SOH 2021 Season Preview: Soups Prognostications

The 2021 NHL regualar season is finally here!!  There is going to be very little “regular” about this season (see what I did there?!), but nevertheless the NHL is back and we are in for 116 straight days of action!

As always to kick off the season I bring to you my prognositcations.  Now, I did a podcast laying all this out that I urge you to check out.  But sometimes written form is better, and even though I don’t blog near as much as I did, I still enjoy having content up on the site.  So here are my 2021 NHL prognostications.  But before I begin don’t forget to:

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North

Tier One

1. Toronto

It’s an improved roster, but I’m not sure they are any more of a Cup threat than they’ve been.

Tier Two

2. Vancouver

The only thing I worry about is they lived off goaltending most of last season and it is now a question mark.  But I think they’ll be ok.

3. Winnipeg

Not what they were, but remember how much went wrong for them last season and they were still in the hunt at the pause.

4. Edmonton

The special teams will likely regress, but they’re now three lines deep and move the puck better than they have in a long time.  Goaltending is terrifying though.

5. Calgary

They might make the playoffs, but they’re officially stuck in mediocrity.  The goaltending actually scares me despite most believing they upgraded and solidified it.

6. Montreal

I don’t like what Bergevin did long term, and I don’t believe they improved near as much as is getting hyped, but this is an improved roster and will challenge for a playoff spot.

Tier Three

7. Ottawa

They won’t be the “off-night” they’ve been, but I also don’t see them threatening to make the playoffs for at least another season.

 

West

Tier One

1. Colorado

It is incredible how well this team is set up given where they were just three years ago.  Saad, Toews and Byram all added, only Zadorov subtracted, and a ton of asset capital still to play with.

Tier Two

2. Vegas 

What a mess.  This feels like a bomb and we’re all just waiting for it to go off.  Having said this…no doubt that they’re a Cup contender.

Tier Three

3. St. Louis

Still going to be very good, but I believe they’ll really feel the loss of Alex Pietrangelo.

Tier Four

4. Arizona 

They’re a huge mess in terms of their cap, but it’s still an ok roster and in a very weak division past the top three, they might be the best of the worst.

5. Minnesota

I’m not a fan of what Billy Guerin has done thus far as their GM, but at the end of the day he still may have put together a roster that can make the playoffs.

6. San Jose 

I fully expect this team to come back strong.  Too many established vets not to have that kind of pride.  The problem is that they’re insanely thin.

Tier Five

7. Anaheim

They have a goaltender with a higher ceiling than LA.

8. Los Angeles

They potentially don’t have as good of goaltending as Anaheim.

 

Central

Tier One

1. Carolina 

I’d watch for them to take a mighty big swing by the trade deadline.  There are good goaltenders available, and given how strong their system is, it might not be just a goaltender they go after.

2. Tampa Bay

This is a better team than the Canes, but I just simply believe the Canes will take the regular season much more seriously than Tampa will.

Tier Two

3. Dallas

They are good, not great.  I think last year was the peak for the group they currently have.

4. Columbus

Depends on the PLD situation and whether they hold off on that until the summer.  I believe they will and if that’s the case, I like them to get in.

Tier Three

5. Nashville

This is starting to feel like a very large rebuild that just hasn’t started yet.  Older, slow, and I’m not a fan of the goaltending.

6. Florida

I fucking hate this team because for years I said they were about to turn the corner and never did.  Although…what if Bob gets his game back?  Then maybe they would?  And they have Dreidger who was good!  Actually now that I think about it, the Panthers might be the best team in the divi…NO!  Me and the Panthers are done forever!  I’m not having them cheat on me AGAIN!  They’re finishing 6th!

Tier Four

7. Detroit 

They move up a spot thanks to the Blackhawks being even more shitty than they are!  HOO-RAY!

8. Chicago

No Toews, Dach or Crawford.  YIKES…

 

East

Tier One

1. Washington

This is what they do.  I like the Laviolette hiring, and I’m a big believer in what Samsonov could give them this season.

2. Philadelphia

Barring Hart becoming the franchise goaltender some believe he will become, I don’t see this team being anything more than a very good regular season team.  But that’s all we’re talking about here.

3. Boston

Some are expecting them to take a step back, and they could.  But I don’t believe it will be because of who they lost.  What scares me is the age of so many of their key players.  Having said this, I’ve been worried about it before and it hasn’t happened yet.

Tier Two

4. NY Islanders

I don’t know how or why they’ll make the playoffs, but they will.  Barry Trotz is the best coach in the league, I’m not sure anyone else is even close at the moment.

5. NY Rangers

I like them better than the Islanders!  Yet they are a spot below them.  Why?  Because once again, you know that Barry Trotz is going to work his magic.

6. Pittsburgh

Yep.  Aren’t making it.  If they had caught a break and been placed in an easier division, then they could.  This division is a couple of Kevyn Adams swings on some goaltenders from being 7 quality teams deep.

Tier Three

7. Buffalo

I’m stunned that Kevyn Adams didn’t do everything he could to go get a goaltender.  I know they were scarce this off-season, but I really assumed he’d overpay if he had to.

8. New Jersey

Tom Fitzgerald made some nice moves at last years trade deadline, but they have a long ways to go here.

 

Playoffs

Round 1

N1 Toronto vs N4 Edmonton

All depends on Ken Holland addressing the goaltending situation.  If he gets someone who can really move the needle, I love the Oilers chances.  If he doesn’t though, the Leafs could pick apart the Oilers netminders.

Leafs in 6

 

N2 Vancouver vs N3 Winnipeg

This would be an interesting matchup, but give me Connor Hellebuyck over either Demko or Holtby.  I know he wasn’t great against Calgary last year, but all the more reason to assume he’d come back strong should the Jets get back in the dance this year.

Jets in 7

 

N1 Toronto vs N3 Winnipeg

The Jets at this point would be all wrong for the Leafs in a playoff matchup.  Bigger, maybe faster, a little more experience for the Jets, there’s area’s the Leafs are the better team but I just wouldn’t feel good about the Leafs chances here.

Jets in 6

 

W1 Colorado vs W4 Arizona

Did you see their series last year?  Might be worse.

Avs in 4

 

W2 Vegas vs W3 St. Louis

Are the Golden Knights going to address how thin they are down the middle?  If they don’t, the Blues are a bad matchup for them in a 7 game series.

Blues in 7

 

W1 Colorado vs W3 St. Louis

This could be a very interesting matchup.  Styles make fights, and in this case you have the veteran Blues, former champs, who play a total team game vs the future high flying champs in the Avs.  All the potential to be a classic.

Avs in 7

 

C1 Carolina vs C4 Columbus

The finesse Hurricanes vs the gritty Blue Jackets.  As much as I love how the Canes go about their business, if they don’t address their goaltending, and the Blue Jackets don’t pull the trigger on a PLD deal until after the season, the Blue Jackets would be all wrong for the Canes.

Jackets in 7

 

C2 Tampa Bay vs C3 Dallas

A rematch of last years final in the 1st round of the playoffs!  The last time that happened was 1973 I believe when Boston and the Rangers had a final rematch.  It’s very possible this season with these two, but unlike 73 when the Rangers got revenge on the B’s, I believe it would be the same result as we saw in Edmonton.

Lightning in 6

 

C2 Tampa Bay vs C4 Columbus

The rubber match!  I couldn’t see this going any different than it did in the bubble though.  The Blue Jackets caught them with their pants down once, it won’t happen again.

Lightning in 5

 

E1 Washington vs E4 NY Islanders

The Islanders embarrassed the Caps in the bubble.  I’m not sure they would do that again though.  It would be a tough series, but I just believe the Caps are going to have a bit of new life this season.

Caps in 6

 

E2 Philadelphia vs E3 Boston

I have a little theory with the Bruins this season.  I feel like it’ll be a slow decline.  Maybe really hot out of the gate, but slowly as the season goes on their lack of depth both on the blueline and up front will start to really show.  Philly doesn’t really lack depth, or anything.  I don’t love them, but they don’t have any holes.

Flyers in 6

 

E1 Washington vs E2 Philadelphia

I can’t really explain why I like the Flyers to go to the final four this season, but it’s a really balanced division 1-6, and someone has to get through.

Flyers in 7

 

Final Four

1 Colorado vs 4 Winnipeg

I could see the Jets being miserable for the Avs.  And they would own the goaltending advantage.  But the Avs nearly made the final last year with Michael Hutchinson, they can overcome that.

Avs in 6

 

2 Tampa Bay vs 3 Philadelphia

This matchup would be all wrong for Philly.  Tampa matches their depth, and they have higher end talent across the board.

Lightning in 5

 

Stanley Cup Final

Colorado vs Tampa Bay

I love the idea of this final.  This was my pick this year, and likely would have transpired had Philip Grubauer not gone down.  I love the Avs.  To think about where they were following the 2017 season, it is shocking that they now are where they are, which is THE favourites in the Western Conference and a legitimate Cup contender.  But now that the Lightning have got over the hump, I don’t believe they’re done.  This is a team that is fast, deep, strong down the middle, strong on the blueline, strong between the pipes, and I don’t believe they have to worry about fatigue.  They’ve had deep runs over the years (2015, 2016, 2018, 2020), but they’ve also had early exits (2017, 2019).  Combine that with the road I have them going through on this run, it wouldn’t be too taxing on them.  I believe this would be an awesome series, but the Cup will stay in Tampa.

Lightning in 6

 

Awards

Hart Trophy

Nathan MacKinnon – He’ll have the team, the stats, it’s the hip new thing to claim guys like him are better than McDavid, and he won’t have to worry about splitting the vote.

Art Ross

Connor McDavid – He would have won it last year had he stayed healthy and they finished the season.  1.52 PPG was 2nd in the league.  This season it looks as though Dave Tippett will have him with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.  The dirty little secret about McDavid is that from January on, he didn’t have consistent wingers at ES.  And he still finished the year at a 1.52 PPG clip.

Richard

Auston Matthews – I don’t feel like people give his shot the love that they should be.  He doesn’t have a bomb of a one-timer, but his wrist shot is insane.  The release, the accuracy, the velocity, it’s a thing of beauty.  If people would back off the “second-best player in the world” talk and just focus on how tremendous of a sniper he is, maybe expectations would be a lot more realistic with him.

Norris

Victor Hedman – Third-year in a row I’ve made this pick.  Man, was it just lovely to see him get his due in the playoffs.  He’s been the best defenceman in the league for years now in my opinion.  Nobody close.  Yet he needed to be in everyone’s face every night before the media finally noticed.  Again though…Charlie McAvoy at +2500 to win this award is a bet I strongly urge you to throw a few bucks on.

Vezina

Frederik Andersen – He’s playing for a fat new contract, coming off the worst season of his career, and he has some trusted backups behind him to give him some rest.  I’m expecting a big season out of Freddy.

Selke

Mark Stone – People are taking more and more notice of how terrific he is defensively.  You also have to figure the Golden Knights will be among the elite in the league which will help his case, and the added sexiness that goes with him not being a centre.

Calder

Igor Shesterkin – A kid who looks like a stud goaltender, for the biggest market team in the States, I know there is a concern that he splits votes with his teammate and 1st overall pick, but I just think Shesterkin is THAT good.

Jack Adams

Peter Laviolette – Again, I think he’s going to have a major impact on a Caps team that has flatlined quite a bit since winning the Cup in 2018.  I love the energy Laviolette led teams play with.

Conn Smythe

Brayden Point – Obviously if I got the Lightning winning it all, then one of their players is likely to win this.  The media will want a new hero, and Point would be full value I’m sure.

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