This is a lot of work to put these together. I probably don’t have to talk as much as I do about every team, but I simply can’t not….if that makes sense. But as always I won’t waste too much time in this part of things, I’ll just make my predictions:
Western Conference Wildcard teams
Anaheim Ducks – Again, we never know what they’ll give us year to year. But they’re top heavy, and Bruce Boudreau always gets the most out of his teams during the regular season. Maybe not during the playoffs, but we’ll worry about that discussion come April.
Edmonton Oilers – As an Oilers fan I felt like I should not have them in, and there are definitely more than enough teams who are capable of finishing ahead of them. But I look at all the talent, and I look at the guy they now have behind the bench, and while Dubnyk still scares the hell out of me I really believe they end up sneaking in. Have to keep their heads above water the first month of the season though.
Eastern Conference wildcard teams
Toronto Maple Leafs – I only have them finishing 4th in the Atlantic, but I think they’ll be some what comfortably in a playoff spot come late March. Love the offseason Dave Nonis had, love Carlyle, and I’m pretty big on this team entering the season.
NY Islanders – I had trouble with this one. Philly, Washington, Carolina, Columbus, and the Islanders don’t have much seperating them. But in the end I took the Islanders. It is ironic that Doug Weight is an assistant coach on this team because they remind me a lot of those late 90’s Oiler teams. Last year wasn’t a fluke, and they’ll prove that this season.
Western Conference final
St.Louis vs Los Angeles – I don’t know if I love this pick, but I just feel like the Blues are primed to do something big this season, and the Kings roster is perfect for the playoffs. Blues fans would likely hate this idea as they’ve been bounced by the Kings the last 2 seasons. If the series were played today I would take the Kings in 7, but it won’t. By the time the playoffs get here, the Blues will likely add some scoring up front and hopefully for their sake they have established a number 1 guy between the pipes.
Eastern Conference final
Detroit vs Pittsburgh – I guess I’m not a fan of goaltending in the East. For the 3rd time in 7 years it will be the Wings and Pens meeting up in the playoffs…just not in the final this time. I have to assume that the Pens will do something about their goaltending. Even if it means going out and getting Ryan Miller who hasn’t been that great the last few seasons, at least he can stop a puck! Vokoun is ok but I’m not sure he is the answer at this stage of his career and while I think Fleury can bounce back, you can’t depend on him doing so. But at the end of the day, they probably won’t be able to trade for the answer, no matter who they get.
Stanley Cup final
St.Louis vs Detroit
I never thought I would see the day where an old Norris division rivalry took place in the Stanley Cup final, but this could be the season it happens. Now I’m not a big fan of either teams goaltending, but the more I look at things, the more I believe these are the 2 teams that are best setup to make deep runs in their respective conferences. The Blues are far from flashy, but they’re suited for playoff hockey. The Wings are pretty flashy, but lack big time grit. They won’t need it near as much in the East though. That blueline keeps improving, and Ken Holland will make the moves that need to be made. Hitch vs Babcock in the final would be a heck of a chess match!
Stanley Cup Champion
Sidney Crosby – I just can’t think of anyone else. For someone else to win the Hart, an out of nowhere season for a team and player would have to happen. If The Islanders end up a top 5 team in the league and Tavares is top 3 in scoring, then perhaps he wins it.
Shea Weber – If the Preds are going to bounce back this season like I believe they will, then Weber will need to be at his best. Having Seth Jones to help him out will be huge, and the fact that the Preds didn’t lose this offseason they simply gained will help out a lot.
David Backes – Time for the guy to get his due. One of the best defensive forwards in the game, playing in a system that enhances defensive play. This goes with the trend of the Blues being my “it” team this season.
Roberto Luongo – Going out on a limb here for sure! Here is my logic: Torts system is all about blocking shots and dedicated defensive hockey (safe is death my ass). Then you have strombone1 with a huge chip on his shoulder. I think he either has an amazing season or bombs due to his dislike of the organization. I’ll go with the former.
Valeri Nichushkin – He will impress. 6’4, 200 pounds, amazing wheels and really shoot the puck. He is the type of kid who will step into the league and make media and fans drool. Now down the line he will be overrated, but for this season he will get huge praise, probably have Oiler fans questioning the scouting staff for picking Nurse over him (the right move) and win the Calder.
Dallas Eakins – Now this kind of contradicts my selection of the Oilers only finishing 5th in the division and just barely making the playoffs, but I just really believe this guy is going to be great. Whoever wins this is likely coaching a team who overachieves this season, and Oiler fan or not I think most agree the Oilers have the most potential to make a big jump in the standings.
Phil Kessel – Probably not actually, it’ll probably be Stamkos or maybe Ovechkin. But Kessel is playing for a fat new contract, is on the best team the Leafs have had in his tenure, and doesn’t play in a division with stifling defenisve hockey. Neither does Stamkos, but whatever I’ll go out on the limb and take Kessel. Wouldn’t build a franchise around him, but he can snipe.
Sidney Crosby – He would have run away with it last season had it not been for that freak injury when he broke his jaw. As long as he stays healthy, he’s got the most talent, and the most talent around him.
Alex Pietrangelo – Sure why not? I got the Blues winning the Cup, I’m guessing he would be incredible during the run. 25-30 minutes a night, QB their PP, face the top stars every night, and Bouwmeester only makes him better.
Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups