which could make them dangerous, but they have some big holes.  I still hate their coaching and I think it will prove to be a terrible mistake by Chuck Fletcher not firing Mike Yeo after last season.  They look like a poorly coached team.  They’re also very thin on the blueline.  Suter and Brodin are an elite top pairing, but after them its pretty scary.  They’re ok up front, but they’ll rely heavily on Koivu and Parise.  Mikael Granlund came nowhere near last seasons lofty expectations.  He will need to bounce back and be the 2nd line center the Wild really need.  If not him, than perhaps they move Charlie Coyle back to the middle and try him there.  Coyle had a really good rookie season and I believe is more than capable of being that guy.  They brought back Niklas Backstrom, but he hasn’t been close to his old self the last few seasons.  Some of that is having poor defensive play in front of him as opposed to great previously.  But he’s also now 35 and has played a lot of hockey over the last 7 seasons.  They’ll be in the playoff hunt for sure, but this team is still far away from being a contender.

 

 

10791720145. Dallas Stars

Talk about a makeover!  New GM, new head coach, new face of the franchise, new uniforms, that is about as big of a turnover as an organization can have!  And I really liked all the moves (the uni’s are sick!)  But while I liked all the moves, I believe it will take some time for Jim Nill to mold this team into what he wants them to be.  The big thing for me is that they still have a pretty thin blueline.  Its still too early to buy Brendan Dillon is a stud young player.  He looked like it last season, but I can’t commit to it just yet.  Gonchar with a fat new contract historically is terrible.  And then you have guys like Goligoski, Daly and Robidas who are just ok and limited.  Then you have Kari Lehtonen in goal, and while he maybe hasn’t lived up to expectations in his career he has been ok since arriving in Dallas.  That blueline can’t be easy to play behind.  Now he didn’t have as good of a season last year as 2012, but I still don’t know if that’s the blueline or that’s him?  Still had a .916 Sv%.  Tough not to love what they have up front, easily the strength of this team.  Seguin of course needs to get his life together, but if he does he’s an elite 1st line center.  He will be a better player simply by moving back to the middle where he belongs.  Its a good mix of youth, vets, size and skill up front for the Stars so if they can figure out the lines it should be a lethal group.

 

 

z9qyy9xqoxfjn0njxgzoy2rwk6. Winnipeg Jets

I really love the Jets.  I feel like this team is the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the NHL.  They’re everyone’s 2nd favorite team or at least nobody has an issue with them and their fans are amazing.  But you have to call it the way you see it and the way I see it is that the Jets will have a year or two near or at the bottom of the Central division before they start to take off.  As always though, it may not be a bad thing.  They are building it the right way.  They’re in great hands with Kevin Cheveldayoff as their GM.  He had another really good draft and even if they do have some down time, it won’t be long before they’re back in the playoff hunt.  But if you can’t make the playoffs in the Southleast, then you aren’t making the playoffs in this division.  They’re very solid in their top 9 up front, they’re very solid on their blueline, and they’re solid between the pipes.  Sometimes I like teams like this who aren’t great at anything but good at everything.  But that’s how it looks now.  Many players over the years have looked a LOT better in the Southleast than anywhere else in the league, so expect a few guys to take steps back this season and expect a lot of players numbers to go down a bit.  Very bright future for this team, but it might take a few extra years to begin flourishing.

 

 

647. Colorado Avalanche

There are some people who are sky high on this organization.  I’m not one of them.  I fully understand the awesome talent they have up front, but they did NOTHING to address the league’s worst D core!  How does that happen?!?  Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie, Stefan Elliott, Cory Sarich, are we sure the floods in Boulder were from percipitation and not Avs fans vomiting over how awful that blueline is?  That is embarrassing.   And while Sakic and Roy come in with all this fan fare I’m still not sure why?  Do people know that they aren’t suiting up?  Patrick Roy steps right in from junior….because that’s gone so well in the past….I said it leading into the draft and I still maintain it, MacKinnon was the wrong pick.  This team DESPERATELY needed a franchise d-man, needed a face to sell tickets, were already set down the middle, already set up front, it just made zero sense.  It would have made a little sense had they picked MacKinnon and then dealt Matt Duchene for a stud d-man, but they didn’t.  Varlamov in net is ok but as I always say he was nowhere near worth what they paid for him.  Man, this is just a mess.  Maybe they don’t finish last in this division, and I’m sure they’ll be fun as can be to watch, but make no mistake this franchise is a complete mess.

 

 

Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups

NHL Preview – Pacific Division

 

I was thinking about this division in the summer, and the conclusion I came to is that there is only 2 safe bets.  The Kings will make the playoffs and the Flames won’t.  The Sharks and Canucks are going to drop off one of these years, although I don’t know if it happens this season.  Anaheim from year to year is a total wildcard.  Last year they got the goaltending to be one of the top teams in the league, but neither Hiller or Fasth are established number 1 guys.  The Oilers are expected to take off sometime soon but who knows when things will pop for them.  And the Coyotes finally played to their ability last season, although it is tough to believe that a Dave Tippett coached team would do that 2 years in a row.

 

 

2xd2efir5fdew26px6kx1. Vancouver Canucks

They could just as easily miss the playoffs entirely.  I don’t know what the heck to think about this club at this point.  But when you look at the positives there is a lot for their straight up mentally unstable fan base to be burning cars about.  Short term, Torts should spark this team.  I THINK guys like Kesler, Bieksa and Burrows will be forced to clean up their act.  Either actually play tough, or be told to shutup.  They’ll block shots, we know that is a staple of Torts hockey.  No longer is it about “safe is death” and all that BS the media hyped in 2004.  The x factor for this team is without a doubt Roberto Luongo and how he will respond to being back with this team.  He doesn’t want to be there and while he doesn’t come out and say so, it seems pretty obvious.  You can make a strong argument for this team to go either way.  I’m saying for the regular season that Torts gets there best and they win the division.  But this team still doesn’t have what it takes come April and May.

 

 

71jepx81eqzz1l6q9g1g5j1lh2. Los Angeles Kings

It took a while last season for this team to regain their form of 2012, but once they did they played great.  Only last year’s Kings and the 09 Red Wings have made it to the conference final following a Cup winning season in the last 10 years.  Jonathan Quick should have a great season.  He’s healthy coming into this season, he’s playing to be the starter on the US Olympic team, and he’s already established himself as one of the games elite between the pipes.  Some of that is the system, but Quick is legit.  This is pretty much the perfect team for the playoffs.  Big, physical, great down the middle, great on defense, the aformentioned Quick in net, it is just perfect.  They ran out of gas last spring but they are primed for another run if they are healthy.  Not much to say about their offseason.  The Bernier deal was really the only thing they did, and in my opinion the only thing that they had to do.  I like Matt Frattin better for them then Penner too.  Frattin has good wheels and a lot more drive in his game.  The Kings might be boring both on and off the ice, but they’re among the elite in the league.

 

 

dmo1xf3z4pph27vmg3gf3. San Jose Sharks

On one hand, they looked to be a bit rejuvenated last season.  Starting with what was at the time a HUGE 3rd period comeback win on the road in Edmonton, they rolled until the 2nd round of the playoffs.  On the other hand, they were only 6th in the conference and sure they swept the Canucks but they were a mess.  If you read my stuff, then you know I don’t waste my drool on Logan Couture like the rest of the media does…ESPN in particular who had him ranked as the 11th best player in the league.  Mind you, if you read Scott Burnside or listen to what Barry Melrose has to say then you probably aren’t intelligent anyway.  He’s a good 2nd line center.  He doesn’t see the toughest assignments on a nightly bases, that is saved for the Thornton line.  He’s good, he’s not the hall of famer some will have you believe.  The reason I’m rolling about him right now is because he is going to have to become that guy soon.  Thornton is 34 and while he is still playing at a high level, he and Couture will be switching roles soon.  I don’t know if that happens this season, but it will happen soon.  Meanwhile they have probably the most underrated goaltender in the league in Antti Niemi.  This guy isn’t very flashy, but he is extremely consistent.  I think they remain a playoff team for one more season, but this team still lacks the depth both up front and on the back end to go deep in the playoffs.

 

 

fbh4jfr7lwbpuezjx0xbktfmo4. Anaheim Ducks

I actually had trouble spotting the Ducks because as I said off the top, you just don’t know what you will get from this team year to year anymore.  And they’ll be hurt on their PP with Sheldon Souray out.  But I just have to think they’ll be in the hunt with Bruce Boudreau behind the f***in bench.  Getzlaf, Perry and whoever they put with them will still be one of the best first lines in hockey.  As I said, they don’t have an established number 1 guy but Hiller and Fasth were both great last season so you would think that at least one of the two of them can keep up that great play.  Much like the Sharks…or perhaps even more so than the Sharks, this team has little depth.  They are building some up front, but I don’t like their 2nd line.  Selanne is now 43 and Koivu is 38.  Experience is nice, but these two guys are back this season to play for their country in Sochi, not because they love being Ducks so much.  Emerson Etem could use Selanne’s ice time.  So the bottom line with this team is they could either miss the playoffs, or compete for a division title.  You just don’t know year to year.

 

 

6cphie5heyvfwn6lbzfowe61h5. Edmonton Oilers

I have them 5th but I trust Phoenix more than I trust them.  It will pop for them one of these years, there is simply just too much talent not to.  And now, they’ll be a very well coached team as well.  I needed about 8 games last season to see that Ralph Krueger was far from the answer behind the bench.  I don’t recall ever seeing a head coach get so badly exposed the way Krueger was.  Seems like one of the best guys in hockey, but shouldn’t have been the head coach of an NHL team.  Meanwhile Dallas Eakins is supposedly a nightmare to coach against according to AHL coaches.  He is terrific at making in game adjustments and that is where coaching can make all the difference in the world weather its hockey, football, or basketball.  He won’t lack talent to work with.  Craig MacTavish made a lot of changes this offseason, but he really didn’t change the look of the team.  They’re still small, still lack grit, and still have big question marks down the middle, on the blueline and in net.  Devan Dubnyk HAS to stop letting in the disgusting, back breaking goals that sunk this club in so many game last season.  Shutup about his .920 Sv% and watch the games, this kid hasn’t played like a number 1 goaltender…but he can be.  This is the most talented team in this division, even more so than the Canucks in my opinon.  But they need to play a structured game, and they need to play with more grit.  If they do that, then they’ll be a playoff team.  If they don’t, then it could be more of the same.

 

 

8lqmtthh0w2wgumr6goswqmki6. Phoenix Coyotes

I had them to win the division and get to the conference final last season.  Oops!!!  They finally played to their talent level.  But for that to happen 2 years in a row is unlikely I believe….and I know I said this at the top but down here it still holds true.  The problem for them, and really everyone with the exception of Calgary in this division, is that the teams are pretty evenly matched.  I have them 6th, but it is just as likely that they win the division.  Dave Tippett coaches his teams to play dreadfully boring hockey, but it works.  The contract they gave Mike Smith was ridiculous.  Not because Smith can’t perform to that level in this system, but because they could have let him walk and plugged someone else in and got at least as good of goaltending.  This system makes average goaltenders look good, and good goaltenders look amazing.  The Mike Riberio signing was a good one for them though.  Riberio has put up good numbers playing for the Tipp in the past, which isn’t easy to do.  They’re now looking great down the middle with him, Hanzal and Vermette.  Ekman-Larsson is emerging as one of the best d-men in hockey, and he will lead a very good blueline 1-6.  I don’t feel comfortable predicting this team finishes 6th in the division, but even if they do they’ll be in the playoff race until the end.  Its funny, I’ve heard people say they’ll be better now that the ownership situation is solved.  Well they made the playoffs in 3 of 4 seasons with that “distraction” and a similar talent level, and went to the conference final in 2012.  So I don’t think it was THAT big of a factor.

 

 

507. Calgary Flames

Well this team is disgusting and I’m not saying that because I never hide that I’m an Oiler fan.  Nothing that I ever say about the Flames is because I’m an Oiler fan, it just simply has been a horribly run franchise for the last 4 or 5 seasons and now they’re paying for it.  I don’t doubt that this will be the worst team in the league this season, but that’s what they need to be.  It isn’t a great draft, but you still need those top picks and if they are the worst team then they’ll have the best odds to get the top pick, and if they get the top pick then perhaps they can take Sam Reinhart.  Reinhart and Monhan down the middle for 15 years wouldn’t suck at all.  I know some Flames fans are excited about kids like Baertschi, Gaudreau, and Wotherspoon but the truth is that these kids are just B level prospects.  You can’t expect them all to exceed expectations.  If one of them reaches expectations, and one is a regular in the leauge then that is good.  It is the kids like Monahan who you build around, and he will be a good one to build around.  As for the current roster, why even talk about them?  The roster is embarrasingly bad.  It isn’t as bad as the Oilers roster was at the end of the 2010 season, but its not far off.

 

 

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