First off, I hope you’re enjoying the podcasts so far, and if you haven’t check them out yet please do! They’re rough, and I’m well aware of that, but they’re going to get much better. I’m not an overly confident dude, but I feel it’s something I can do very well in time and so it’s one investment I’m willing to roll the dice on and hopefully you will too. But I’m still going to blog and just put out as much content as I can and maybe, somehow, some way, I’ll finally land that gig so I can actually do this for a living! Because it’s getting old considering I’ve done this a long time now and still haven’t gone anywhere…not that I’m getting frustrated…oh yeah, season preview!
After watching last season, it’s becoming more and more clear to me that this league is about two things: goaltending (not at all news) and expectations. These rankings are largely based on how teams are going to deal with their expectations, and how good or poor their goaltending is. That’s it. Because you can’t predict injuries. We don’t know how big or small of impact certain injuries will make, and we don’t know which teams will get bit the worst by the bug. And we BADLY underrate injuries. For fans and media, it is actually awful how little we look at injuries and the impact they have on teams performances.
I said this in the podcasts but I’ll say it again, I have five teams as locks to make the playoffs. That’s it. Five. And that’s assuming they stay healthy. San Jose, Nashville, Tampa, Toronto and Pittsburgh. And I truly don’t believe that there is one team in the league simply can’t make the playoffs. Ottawa? They can. Vancouver? They can. Don’t think so? Were the Sens not the Avs just 12 months ago? Were the Devils not the Canucks? Vegas? 2015 the Flames were supposed to be 30th. So let’s not be stupid about this and count out anyone.
I was going to do my projections different this season. All I was going to do was rank them in the order of which teams I had the best odds in each division to make the playoffs. But that’s not fun! We all get these DRASTICALLY wrong, but I get that it still makes for a fun read, so I’ll project everything and get a SHIT TON WRONG and it’ll be humiliating to look back on probably by November!
1. San Jose
I worry big time about them from a Cup contending point of view that they now won’t have enough to get the centre they may badly need to put them over the top. And Doug Wilson couldn’t ever get the Thornton/Marleau teams over the top because he built them the same way with big names and very minimal depth. We’ll see if he can pull one more rabbit out of his hat.
Upside: Karlsson elevates everyone to yet another level, Thornton stays healthy and has one more decent season in the tank and the Sharks finally win their Cup.
Downside: Karlsson doesn’t have near the impact he’s expected to have, Wilson doesn’t have the bullets left to improve the team further, and they’re dusted in first or second round.
Projection: They’re making the playoffs, probably coming out of the Pacific, but I can’t see them making it back to the final with the way the team is constructed right now.
Underrated concern: The decline of Brent Burns. I really feel like this was the biggest reason Doug Wilson went and got Karlsson is that he knows Burns is fading.
Don’t confuse Getzlaf and POS Kesler getting old with the team getting old. And now, don’t confuse Perry going down as a big loss. This team is setup to be good for a long time still, and the cap space Perry will create could open up a deal for a guy like Mark Stone. Gibson, Fowler, Lindholm, Manson, Silfverberg, and Rakell, are all in their primes. And then they have kids like Montour, Larsson, Kase, Terry and Steel who are really just getting going.
Upside: Getzlaf has one more big season, Kesler stays healthy, Perry’s cap room is used to deal for a big name player, and Josh Manson makes that jump from top four to number one D-man and they are contenders one more time.
Downside: Getzlaf’s decline accelerates, Kesler can’t stay healthy, Bob Murray doesn’t want to use Perry’s cap room, and they struggle to make the playoffs.
Projection: Most of these I’m going to end up saying it’s “somewhere in the middle”, and this is one of those. Perry being out won’t hurt them and honestly might help them a bit. By April, we might be talking about this as Gibson, Fowler and Rakell’s team.
Underrated concern: Re-signing Jakob Silfverberg. That guy is one of the most underrated players in the league.
I’ve said it a million times already but I’ll say it once more: The PK won’t be nearly that bad again, the PP won’t be nearly that bad again, and Talbot won’t be nearly that bad again. Add to that, a healthy Klefbom and the RWers all look great in camp. They’re getting downplayed at the moment and it is so good for them. Also, they also have a lot of elite level talent kids who have a lot of steps left to take. I wouldn’t bank on all of them doing it at once by any means, but simply if one or two of them do it will make for a MASSIVE improvement to the team.
Upside: PK, PP, Talbot and Klefbom are all back to normal, and the RW’s (Rattie, Puljujarvi and Yamamoto) all meet expectations. That happens, they’re competing for the division title or more.
Downside: Talbot’s pre-season was a mirage, Klefbom could gets hurt again, and the special teams struggle again. I can’t see them being a bottom 10 team again, but missing the playoffs is obviously very possible.
Projection: I don’t view them as any better or worse than the Flames coming into this season, and the youth the Oilers have is higher end then the youth the Flames have, so maybe that’s the tie breaker for me is that if the Oilers have some kids take a step then it could be of bigger impact then if the Flames kids do. Both I feel will be fighting for a playoff spot until the last two or three games of the season, and it’ll be a coin flip as to who finishes where and whether or not one of them, both of them, or neither of them get in.
Underrated concern: The second pairing. Nurse should be fine, but Matt Benning as the number four…getting massively underplayed by most.
If you don’t know how I feel about the Flames at this point then you don’t read or hear my stuff! I’m not as down on this team as this may indicate or my blog/rant on them the other day did. They’re in a group of four teams who I feel are all pretty even odds to finish in a playoff spot.
Upside: Mike Smith stays healthy and plays like he did pre injury last season, the blueline remains a strength and the new additions meet expectations. All that happens, they will compete for the division crown.
Downside: I’ve laid it out a lot already. But there is A LOT that could go wrong here and don’t like for their sake that there is so much hype around this team.
Projection: Fighting for one of these playoff spots. Again, I actually don’t have shit against the Flames, or the CALGARY media! Just how the national media is drooling over them. Man I hope both them and the Oilers are back in. First round matchup with each other, second round, whatever. Why would either fan base want it any other way?!
Underrated concern: Their blueline. Go down the depth chart and tell me just how much better it is than the Oilers. I’m going to tell you, it isn’t the gap everyone thinks. Every guy in that top four has a massive question mark. Giordano’s age, Brodie’s decline since 2015, Hamonic’s decline since 2016, Hanifin hasn’t played in a top four role.
5. Los Angeles
I just don’t like them entering this season. I feel like this team got off to a really hot start last season and lived off the fumes of that. I don’t care what the scores were in the series against Vegas, they were completely humiliated. Out skated to everything in the four games. And they’re slower to start this season.
Upside: Jeff Carter is 100%, Kovalchuk lights it up and they get in the playoffs with a top three seed in the division.
Downside: They’re far too slow, Carter can’t do it anymore, neither can Kovalcuk, Brown comes back to earth, and Quick can’t stop the team bleeding.
Projection: What tends to happen with teams when they get rid of the long term coach who is hard on players like a Ken Hitchcock, Michel Therrien or Darryl Sutter is that the team gets an initial burst. The 09 Pens burst took them to the Cup after firing Therrien. The Blues in 2017 won a playoff round and then hard the best start in the league last season, and the Kings also had one of the best starts in the league last season. That’s done though. I don’t see them getting back in the playoffs.
Underrated concern: What’s coming. It’s not so much that the core is now old, it’s that they don’t have anyone who can pick up much of that slack.
I really thought about lying here. I thought about putting them second and saying how they always proved me wrong so I’ll give them respect or some shit like that. I don’t disrespect them at all, I just think that they’re going to be figured out.
Upside: Things keep rolling. They ride the wave of last season and while I can’t believe they’d go back to the final, perhaps they win the division again.
Downside: The complete reverse of last season happens.
Projection: This was already said in my Hot Takes piece on Monday, but this thing is a powder keg waiting to blow. The expectations in the organization, the mix isn’t the same, bigger contracts, bigger egos, unlikely to keep getting the bounces, unlikely to stay as healthy as they did, everyone now has a book on them and nobody will be taking them lightly. I don’t expect things to go South early, but as the season goes on and more adversity comes their way, they’ll lose confidence, the room will get worse thanks to the expectations, and eventually they’ll end well out of the playoffs.
Underrated concern: William Karlsson. We’re just so damn certain that what we saw last season was legit? Could be, but it was one season. Jason Blake had ONE season…
A lot of people must be a hell of a lot smarter than I am, because I don’t see this team doing much this season, yet they all seem to think they’re either going to push for a playoff spot or be in a playoff spot.
Upside: Raanta plays 60 games while maintaining that sparkling .930 Sv%, Galchenyuk now gone from Montreal thrives out of the spotlight, Keller goes from terrific rookie to elite player and they sneak into the playoffs.
Projection: I’m sure they’ll get better, but they were 29th, with a goaltender who had a .930 Sv% in 46 starts and an elite defenceman anchoring the blueline. Galchenyuk in for Domi is going to take them from 29th to the playoffs?! I just have a real tough time believing that. And I haven’t been the biggest fan of what they’ve done in the draft either so no use tying to sell me on some of their other kids.
Underrated concern: Their drafting. This team has been down now since 2013, they should have a lot more than Clayton Keller to show for it. They have ok youth, but nothing to get too excited about.
This is moving in the right direction. Please ownership, DO NOT F*CK WITH THIS! They’re a stud piece away from being done with the heavy lifting, and honestly they are due to win a draft lottery. Jack Hughes wouldn’t just be a thrill for the Hughes family, but he would round out the Canucks youth perfectly being the stud number one centre they could really use.
Upside: The team plays well above expectations and pushes for a playoff spot.
Downside: Ownership puts unreal expectations on them to get in the playoffs this season and they simply cannot deliver, leading to problems in the room and the firing of Travis Green.
Projection: The kids grow, but ultimately they just aren’t ready. But man, they’re on the right track. They just need to stick with this.
Underrated concern: Starting Pettersson at centre. He’ll PROBABLY be fine, I’m as high or higher on the kid than most, but I’d still rather see them start him on the wing and just ease into his career.
1. St. Louis
I’m not at all high on Jake Allen, and I HATED the Tyler Bozak signing. But this team is great on paper. O’Reilly is a huge addition, as much as I hated the Bozak signing I don’t hate the player and believe he’ll improve them a lot, the blueline was already damn good, and we know they have tremendous depth.
Upside: Jake Allen has a career year and the Blues are the top team in the West.
Downside: Jake Allen has another inconsistent season and the Blues struggle to make the playoffs despite all the great additions.
Projection: They just need him to be ok. And I’m not saying I like the Blues better than the Jets or Preds when it comes to how this season ends up, but I think they’ll be a regular season beast where I doubt the division crown means much to those other two.
Underrated concern: Can Brayden Schenn repeat last season? I feel like it was a complete mirage, and he did fall off after Christmas, but we’ll see.
I love them, but as I’ll likely type 100 times between now and the end of their write-up here is…we’re SO sure that Conor Hellebuyck is going to repeat that, are we? 12 months ago I was ripping Kevin Cheveldayoff for not getting a goalie. Everyone else was livid he got the extension he did and felt he shouldn’t have a job. Now he’s the best GM in hockey. Did we learn NOTHING from last season and how quickly things can change?
Upside: We all know what the upside is here. It’s them skating around with the Cup. As long as last season was legit, then that’s what definitely can happen.
Downside: I just hit on it, Hellebuyck comes back down to earth, but maybe just as important the teams defensive play goes back to what it was.
Projection: I have to believe they’ll be great. They have so much more depth than say the Oilers had last season. But the expectations and the fact that it was only ONE SEASON has me concerned.
Underrated concern: Paul Maurice in probably 20 years as a head coach in this league, something near that anyway, has only ever made the playoffs back to back ONCE. Again, we’re SO certain that this team is great?
You know what they are, and you know they’re competing for a Cup. It doesn’t matter if they win the division or not. It’s just about getting in and going on another run, maybe this time with more focus than last season.
Upside: Win the Cup, it’s that simple.
Downside: Don’t win the Cup, it’s that simple.
Projection: They’re a goaltender away. Forget where I call them to finish in the division, that is more a case of them messing around with their goaltending and making sure things are ready come April.
Underrated concern: Centre. Not a BIG concern at all, but I do wonder if Johansen and Turris are good enough to win a Cup with.
Man, I REALLY thought that they’d thrive under Ken Hitchcock and just flat out didn’t. Not that they sucked, but I thought he’d get them back near the top of the division. I love their depth, and obviously love what they have coming on the blueline, but don’t confuse young and talented blueline with good blueline.
Upside: That young and talented blueline is a good blueline and they finish in the top three of the division.
Downside: Ben Bishop is very inconsistent and that blueline just is too young and they end up missing the playoffs for the third straight season.
Projection: I think they’ll get in. They’re really talented. I don’t know much about Jim Montgomery other than he was a journeyman 4th line centre.
Underrated concern: Jamie Benn’s contract. It’s already starting to not look very good and has a LONG way to go, though with the CBA up soon maybe Jim Nill gets out from under it a lot sooner.
It just feels like this team is in no man’s land right now doesn’t it? Bruce Boudreau can get the absolute best of his teams, but I’m not sure this squad has much more to give. Their vets are getting up there in age, and their kids aren’t high end. They feel like they’ve peaked.
Upside: Boudreau gets one more year out of everyone and they sneak in the playoffs.
Downside: They’re done, and the fall is harsh as their cap situation isn’t pretty.
Projection: Again, I think Boudreau will get what he can out of the group, but I just don’t think much is left in the tank. They badly need a kid like Jordan Greenway to take a MAJOR step.
Underrated concern: Bruce Boudreau’s job security. Paul Fenton isn’t the person who hired him.
I loved watching them last season. What a turnaround. But to say it’s sustainable is false. That blueline is still not great even though they have a lot of good talent on it either on the squad or still coming. But to repeat last season I believe that not only Jost, but one or two more guys would have to really step up because these lines that get extremely hot for one season so rarely repeat it.
Upside: Everything goes right and they’re back in a wildcard spot.
Downside: They go back to what people saw them as this time a year ago.
Projection: I think they can compete for a spot, but just won’t make it. I got them 6th, but I do believe they’ll be in the hunt. The big question mark for me is the goaltending. Varlamov is either very hot or very cold, and Grubauer looked good behind a great team with no pressure as the number two guy, this is different.
Underrated concern: Cale Makar going back to school. They have to get him signed after this season, and after two seasons, he’d be uncomfortably close to being a free agent if I were Joe Sakic. I’m sure he’ll sign after this season, but I was sure he’d sign after last season.
You know, they were fine until Corey Crawford got hurt last season. But while I’ve been a big fan of this team, it’s time to tap on them I believe. I originally started writing this I had them 3rd and projected a bounce back. But now with Crawford questionable, the roster just isn’t as good as I was thinking it was, the window has closed on the Hawks.
Upside: Toews and Seabrook get one last big season out of themselves and they get back in the dance with Stan Bowman pushing all his chips to the middle of the table to win one last Cup.
Downside: It goes from “coming undone” to “completely unravelling”.
Projection: So much depends on either Corey Crawford getting healthy or Cam Ward turning back the clock. I really do believe that Ward could get rejuvenated playing in Chicago. But to project that happening would be pretty bold. But this roster all of a sudden just doesn’t look good at all.
Underrated concern: The depth. Not that this is not talked about, but wow this team is SO THIN up front and on the back end. Last year I loved them to bounce back big time, and they were fine until Crawford went down. Now I’m asking what the FUCK has happened?!
Well, they’re built to dominate in the regular season. They have far too many holes still for me to like them come playoff time, so hopefully Kyle Dubas will fill those, but as far as the regular season goes they should be great.
Upside: Dubas pulls a rabbit out of his ass and lands them the defencmen they need and they have a parade in Toronto as they make it to the 2nd round….no I’m kidding Leafs fans, you win the Cup.
Downside: There is A LOT of downside for them. The holes are big. The blueline is too weak in their own zone. This team can easily be pushed around as Boston showed last spring. They lost a lot of veteran leadership this summer. And couple all that with insane expectations both externally and internally, they’re extremely well setup moving forward but this thing has legit potential to come flying off the rails THIS season.
Projection: I feel as though they’ll have a big year in the standings, maybe win the President’s trophy, but that might be the worst thing for them come playoff time as it might convince Dubas to stay the course with the guys he has. The blueline isn’t good enough and they can be pushed around far too easy still and until they address it at least somewhat, I’m not sure they can be a serious Cup threat.
Underrated concern: The expectations. I’ve said it throughout but will again here, it’s a VERY young team with ENORMOUS expectations. Anything of a slow start and you know the fans and media will be piling on.
2. Tampa Bay
Brutal way to end last season for the Bolts after a terrific regular season. But they’ll be back this season and they’re primed for another run.
Upside: Win the Cup, no doubt.
Downside: Don’t win the Cup. It’s just like Nashville. Cup or bust.
Projection: I’m not expecting as good of regular season as last, but I believe it’ll help them come playoff time.
Underrated concern: They really could use a power forward. I know they’re a speed team, but to me they have everything except that stud power forward. Rare to find these days, but would be a massive add for them.
I loved them last season, and they nearly pulled it off! I said it last year though, everyone focused on what they shipped out and not what they still had. 12 months later, everyone loves them! Welcome to the bandwagon guys…
Upside: They could REALLY bust out here. They remind me a lot of Winnipeg, only we already know how good their goaltending is. Luongo quietly was awesome last season. He does that again and they stay healthy, they might compete for the division crown.
Downside: Luongo starts to sharply decline, and if that happens, I’m not sure even with all their talent that they can make the playoffs.
Projection: I really believe they’re getting in the playoffs. More than that, this team is built to do some damage in the playoffs.
Underrated concern: Luongo. I’ve brought it up already, I know, but nobody is talking about how old he now is or that this could be his final season.
EVERYTHING WENT RIGHT! And yet, nobody brings that up with this club. They had kids peak and vets maintain at the perfect time. No health problems, the top line got RED HOT, it just all went there way. But the problem is that a lot of their big guns are old and could fall off at any minute.
Upside: Everything keeps going right. If it does, they’re a threat for the Cup.
Downside: Bergeron starts to fall off, Chara continues to fall off, Marchand’s play comes back to earth a bit, and they fail to get in the playoffs.
Projection: The downside is basically what I see coming. It amazes me how when doing these projections the media basically just expects everything to keep happening the way it was going last season. I still think they get in, but barely.
Underrated concern: David Krejci. He’s a 7.25 million dollar ticket who isn’t a 7.25 million dollar player anymore. They at least need him to be a high end second line centre.
I have trouble getting as hyped about them as some are. Not that anyone is calling for them to make the playoffs or anything, but they do like them a lot. They lost Ryan O’Reilly. These guys like Dougie Hamilton or O’Reilly, sure they might not be great in the room, but we DO realize these guys are awesome players and damn near impossible to replace, don’t we?!
Upside: Linus Ullmark is ready to grab the reigns in goal and lead them to a wildcard spot. They haven’t had great goaltending since Ryan Miller left town, and I don’t know if Ullmark can do it, but he’d have to do it.
Downside: Jack Hughes is possible still. They’re on the right track now with Dahlin, but they’re not done this build.
Projection: Saying they’ll finish 5th in this division isn’t saying much at all. Basically 5th in the Atlantic is no different than 8th. None of these teams are inspiring, but I do think Dahlin will give this club a big jolt.
Underrated concern: Their goaltending. I don’t get why this doesn’t get more attention. They badly need to land a high end guy.
Trade Carey Price. You badly need to rebuild, and he would bring in a lot. I understand why you might want to build around him, but the chances are that by the time they rebuild it, he’ll be done or nearly done his prime years. I’ve hated the way this club was constructed for years, and it finally caught up with them. But hopefully they’ll tear it down now.
Upside: Price carries them to a wildcard spot. If he does that, it’d be tough to give the Hart to anyone else, but he can do it.
Downside: They’re challenging the league to take Alexis Lafreniere rather than Jack Hughes with the top pick.
Projection: There is just barely too much there still to be awful. I said the other day, said it when the trade was made, I believe Max Domi is going to be a great bright spot and thrive there. But other than that, bottom of the league.
Underrated concern: Is it possible to have an underrated concern for this team right now? It’s the Habs, and they’re in the tank. Pretty sure nothing negative will get underrated!
It is incredible how this team has gone from NHL royalty to a complete afterthought in maybe three seasons. They had a damn good draft, but they don’t have much on the current roster. I still think they’ll avoid being overly bad simply thanks to the culture and how well run the organization is, but I can’t see them being a big threat to the playoffs.
Upside: Jonathan Bernier gives them the kind of goaltending that he gave the Avs last season and the Leafs in 2014 and they pull out a shocker type season and get a wildcard spot.
Downside: 31st. They’re a threat for that. I don’t like much of what they currently have. That blueline is pretty bad.
Projection: Bottom of the league, chance at Jack Hughes. I just don’t see them doing anything.
Underrated concern: Again, that blueline is underrated in that it is horrendous! Right now I’m not sure they have a guy you’d consider a top three! Two number fours, and THAT might be generous to say! Steve Yzerman is going to have a lot of work to do…
I got them 8th, as everyone else does, but I haven’t been quiet about the fact that I could see them pushing for a playoff spot. Seriously. As you can see, I’m not calling that to happen, but I’ve just seen it happen in this league too often where shit shows get used as rallying points. Guy Boucher might have a real easy job this season, because he’ll likely get tremendous buy in.
Upside: Wildcard spot.
Downside: “With the first pick in the 2019 NHL entry draft, the Colorado Avalanche are proud to select…”
Projection: Yeah, it’s tough to not project them for this spot. Still, I’d say 5th in the division definitely isn’t far fetched, but that shows you how awful four of the teams in the division are.
Underrated concern: There is nothing that is underrated for concerns with them right now. Nothing.
This might be their last great shot. Sure, Crosby and Malkin will be back next season and we’ll be saying it again, but as the years go on it is obviously going to get tougher and tougher. With a 2nd round exit last spring, the rest could be a big advantage for them entering this season.
Upside: Third Cup in Four years.
Downside: Bounced by the Caps again this spring.
Projection: I love them to win the division, although they haven’t since 2014. One of the favourites for the Cup though, and Jim Rutherford will look to make another big move to put them over the top. Keep your eye on Matt Duchene speaking of that, they were Friedman’s darkhorse team when that was previously going on.
Underrated concern: Their age. It’s not just Crosby and Malkin, six key contributors are all over 30. The league keeps getting younger and faster, and this team in particular is built with speed.
I don’t know if this team is overly good, but they made the playoffs…comfortably…with a starting goaltender who had a .907 Sv%. That’s pretty damn impressive! Very deep both up front and on the blueline, quietly Ron Hextall has built a damn good team.
Upside: They land that elite goaltender (Carey Price? Jonathan Quick?) and if that happens, I’m not sure they can win a Cup but they’d be in the hunt.
Downside: Goaltending doesn’t improve and this season they don’t get the huge seasons from Giroux, Voracek and Couturier and struggle to make the playoffs.
Projection: I like them more than most. That goaltender thing is huge and as I said, that’s impressive that they made it as comfortably as they did last season with such weak goaltending.
Underrated concern: Nolan Patrick. He didn’t look GREAT last season. I didn’t believe he was going to dominate or anything, but really didn’t get anyone too excited.
Finally. Finally they’ve won their Cup. This will go one of two ways this season, but I guess I should save those things for the next part rather than waste them on the opening.
Upside: With the monkey off their back, now they’re going to tear up the league. Don’t expect the regular season to be overly good no matter what, but a deep playoff run could happen again.
Downside: They’ve won their Cup and so now they’ll have a lot of guys settle for one. Probably too talented to miss the playoffs, but I doubt anyone would be overly shocked if they did.
Projection: So I guess it’s somewhere in between here, but we’ll see what they can do come spring time.
Underrated concern: What they’re going to do with Holtby long term. He’s got two years left, and Ilya Samsonov now in North America. It’s a good problem to have, but it’ll be interesting to see more than an “underrated concern”.
This might be my biggest shocker for my picks. No Columbus in the top four in the Metro, and I’m saying that the Canes finally arrive a year later than everyone else thought they were going to.
Upside: Scott Darling becomes the guy most thought he’d be last season and they finally start to click as an organization.
Downside: Tom Dundon continues to be a bit of a shit show and they continue to struggle.
Projection: I think it’s closer to the upside. Dundon has been quiet and didn’t blow it up as most feared. This squad got some of the soft out the door, Ferland will obviously upgrade their size and strength, Hamilton is a big upgrade on Hanifin, I’m sky high on Martin Necas and though I question Svechnikov he SHOULD be great. They’re better and nobody notices!
Underrated concern: What they’ll get for Justin Faulk. I still have to believe they’ll deal him, but I’m wondering if the reason they haven’t is because the return just isn’t there. He’s not good in his own zone, and once they got Hamilton it was obvious Faulk was gone which probably killed his value.
John Tortorella teams don’t have great staying power. Artemi Panarin apparently wants to walk. Sergei Bobrovsky doesn’t sound like he is going to stay. Seth Jones is now out the first month of the season. This is not looking good for the Jackets.
Upside: They withstand the loss of Jones, the contracts for Panarin and Bobrovsky just elevate their play and they finish top three in the division.
Downside: I don’t know if this is a downside for the organization, but for this season they trade both Panarin and Bobrovsky and take a step back to take two steps forward.
Projection: I don’t know if they’ll deal them, and they should. This just doesn’t have a good feel to it. Kekalainen needs to get something for these two. This isn’t a Cup contender with them, and they’ve sold their season tickets, so get something before it’s too late.
Underrated concern: Brandon Dubinsky. Is he done? He’s a big ticket for what he might give them at this point.
6. NY Rangers
So here is my big theory: The pro game has never been more similar to an NCAA style than it is right now. American coaches and coaches with NCAA back grounds are really starting to thrive behind the bench. David Quinn could be a perfect fit for this club and while I only got them to finish 6th in the division, I wouldn’t be shocked if they had a surprise season.
Upside: Henrik Lundqvist gives them one final big season and gets them in the playoffs.
Downside: They’re a Jack Hughes candidate despite me thinking they’ll overachieve.
Projection: As I just said, I believe they’ll overachieve and be much tougher than most believe they will, but still miss the playoffs.
Underrated concern: How many more seasons does Lundqvist have left? 36, but still looks great.
7. New Jersey
Yeah, I’m not a big believer in this squad. Could easily prove me wrong here, but I just think they BARELY made the playoffs with Taylor Hall having an incredible season. So if Taylor Hall only has a 60-70 point season, and Corey Schneider doesn’t get healthy and/or back to form, what are they? But in calling them to finish 7th, its not as though I believe they’ll be near the bottom of the overall standings, just in this division.
Upside: Either Schneider gets healthy and back to form or Kinkaid takes over and looks great again and they sneak back into a wildcard spot again.
Downside: The goaltending is awful and they come crashing back donw.
Projection: I don’t like the goaltending situation at all, but if Hall can produce near last year’s level, I believe we’ll see Hischier bust out with a big season this year, but I just don’t know. The blueline isn’t too good, the goaltending, they have a ton of speed but not much else.
Underrated concern: I brought it up in my hot takes piece, Taylor Hall extension. He had a great season obviously, but I’m not sure what they’re bringing long term that would make him want to sign? A bad season could be horrible for their case.
8. NY Islanders
Speaking of big time franchise players leaving NY area teams….it is so ironic that just as Tavares leaves, the organization gets stable. I was stunned he left after the changes they made, after they got the arena, but Garth Snow made that happen.
Upside: Mathew Barzal thrives playing tougher minutes and Robin Lehner starts to live up to his potential and they lead the Islanders to a playoff spot.
Downside: Yet again, a contender for Jack Hughes. Barzal and Hughes down the middle, that’s some ok talent.
Projection: Barry Trotz tends to get the most out of his teams. But yet I just don’t see this squad having success. Tavares elevated so many players around him, and Barzal I believe is going to get exposed if he needs to play much tougher minutes.
Underrated concern: The Tavares for Komarov and Martin trade. I worry they’ll lose that one.
P1 San Jose vs WC2 Dallas
Again, I feel like the Stars are going to have a problem in goal which will hurt them. Also keep in mind, that blueline has tremendous POTENTIAL, but they aren’t there yet and likely won’t get there for a few years.
P2 Anaheim vs P3 Edmonton
Oilers get their revenge two years later?
C1 St. Louis vs WC1 Calgary
If the Flames get in, it’ll mean that Mike Smith was great again. If Smith is great, I’d like the Flames to beat the Blues.
C2 Winnipeg vs C3 Nashville
Oh the outcry of these two playing in the first round that would come! It’s the reality of the new format, and if you haven’t noticed…it is AMAZING! They’d have to play at some point anyway. This time around, more pressure on the Jets, Preds would have faced some adversity if they only finish 3rd in the division, Preds return the favour.
A1 Toronto vs WC2 Boston
Until Kyle Dubas realizes that they need an elite defender on their blueline and some grit, this team is going to get pushed around come spring, ironically in this scenario it would be by the same team that did it last season.
A2 Tampa Bay vs A3 Florida
This would be great to see! This was actually a real good rivalry for a couple seasons in the mid-late 90’s, be cool to see it sparked.
M1 Pittsburgh vs WC1 Carolina
Hurricanes finally bust out, but no match for the Pens here.
M2 Philadelphia vs M3 Washington
Philly needs a goalie. But if they get one, look out! But I don’t think I can simply assume that happens so the Caps move on to play the Pens again.
San Jose vs Nashville
If Nashville gets to this point, it’ll be either because Saros stepped up and won the starting job, or because they traded for an elite goaltender. But I believe one of the two will happen. San Jose, they’re thin, but I believe they have enough to get to this point. If they meet up with the Preds though, keeping in mind that I don’t believe Doug Wilson has enough bullets left in the chamber to go get the centre I believe they’ll need, then the Preds will walk right through them.
Tampa Bay vs Washington
I hate doing rematches because they hardly happen in this league anymore. Well, not deep in the playoffs anyway. I’ll say it here though and say that this time the Lightning get over the hump.
Stanley Cup Final
Nashville vs Tampa Bay
THIS year it’ll happen. Last year it was expected, but this year it’ll happen. I believe it’ll be a much more rocky road for both of these teams, which in the end will help both a great deal. Could be a tremendous final if it shakes down this way.
Nashville in 7
Hart: Connor McDavid – As long as they get back in the playoffs. They make it by a point and the media says “absolutely, no brainer here”. They miss it by a point “you can’t give him the Hart!!!” Makes sense guys, thanks for your logic, well thought out as all your lazy narratives are…
Ted Lindsey: Connor McDavid – This one is a pretty safe bet.
Art Ross: Connor McDavid – As is this one.
Rocket Richard: Connor McDavid – THIS is the one where I’m going out on a limb, and I’ve been saying it since about March of last season. When he plays with Nuge, he shoots. And when he shoots, he’s at his best. He’s going to shoot a lot this year, and even he knew it this summer which was why he worked on his one timer.
Norris: Darnell Nurse – Don’t call me a homer!!!!!…But seriously I like Hedman again. I don’t know if anyone REALLY notices that this kid is now the undisputed best defenceman in the league, but he is and while Dahlin will start challenging that status in short order, Hedman is going to be the guy for at least two or three more seasons.
Vezina: John Gibson – Does anyone notice this guy? 2016, .920 Sv% in 38 starts. 2017, .924 Sv% in 49 starts. 2018, .926 Sv% in 60 starts. So the older he gets, the more he plays and the better he plays. We’ve always known he had potential to be elite, but now he’s reaching that potential. The other thing is that the Ducks blueline is going from overrated thanks to youth and great contracts to legitimately elite. That can only help Gibson.
Calder: Rasmus Dahlin – I’m not sure many coming into the season realize just how good this kid is going to be. He might be on the top pair in Buffalo with Rasmus Ristolainen. That would deserve the Calder all on it’s own. He’ll need to put up points to be that shiny thing that gets the media’s attention, but I believe he will and maybe more important for this award and who votes on it is he’ll have a few highlight reel plays.
Jack Adams: David Quinn – As I always say, the trick with this award is that it is likely going to be won by the coach of a team you don’t expect to get in. I got the Rangers JUST missing which would be a surprise for most, but they made it in then he’d get the love. I could see Henrik Lundqvist having one last great season trying to get them there, and as I said about Quinn in the Rangers write-up, this league is more like NCAA hockey than it’s ever been. I believe he’s a terrific fit for them, they have zero expectations and a fan base which will LOVE them if they simply play hard every night.
Conn Smythe: Roman Josi – Who the hell knows. But Josi is great and if the Preds won the Cup you know he’d be one of the key reasons why.
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