Hey all, this shall be the first of a hopefully many part installment on my NHL season predictions. Now my friend Troy and I are both avid hockey fans and like to yammer on and on about the NHL in the nerdiest possible manner. So since I now finally have a forum in which I can pass these yammerings on, I am taking advantage of that.
Before the season started Troy and I e-mailed each other some predictions for the season (like I said, HUGE nerds), and we decided to update those for this very special Predictacular.
Just a quick summary, of what we picked:
Glen's Playoff Teams (in order): West: Nashville, Calgary, Anaheim, San Jose, Detroit, Dallas, Edmonton, and Phoenix. East: Buffalo, Carolina, NYR, Ottawa, New Jersey, Philly, Atlanta and Montreal
Troy's Playoff Teams: West: Anaheim, Calgary, Nashville, San Jose, Edmonton, Dallas, Detroit and Vancouver. East: Buffalo, Carolina, NYR, Ottawa, New Jersey, Montreal, Philly and Toronto
And in the Finals, I said it would be Calgary over Buffalo and Troy said it would be Ottawa over Calgary.
So let's see how much we have decided to stay the course 20 odd games into the season.. my comments will be in Red while Troy's will be in Blue.
The story for me out west this season has been a changing of the guard. gone are the days when Detroit, Dallas, and Colorado would be guaranteed the top three seeds and everybody else was fighting to see who they would sweep in the first round. While last year, there was a lot of change, especially in the playoffs, two of those three powerhouses still took their divisions. This year, things are different. The three division leaders, Anaheim, Nashville and Minnesota are three of the six most recent teams to enter the NHL. I see no reason why two of those, Nashville and Anaheim won't hold onto their division for the whole season. Not to knock Minnesota, but I think that Calgary has finally started playing like they are capable of and should have a solid grip on first in the division by Christmas. Of the rest of the Conference, you still need to watch San Jose, Edmonton and maybe even Vancouver to make some noise. Also, keep an eye on the LA Kings, while they won't make the playoffs this year I think with Crawford behind the bench and Jack Johnson in their system, they are two years away from being really good. Watch them to play the spoiler this year.
Now Troy and I did this sort of a thing for the heck of it at the start of the year and I predicted Phoenix to sneak into 8th spot and maybe even cause some damage in the playoffs, how wrong I was. They have been playing absolutely terrible of late, and I wonder how long it will be before Wayne Gretzky either fires himself or realizes that it is not 1998 anymore and Curtis Joseph just can not get you into the playoffs anymore. And just so it is not only me who looks like an idiot, Troy predicted Minnesota to finish dead last in the Conference, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. What a fool.
So, like I said I see Nashville, Anaheim and Calgary taking their divisions, San Jose going strong, Detroit and Dallas returning to the dance as usual, Minnesota slowing down but not enough to miss the playoffs, and Edmonton getting another shot at what they missed out on last year. I think that when it comes to the top teams the key difference is going to be the schedule, remember everyone plays people in their division 8 times each. This gives a huge advantage to Nashville and Detroit who get to beat up on St. Louis, Columbus and Chicago, while it really hurts Calgary who has to grind it out with Edmonton, Vancouver, Minnesota and Colorado.
Biggest Surprise: Minnesota
Biggest Disappointment: Calgary
This conference is so sweet, and it's nice to finally see a serious changing of the guard. The top seed in the conference will be a battle between two teams, San Jose and Anaheim. I think Anaheim will pull it out because of two words. Neidermayer, and Pronger. Done and done. These two teams are just gonna keep getting better for the next couple years. Nashville I think is finally going to put an end to Detroit's run -- Losing Yzerman and Shanahan was a big hit. They have some major young talent but they're a year or two away. The Northwest conference is going to be a battle of attrition and I think in the end Calgary will pull through. Dallas should hang on and Edmonton and Minnesota will be in for sure leaving Vancouver out. Luongo is the best thing to happen to that team in a long time but their off-season losses hurt them a lot more in the scoring department than I originally thought.
Biggest Surprise: Minnesota. (What kinda dumbass would pick them to finish last, sheesh)
Biggest Disappointment: Phoenix
4. San Jose
11. Los Angelas
15. St. Loser
1. San Jose
11. Los Angeles
14. St. Louis
Meanwhile, in the NHL's less exciting Conference, there are a number of teams playing well below expectations. In particular, the Carolina Hurricanes, the Boston Bruins, the Philadelphia Flyers and my beloved Ottawa Senators. I don't think that everyone in Ottawa somehow thinks it is May and therefore time to choke. The drop off of these teams has made room for a few surprises out East, the Atlanta Thrashers are currently able to lead their division, the once lowly Penguins are sitting in 8th and Toronto and Montreal are fighting over 2nd place in their division. Interestingly enough, if the playoffs started today (at least November 23rd as I write this) then Toronto and Montreal would meet in the first round. How sweet would that be?
When it comes to this Conference, my bias could not be more obvious. I still believe that Ottawa will make the playoffs (although not nearly as high as I once thought) and I still believe that the Leafs will miss out. I'm sorry, I just can't see things happening otherwise. So when Sundin is golfing in April I will be sure to say "I TOLD YOU SO!!!!!!!!!!!!!" And love every minute of it. But on the brighter side, I think it is only a matter of time before the Leafs Nation gets to be officially recognized as a seperate entitiy within a united Canada.
Oh yeah, I don't really see all that much changing out East from last year. The East is known to stay fairly even from year to year, so I see Buffalo running away with the Conference (and more than likely the league), Carolina should bounce back and take their division for the second straight year, I think that it's stupid to bet against New Jersey, also Ottawa will get in (they had better...), Montreal and the Rangers will represent the Original 6, Atlanta will be in the playoffs for the first time ever and Pittsburgh will sneak ahead of Tampa Bay for 8th.
Biggest Surprise: Montreal
Biggest Disappointment: Philadelphia
Aside from Buffalo, this conference is usually a yawn fest even though my favourite team, Les Canadiens, call this conference home.
The team which will take this conference is a no brainer, Buffalo all the way. Seriously, how sweet is this team? And they're gonna be good for along time. In the SouthLeast division I see Hotlanta continuing some butt-kicking and I see them taking their division with relative ease. Fun team to watch but also fortunate that they play in probably the weakest of the 6 NHL divisions. As far as the Altantic goes I think slow and steady wins the race and I think New Jersey will stay ahead of the pack although the newly inspired Rangers will be nipping at their heels. As for the rest of the division I definitely see Montreal making it and I believe Ottawa will get their feet under them soon and they will be there. Carolina will be good enough thanks to leadership and of course one Eric Staal. I think Toronto does have the stones to make it however that is more so based on Pittsburgh's inability to maintain eighth thereby defaulting the last playoff spot to Toronto.
Biggest Surprise: Montreal
Biggest Disappointment: Boston.
2. New Jersey
4. New York Rangers
9. Tampa Bay
14. New York Islanders
3. New Jersey
4. New York Rangers
10. Tampa Bay
15. New York Islanders
Now when it comes to the playoffs, I see the Western Final coming down to a battle of California as Anaheim and San Jose come head to head in the West Finals. Make no mistake about it, these two teams are good. The scary thing, they both have two starting goalies, meaning they could easily trade one away for some quality skaters. Let's take San Jose in an upset in 7.
Out East, things are a lot tougher to call. I originally had Ottawa in the Conference Finals, but I just don't see that happening anymore, so I'm going to take a cop-out and go for a rematch of last year's Eastern Final in Buffalo and Carolina. However, unlike last year, I think that Buffalo will not have 4 of their top defensemen injured and should walk away with the series in 5.
That leads us the to the finals we probably should have had last year, San Jose and Buffalo. I really don't know who to pick, so I'll go with the trend, the last 3 Stanley Cup Champions have been Eastern teams, so let's assume that they will make it 4 in a row. Buffalo wins in 6.
Ok, I see the Eastern Final coming down to Buffalo and Ottawa and although Buffalo is amazing, I'm going to take a leap and take Ottawa over Buffalo in7. I think the early season hardships will be good in the long run for Ottawa and their playoff experience, mostly disappointing, will help them against Buffalo.
The Western Final (I hate to agree with Glen, but this one seems too easy)will be played entirely in California. However I'm picking Anaheim over San Jose in a tough 6 game series. Pronger owned Thornton when he was with Edmonton and I don't see that changing.
This gives us an Ottawa, Anaheim final. Something we could have seen in2003 if it wasn't for stupid Jeff Friesen scoring with less than 3 minutes left in game 7 against Ottawa. But I digress, this would be a really good series and keeping with my undying, and perhaps naive love of Canadian teams, I will take Ottawa in 7.
Let the games begin my friend.
So that concludes the Predictacular, I hope that you enjoyed it (or skimmed through it quickly to not waste your time). We shall revisit these picks in January at the half way point so we can see how much more right I am than Troy.
Until next time,