2017-18 NHL Season Preview & Prognostications

I have been grinding away on this thing for a month now.  Some of it might be out of date.  I went through it a few times and believe I have everything updated, but I easily could have many mistakes.  I don’t feel like dicking around too much with an opening, so here’s my 2017-18 NHL season preview and predictions.

 

Pacific Division

1. Calgary Flames

As you’ll see with my seedings, a lot of this is based on how badly I believe teams want to finish higher up going into the playoffs.  I still quite frankly don’t see the Flames as a better team than the Oilers.  Brad Treliving had another great offseason, but too often we confuse “great offseason” with “great team”.  Don’t forget, the gap between the Flames and Oilers last year was significant.  The Flames were nine points behind the Oilers at the end of the season, only got one point in the four games against them, and were soundly beat in three of the four matchups.  Having said all this, the Flames are better and I believe the Flames will have an eye on home ice all season long.  Travis Hamonic (if healthy) gives them one of the best top four’s in the NHL, and they have two wildcard’s in Mike Smith and Sam Bennett whom if they play to their potential could take them from dark horse, to legitimate contender status.  Even if Smith is what he’s been, which isn’t too good, I think with this blueline that in the regular season Smith will be good enough between the pipes to win the division.

 

2. Edmonton Oilers

It’s only been pre-season, but this team has felt like it’s got a new swagger.  The attitude feels as though it’s gone from “what we could be” to “what we should be”.  Maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe I’m too much of a fan boy.  I try to be objective, but I’m not in this case?  But that’s how it feels to me.  What I love though objective or not is that they have about six or seven guys capable of taking another step, and to be contenders they really only need about two of those guys to actually do it to go from fringe contenders to legit contenders.  I don’t like them to win the division mainly because I don’t see it being as important to them as it would be to the Flames.  They obviously could, but I see the Flames as being built a little better for the regular season, the Oilers being built a little better for the playoffs.  The thing that they have going for them though is a ton of ammo for the trade deadline.  All of their picks moving forward, and a prospect pool now flush with talent.  One or possibly even two big additions along with a couple smaller ones around the trade deadline wouldn’t shock me at all.

 

3. Anaheim Ducks

My initial inclination was to keep the Ducks atop the division.  They’ve won it five straight seasons, and despite the public theory that they’re getting old, Bob Murray has done perhaps the best job in the league when you consider draft position of keeping this team young.  Deepest blueline in the league, it’s not even close, and a lot of good young players up front as well.  We all focus on Getzlaf and Perry, and to a lesser extent Kesler, but other than those three there isn’t a lot of guys who are on the back nine of their careers.  HOW-EV-A (as Screamin’ A. Smith would say), you have old man Kesler out until December, and the top D-man in Hampus Lindholm out until at least November.  And that’s just when they’re expected back, they’ll both likely take a while getting up to speed.  That’s a big hit to this team.  I also don’t like that they’re coming off a crushing loss in the conference finals last season.  And finally, I don’t believe they’ll kill themselves winning the division this season.  Why?  For this group, it’s never done a thing for them.  Don’t get me wrong here at all, I still see them as a big threat to come out of the West, just believe their run of division titles will come to an end this season.  Might not.  They win it again, I won’t be at all surprised.

 

4. San Jose Sharks

Much like the Ducks, it’s foolish to believe this team is done.  They were kicking the shit out of everyone in the division at the trade deadline last year.  Even before the Thornton and Couture injuries they began to descend, but it doesn’t discount the fact that they were still the dominant team in the division for the majority of the season.  I have them fourth, but won’t be surprised at all if they’re in the mix with the top three for the division crown.

 

5. Los Angeles Kings

Interesting team.  The analytics crowd loves them and sees them as being a top four team in this division, and possibly a threat to win the division.  But I don’t feel like they’re considering that John Stevens system won’t fit the makeup of this team nearly as well as Daryl Sutter’s did.  I felt as though Daryl Sutter’s system covered up a lack of depth on the blueline.  Not Doughty, but maybe guys like Muzzin and Martinez.  At the end of the day, I just think this will be a saw off.  They’ll score more, but they’ll give up more, and being an old team you have to assume that injuries are going to be a big factor and if Quick continues to have injury issues this is a team that could plummet to the bottom of the division.

 

6. Arizona Coyotes

As of writing this, I’m wondering if anyone is going to notice that through all the drama this team had in the offseason, that they’re actually really improved.  I’d say they improved between the pipes, though Raanta has to prove he can play 50-60 games.  Improved drastically down the middle with Derek Stepan, Clayton Keller is expceted to have a big impact and be one of the top contenders for the Calder, and even though I didn’t like the Hjalmarsson trade they probably improved the blueline even though Connor Murphy likely will improve the Blackhawks back end just as much.  According to the analytics guys on Twitter, the Jason Demers trade has put this team into Cup contending status too…..I’ve said this before: Dave Tippett, while one of the best coaches in the game, didn’t really fit with having such a young and offensively talented team.  Rick Tocchett has been around teams which were really young and talented while in Tampa and in Pittsburgh.  I think this team could push for a playoff spot.  I don’t think they’ll make it, but won’t be anything surprised if they make some noise this season.

 

7. Vancouver Canucks

When you start seeing guys like Sam Gagner, Thomas Vanek, and Michael Del Zotto signing for bigger deals than they likely could get elsewhere…you know you’re in the midst of a rebuild.  No surprise, it had to happen, I guess the surprise is that ownership seems to be embracing it after a few years of fighting it.  There’s no sugarcoating it for Canucks fans, it’ll be a rough five year stretch or so.  Maybe you have a lucky season like the Flames had in 15, or the Avs had in 14, but it’ll be rough.  They’ve got pieces coming, and a few already on the roster.  I love Bo Horvat’s game.  I’m not big on wingers, but Brock Boeser looks like he has perennial 30 goal potential.  I was a big fan of the Pettersson pick this June, Thatcher Demko is likely a year away, and they’ve done a real nice job of stockpiling D-men despite the struggles that Olli Juolevi has had since being selected.  But this is just the beginning.  If everything goes right, maybe it’s only three years.  Realistically, I believe it’ll be around 2022 before this team starts making the playoffs regularly again.  So it’s potentially a long road ahead Canucks fans, but unfortunately the team had no choice.

 

8. Vegas Golden Knights

I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about the Golden Knights, because it would be dumb to talk as though I know what we’re going to see from this team.  I picked them 8th in the division, but I know for sure this isn’t the worst team in the NHL, and they easily could finish as high as sixth in this division.  Great goaltending, blueline has depth but you’d be hard pressed to pick a legit top pairing out of that right now, they have good wingers, but they’re flat out AWFUL down the middle.  It’s going to take a while, but shouldn’t take anywhere near as long as it took for Columbus, Atlanta, or even Nashville to get up to speed with the rest of the league.

 

Central Division

1. Dallas Stars

I’m really not sky high on the Stars like the rest of the hockey world is, despite having them to finish first in the Central.  I’m not a big Ben Bishop fan, I’m not a big Jason Spezza fan, and their blueline did improve this offseason but it’s still far from elite.  The key here is Ken Hitchcock, and Hitch seems to get a lot more out of guys in the regular season than most do.  Seguin and Spezza will both be a hell of a lot better 200 foot players this season.  Martin Hanzal will be a Hitchcock favourite and take a lot of pressure off the top two centres.  Ben Bishop will have great numbers because the quality of shots he’ll face is going to drop drastically.  And the D will look better than it is because there will be much more of a commitment to board work by the wingers, centres playing lower (kind of already hit on that but I will again), and nobody busting the zone looking for a stretch pass.  They’re going to be a regular season beast.  Just don’t expect me to have them going very far in the playoffs.  The one thing I will say however is that Tyler Seguin could become elite thanks to Hitch now being there.  It’s scary how similar his situation is to that of Mike Modano’s in 1996.

 

2. Minnesota Wild 

Much like the Stars, I’m not in love with this Wild team.  But I think it’s a complete roster, and I love the head coach….at least in the regular season.  For five months last season, I was counting my money.  I was the only person who had the Wild to win the Central division, and threw 20 bucks down to back it up.  It was a LOCK…until the last month of the season when they collapsed.  The big concern here is how old the core of this team is getting.  As of January 21st, Parise, Staal, Koivu, and Suter are going to be 33 or older.    I believe they’ll have another big regular season, first or second place in the division, but just like last season I don’t see them going anywhere in the playoffs.

 

3. Chicago Blackhawks

Analytics guys aren’t fans of what the Hawks did this off-season, but I sure am.  A lot of the band is back together, and that’s great, but that’s not why I love what they did.  I was never a big fan of Artemi Panarin, and Brandon Saad is only part of the replacement.  The other part is Alex DeBrincat.  He should thrive being put in the same spot that Panarin was in on the Hawks PP.  I also love getting Connor Murphy who is just entering his prime in for Nik Hjalmarsson who is just about done his, and a RH shot on top of that which the Hawks needed on the blueline.  So if I’m so high on them, why only 3rd?  It’s a damn good division, and I don’t see the Hawks caring about where they finish in the division, just as long as they’re in the dance.  Last season, they cruised through the regular season.  People can say it was this or it was that which cost them against the Preds.  The truth is that the Preds had their struggles throughout the season, while the Hawks faced zero adversity.  It’s not going to be intentional, but this team is going to face adversity this season.  And they’ll be so much better come April because of it and because of the changes.

 

4. Nashville Predators

As we head into the 17-18 season, I’ll lay a prediction on you.  That prediction is that John Tavares will leave the Islanders, and my prediction is that he’ll end up with the Nashville Predators when it’s all said and done.  I know they just locked down Ryan Johansen for 8×8.  But you can move that contract…if you even need to.  If we get near the trade deadline, and the Islanders look as though they’re going nowhere, and Tavares hasn’t been signed, they have a lot of chips they could deal Garth Snow.  And with the way David Poile has been going the last three seasons or so, it’s the type of move he’d do.  Add to that the relationship Tavares has with Subban, thanks to last springs Cup run it’s one of the hottest markets in the league, they’re in a now weakened Central division, it’s a perfect spot for him.  Anyway, I’m sure most will have the Preds winning the division.  Maybe they will, but I see them as a team that couldn’t really give a damn about winning the division.  As we saw last year, they just need to get in.  I’m guessing Pekka Rinne will continue his slide throughout the regular season, and that Juuse Saros is the man come playoff time.  That slide from Rinne will set the Preds back a bit during the regular season, hence the second straight year they end up with the second wildcard spot.

 

5. St. Louis Blues

To me, this club is in an odd spot.  I don’t think they’re as good as the top four I have in this division.  Now, obviously if I got them fifth, I know.  But I mean that I see it as a top four and any of those top four could finish one through fourth, and then the Blues are clearly fifth.  And they aren’t really old.  Jake Allen finally proved me wrong in the playoffs, Tarasenko is a winger, but he’s an elite offensive player, and the blueline is anchored by Pietrangelo and Parayko.  And they’ve done a good job keeping the system healthy, so they have a lot of kids on the big club, and a lot who are close to making the jump.  But I just see them taking a step back this season.  I mean, it’s already starting to take shape with all the injuries they’ve suffered just in training camp.  Robby Fabbri might have been the biggest key to the Blues season, and now unfortunately he’s done for the year.  Very possible they challenge or even best the Sharks for the final playoff spot in the West, but I just don’t see them doing much better than that.  It’s not a rebuild, but they do need either a home run of a draft pick or a big trade/free agent signing this summer to get back to being a Cup contender as I don’t believe this core as constructed can get to that point.

 

6. Winnipeg Jets

I’ve been a big Kevin Cheveldayoff fan, but one area where he’s dropped the ball drastically is between the pipes.  He rode Ondrej Pavalec for far too long, and then last season he didn’t take it seriously at all going with Michael Hutchinson and Conor Hellebuyck.  Now he’s going with Steve Mason?  I just don’t get it at all.  This team has all the assets in the world to go out and pay what they need to for a top flight netminder, and Chevy won’t do it.  Because of this, he’s pissed away Dustin Byfuglien’s prime, and likely Blake Wheeler’s by now too.  I absolutely and completely understand the excitement fans and media have for the Jets because of how they’ve drafted and stockpiled assets.  But it’s all for not if Cheveldayoff isn’t going to take goaltending seriously.  I really hope Steve Mason works out, playoff hockey is just better with the Jets involved and more specifically the Winnipeg fans involved, but I don’t see it happening again this season.

 

7. Colorado Avalanche

A joke.  A fucking joke.  What do you say about this organization at this point?  It pisses me off, and I’m not even an Avs fan.  If you’re an Avs fan, I don’t know what to tell you.  It legitimately feels as though Joe Sakic doesn’t want the GM job, and yet he’s stuck with it.  It’s a disgrace.  This was an elite organization for so long, and now it’s like this.  Ok, so what to like?  A healthy Semyon Varlamov should help them at least be competitive.  I love Tyson Jost and believe he could be a kid that’ll overcome this mess and thrive.  Mikko Rantanen is a good looking young player too.  The big one is Nathan MacKinnon.  He has to prove he can go to another level that we all believe he has.  Too much speed and skill to not be an elite centre.  But…maybe he’s just a winger?  Or maybe once Matt Duchene is gone (if ever with how this has gone) he’ll grab the reigns to the team a little more?  I don’t know.  The only thing I do know is what a disgrace this organization is right now, and unless they win another Connor McDavid, they aren’t going anywhere.

 

Atlantic Division

1. Tampa Bay Lightning

Obviously last season got derailed by the Stamkos injury.  But it’s not as easy as Stamkos staying healthy and they’ll be back to being a contender.  Hedman and Kucherov also need to repeat what they did last season, and the jury is now going to be out on Andrei Vasilevskiy.  He’s the number one guy now, and he has all the tools to be a Vezina candidate.  He would probably be my X factor for the Bolts this season, but if he performs up to expectations, this team will be great top to bottom and not only will contend for top spot in the division, they’ll contend for the Cup as well.

 

2. Montreal Canadiens

It’s trendy right now in the Toronto media to bash the Habs and believe that this team is going to be trash just because they had such a weak pre-season.  I’m not buying it.  They made a pretty big splash when they acquired Jonathan Drouin, but I don’t see that move having the impact others think it’ll have.  They’ll try Drouin at centre to start the season, but the kids problem in Tampa was he refused to play a 200 foot game, so now he’s going to commit to doing it?  So I don’t see this team being any better down the middle.  And they were weak down the middle already.  Having said that, I still like them to finish high in the division and be a threat to come out of the East.  Don’t overlook the coach, and don’t forget about what they have in net.  I also still buy into them because I don’t think Marc Bergevin is done.  He’ll look to make a push this season with Carey Price’s new contract kicking in July 1st.  This is their window.  John Tavares?  I could see it.  Matt Duchene?  He’d be an upgrade.  It doesn’t look pretty right now, but by the spring I believe they’ll be looked at as a contender in the East.

 

3. Florida Panthers

Man, EVERYONE is sleeping on the Panthers!!  We do realize that this team was the division champ just two seasons ago…right?!  We do realize that they were decimated by injuries last season…right?!  I know Luongo is older, but I still feel like the guy is a very good starter in this league.  Couple that with Reimer being a very good backup.  A big key will be Aaron Ekblad getting back on track, but I fully believe he will do that.  He wouldn’t be the first kid in this league to have injury problems (concussions specifically) to set him back for a season or two, only to get back on track and become a star.  Then they look terrific down the middle, I’m a big fan of all three of Barkov, Trocheck and Bjugstad.  DO NOT SLEEP ON THE PANTHERS!  If they stay healthy, they’re going back to the playoffs.

 

4. Ottawa Senators

The big thing that sticks in my mind with this team is that Guy Boucher did this EXACT same thing in Tampa Bay.  2011 they go from missing the playoffs to game seven of the East final.  The next season the Lightning missed the playoffs and never made it back under Boucher who began to alienate his team.  I also don’t like how Erik Karlsson enters the season injured.  Craig Anderson is a year older too.  But having said all that, it’s a real solid squad top to bottom with very few holes.  Both Kyle Turris and Derrick Brassard are in the last year of their deals, and should have big seasons as they look for deals that will set them up for life.  Once he’s healthy, Colin White is going to be a key contributor.  He was phenomenal for the U.S. at the WJC last winter, and the only reason he fell to the Sens in the draft was because he had mono in his draft year.  I like putting Thomas Chabot in Binghamton to start the season, zero need to rush the kid.  So I believe they’ll get back in the playoffs, and they could finish as high as second in this division, but I like them in the four hole.

 

5. Toronto Maple Leafs

This will be the most controversial and gain me more heat with people than any other prognostication.  I always say it, I pull for the Leafs to be at least relevant.  The Leafs being good is good for the NHL.  But I think they’re just barely going to miss the playoffs this year.  Everyone is high on them, and I completely understand it.  They’re making all the right moves.  But just because you’re making all the right decisions doesn’t mean that you’ll get all the bounces.  Last season, a lot of things went the Leafs way.  Mainly, very few injuries, and a lot of teams who took them lightly.  So this isn’t a knock on any of their kids or the way management has went about doing anything.  It’s just that it’s unrealistic to expect none of the kids to regress, avoid injuries again, all the while other teams are taking them much more seriously.  And this isn’t to say that I don’t think they’ll be in it.  They’ll be in the hunt for a playoff spot for sure.  But I just think this is going to be much more of a grind for them this season and ultimately I see them just barely missing, or just barely making the playoffs.  I have them 5th in the division, but obviously I wouldn’t be shocked if they continue to trend up and finish first in this division.

 

6. Boston Bruins

I see TSN has them going to the playoffs.  No.  In a league that is getting faster and faster, this team is not.  Charlie McAvoy looks like the goods, no doubt.  David Pastrnak is a very good young winger.  But what else is there to hang your hat on if you’re a Bruins fan?  Is Brad Marchand going to have another career year?  Is Zdeno Chara going to turn back the clock?  Is Patrice Bergeron going to remain an elite centre forever?  David Backes has been in steady decline now for a few seasons, is he going to turn it around?  I just don’t see it at all with this hockey club.  Short term last season, they got a boost from the coaching change.  But I think you’ll see this year what this squad really is and what they really are is a team in decline.

 

7. Buffalo Sabres

I crushed Jason Botterill for his failure to address the blueline at the draft.  And rightfully so, he did a terrible job at this years draft.  That system has nothing coming on defence, and he did nothing to help that.  However, he did do a solid job upgrading the current blueline with Marco Scandella, and Nathan Beaulieu is likely an upgrade from what they had.  But still, this teams blueline is pretty bad, and I think it’s become obvious that Robin Lehner isn’t the answer between the pipes.  Up front you have nothing to complain about if you’re a Sabres fan.  Eichel has that fat new contract, O’Reilly is one of the best two way centres in the game, Sam Reinhart should continue to grow, and Kyle Okposo appears to be healthy again.  But overall, it is just a bad roster, and Botterill is likely going to have two or three more years of building before he can get this team near the top of the division.

 

8. Detroit Red Wings

There is no point in spending much time on the Red Wings.  Ken Holland has done a very poor job over the last several years after maintaining their success for such a long time.  Looks like a terrific new building, but I believe it is going to be a while before it sees playoff hockey.  Goaltending looks bad, Dylan Larkin doesn’t look like the superstar so many jumping the gun to say he was in his rookie season, Henrik Zetterberg is still real good but can’t carry the team on his own, still have some talent on the wings, but couple that with the horrific job they’ve done with their blueline over the last five or six years and you have what they are right now.

 

Metropolitan Division

1. Carolina Hurricanes

Like everything on my blog that appears to be done for shock value, allow me to explain that I’m not saying this for shock value.  Some of this is circumstantial.  The Blue Jackets are due to digress after being so injury free, getting incredible goaltending, and losing a few guys who really helped their PP.  We all know the Caps are likely to digress, and the Pens are likely going to be more worried with ensuring they’re healthy and rested going into the playoffs rather than winning the division.  But there is also a lot of love for the Canes.  Last year I was really high on them, and if they had good goaltending they probably would have been a playoff team.  Well I believe (like a lot of analytics people) that Scott Darling is the next Cam Talbot.  Late bloomer, elite backup, and terrific underlying numbers.  Him, combined with what should be the league’s top PK (in a season expected to see a big increase in PP’s), the best young blueline in hockey, a boat load of offensive talent up front and a very well coached team.  I just think things are going to pop for this team at some point, and I’m willing to put my money on this season.  I’d like to see Ron Francis add a go to guy up front.  Maybe Matt Duchene is that guy, or maybe it’s someone else.  But as constructed, I believe this team can take advantage of some tough circumstances for the other top teams and take this division.

 

2. Pittsburgh Penguins

One thing I’m pretty sure about is that this team is eventually going to gas out this season.  They barely got past Ottawa, and then had a lot of puck luck in the Cup final against Nashville.  Seeing how only one team repeated in the last 20 years, I’m going to guess that they can’t 3-peat thanks to fatigue.  I know, Kris Letang is back and that’ll be a big help.  I also expect Justin Schultz to continue growing as his confidence is now sky high compared to where it was when he first went to Pittsburgh.  As with any team, the starting goaltender has to stay healthy.  But it needs to be mentioned with the Pens because of the fact that they no longer have the Marc-Andre Fleury luxury.  They still have Sid, they still have Geno, they still have Phil, but I just don’t think there is ANY shot that this team pulls off a third straight Cup win.

 

3. Columbus Blue Jackets

I like the Jackets, but I don’t love them.  Get past the insane hot streak this team went on last season and just say it out loud.  They finished third in their division and got bounced in five games in the playoffs.  So at their absolute best with Sergei Bobrovsky playing out of his skull in goal, they were third and won one playoff game.  The blueline is real good, but maybe not as good as some seem to think it is.  They’re similar down the middle where they’re solid, but lack that elite centre who could put them over the top.  Now, Matt Duchene would help that.  He’s not an elite centre, but he’s close to it and for this team might be good enough to take them to the next level.  Duchene has never played with a blueline this good who can actually get him the puck.  Basically they’re a lot like Montreal.  Well coached, terrific goaltending, a better blueline, but probably more desperation in Montreal from management to go get the piece or pieces to take them to the next level.  Also, the Habs have it easier in their division.  The Metro is damn tough.

 

4. Washington Capitals

This team is now in a weird spot.  I believe they’ll still be a bit of a regular season power, but they’re not really a threat.  I see a season much like the Blues had last season.  Nobody is talking about John Carlson right now, but I won’t be surprised if he ends up being dealt at the trade deadline.  For him, why stay?  If you want to win, it’s becoming clear that you won’t do it in Washington.  But having said that, they still have Backstrom, Ovechkin, Oshie, Kuznetsov, Burakovsky, Holtby, and the aforementioned Carlson (at least until around the trade deadline).  The one thing I’ll say is that I do wonder if Barry Trotz figured out how to better utilize his talent in the playoffs last year when they moved Ovechkin to the third line, allowing him to carry his own line much how Mike Sullivan used Phil Kessel in 2016.  I haven’t heard or read that he plans on doing that again though.  They’ll still be a solid hockey club through 82 games, but come playoffs they’ll do what they do yet again.

 

5. NY Rangers 

It’s amazing how nondescript the Rangers are considering they’re the NEW YORK Rangers.  It is actually a credit to their management that they’re such a boring and forgettable (yet consistently good) franchise.  But they’re about to reach the end of this real good run they’ve been on since about 2006.  The big reason is Henrik Lundqvist is reaching the end.  But while that’s the biggest, there are a lot of other reasons too.  The blueline is getting old, and I’m not sure the Kevin Shattenkirk signing is going to improve things that much.  He’s a solid top four puck mover, but he’s pretty bad in his own zone.  And they’re going to really miss Derek Stepan who could play in any situation.  Hopefully for their sake Mika Zibanejad is ready to step into that role.  I believe they’ll contend for a playoff spot, but it’s 50/50 in my mind whether or not they’ll make it back this season.

 

6. Philadelphia Flyers

This is a very good, up and coming team.  But they aren’t ready yet.  I can’t think of a move Ron Hextall has made thus far that I could bitch about.  He’s been the exact opposite of Paul Holmgren, who looked to be in on everything and seemingly had no plan other than to spend as much as he possibly.  But not with Hextall.  He’s had a plan, and the plan was to rebuild, and the rebuild is almost complete.  But I just don’t think they’re there yet.  The blueline WILL be good, but don’t confuse that with being good currently.  Brian Elliott is a big question mark in goal.  No doubt he’ll be motivated, but he’s had consistency issues throughout his career.  Nolan Patrick is going to be a terrific player, but he’s not there yet.  I don’t know what else to say.  They’re on the right track, Flyers fans will just need to be patient for another season.

 

7. NY Islanders

I’m not seeing it for the Islanders.  I got the sense that Garth Snow was ready to blow up the system and do whatever he could in hopes that John Tavares would get stupid and believe they’re moving towards being a Cup contender by having a better offensive team.  He got Jordan Eberle, and at the time it was viewed as the first move of many.  And then he did the Travis Hamonic deal for picks….ok….I think we all figured there must be more to come.  Since then, crickets.  I wonder if A) Snow misjudged how high the prices were going to be for players like Duchene and Galchenyuk, and B) if the McDavid extension gave them pause on doing a deal with Tavares.  Because it felt like as soon as the 13.25 number came out (even though it ended up being 12.5 for McDavid) that we stopped hearing about the Islanders being in on anyone.  And now they have a bit of a downgrade on defence, not much of an upgrade up front from what Strome was giving them last season, and don’t look strong in any area.

 

8. New Jersey Devils

This team is just very flawed.  That blueline is just so bad.  A lot of young talent up front, but the blueline is just not good.  Can Taylor Hall EVER find a team that is relatively old and balanced?!  Moving forward, down the middle, this team is great.  Hischier, McLeod, Henrique is still young if they want to use him there, John Quennville, Pavel Zacha can play the middle though I believe he’s better on the wing, so they’re set at centre.  And Cory Schneider should bounce back with a bit of a better season.  But it’s a bad team.  Too many flaws, not well enough coached, Ray Shero has a lot of work to do.

 

Stanley Cup Playoffs

Calgary vs San Jose (wildcard one)

Smith gets exposed by the experienced Sharks and the Flames go home early.

Edmonton vs Anaheim

Another war between these two but this time with home ice advantage and some hired guns the Oilers get past the Ducks

Dallas vs Nashville (wildcard two)

The Stars will be great in the regular season, but come playoff time they’ll get exposed a bit.

Minnesota vs Chicago

Much like the Stars, the Wild will get exposed by the Hawks.

Tampa Bay vs Ottawa (wildcard two)

No miracle run for the Sens this time around as the Bolts are just too good top to bottom.

Montreal vs Florida

I don’t feel great about this Habs pick, not only to finish 2nd in the division but to defeat the Panthers in the playoffs.  But again, don’t forget what they still have in the fold.

Carolina vs Washington (wildcard one)

I really love the Hurricanes this season, and who honestly likes the Caps at this point?

Pittsburgh vs Columbus

The Pens once again will just be too much for the Jackets come the postseason.

 

Conference Finals

Tampa Bay vs Carolina

Gross!!!  Tampa is fun to watch, but two Southeast teams playing in the conference finals?!  Yeah, I can see it happening.  I believe the Canes are perfectly situated this season to knock off the Pens both in the regular season, and the playoffs.  And for the Lighnting, I just believe they’re the best team in the East.  They pushed hard to make the playoffs without Steven Stamkos.  Now, they have Stamkos back, sure they might miss Jonathan Drouin, but they’ve gained Mikhail Sergachev on their blueline.

 

Edmonton vs Chicago

This is a very sexy matchup for hockey fans.  The three time champs vs the emerging powerhouse.  Toews and Kane vs McDavid and Draisaitl.  Again, I believe the Oilers are going to really load up at the trade deadline this season.  But I really like what the Hawks did this off-season, much more than most.  I believe come playoff time, they’re going to make a lot of noise yet again.

 

Stanley Cup Final

Tampa Bay vs Chicago

I actually have a rematch of a recent Stanley Cup final.  I don’t know if I’ve ever done that when making picks, but this one feels logical to me.  Again, I see the Hawks.

 

Stanley Cup Champion

Chicago Blackhawks

 

Awards

Hart – Connor McDavid

Why fight it?  It’s very likely a two player race.

Norris – Roman Josi

After his run last spring, writers are going to be paying a lot more attention to him this season.

Vezina – Carey Price

Much like McDavid, why fight it?

Calder – Alex DeBrincat

This one is REALLY interesting.  You could toss about 15 names out for this and be in the hunt.  Everyone says Keller or McAvoy, but I love the situation and talent combination of DeBrincat.

Jack Adams – Bill Peters

I have them to win the Metro.  If they win the Metro, Bill Peters is getting this award.

Richard – Patrik Laine

It’s coming, he’s winning one someday soon, so why not now?

Art Ross – Connor McDavid

And again I ask…why fight it?

Conn Smythe – Patrick Kane

The Cup pick is certainly wrong, so I don’t even know why I’m predicting a Conn Smythe winner!

 

Here we go folks.  Puck drops tonight, enjoy the season!

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

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