2019-20 NHL Season Preview & Prognostications (Guaranteed…to be Wrong)

Well, here we go.  It seems like every year I make these grand plans to do about a month worth of blogs leading up to opening night.  A new top 32 prospect list.  A mock draft.  A top 20 Oilers prospect list.  An Oilers season preview.  Do 2-3000 words on each division, coupled with my top 10 prospects for each team.  Yeah, none of that was done, and I barely got in what I did here.  And the big piss off is that this opening was left for last, most of this was written before the TSN preview show last night, which is essentially the same thing as this.  So if you’re still reading, you’re a true pal.  Before I begin, for you Oilers fans, I’ll have time this morning and I’m going to try to do a season preview podcast, so make sure you check that out (hopefully out around noon MST).  Without further ado, my prognostications:

 

Pacific Division

1. Vegas Golden Knights

I’m done not believing in them.  Once they got Mark Stone last season, they were right back to the beast they were in 17-18.  Add a good rookie like Cody Glass, trade chips to load up at the deadline, they’re a contender.

2. San Jose Sharks

Right there with Vegas, but they badly need to stay healthy.  They don’t have the prospect capital that the Knights have, and they’re an older team.  A lot of their season depends on what Martin Jones will give them.

3. Calgary Flames

I doubt that they’re going to be as good as last season as they had perhaps their five best players all have career years.  But don’t sleep on some of the kids they have coming either.  I believe Rasmus Andersson will be next to Mark Giordano by the end of the season, he’s that good.  Valimaki, Dube, Mangiapane, these kids are players who are ready to contribute.  What scares me is the goaltending, but they didn’t have that great of goaltending last season and still were the best team in the West.

4. Arizona Coyotes

I don’t see them improving on what they did last season.  They should in theory, as it is highly unlikely that they’ll sustain the injuries they did.  But I’ve seen it too many times before where teams feed off that adversity and then once everyone is healthy they’re underwhelming.  They’ll compete for the playoffs, maybe get in, but maybe not the improvement some believe will happen.

5. Vancouver Canucks

They’re getting real close.  I love the job they’ve done with this rebuild, and while I’m not sure that they’re ready, it won’t be long until this team is contending for the division crown.  Might come as soon as next season.  But if they want to make the playoffs this season, they’re going to need Markstrom and Demko to be one of the best combo’s in the league.

6. Anaheim Ducks

I’m sure Oilers fans really won’t like me having the Ducks ahead of them, but the Ducks have a very key ingredient that the Oilers don’t: elite goaltending.  John Gibson gives this team a chance to win every night.  I also believe that Dallas Eakins is going to do a good job there.  So combine those two things with a lot of real good young talent and I believe the Ducks will be at least challenging for a playoff spot.

7. Edmonton Oilers

There is a path to the playoffs, but they’d need so much to go right.  Smith and Koskinen have the ability to work.  James Neal has the ability to bounce back.  Nurse and Larsson have the ability to be a good shutdown pairing.  Bear has the ability to be a top four D-man.  Riley Sheahan has the ability to be a good 3C.  The team as a whole have the ability to be a terrific defensive squad that Dave Tippett loves.  So the path is there.  But what are the odds that all these things happen?  And what are the odds that IF all these things happen they also have perfect health?  It’s just so damn unlikely.  But they are on the right path, no longer have Peter Chiarelli taking a blow torch and a jerrycan to the organization.

8. L.A. Kings

I don’t have much to say about the Kings.  Easily the worst situation currently in the West.  I haven’t liked a lot of what Rob Blake has done.  I’d dislike their situation no matter who was the GM, but Blake has made a lot of missteps.  It’ll be interesting to see long term if Koptiar and Doughty want to stick around because it is going to be a long time before this organization is back to contender status.

 

Central Division

1. Nashville Predators

Essentially, it’s Subban out, Duchene in.  But the key here is Dante Fabbro.  Can he step into a top four role for the Preds?  I believe he can, mainly because of who his D partner would be.  He might be a better fit for the Preds than Subban was with how good Fabbro is defensively.  And Duchene makes them great down the middle and gives them speed up front which they were pretty hard up for.  As long as Rinne doesn’t fall apart, they should win this division.

2. Dallas Stars

Might be getting a bit overrated entering the season.  I’m still seeing a lot of question marks in key positions, combined with concerns over some guys being too young, some possibly being too old, and concerns for me whether the goaltending can be THAT good again.  Last year’s squad didn’t exactly set the world on fire and needed amazing goaltending to even get 93 points.  Most years that wouldn’t crack the playoffs in the West.  So I do like them to finish 2nd in the division, but I’m seeing some people loving them to come out of the West and I’m saying those people might want to slow down on that until they prove they’re worthy.  Ability is there to be that team though.

3. St. Louis Blues

Here is a question that nobody seems to be asking: do we KNOW Jordan Binnington is for real?!?!  I THINK he is, but we’ve seen goalies get scorching hot for half a season before and then fade away.  So that’ll be interesting to see.  Even if he isn’t though, this squad still has enough to get in the playoffs again.  Last year I picked them to win this division knowing that Jake Allen was as inconsistent as any goaltender in the league.  The Justin Faulk addition is interesting, and I can’t help but wonder like everyone else, is there another shoe that is going to drop i.e. Pietrangelo walks after the season or Parayko is dealt?

4. Chicago Blackhawks

If this team gets goaltending, they’ll get in.  I believe that is lost on a lot of people.  As bad as it’s gone the last two seasons, when Corey Crawford has been right they’ve been fine.  And now they have insurance with Robin Lehner, not to mention more experience on the blueline, and a hell of a pickup last season in Dylan Strome who was near a PPG player in 58 games with the Hawks last season.  I believe you can put the Hawks, Avs, and Jets in any order, but I needed to change some things from how TSN had it so I’m going to say the Hawks get in.

5. Colorado Avalanche

Much like with the Stars, we should probably slow down a bit on the Avs.  To my eye, this looks like the next power team in the league.  I have become a MASSIVE Avs fan over the last few seasons.  But let’s keep some things in mind here.  They only had 90 points last season.  They are relying on Cale Makar to replace Tyson Barrie’s offence.  They are planning to run with a guy in net who has never started 40 games in a season.  I really like this team and between MacKinnon, Rantanen, and all the amazing talent on the blueline they are going to be a blast to watch and a powerhouse.  But be careful in anointing them a contender just yet as they have a ways to go.

6. Winnipeg Jets

What a difference a year can make.  This time in 2018, it was Cup or bust and this was the best young team in the league.  Now, they’re a mess, mostly thanks to shit luck, and I’m really not sure if they’re going to get back to contender status anytime soon.  It won’t be this season.  This season they’re going to be hard pressed to make the playoffs.  That blueline is just such a mess.  They do have the one wildcard in Byfuglien.  If he comes back, the blueline could be OK, and I feel good saying they’ll get in.  But as of right now, I just don’t know if this blueline can get the job done and I’m a MASSIVE Josh Morrissey guy.  Ville Heinola was the 20th pick in the draft, he’s in their top four.  It’s bad.

7. Minnesota Wild

I don’t know if we’ll ever know the whole story, but what I know from afar is that this mess wasn’t ALL Paul Fenton despite what Mike Russo writes.  Craig Leipold has a reputation as an owner who loves to meddle and from the outside looking in I’d say his BIG issue with, Fenton was that Fenton wanted to rebuild.  Leipold has stated he thinks they can still contend.  What the FUCK is wrong with you?!?  This team is DONE, and no gross overpayment of Jared Spurgeon is going to change that.  I’m pulling for Billy Guerin, love the guy.  But I believe they got an owner who is never going to know how to let his GM’s do their job and build things properly

 

Atlantic Division

1. Toronto Maple Leafs

The job Kyle Dubas has done keeping the core intact and keeping their window open has been very impressive.  Now, he got taken to the cleaners in a few of these contract negotiations, but at the end of the day they have a good system, studs locked down, what looks like a pretty good blueline, and are solid between the pipes.  I believe they take another step this season.

2. Tampa Bay Lightning

I honestly believe it would be good for the Bolts to not cruise through the regular season and face a little adversity through the season.  In the long run though, 1st in the Atlantic should mean absolutely nothing to them.  It’s Cup or bust.

3. Boston Bruins

It’s Cup or bust for these guys too.  The difference is that I keep waiting for the bottom to fall out with the Bruins.  When will Bergeron show his age?  Or Marchand?  Or Chara?  Or Rask?  At some point, these guys will digress and even though the rest of the roster is pretty young and talented, they would be in some trouble if a few of these guys finally start to fall off.  Until that happens though, they’re contending for a Cup.

4. Florida Panthers

I’ve loved them for years, and now they finally have their goaltending shored up and a proven head coach running the show, I can’t see why they wouldn’t take off with what they have throughout the lineup.  Top to bottom, this is a real good roster and if they make the playoffs, they’re built for the postseason.

5. Montreal Canadiens

A dirty little secret with Carey Price is that he’s only shown flashes of being an elite goaltender since his MVP season in 2015.  I’m not a big believer in what this team did last season.  But on the flip side, I expect Kotkaniemi to take a big step.  So I see them having a similar season where they push for a playoff spot, but it’ll be really tough given how good the top of this division is.

6. Buffalo Sabres

Finally, I actually feel like this team is building a playoff team.  This summer was far and away the best job that Jason Botterill has done, and even though they aren’t likely to make the playoffs, I expect them to be much improved thanks to that blueline adding some quality RH shooting puck movers.  The goaltending is still a massive question mark though, and while the media drools all over Ralph Kruger, I wasn’t a big fan of his in his season with the Oilers.  People point to his record and point to the fact it was in an extremely difficult Western Conference, but they actually got goaltending that season…and still didn’t come close to the playoffs.

7. Ottawa Senators

The dark clouds that hovered over this organization last season are now gone.  They didn’t give up the 1st overall pick, or even a top three pick in the Duchene deal, the Karlsson/Hoffman stuff is a thing of the past, and they have a lot of good young players ready to roll.  Will they be all that good?  No.  But they can now just focus on the rebuild and grow.

8. Detroit Red Wings

Stevie Yzerman is going to do a tremendous job in Detroit.  But the problem is that he’s inheriting a pretty big mess.  They still need another two seasons before the bad contracts are burned off and he can really start putting his imprint on this organization.  But at this time, it just doesn’t look promising.

 

Metro Division

1. Washington Capitals

Not a big reason to change this pick.  They’re well set up for another big season.  One concern might be between the pipes.  Braden Holtby has been digressing.  They probably thought that Ilya Samsonov would be ready to give Holtby some relief by now, maybe a 60/40 split.  But he had a rough first season in North America and isn’t ready.  But that is about it.  I like the centres, like the wingers, like the blueline, good goaltending, and as far as regular season goes they’ve been a dynasty now for the last

2. Carolina Hurricanes

It all depends on the goaltending that they get.  This roster is LOADED top to bottom, but the goaltending is a big question mark.  Petr Mrazek is inconsistent at best, and James Reimer has been digressing.  I wonder how long it’ll be before Eric Tulsky….I mean Don Waddell is calling up Alex Nedeljkovic to see if he’s the answer.  But that’s the only fear I have for them and do believe that Mrazak will be good enough to get them home ice in the first round.

3. Pittsburgh Penguins

Still have them making the playoffs, but they’re digressing and it looks like the window has closed.  I’m not sure what in the hell Jim Rutheford has been trying to do with this blueline the last few seasons.  The man won with a purely puck-moving blueline, and now he’s trying to build with stay at home guys who can’t move it.  Brandon Tanev was apparently given the contract he was because they believe he’s another Connor Sheary?  Ok…that’s…risky, to put it nicely.  I hope I’m wrong because I’m a Sid fan and the league is better when he and Geno are contenders, but I don’t feel good about this situation.

4. Philadelphia Flyers

They’ll bounce back, but the big thing will be whether or not Carter Hart can hold up throughout the season.  He was impressive last season, but they’ll need him to give them at least 45-50 starts this season.  If he can (obviously at a high level), then they should win a wildcard spot because this squad is deep up front and real solid on the blueline.  Matt Niskanen is a very underrated pickup.  But they’ll need their goalie of the future to be a stud in the present.

5. NY Rangers

A lot of buzz around the Rangers entering the season.  Panarin, Kravtsov, and Kakko are three pretty big time wingers to add to the lineup (even if two of them are rookies).  But there is the issue with this team is are they too young?  What I don’t like is people are talking about them accelerating the rebuild.  When in the fuck does that ever work?!  That is code for “we don’t have any patience to do this right so we’re good with mediocrity long term”.  Having said this, it is the Rangers and they have the easiest time drawing UFA’s in the league.  So they might be the exception to the rule on that, but why risk it?  They can make the playoffs, but I’m not sure it would be a good thing for this organization long term.

6. NY Islanders

Man, I cringe predicting that they’ll take a step back knowing how great of a bench boss Barry Trotz is.  One of the keys to their success last season was they gave up I believe the fewest HD scoring chances in the league (hint hint if you’re looking for a sleeper fantasy goaltender, also buyer beware on Lehner).  Still, as much as I love Noah Dobson stepping in for them, and I love Mathew Barzal, I just am not sure how they did it last season and not sure how they can do it this season.  They can, but I don’t know how, so I’m likely to be very wrong on this prediction.

7. New Jersey Devils

They made a shit ton of noise, but I don’t believe they improved the team that much.  The goaltending is still a mess unless they know that Cory Schneider is going to bounce back, and maybe they do?  Subban is big if he’s right, and Hughes will make an impact, but 2018 was such a fluke for this team and last year was who they really were.  Calling them to finish 7th in this division doesn’t mean they won’t have a shot at the playoffs.  They can challenge for a playoff spot, but nothing more than that in my opinion.

8. Columbus Blue Jackets

Probably won’t be as bad as some are projecting them to be.  That blueline is still real solid, and Jonas Korpisalo has looked like a guy who can handle 50 games a season to my eye in the past.  But if you look at the division, I’m not sure how you can pick them anywhere else but last.  It’s not a big shot at what they have, they just don’t have as much as anyone else in the Metro.

 

Playoffs

Pacific

1P Vegas vs WC1 Chicago

Something we all here from commentators throughout the season when two teams who could potentially meet in the playoffs get talked about, it is quickly followed by “what a matchup that would be”.  There hasn’t been one potential series ever discussed in the history of the NHL where someone isn’t saying “wow, what a series that could be!!”  So I have to stick with this ridiculous narrative when predicting all these series.  So the G-Knights vs Hawks, potentially the greatest series in the history of the game.  Knights in six.

2P San Jose vs 3P Calgary

This could be the best series in any sport in the history of time.  Sharks in seven.

Central

1C Nashville vs WC2 Colorado

ISIS vs society takes a backseat to what this series would be.  Preds in seven.

2C Dallas vs 3C St. Louis

Remember World War II?  It will be forgotten because of how amazing Stars vs Blues would be.  Blues in seven.

Western Conference final

Vegas vs Nashville

Fuckin’ Preds.  The last few years I’ve been on their bandwagon.  This isn’t post them making the 17 final, I was on them that season too.  On paper right now, Nashville is a much more well rounded team than the Knights.  But if the Knights are sitting pretty in the standings come late February, I have to believe that Kelly McCrimmon will be going after a big time D-man to round out his blueline and possibly get this team over the hump.  And there is something to be said for this Knights team.  They just seem to be bulletproof.  So even though I believe the Preds would have the better roster, I’d like the Knights (at this point) to beat them.  Golden Knights in six.

 

Atlantic

1A Toronto vs WC2 Philadelphia

I’m more excited at the prospect of a Leafs/Flyers first round matchup than I would be to win the lottery.  Leafs in five.

2A Tampa Bay vs 3A Boston

Should this matchup happen, it might be the most anticipated sporting event since Ali met Frazier for the first time.  Safe to say it would be the greatest series in the history of hockey.  Lightning in seven.

Metro

1M Washington vs WC1 Florida

If we get Caps v Panthers in round one, I fully anticipate the Super Bowl ratings to be completely dwarfed.  Panthers in six.

2M Carolina vs 3M Pittsburgh

Hurricanes and Pens?  This would be better TV than Breaking Bad!  Canes in six.

Eastern Conference final

Florida vs Tampa Bay

The battle of Florida is alive and well!!!  I love the Panthers as a dark horse come playoff time as they’re much better built for the playoffs than they are the regular season, and they have a bench boss who knows how to coach in a seven game series.  Having said this, the Lightning are likely not going to give a damn about ANYTHING this season until the playoffs where I expect them to be on a mission.  Lightning in five.

 

Stanley Cup final

Tampa Bay vs Vegas

Would be a pretty exciting final.  But I think you’ve likely figured it out by now, I’m like most in believing it’s Tampa’s time.  I believe the Lightning would smoke the Golden Knights in four.

Stanley Cup Champions

Tampa Bay Lightning

 

Awards

Hart

John Tavares – It is going to be tough for any of the Leafs big three to win an award like this.  But then again, we would have said that same thing for Kucherov last year.  With Tavares, I just believe him being in his prime combined with him now being settled with the Leafs, I expect a career year.

Vezina

John Gibson – He was my pick for the award last season, and early on he was looking like he might be in line to win the Hart.  I’m guessing the workload, not just the amount of games but how much action he was seeing night after night, wore him down.  I believe the Ducks will be improved this season and with that could come a Vezina season from Gibson.

Norris

Victor Hedman – These days, he’s just simply my guy.  I believe he is far and away the best defenceman in the league.  If you had a draft of defencemen for this season, Hedman is the top pick by all 31 GM’s.

Selke

Aleksander Barkov – Heavily considered Barkov for the Hart, but settle for the Selke, the award we give to players when they actually deserve an MVP award but don’t give it to them because they don’t have as much flash as another guy…like two years ago when Taylor Hall won it even though any case for Hall could be made for Anze Kopitar while Kopitar was also one of the best defensive players in the league…

Calder

Cale Makar – The D-men who could challenge for this award this season are ridiculous.  Noah Dobson, Rasmus Sandin, Quinn Hughes, Erik Brannstrom, Adam Fox, etc.  I feel somewhat safe in predicting it’ll be a defenceman.  The big thing for Makar is he comes in with a lot of fanfare, and he is going to get the opportunities out of necessity for the Avs.  Kappo Kakko is going to be a big threat for the award, so is Jack Hughes, don’t sleep on guys like Cody Glass or Vitali Kravtsov either, but I can’t help but look to the crop of defencemen entering the league and select one of them, and to me Makar is going to be in the best position to win the award.

Art Ross

Connor McDavid – I don’t know why you’d risk predicting someone else at this point.  Far and away the most points in the league over the last three seasons, and despite the concern with the knee entering camp, he appears to be back to 100% health.  If the Oilers did make the playoffs, then it’d be shocking if he didn’t win the Hart given the perception of the team.

Richard

Brock Boeser – Most are expecting Pettersson to make another big step this season, and most are expecting big things out of Quinn Hughes.  Both of those players will be able to create for Boeser, especially on the PP.  And of course, we know already that this kid has the ability to finish with the best of them.

Jack Adams

Joel Quenneville – I would be pretty shocked if they don’t break through this season, and I don’t just see them breaking through, but I could see them challenging for the division title.  Might seem insane at this time, but they have all the pieces and if that were to happen, coach Q would be getting a lot of love for this award.

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