NFL Picks – Week 8

NFL: Chicago Bears at Dallas CowboysOk so this ship is sinking!  Another losing week, and all of a sudden I can’t brag about how great I am!  That is really the biggest tragedy out of all this mess is that people may now realize that I’m not as great as I make myself out to be.  So I can’t allow my secret to get out!  I guess I’ll have to start winning again.

Last week: 2-3-1 (2-3 ATS)

Season record (ATS): 19-18

Season record (over/under) 4-2-1

Overall: 23-20-1

 

Baltimore at Cincinnati

Baltimore -1

There is still a lot of doubt weather or not A.J. Green will play.  So that’s a big concern for the Bengals.  And another concern is that this D is getting trounced of late.  Then you have the Ravens who are on a serious roll right now.  These aren’t the same teams that met in week 1, and even if they were I would like the Ravens.  But now, they have the Ray Rice distraction behind them and the Bengals have lost some of their swagger.  Only 1 point makes it easy to take the Ravens.

 

Chicago at New England

Chicago +6

Do I really trust the Bears anymore?  I do.  This will be one of Colin Cowherd’s blazin’ 5 this morning and what he will say is that he loves the Bears because their fumbling problems cannot continue and that 6 points is too many to give a Bears team that is good on the road, playing with a fire lit under them, and has a great offense against a depleted Pats D.  I also expect RJ Bell from pregame.com to say on his show that this line was much different a week or 2 ago and that the line being at 6 is an overreaction and the public is going to be heavy on New England.  At least that’s what I’m expecting, tune in to see if I’m right!

 

Philadelphia at Arizona

Philadelphia +2.5

Well the Eagles are coming off a bye and as you now know I love that!  The Cards are coming off a win against the Raiders.  I don’t know if it was a good game, because they played the Raiders so why watch.  That shouldn’t even count as a win unless you win by 21.  I love Bruce Arians but the Eagles are a good team that play with a lot of tempo which will wear down the Cardinals D that loves to blitz.  I’m expecting a lot of screen passes to McCoy that will drive the Cards nuts.  Also the Eagles have a solid D too, that pass rush is no joke.

 

Indianapolis at Pittsburgh

Indianapolis -3

When did you ever think you would see the day that the Steelers get 3 points at home and you want to pick against them?!  But I do.  Indy is RED HOT right now, both offensively and defensively, and the Steelers are just scrapping by.  Heck, if it wasn’t for the Texans imploding at the end of the 1st half Monday, the Steelers may have lost that game too!  Short week, playing a much better team, I don’t think the Colts blow them out but at 3 or less I like the Colts.  If it moves to 3.5, I still think take it but it is much more of a risk.

 

Oakland at Cleveland

Cleveland -6.5

This is a HUGE number and it is for the Browns and I know you’re asking if I really trust the Browns getting 6.5?  Yeah, I do because it’s the Raiders.  Browns got embarrassed in Jacksonville so that alone should light a fire under them.  And the Raiders are a flat out mess.  So just keep it simple, take the Browns at home, they’ll crush Oakland.

 

Chicago at New England

Over 50.5

Man I’m feeling snake bit on this pick now.  I’ve loved a few of the ones I’ve had lately and they’ve lost (well, a push last week).  But a hire powered offense, again with a fire lit under them.  On the other side you have Tom Brady and the Pats who seem to have their act together against a weak Bears D.  Seems like a safe bet, but then again I’ve been snake bit lately!

 

Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups

NFL Picks – Week 7

i7d84jd0kg8bdoxlcw4uNot a good Sunday last week.  2-3 ATS, 2-4 overall.  I can’t believe I had such brutal luck.  Like I just can’t catch a break….Ok, so MAYBE I had been catching nothing but breaks over the last month betting football, College or pro.  Anyway, you deserve a winning week, and I can’t fail you!  Bet your house on these picks….your daughters doll house that is.

Last week: 2-4 (2-3 ATS)

Season record (ATS): 17-15

Season record (over/under) 4-2

Overall: 21-17

 

New Orleans at Detroit

New Orleans +2.5

They’ll win this game outright.  First, coming off a bye week and as always I love that.  Second, the Lions may not have Calvin Johnson.  Now the Saints almost certainly won’t have Jimmy Graham, but they’re still a lethal attack without him.  Johnson is much more valuable of the 2 players.  Also, the Saints are the underdogs here because it’s on the road and they’ve had a sluggish start.  But it’s indoors, and the win over Tampa coupled with a bye week makes me think they’ll have their house in order so to speak.

 

Seattle at St.Louis

Seattle -6.5

Well the Harvin trade was a bit of a shocker!  But it was likely the right move.  The guy is a cancer in the room so get him the bleep out!  This team won the Super Bowl without him last year and they can do it again.  And they’ll be fired up coming off the home loss to Dallas.  Meanwhile I don’t know what that was on Monday by the Rams.  Austin Davis just isn’t ready to face a D like that and it doesn’t get any easier this week.  Rams were beat up by the Niners, it’s a short week for them, I know the Seahawks aren’t the same on the road as at home, and it’s a 10 AM start for them.  But those things haven’t affected the Seahawks the last 2 or 3 years like they used to so I’m taking them in a blowout win over the Rams.

 

Kansas City at San Diego

KC +4

AGAIN, Chiefs are coming off the bye week.  Andy Reid has an amazing record coming off of bye weeks.  Also, the Chiefs don’t suck, this is a good football team.  The public need to get it out of their heads that they’re the 2012 Chiefs.  Finally, the Chargers got the Broncos coming up on Thursday night.  That’s their biggest game of the year and teams tend to look ahead to such huge football games.  Chargers win this game, but it’ll be tight the whole way.

 

NY Giants at Dallas

Giants +6.5

I love this pick.  I did these picks about 3 nights ago, had this one.  I always love hearing what Colin Cowherd and R.J. Bell have to say during their segment on the Herd on Friday’s.  They both were in love with this pick also.  Cowboys are the better team, but Coughlin owns the Cowboys, for how well the Cowboys D are playing they still don’t have a good pass rush and there for won’t be able to really exploit the Giants weakness on the O-line like the Eagles did Sunday night.  The Cowboys just played in Seattle, and even though they won they’ll be feeling it.  The Giants just got humiliated by the Eagles, they’ll be feeling that too but in a different way.  Giants might pull the upset here, but stick with the 6.5.

 

San Francisco at Denver

San Francisco +7

I don’t get this line at all.  Like the Giants I really could see the Niners pulling the upset here, and I really don’t think it would be an upset.  I was listening to Tim & Sid yesterday and I know their belief was that because Manning likely ties and may break the all time TD’s mark in this game that he will be on his game.  Well that’s fine, but the Niners, who might have the best road defense in the league, will likely try to stop him.  I can’t promise you they will, but I’m thinking they’ll give it the old College try.  I had the Niners falling apart this season.  I’m not backing off that.  But falling apart doesn’t mean they’ll get hammered by teams.  IF they lose, it won’t be by more than 4.

 

New Orleans at Detroit

Over 47

I don’t understand this number at all, but I’ve been burned now 2 weeks in a row…kind of shockingly…by this pick so who knows.  Confidence is shaken!  But it’s Brees vs Stafford.  Those 2 SHOULD put up 50+ playing indoors so take the over here (like there is anyway I’ll ever take the under in one of these games).

 

Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups

 

NFL Picks – Week 6

Eli+Manning+New+York+Giants+v+Philadelphia+zxXPcglbBLTlWell 3-3 isn’t bad, 3-2 ATS but I lost the over/under pick for the first time this season.  Ironic because I maybe felt better about that pick than most of the other ones I made.  Still, I’ll take the 3-3 luck than the luck I’ve had in the Kelly Kapowski fantasy league.  Most points in the league on the season, and I’m 3-2.  I lost last week on literally the last play of the week.  A garbage time absolutely completely meaningless completion to Pierre Garcon.  What’s more sad than the fact it happened, is that I lose like that a few times every year.  I’m bitter, let’s pick.

Last week: 3-3 (3-2 ATS)

Season record (ATS): 15-12

Season record (over/under): 4-1

Overall: 19-13

 

Green Bay at Miami

Miami +3.5

Joe Philbin knows the Packers well.  He might not be a great head coach, but he knows Rodgers, McCarthy, and Capers better than most.  Plus the Dolphins are coming off a bye which I always love, plus it’s going to be above 90 in Miami on Sunday which is brutal for a team to play in, especially for a Northern team like the Packers.  Dolphins might pull the upset here.

 

Dallas at Seattle

Seattle -8

I’ve said it and will keep saying it, I’m not betting against the Seahawks anymore.  Everyone keeps looking for a reason for them to fall, but they aren’t.  The Cowboys have been great this season, and their O-line might be able to push around the Seahawks D-line.  But do you really think Tony Romo will have any success against that crowd and against that D?  You think what is still an average Cowboys D (despite the numbers) can slow down Lynch and Wilson?  They can’t.  Seahawks win in a blowout.

 

Washington at Arizona

Arizona -3.5

The Washington NFLers are on a short week, having just played the Seahawks who beat you up.  They’re also not very good.  And now they’re going to the desert to play a Cardinals team who is very sound.  But the scary thing for betting this game is who will start at QB for the Cards?  If it’s Drew Stanton the Cards are going to win by 10.  And if it’s Logan Thomas….they’re still likely going to win by 10.  Logan Thomas has a lot of talent, has taken all the snaps this week, and Bruce Arians will call a game that will allow Thomas to thrive for 1 game.  Plus, Washington doesn’t have any real film on him.  Sure he played last week, but the Cards weren’t ready for him to go in.  It’s a risky bet, but I’m willing to roll the dice.  Vegas still has the Cards as 3.5 point favorites so they obviously don’t think the Cards will suffer.

 

NY Giants at Philadelphia

NY +2.5

Giants win this outright.  The Eagles have played good overall, but pretty inconsistent.  Eli Manning is playing out of his skull right now and has all his weapons on deck.  Maybe not Rashad Jennings, but Andre Williams has looked real good in his limited action.  Chip Kelly can scheme with the best of them, but they nearly blew the game against the Rams, looked terrible against the Niners, they haven’t put together a full 60 minutes this season.  The Giants are just simply the hotter team right now.  They’re trending up, the Eagles are kind of lucky to be 3-1.

 

San Francisco at St.Louis

St.Louis +3.5

Lets not forget that the Niners have a lot of drama going on around them right now.  The Rams had a bye in week 4, and had an easy week physically (by NFL standards) against the Eagles.  So I fully expect the Rams to keep this one within a field goal, if not pull off the upset because they can match the Niners in the trenches.  Plus, Austin Davis has been REAL good.  This will be a good test for him on a national stage against an elite D.

 

NY Giants at Philadelphia

Over 50

Just 50?!  Ok….more than the Eagles, the Giants offense can’t be stopped right now.  So the Eagles can light it up, the Giants can light it up, and normally the Sunday night games are pretty high scoring games.  So I’m thinking this is a 34-27 Giants win as you know I love the Giants to pull the upset already.

 

Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups

Edmonton Oilers 14-15 Preview

dallas-eakins-nhl-edmonton-oilers-phoenix-coyotes1-850x560So I have the season preview, that came out yesterday.  But I know what gets hits on my site.  And I’m going on record that for the first time in a long time I believe this team is getting it right.  Will there be a “Deep Ice Horizon Pt. 3” this season?  Likely, I get a little testy with this team when things go off the rails.  But they finally had an offseason that will make a difference.

 

Size baby.  They FINALLY got big.  I’ve been harping on this since 2009, they’ve been far too small.  Especially in the West, and save the BS that the Blackhawks are small.  No, Pat Kane is small….and the most skilled player in the world.  But Toews is 6’2, 210.  Hossa is 6’1, 220.  Sharp is 6’1, 200.  Bickell is 6’4, 230.  Seabrook is 6’3, 210.  Are these guys small?!  Hell no!  They just aren’t AS big as the Kings, Sharks, Blues or Ducks.

 

The Oilers though, they’ve made Montreal look big!  It has been absurd that they’ve had any thought of going anywhere with a team that had no size, and not near enough speed or grit to justify the lack of size.  But no longer is that the case.

 

They dished out contracts that make Oiler fans a little sick to their stomachs.  Pouliot 5 years/4 mil per.  Nikitin 2 years/4.5 mil per.  They traded for Purcell who has 2 years/4.5 mil per left on his deal.  That’s a lot of coin to dish out for size, but they needed to do it.  The Mark Fayne contract I actually think was a great one for the team, I was stunned that they got him for 4 years at only 3.6 mil per.

 

Add to the size factor, most of the kids on the roster came into camp much bigger, and the bigs that they have drafted are now showing up on the roster.  Draisaitl, Nurse, Klefbom all made the opening night roster.  Nurse will likely be sent back to the Soo no matter how well he plays, but he’s getting the 9 game audition for now.  Bo Yakimov looked awesome in training camp and is exactly what the Oilers will need playing behind RNH and Draisaitl down the middle.

 

They enter this season with a much better goaltending situation than they did last year.  Now in fairness, last year Craig McTavish tried to fix the goaltending prior to the season.  He knew Devan Dubnyk wasn’t an NHL starter.  He knew that a lot of the media was being ridiculous pointing out his 2013 .920 save percentage (did you know that by the way?)

20140926_goalies
Scrivens and Fasth don’t have to steal games, they just have to keep the team in them.

Scrivens and Fasth can both make saves, they don’t just block the shot and I know you must be sick of me saying that but it’s a fact.  Neither guy is a true number 1.  But they’re both guys who can get the job done and while it wasn’t my comparison, I love the comparison of Ben Scrivens to Dwayne Roloson.  Roli was a leader, battled his way into the league, and then kept battling his ass off every night he was in net.  Scrivens just has all the qualities you want in an NHL player.

 

Fasth is playing for a contract this season, so you know he will be giving you his best every night he gets his shot.  And he’s the more talented of the 2 goaltenders.  I didn’t realize how quick he was until he got to Edmonton.

 

I could talk a lot about the D, and I will.  But the biggest addition to the blueline this offseason was Craig Ramsay.  This is a guy who has a reputation as one of the top assistant coaches in hockey.  Boston Bruins players will tell you that he was the key to their Stanley Cup in 2011 as he got the absolute most out of that blueline corps.

20140610_ramsay
Craig Ramsay might be the biggest addition to the Oilers.

So he’s an addition that the average fan won’t really know about but he could make a BIG difference with this club.  And he’ll have a much better mix to work with than Steve Smith had.  Last year I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what McTavish was trying to put together.  It was as if he watch Johnny Oduya in the 2013 playoffs and thought “I need to get 4 guys like that!”  Now they can actually put a shutdown pairing together.  They have a guy who can hammer it from the point on the PP.  They have…once again….size.

 

The big key is going to be sticking to the plan and sending Nurse back.  Because make no mistake he’s already one of their top 6 D-men.  But he needs more seasoning.  If he goes back to the Soo he’ll be leading a Memorial Cup contender.  He’ll be the number 1 D-man for team Canada at the World Juniors.  He’ll see a TON of PP time.  And I just think you simply can’t take enough time with D-men, especially a kid with such huge upside like Nurse.

 

Up front the glarring hole is at 2nd line center and unfortunately Leon Draisaitl looks as though he’ll be rushed into that role, which will just fuel more fire that the Oilers rush all their kids which is true, but more so with the kids who came before Hall and Eberle, not since.  Draisaitl should be on the team, but in a 3rd line role would be ideal.  He would need to have one HELL of a rookie season for the Oilers to make the playoffs.

1297606863324_ORIGINAL
The Oilers are likely asking too much of 1st round pick Leon Draisaitl this season.

Mac T HAS to be shopping as we speak for a 2nd line center.  Even just a place filler like Josh Bailey, anything you can do to make sure Draisaitl has a season where he is sheltered and can get his feet wet.  I thought Arcobello would be that guy because he far outplayed Sam Gagner last season, but he has been awful in the preseason so the jury is out on weather he can stick with the team let alone be the 2nd line center for a season.

 

Another guy I want to touch on is Teddy Purcell.  Without a doubt the fans are going to hate this guy.  He doesn’t hit anyone.  But you have to accept him for what he is.  He is a guy with a lot of size and skill and looks to use his size to protect the puck and play an intelligent game.  If he was 6’0, 198 this would be accpetable in Edmonton.  But he’s 6’3, 198 and so the fans around here expect him to truck guys from time to time.

 

The big X factor on the club is Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.  I’m as sweet on Nuge as anyone, but he has no excuse this season.  He’s up to 190 pounds, he’s a year removed from reconstructive shoulder surgery, and he’s 21 years old.  He’s ready to become a legit 1st line center.  Now, if he doesn’t become one this season, it’s not the end of the world.

RNH
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins must make big strides in the faceoff dot this season.

But he needs to take the next step.  70 points would be a great step, also continuing to develop his 200 foot game, and 42.4% in the dot is flat out embarrassing.  That might be the biggest number, in my mind for this team to have ANY shot at the playoffs, Nuge needs to get his performance in the dot up to 47 or 48%.  At least.  Because they want to play a puck possession game and that of course starts with winning faceoffs.  When you’re bad defensively, you don’t want to be chasing the puck all night.

 

We know what Hall is going to give them, what Eberle is going to give them, most people agree that Yakupov is going to be a lot better this season but I don’t know if he has the hockey sense to be a dominant scorer in this league.  With all 3 of these guys, it’s the 200 foot game that drastically has to change.  They have to quit leaving their zone so early EVERY SINGLE TIME.  I don’t care how old you are, how can you not understand the concept of wanting to get the puck back?  It is as selfish of hockey as it gets the way most of these forwards played last season.

 

So I like this team A LOT better than the one that entered last season.  The kids really don’t have an excuse now.  The goaltending might not steal many, but they likely won’t cost them games like it did to begin last season.  The D isn’t star studded, but the mix is much better.  And they now have depth and size up front.

 

A great start would be huge and they at least have a chance to do that this season.  Last year, I believe it was 14 of the first 19 games were on the road.  And they actually played well to start the season, but they not only weren’t getting stops but they weren’t getting ANY bounces either that discouraged the team.  If they start hot, it would go a long way to competing for a playoff spot and I think they will be in the hunt most of the season.  They won’t get in, but I expect them to stay in it until late March/early April.

 

Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups

2015 NHL Season Preview – Western Conference

7413928

You have had a month to adjust to the fact that summer is over, winter is coming, so that should likely mean you’re in hockey mode.  But maybe more than any other offseason in NHL history, things are drastically changing.

 

This was the summer of analytics.  Now, good teams have been up on analytics for years now.  I don’t really bring them up much because quite frankly good analytical players are usually guys I really like.  But you were flat out a moron if you were running an organization and ignoring them (Dave Nonis, Steve Tambellini, I’m guessing Brian Burke since the former 2 learned under Burke).  But now teams like the Leafs, Oilers, Panthers, Islanders, they’re at least trying to catch up to what good teams are doing.

 

Also, Saturday nights have changed, hockey on TSN is no longer, and we live in a Rogers universe now.  They have HUGE shoes to fill and Rogers doesn’t exactly have a good track record for putting the best product out there (see the Jays), but I have been impressed thus far with their hires, the returning to North America Paul Romanuk in particular.  Let’s all hope they realize they can’t just own the Canadian rights, and that Canadian hockey fans deserve to see the best coverage they can deliver.

 

So this preview will start in the West, and the West is best.  I know it rhymes, but it’s also a fact.  Of the top 10 teams in this league, 7 or 8 are in the West, and 4 are in the top 5.  Like it just isn’t even close.  People want to mock the Oilers rebuild, well they would be a playoff team in the East.  It is ridiculous to win in the West.  And it makes for unreal drama during the regular season and the first 3 rounds of the playoffs.

 

 

Pacific Division

1736165120141. Anaheim Ducks

I have very little doubt the Ducks win this division in the regular season.  Kesler is a great add (total d-bag, but a great add) as he finally addresses that 2nd line center spot that the Ducks have lacked since Getzlaf emerged as a 1st line center.  But I still don’t like this teams blueline come playoff time, and I really don’t like their coach come playoff time.  I really believe what happens, same as Marty Shottenheimer in the NFL, is that he gets his teams to overachieve.  So it isn’t really that he is terrible come playoff time, it’s just that his teams shortcomings get exposed.

 

 

71jepx81eqzz1l6q9g1g5j1lh2. Los Angeles Kings

I don’t know if I liked their offseason.  Sometimes when you’re the champs, you fall too much in love with your guys.  So while I really love Matt Greene, it seemed like an overpayment for a guy who is maybe your 6th D-man.  And 7 years for Marian Gaborik?  The cap hit isn’t too bad, but you can get guys like Gaborik every year at the deadline.  And most of the years it is actually Gaborik who you can get!  Having said this, they have an elite number 1 center in Kopitar, an elite number 1 D-man in Doughty, and an elite number 1 netminder in Quick.  I say they’re going back to the conference finals at least because the other powers in this division can’t win come playoff time.

 

 

dmo1xf3z4pph27vmg3gf3. San Jose Sharks

Well this is the biggest question mark of the year.  Will they be a sh*t show, or will they overcome a very rocky offseason to be a regular season power yet again?  Beyond the fact that the organization very clearly wants to move on from Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, is the fact that those 2 are going to start declining.  Is Logan Couture a 1st line center?  I honestly don’t think he is.  Great 2nd line center, not a front line guy though.  Joe Pavelski is a jack of all trades top 6 guy, but he’s not a front line player.  Even without the mess off the ice, this team might fall back simply because they’re due to do so.  Having said that, I still think there is enough here to get in the playoffs.

 

 

2xd2efir5fdew26px6kx4. Vancouver Canucks

I love most of what they did this offseason.  Miller being brought in I’m not real high on, but I understand the move.  But while some garbage still remains, they got rid of the majority of the trash.  I won’t name names, but you know who I’m talking about.  So now they have a good guy in overseeing the franchise (Linden), good guy in as GM (Benning) and a good guy in as head coach (Desjardins).  The conerstones of this team will fit Desjardins system a lot better than they did Torts system.  The blueline is real solid, but not spectacular.  They really need Alex Edler to get his career back on track, it would be a tremendous help as he is a guy who has all the tools to be a top pairing guy.  Hasn’t been the same since the Kings humiliated him in the 2012 playoffs.  I like this team to fight with Colorado right until the last week of the season for the final playoff spot in the West.

 

 

6cphie5heyvfwn6lbzfowe61h5. Edmonton Oilers

I’ll be called a homer here for not picking them 6th or 7th in the division, but I actually think they’ll hang around the playoff picture this season.  They’ve addressed a lot of the things I’ve been harping on them to do for a long time now.  Got Gagner out, he was a problem for this team as they continually tried to force him into the 2nd line C spot.  Arcobello is better, but it’s still a glarring weakness and while Draisaitl should make the team he shouldn’t be rushed into that role.  They got A LOT bigger this offseason.  A lot of the kids reported to camp heavier, and all the acquisitions have a lot of size.  So they shouldn’t get pushed around like they had been.  And finally, though this was addressed last season, they have goaltenders who stop pucks not a guy who hopes the puck hits him.  Don’t underestimate bringing in Craig Ramsay as an assistant who’ll run the D.  He’s made a huge impact in all his stops as an assistant.

 

 

8lqmtthh0w2wgumr6goswqmki6. Arizona Coyotes

I feel like this crew right now is living off the fact that Dave Tippett is their head coach.  It feels like nobody notices that they’ve missed the playoffs the last 2 seasons and it’s not working like it once did in the desert.  Mike Smith seems a little too comfortable the last 2 seasons.  They’re good 1-3 down the middle, but nothing close to a number 1 guy.  They enter the season with even less skill on the wings then they’ve had.  The blueline still looks good, but can a good blueline overcome all that is wrong with this squad?  They won’t be a pushover by any means.  They’ll still be a long, boring night for the opposition.  But I don’t see this squad making much noise this season.  And you know how I feel about Sam Gagner.  I’ll push all my chips to the middle of the table on him not producing much of anything in his new situation this season.  He is what he is, a tweener who doesn’t fit well anywhere in your lineup.

 

 

507. Calgary Flames

I loved how hard they played last year.  Mark Giordano is pretty underrated outside of Southern Alberta and should have been on the Olympic team last season.  But while this team is absolutely on the right track, you have to take a step back and realize that they played their ASSES OFF last season….and were only 27th overall.  Monahan, Bennett, Gaudreau, Brodie, Wotherspoon, they have some talent in the system.  But I just don’t think they can duplicate that effort they played with all of last season.  Bob Hartley has worn on his players in both his stops in the league and so I’m not expecting anything different here.  But again in saying this, they’re building something real good and have a better start to their rebuild than the Oilers did.  They have a number 1 D-man to anchor the blueline, they have some solid vets in their prime up front, and they’ve got a couple of high end center’s in the draft.  Things look up in Calgary, just not this season.

 

 

Central Division

1871. St. Louis Blues

I liked them to win the President’s trophy last year, and they were in the hunt until late in the season.  Then, the roof caved in which resulted in them getting Chicago in the 1st round rather than Minnesota and even when it was 2-0 Blues I felt like they weren’t going to get to the 2nd round.  I like bringing in Paul Stastny.  He’s not a legit 1st line center, but he’s a big upgrade for them and will allow David Backes to play a role he’s much better suited for.  But I sure hope Hitch isn’t dumb enough to move Backes back to the wing.  I know that has been discussed but I’m not sure if it was moronic media guys suggesting it or if the Blues had actually been talking about putting a Selke candidate on the wing in favor of 24 year old Finnish rookie Jori Lehtera.  Maybe the best blueline in the league, the big question comes in net and they still haven’t done much to shore up their goaltending.  Jake Allen will be the starter by seasons end, but a Cup contender entering the playoffs riding a rookie isn’t something that works very often.

 

 

10791720142. Dallas Stars

I’m not going to be high on the Stars come playoff time.  Barring a blockbuster trade that changes the look of this team I believe they’ve built a regular season power that will get hammered in the playoffs every year.  Both Seguin and Spezza are perimeter players.  In fact when he was drafted I said to anyone who would listen that Seguin reminded me of Spezza in that way.  Both are front line centers, but neither are centers who can carry you in the playoffs.  Jamie Benn is the only muscle they have up front, they have next to nothing on D, and Kari Lehtonen is good, but not great.  So they won’t go far in the playoffs.  BUT….they’ll do major damage in the regular season.

 

 

563. Chicago Blackhawks

Kind of the same deal as last year.  I don’t expect the Hawks to be too interested with the regular season.  They’ve won 2 rings, they have dominated the regular season, they just know that for them they just have to get to the playoffs healthy.  Once they’re in, they’ll do what they have to do.  The biggest problem this team has is staying interested.  It cost them against the Kings last year.  They lost interest midway through game 2 of that series and it cost them their 3rd Cup in 5 years.  But when they’re on, this is the best team in the league make no mistake about it, even better than the Kings.  It’s just that the Kings are more consistent.

 

 

0kcehji928suy4ckk1pdo8s7l4. Minnesota Wild

So they won a series last year, and they won a couple of games against the Hawks, and EVERYONE started talking about how they were emerging as a power in the West.  NOOO they are not.  They are what they are, which is a good team, not a great team.  They can maybe get out of the 1st round, but won’t go deep.  Tomas Vanek is a bit of an improvement, but they needed improvement on the back end.  I don’t understand why you give 6.5 mil a season to a guy who doesn’t show up half the time, playing a position you don’t have a need for.  Just because he wants to play in your city?!  Well if he wants to play there so bad, offer him 4 mil per, not 6.5.  Just stupid.  They have a good system built up, but Chuck Fletcher is looking like a guy who come trade deadline is willing to burn through his depth.  They’ll need a lot of kids to take major steps on that blueline this season if they want to be a contender in the West.  It feels like they’re stuck in no man’s land as a franchise.

 

 

645. Colorado Avalanche (wildcard winner)

Is anyone NOT selling on this team’s success last season?  I can’t believe they made the playoffs last season let alone finished 1st in the division, 3rd overall in the league.  Even after that 13-1 start I was telling friends “they still won’t make the playoffs”.  But the amazing run continued all year long.  But that kind of goaltending and that kind of shooting percentage simply can’t last.  They’ll fall back to the pack this season.  But they still have good goaltending, still a great down the middle, and they play hard for Patrick Roy so while they’ll fall back I’m still going to say they sneak into the playoffs.  Won’t be surprised if they don’t, but I believe they have enough to get in.  Even if they don’t though, what always seems to be forgotten is that this is maybe the best young team in the league and their future is extremely bright.

 

 

lvchw3qfsun2e7oc02kh2zxb66. Nashville Predators

First year ever the Preds will play hockey without Barry Trotz behind the bench.  Peter Laviolette steps in this season and he won’t last the 15 seasons that Trotz did.  Laviolette won’t even make it 5 years, because that’s not his M O.  He is a guy who gets his teams to play up tempo and aggravating.  They don’t play too technical of a system.  It’ll be a breathe of fresh air for some of those Preds players I’m sure, but I don’t think they have the horses to do what Laviolette will want to do.  Riberio and Roy were good bang for your buck UFA’s, but neither guy is close to a number 1 or number 2 center.  Roy in particular has been eaten alive since moving to the Western conference.  James Neal is a sniper and should fit well with Riberio, but I don’t believe he’s a big upgrade over what they had with Hornqvist.  Shea Weber can only do so much and they really need Pekka Rinne to return to form which behind a more high scoring team I doubt he does.  I really just don’t like the mix here.

 

 

z9qyy9xqoxfjn0njxgzoy2rwk7. Winnipeg Jets

It isn’t as though I believe the Jets suck.  I actually like the way they’re built, especially up front.  They’re heavy, can skate, and can put the puck in the net.  But Kevin Cheveldayoff I think is just being too patient with some of these guys, Pavelec in particular.  I’m shocked he’s back between the pipes for them this year.  The guy has loads of talent but he’s just so inconsistent.  They really are stuck in no man’s land.  And who knows what’ll happen with Kane.  I was once told that they have been shopping him for 2 years now, but can’t get fair value for him.  At some point they’ll have to simply take what they can get because it’s a toxic situation.  Fortunately for Jets fans they’ve drafted really well so one of these seasons they will start getting in the playoffs and be a tough out once there.  But if you’re going to have a terrible season where you end up rearranging a few pieces to your puzzle, this is the year to do it.

 

Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups

2015 NHL Season Preview – Eastern Conference

Chara-and-Crosby-shake-hands-300x291Why sugar coat it?  The East is the weaker sister of the league.  In a College football comparison, the East is the Big 10 while the West is the SEC.  And it isn’t as though it’s just recently been like this.  It has been this way since 1996.

 

Since 96, if you take out the Devils, the East has won 4 Cups.  All 4 of them they had to go 7, and I would say in 3 of the 4 they were considered upsets.  The Flames should have beat the Lightning had they reviewed the Gelinas goal in game 6, the Oilers would have beat the Canes had Roloson not got hurt, and the Red Wings and Canucks both blew 2-0 series leads and lost game 7 at home.

 

Like the East is BAD.  Probably 2004 was the only year it was the superior conference.  So now that I’ve talked it up, I bet you can’t wait to watch some Eastern conference hockey this season!  I’ll say this, while it has weaker teams, it is normally much more exciting hockey to watch.

 

Atlantic Division

venf9fmhgnsawnxxvehf1. Boston Bruins

This is the slam dunk pick of the year.  If they don’t win the division I would be flat out shocked.  This team is just so much better than every other team in the East and even if someone like Tampa or Pittsburgh or Washington ends up with more points, it would take a lot of injuries to this team for me to take someone else to come out of the East next spring.  They got being upset out of their system, now they should be primed for another run.  Great down the middle, great 2 ways, best power forward in hockey, great on the blueline, great in goal.  And they keep developing kids as good as anyone in the league.  Dougie Hamilton might take a big step forward this season now that Johnny Boychuk is gone.

 

 

97hhvk8e5if0riesnex30etgz2. Tampa Bay Lightning

I think they’re a pretty safe pick for the 2nd place team in this division.  Good young forward group, an emerging elite number 1 D-man, and a star goaltender.  But I had to roll my eyes when the Hockey News picked them to go to the finals.  Ben Bishop had a great regular season, but he’s still not proven, and he still hasn’t played a playoff game, their forward group is drastically undersized, and Steve Stamkos has to become a better all around player.  He was last season, but it’s still not good enough.  I believe he was starting to distribute the puck better after St.Louis was moved, and he was better in the dot.  But can you trust him defensively?  Not yet.  He doesn’t have to be a Selke winner, but better than what he is.  Right now they’re set up to be a nice regular season team, but a pretender come playoff time.

 

 

2bkf2l3xyxi5p0cavbj83. Ottawa Senators

Nobody else is going to call this shot, I am.  I think they have real good goaltending that was really average last season.  I’m a homer for Curtis Lazar, but the fact of the matter is he is already a better 2 way center than a lot of guys in the East.  The kid is 20 going on 35.  I’m expecting him to make the team, but it remains to be seen if they start him on the wing or in the middle.  And don’t forget about Mika Zibanejad, who’ll take the step they need him to sometime soon.  So while they lost Spezza in the offseason, running Turris, Zibanejad/Lazar and Legwand down the middle is going to be pretty good.  They’re well balanced, and Paul McLean has proven himself to be a great coach and real good when expectations are low, like they are now.  If you read my stuff you know I love to go out on a limb and this is just that.  Sens are going to the playoffs.

 

 

1244. Montreal Canadiens

This franchise has really been up and down, but somehow they’ve managed to put together most of the pieces you need to build a contender.  Price, Subban, Pacioretty, Galchenyuk and they’ve got a very good system with a lot more talent on the way.  I have them 4th in the division, they might finish 2nd.  I don’t think much separates them and the Lightning, and I think they’re better than the Sens it’s just that I think the Sens will have a big bounce back season and maybe finish ahead of the Habs.  I would take the Habs in a best of 7.  Anyway, they have a lot of good pieces and are finally getting some size up front after years of having one of the smallest teams in the league.  I don’t know if I would call them a contender in the East despite going to the ECF last season, but a strong darkhorse.

 

 

yo3wysbjtagzmwj37tb11u0fh5. Detroit Red Wings

THN has Florida finishing ahead of the Wings.  The Panthers definitely improved this offseason but that is just something that shouldn’t have been said out loud.  But I think this season the Wings finally miss the playoffs.  Now that I’ve said that they won’t.  But all the stars seem to be aligning for it.  They really struck out in the offseason, they’re key guys are getting older and are having a lot of trouble staying on the ice, and Mike Babcock is in the final year of his contract.  It is incredible what they have done, but they just simply are fading.  2012 they bowed out in 5 to the Preds.  A little better in 2013 beating the Ducks in 7 before losing to the eventual Cup champs in 7.  But then last year again they bowed out in 5 and it’s not that they can’t play anymore, it’s just that they keep running out of gas.

 

 

946. Florida Panthers

Well they are going to be better, but they are still a complete mess of an organization.  The Dave Bolland contract is revolting, and I’m a big Dave Bolland fan.  One of the few players who doesn’t have good analytics but that I think is a vital piece to a puzzle.  But he’s a great 3rd line center, that’s it.  So they’re paying a 3rd line center 5.5 mil a season.  I don’t care how much the cap is going up, that is going to be an awful deal forever.  Now they have a real good young core with Barkov, Huberdeau and now Ekblad, not to mention Kulikov, Gudbranson and Mike Matheson who is on the way.  Luongo will help a lot and cover up a lot of their mistakes.  Gerard Gallant steps in as the new head coach, but he didn’t do very well in his first stop in Columbus.  Doesn’t mean he can’t be a great head coach, but good assistant and good CHL coach doesn’t prove anything so the jury is still out on him.

 

i40oxcdbo7xtfamqqhqachoyo7. Buffalo Sabres

They are on the right track, but they’re still about 2 drafts away from being REALLY setup as a potential contender….POTENTIAL being the key word.  I hope the same thing doesn’t happen to them as what happened to the Oilers.  Obviously the Oilers have been poorly run, but a little of what’s happened with them is that the media built them up as the next great team and there for got everyone’s best every night the last few years.  Anyway this isn’t about the Oilers.  This is about the Sabres and I feel like they really need a top 2 pick this June to go from potentially good to potentially great.  Sam Reinhart is going to be a VERY solid NHL center, but I think he is the guy you want as an elite number 2 down the middle, not your number 1.  Rasmus Ristolainen has huge talent, but D-men take a long time to develop and I can’t help but remember Joni Pitkanen looking very similar to that when he was 18 or 19 years old.  Nikita Zadorov has incredible potential too, but he is VERY raw.  As for the current squad, they have a lot of nice players, but nothing special.  Ted Nolan will get the most out of them, and they might get as high as 5th in this division and compete for a playoff spot, but that is the best case scenario.

 

1998. Toronto Maple Leafs

Talent wise they aren’t this bad.  But I have a theory that the reason they kept Randy Carlyle on as head coach was because they realize this is Connor McDavid’s draft year and why bother building a team that MIGHT compete for the playoffs when if you sacrifice a season it could greatly benefit you in the long run.  Some will scoff at that and tell me how that theory blew up in the Oilers faces, but let’s just see on that one.  Might be taking a lot longer than some expected but doesn’t mean it can’t pop for them.  And none of the years the Oilers had the 1st overall pick was there anyone close to McDavid.  This kid is going to be on Crosby’s level, and then even Jack Eichel and Noah Hanefin would normally be 1st overall picks.  Oh yeah, the Leafs….they have some building blocks in Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner, but not much else.  You might be saying “Willie Nylander”.  I’m not a fan.  I have read too many things about the kids attitude, and small skilled wingers are a dime a dozen.  And if you’re going to take one in the draft, make sure you take the one with the better attitude (Ehlers).  Carlyle fired after the season, I’m expecting Phil Kessel trade rumors to start up this season, and they’ll hope to land Mike Babcock in the offseason.

 

 

Metropolitan Division

1741. Pittsburgh Penguins

No doubt in my mind that they’ll be first in this division during the regular season.  But it is playoff time where the questions lay.  I absolutely HATE the Jim Rutherford hiring.  You talk about a guy in hockey who has skated on being awful simply because he’s a good guy, Rutherford is the poster boy (with Sam Gagner a close 2nd).  I’ll give him this though….the trade of Neal for Hornqvist and Spaling will be a steal.  Neal lived off Malkin.  Hornqvist is a pain in the ass to say the least in front of the net on the PP and while he doesn’t have Neal’s size he more than makes up for that with his grit.  They won’t miss a beat with that trade, might even improve them.  But I don’t see this team going far come playoff time.  I wrote in the summer that if they really wanted to change the team they would have looked to move both Malkin and Letang, but as I wrote at the time no GM is going to do something that big anymore because of the PR more than anything.  1st in the division, they might win a round in the playoffs, but they aren’t getting out of the East.

 

 

llrs2zxi127vkqgcsvfb2. Washington Capitals

I’m a little torn on this team.  Talent is there, and now it appears the coach is there.  But the coach has never coached big talent.  Trotz has gotten the most out of the least.  Now he has to get the most out of the most, never an easy task.  Braden Holtby should be the guy who benefits from this hire the most.  Holtby was phenomenal playing in Dale Hunter’s system, and Tortz will run a similar system to that.  Not as boring, but similar.  So while some will likely question their goaltending, I don’t.  And I think Trotz has a lot to work with on this blueline.  Alzner and Carlson are a top pairing and still have a lot of room to grow, Dimtry Orlov is a good young D-man, and Mike Green is going into the last year of his deal so I’m expecting a big year out of him.  Andre Burakovsky is going to be a Calder candidate, Evgeny Kuznetsov could finally be the answer as a 2nd line center, but up front of course it’s all about Backstrom and Ovechkin and weather or not they’ll buy in to Trotz system.  If they do, this is where they’ll end up, maybe even 1st in the division.  If they don’t, they won’t make the playoffs.

 

 

jhepegs329pc7ugyypebl28wg3. Columbus Blue Jackets

This is the sexy team this season.  They’ve now made the playoffs, they nearly got in 2 years ago, so fans and media believe they’re about to take off.  I don’t know.  I think they’ll get back in the playoffs, but I don’t think they’ll go very far for a few more seasons.  The Ryan Johansen holdout is going to cost them early.  I don’t expect him to be on his game until November or December, and they’re starting the season with both Brandon Dubinsky and Boone Jenner on IR.  So a team that is really deep down the middle, will be thin down the middle.  A lot of depth up front, a lot of depth on D, but no 1 player who really stands out.  Bobrovsky does, but I still have trouble believing he won’t come crashing back to earth one of these seasons.  I should have had those worries put to rest last season, but they remain.  This team will make the playoffs, and they’re built to pull the upset, but I don’t see them contending for another 3 or 4 seasons.

 

32tfs723a3bes0p0hb4hgcy1u4. New Jersey Devils (wildcard winner)

People think this team is done and they’ve become a bit of a joke.  By no means do I believe Mike Cammalleri is the answer to all that ails them.  But he will make a difference, specifically in the shootout where the Devils were snake bit last season.  Just winning a few more shootouts will go a long way to this team climbing the standings.  Another thing that’ll help is no more goaltending controversy.  This is Cory Schneider’s team now and I expect him to shine.  Finally, they have a lot of young D-men who are about to take some steps.  Adam Larsson, Jon Merrill, Eric Gelinas, these kids now have some seasoning and especially Larsson is about to get his chance to shine with Mark Fayne now gone.  I fully admit, some of my thinking here is that I believe they’re done and it seems like the minute you count this franchise out they come back to life.  I believe Lou Lamoriello is maybe the most overrated GM in league history, but that doesn’t mean he’s a bad GM by any means.  They have the pieces to sneak in the playoffs.

 

 

1445. NY Rangers

It was an incredible run for the Rangers.  Everything clicked.  But let’s be honest here, if the Habs don’t upset the Bruins, they wouldn’t have got through Boston.  And the Metro is the worst division in hockey.  So if you look at that, and add in that they lost Brad Richards (awful playoffs but during the regular season was very solid last year), lost Benoit Pouliot (Oilers overpaid for him but can’t deny he was a key contributor), and Rick Nash has been in decline since he got to Broadway.  They do have some good pieces, and this is just a guess that they’ll miss the playoffs.  They could finish 2nd in the division….easily.  I’m guessing they have a bit of a hangover and won’t recover in time to get in the playoffs.

 

79520qbne58r9i71zhuggbff06. NY Islanders

I like what they’ve done!  True story!  Trade for Leddy, good!  Trade for Boychuk, leaves them with hardly any picks in an amazing draft year, but they got a shutdown D-man with a lot of experience!  And then the analytic signings so to speak of Grabovski and Kulemin.  Halak steps in as the number 1 goaltender.  I’m telling you this squad is going to be back in the hunt for a playoff spot this season and just might get in….but I can’t bet they’ll do that.  While it’s not a good division, I don’t know that they’ve done anything to separate themselves from the middle of the division.  They’ll get out of the basement, but I don’t know if they can get in the playoffs.  Let’s not forget though that they were in the playoffs just 2 seasons ago and nearly knocked off the Pens in that series.

 

 

1617. Philadelphia Flyers

WOAH!  I know a lot of Flyers fans and they won’t like me.  But basically my thinking here isn’t so much that they’ll suck, just that they’re in a group with the Devils, Rangers and Islanders and I don’t know what the order will end up being.  They’ll be in the playoff hunt right until April, but I have to think they take a step back.  I’m still not sold on Steve Mason.  I don’t think he’s as bad as he was in Columbus, but just think he had an amazing season last year.  He won’t have much help from his blueline this season as it appears to be in complete shambles.  Also I’m not sold on the team being in good hands with Craig Berube behind the bench.  Love how they’ve built down the middle, but they need to turn some of what they have up front into blueline help.  Trading so many 1st round picks over the years looks to be catching up to the Flyers.  It just feels like things are bleak, sorry Flyers fans.

 

 

fotih31tn5r345nufo5xxayh38. Carolina Hurricanes

“I’m THINKING this is my odds on favorite to win 30th overall and have the best shot to land Connor McDavid.”  That is what I wrote BEFORE Jordan Staal went down.  Now, they have to be everyone’s favorite.  The one strength they had is now significantly weakened.  Ron Francis basically did nothing this offseason to improve the team, that blueline is terrible, Cam Ward is one of my favorites but he is a shell of the money goaltender he used to be, and other than Jordan Staal they don’t have many guys who play a 200 foot game….oh wait, something else I had written down BEFORE he was injured.  Let’s call it the way it is, Peter Karmanos allowed Jim Rutherford to run this organization into the freakin’ ground over the last 7 years.  This will get worse before it gets better for the Hurricanes.

 

Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups

10 Years Later

2004-05-nhl-lockoutBob and Gary.  Who didn’t LOVE that soap opera?!  Yes it’s now been 10 years since that fight took place.  At this time 10 years ago, most people already knew we weren’t going to see hockey in the spring of 2005.  The bigger question was, would we see it before the fall of 2006?

 

Isn’t that crazy it got that bad?  At the time I personally took it for granted because we had been told that was likely going to happen.  The NHLPA basically instructed all their players to tell the media they had been preparing for this lockout and they were ready to miss 2 full seasons of hockey.  Right.  I in no way was buying that, and of course they were one and done.

 

The players talked one big game at the time.  Bob Goodenow had his guys really believing that there was no way they would ever be accepting an evil salary cap.  And they had every right to believe the man.  Goodenow basically destroyed Bettman in the 94-95 lockout.  But thanks to that, the league was in total shambles by 2004 and was desperate for a complete overhaul.

 

Not all of this was Goodenow’s fault.  He didn’t put a gun to any of the owners heads and tell them to drive up the prices.  And as we all know now, organizations can be just as good operating on a budget.  But the problem was no GM or owner wanted to study the system and figure out how they could make it work.  Instead they just followed suit of the way everyone else was running it….except Lou Lamoriello, but he would get crushed for having the most boring team in hockey.

 

The league and the dinosaurs whom they let run it flat out refused to really look at how they could make their on ice product better.  All through the early 2000’s the play on the ice was disgusting.  It was soccer on ice and nobody wanted to upset the apple cart.  You can’t pin that on the NHLPA.  The game was dominated by size, clutching and grabbing, and goaltenders.

 

The league had no clue how to market.  They had a guy in Mike Modano who was an exciting, personable, good looking, American kid on a big market team.  Modano should have been the David Beckham of hockey, and yet nobody outside of NHL fans knew who he was.  Instead, they focused on marketing the Avs and Wings rivalry that really wasn’t much of a heated rivalry after 1999.

 

But back to the lockout.  It wasn’t just a matter of the league and the PA being worlds apart.  A deal likely could have been struck within a few months.  No, it was quite literally personable between Bettman and Goodenow.  They denied it, but everyone knew it.  In fact, in late January of 2005 it had gotten so bad, and negotiations weren’t anywhere close to happening between the two sides, that the league and PA had to send the late Harley Hotchkiss and Trevor Linden respectively to meet in Chicago to try to just get the two men back to the table!

 

Bettman was never going to make a deal, and that I believe is the opinion of most.  He knew the whole time that while he had to negotiate in good faith, he only had to wait the players out for the season.  Which wasn’t an issue because the majority of teams were bleeding money at the time just trying to stay competitive with organizations like Detroit, Toronto, Philly, the Rangers, Colorado and Dallas.  Don’t forget, Ottawa, Pittsburgh and Buffalo all went bankrupt in the early 2000’s.  Keeping the lights out for the season likely helped a few of the owners.

 

This resulted in destroying the PA.  If Bob Goodenow destroyed the NHL in 94-95, the league blew up the PA in 04-05.  Goodenow stepped down once the deal was finally reached, Ted Saskin took over but that didn’t last long as the players simply didn’t trust each other and Saskin was quickly kicked to the curb.  As was Glenn Healy, Eric Lindros, Trevor Linden, Paul Kelly, on and on and on.

 

Make no mistake though, the league and the sport was better for it.  They finally decided to take a serious look at overhauling the game to make it more wide open and skill friendly.  No longer was a 5’11 or 5’10 kid deemed far too small to play in the league.  6’5, 240 pound D-men weren’t common.  And teams didn’t have to trap all game just to have any shot against a team as the talent was actually now spread out thanks to the salary cap and linkage between revenues and salaries.

 

And while the game suffered short term with a TV deal in the States and getting terrible numbers, there is no comparison today.  The game still has many issues, but TV numbers at least in the playoffs are healthy, attendance is great in most spots around the league, and the quality of play on the ice is not even comparable despite scoring not being much higher.

 

I compare the 04-05 lockout to the very first Hertiage Classic in Edmonton.  I went to that game, and when I got home people asked me how it was?  “It was a great experience, never f***in again!”  It was -25 that day if you don’t recall.  Well, I guess I wouldn’t call that lockout a great experience, but it had to happen….and let’s pray it never gets that bad again.

 

Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups

Expansion

Vegas

 

So I don’t know if this is going to be any good, but I just wanted to talk about it.  Kind of like talking about hooking up with a girl (not that I ever have, still a virgin, waiting for marriage).  Nobody likely cares about the story, but you want to tell it since you just got some for the first time in 6 months and will likely embellish what she looked like if said person you’re telling wasn’t there.

 

Who knows what’s going to happen here.  The league should expand.  I know many of you are going to say there are already far too many teams and I agree.  I think we all agree that 24 would be the perfect number.  But this isn’t about the product on the ice, it is about money as most things in life are.  More teams means more money, it’s as simple as that.

 

Bettman will swear that it hasn’t been discussed, but it has.  How could it not be?!  How could ways to bring your owners more money never be discussed?  Bettman’s biggest problem from a PR standpoint is that he treats the fans like they’re absolute morons.  In his defense, 50-75% of us likely are (I know I am).  But you simply shouldn’t talk down to the fans no matter how stupid we can be and are.

 

But that’s who he is an he isn’t going to change.  ANYWAY, I don’t doubt that the league is looking at expansion.  Now when the reports came out in the summer, they said that the league was looking at expanding by 4 teams.  THAT I believe to be total BS.  34 teams makes little sense at all, but 32 is the perfect number of teams.  16 in each conference, 8 in each division.  And while 34 would mean even more money, you can’t water down the product so much at once, which is what they did in 99-01 when they expanded by 4 teams and the product became horrific.

 

What I do believe or would believe is that they are looking at 4 markets to go to.  2 of those markets will get expansion teams, 2 will get relocated teams.  If the cities reported are correct (Seattle, Las Vegas, Toronto and Quebec City) then what makes far and away the most sense is to give expansion teams to Toronto and Quebec City, move franchises to Seattle and Vegas.

 

Fantasy should become reality in the next few years for the NHL starved fans of Quebec City.

I’m a frequent listener of the Dan Patrick show (far and away the best sports talk radio show) and Dan was actually told about Vegas happening early in the summer, before any reports came out.  Dan had spoken with someone who was working with the league on the deal and was told Vegas will happen.  Dan Patrick doesn’t report things he hears very often, but when he does let his listeners and viewers in on something like that, his source is rock solid and he’s got zero reason to make something like that up.

 

Patrick also mentioned that his source spoke of it not needing to be expansion and that the 2 teams to keep an eye on moving are Arizona (obviously) and Carolina.  I believe what was said about Carolina was that Peter Karmanos would want a lot for his team, but they could be had.  At least that’s what I recall, could be wrong.

 

The Canes as I will lay out in my team previews, are a total mess so there is a pretty good chance that team being out of the playoffs at least the next 2 years which would make 9 of the last 10 years….in the East which has been much less of a meat grinder than the West.  Despite winning a Cup and appearing in another final, they’ve only made the playoffs 5 times in the 16 seasons they’ve been in Raleigh.  In comparison, even the Oilers have made the playoffs more in that time.  And they play in the West!

 

So I won’t be anything shocked if they’re on the move, and the Yotes almost certainly will although we have thought that forever and it still hasn’t happened.  I would bet in the next 5 years though, the Canes and the Yotes will be in either Vegas or Seattle.

 

Then we have the expansion teams in Canada.  Expansion teams go to the Canadian cities because we will be sure bets to stick with bad teams for at least 5 years while they build.  But how fun with the cap would an expansion draft now be?!  Because you wouldn’t get the old school expansion drafts where the 12th and 13th guys on the roster were made available.  No this time around it would be the bad contracts that would be available.

 

8711_1974_75_larry_ma
Toronto Toros 2.0?  Who knows what the team would be called, but a 2nd NHL team in Toronto is coming.

Sure, they wouldn’t be the most glamorous players, but they would be legit NHL players and it could help these expansion teams get better much quicker than normal.  That would be a lot of fun to see that all shake down!

 

Also don’t forget, Rogers paid 5.2 billion for the national rights in this country.  It would be far from the only reason they did it, but I wouldn’t be shocked if the people in those meetings were told that more Canadian teams would be on the way to make that money well spent.  It just makes all the sense in the world for everyone involved.

 

So it’ll happen.  Teams will move (there are obviously more teams than the Coyotes and Hurricanes as possibilities) and expansion is coming.  Bettman has to claim nothing is happening, just like he had to claim nothing was happening as far as a team moving to Winnipeg 3 years ago.  It’s not a matter of “if”, it’s a matter of “when”.

 

Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups

2015 NHL Prognostications

chi-nhl-awards-las-vegas-20140624-002 I almost forgot about this part of the preview, but you have to have a piece where you call your shots don’t you?!  I won’t waste much time here, lets just get to my predictions that will be flukes if they’re right and I’ll be an idiot when they’re wrong.

 

Stanley Cup final: Chicago vs Boston

I don’t see why I need to try to get cute with this.  Boston is very clearly the class of the East.  Even if they don’t win the Atlantic, I don’t see anyone beating them in the playoffs.  I know the media is getting real high on Montreal and Tampa, but even though I like the Habs they call their win against the Bruins an upset for a reason.  And Tampa has no size, no experience, and they’re blueline is pretty thin after Hedman.  As for the West, maybe I should take the Blues.  I love the Blues, but they still don’t have a front line center even though Paul Stastny is an upgrade, and they STILL don’t have the goaltender even though I’m a big Jake Allen guy.  And it has to be in their heads now that they can’t get by Chicago.  By rule, the Kings can’t be the choice because I don’t pick repeats, and the Ducks can’t win in the playoffs.  So by that math, the Hawks get through again.

 

Cup winner: Chicago

Not much to say other than this.  Of course, a blockbuster trade could change all of this, but I actually like the Hawks to be a team that makes a blockbuster move at some point this season to shore up the team.  They have a boat load of assets to make something happen.

 

Conn Smythe: Jonathan Toews

Chances are it’ll be someone else, but this guy is far and away the safest bet and is easily the best all around player in the NHL.

 

Hart: Steve Stamkos

He wouldn’t be my Hart winner in all likelihood, but if he has a big season and the Lightning are over 100 points and challenging the Bruins for top spot in the Atlantic then the media will be drooling over him.  As I said in the preview, his all around game needs to get a lot better.  But it did get a little better last season so I’m looking for that trend to continue enough to net him his first Hart trophy.

 

Art Ross: Sidney Crosby

Stamkos will come close, but I think Sid will hang on to it.  A little more big time talent playing the PP with Crosby and that’ll be the difference between the two players.

 

Richard: Steve Stamkos

I actually looked hard for another choice because he doesn’t have St.Louis feeding him anymore.  But I simply didn’t see a good option other than Stamkos.  Ovechkin is at least supposed to be As long as he doesn’t slide into another post, that one timer on the PP will lead him to another Richard.

 

Vezina: Ben Bishop

This guy really broke out last season and the Lightning might have gone on a real deep run had he not got hurt prior to the playoffs.  While I’m not going as nuts about the Lightning as some in the media are, but Bishop will be the reason they go anywhere.

 

Norris: Alex Pietrangelo

I make no secret that I’m a big fan of this kids game and I believe he’s going to win this award at least once so why not this season?  The team improved by adding Paul Stastny, I really believe Jake Allen is going to run with the starting job this year, and so both those things will make AP look even better than he already does.  Won’t hurt either that the Blues are a Cup contender.

 

Selke: Anze Kopitar

I like 4 guys here.  Toews, Bergeron, Kesler, and Kopitar.  I like Kopitar best because he’s never got it and it’s time he’s recognized for his incredible 2 way game and I believe after how great he was in last year’s playoffs that the media will feel the same way and give him the votes.

 

Jack Adams: Paul McLean

As always this award will go to the head coach who’s team shocks the media the most, it isn’t really indicative on who does the best COACHING job, but since I have the Sens as my “surprise” pick of finishing 3rd in the Atlantic I’ll call Paul McLean to win it for the 2nd time in 3 seasons.

 

So there they are, my 2015 prognostications.  Please, resist the urge to tell me how wrong I am on these at midseason.  Not that anyone ever has, but who knows when this website and my popularity are going to go through the roof.  Likely soon, because like….why wouldn’t it?!

 

Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups

NFL Picks – Week 5

bill-belichick20bradyAnother big week for me in both College ball and the NFL last week.  Lost both my fantasy games, so that wasn’t cool (1st L’s on the season for both Mav & Goose AND the Zit Remedy), but I was going Scrooge McDuck in my money I’ve been winning!  Ok, so the truth is I only bet 20 bucks a game which means my total winnings on the season are like….200 bucks?  But for me that’s like 200 mil so suck it person who makes much more than me!  What really sucks, is that if we both use these picks, I have no chance of gaining.  Congrats world, you win.  Here are the bleepin picks.

 

Last week: 5-1 (4-1 ATS)

Season record (ATS): 12-9

Season record (over/under): 4-0

Season overall: 16-9

 

Buffalo at Detroit

Buffalo +7

Love the Bills here.  For starters, you keep expecting the Lions to have a fall back game like they usually do.  Calvin Johnson isn’t 100% either.  Also, the Bills DC is former Lions head coach Jim Schwartz.  Schwartz has a lot of talent on D, and he from all accounts is pretty bitter towards the Lions.  He knows all the key contributors on the Lions offense VERY well.  Finally, the Bills are turning the Kyle Orton this week.  Is he the answer?  No, but he’s likely an upgrade over E.J. Manuel right now.  The Bills will pound the ball with Jackson and Spiller, and Orton will accurately hit Watkins and Williams when he needs to for big gains.  Could be an upset here, but just play it safe and take the Bills getting a TD.

 

Chicago at Carolina

Chicago +2.5

The Bears have some injuries on the O-line which I believe is why this number is odd.  Also, the public hate Jay Cutler so when Cutler gets destroyed by the Packers, everyone thinks he now sucks.  No, he’s pretty good actually.  And the Panthers just aren’t.  Cam Newton still isn’t a guy who can drop back in the pocket and pick defenses apart.  And he can’t run right now being so beat up.  The Bears are going to win this game outright.  Take the points to play it safe but I’m really expecting a nice bounce back game for the Bears and the Panthers will continue to decline from last years performance.

 

Cleveland at Tennessee

Cleveland +2

This one scares me a little because I don’t see why the Browns would be underdogs.  The Browns have played well in 3 games this season, are coming off the bye week, and have their 3 headed monster at running back in tact again as Ben Tate will return.  But I just don’t see it with the Titans.  I love Ken Wisenhunt, but he’s got hardly anything to work with.  The Titans are good in the trenches, but so are the Browns.  They’re basically the same team, but the Browns are better at QB, running back, and on D.  Add in that they are coming off the bye, and I’m taking the Browns getting the points.  I am worried though that this is a classic case of Vegas baiting me.  I’m pretty good at sniffing those out but they might catch me sleeping here.

 

St. Louis at Philadelphia

St. Louis +7

Seen that this line is still at 7, some have it at 6.5 but I got it at 7.  Rams coming off a bye week, the Eagles O-line is beat up and they just played a very physical game in San Fran.  That is one bad combination for the Eagles.  As you may know, I’ve been sweet on the Rams for a few years now, and Austin Davis looks like he’s at least an upgrade on Sam Bradford at QB.  I won’t be shocked if the Rams pull off a shocker here.  They’re healthy, the Eagles aren’t.

 

Cincinnati at New England

Cincinnati -1.5

5/5 road teams this week.  This is scary for most people to bet.  The Pats looked so bad on Monday night.  They aren’t THAT bad.  But I think the media panic is going to continue for another week because they just played on Monday and the Bengals much like the Rams and Browns are coming off their bye.  So they’re healthy, they have wideout Marvin Jones coming back, and there is that little factor of them being the best team in the AFC right now.  Would I pick them to go to the Super Bowl?  No, but it’s not January, it’s the begining of October.  I think the Pats keep this game close, but frankly the only reason this line is as close is because of reputation.  A lot of people believe the Pats will be focused and fired up after being embarrassed and beat a Bengals team that falls on their faces in big spots.  But the Bengals are simply better.  If the Pats end up 3.5 point dogs, then take them.  But at 1.5, I like Cincy.

 

Baltimore at Indianapolis

Over 49

For the record, I don’t know if I LOVE this pick.  It was between this, and the Falcons and Giants going over 50.5.  I feel like the Colts and Ravens indoors though can put up more.  I’m confident that Andrew Luck can tear up just about any defense, he’s that good.  The Ravens have a good D, but it is getting a little overrated here.  The Panthers offense sucks, the Browns offense isn’t anything special, I guess they did a good job against the Bengals and Steelers but both games were at home.  And again, Dalton and Roethlisberger aren’t Andrew Luck.  And the Colts D can’t stop anyone, let alone a pretty good offense in the Ravens.  Not an official pick by me but I love the Ravens getting points in this game, and love the over.  Expecting something like 30-24 Ravens here.

 

Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups