Wednesday, October 04, 2006

NHL Predictions

Briefly:

Eastern Conference
1. Ottawa Senators - I like a lot of their off-season moves. While they may have lost star power in Chara and Havlat, I think they are a deeper team overall with the addition of Preissing, Corvo, and the continued improvement of youngsters like Vermette and Eaves. Let's not forget that Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley are still approaching their prime, and one or both of them could contend for the Art Ross.

2. Tampa Bay Lightning - Marc Denis solidifies the back line, while I see the big three (Lecavalier, Richards, and St. Louis) rebounding with solid seasons.

3. New York Rangers - They have experience, talent, and grit. I think they improved in the off-season, and not having the olympic break (which wore out some of their talent) will help.

4. Buffalo Sabres - Still one of the best teams in the league. They are deep and talented.

5. New Jersey Devils - Lou Lamoreillo managed to keep and resign everyone from last year's division-winning club. They're a bit older at some positions, so I'm not sure if they can keep with the Rangers.

6. Carolina Hurricanes - There are a lot of question marks, beginning with whether or not Cam Ward can be a #1 goalie all year, but I still see enough talent here to make the playoffs.

7. Boston Bruins - They dramatically improved their team this off-season. I loved everything they did, except for Marc Savard's salary. Don't underestimate the boost from a healthy Hannu Toivunen. The kid was having a very good year in net until a season-ending injury in January.

8. Philadelphia Flyers - I don't see a lot of things breaking right for this team. They lost a couple of key veterans (Desjardins and Primeau), and are old on defense. I also wonder how well equipped they are to deal with the inevitable Peter Forsberg injury. Suffice to say, there are a lot of question marks here.

9. Florida Panthers - This is a good team, but they'll come up just short.

10. Montreal Canadiens - I'm not sold on their defense, and I think Cristobal Huet's 15 minutes is just about up.

11. Atlanta Thrashers - Kovalchuk, Hossa, and...? I don't know. Having Kari Lehtonen in goal, but this team needs more depth up front.

12. Pittsburgh Penguins - There's a lot of young talent here. Once Malkin gets healthy, they'll be a feisty opponent, but they're not a playoff team yet.

13. Toronto Maple Leafs - Just a bad team. The less said, the better.

14. New York Islanders - On talent alone, I could see them finishing 10th or 11th, but team morale must be in the toilet right now.

15. Washington Capitals - They're a one man show, and the only reason that the Isles won't finish last.

Western Conference
1. Detroit Red Wings - They have a weak division, and a lot of young talent that's about to take off. Even if they have to play Chris Osgood 30-40 nights this year, they could win the President's Trophy.

2. San Jose Sharks - They're deep, balanced, and led by "Mr. December" Joe Thornton, who should be in the Art Ross mix once again.

3. Calgary Flames - They will score more goals this year, which, given their great defense, should be enough to separate them from the crowd in the Northwest.

4. Nashville Predators - They have a good mix of veterans and youngsters, and one of the underrated goalies in the league in Tomas Vokoun. Plus, they get to beat up on the Central division.

5. Mighty Ducks of Anaheim - Even if they don't score goals, they have great defense and very good goaltending, which should be enough to secure a playoff spot.

6. Minnesota Wild - They beefed up the offense, and I think they could surprise a lot of teams this year.

7. Edmonton Oilers - A ton of depth up front, and a serviceable defense and netmining duo should ensure a second consective playoff appearance.

8. Chicago Blackhawks - Just so I can look smart if by some miracle everything comes together for this team.

9. Vancouver Canucks - Can they win with one big line and a top-notch goalie? Probably, but I think this team has too many holes, and a killer division schedule.

10. Colorado Avalanche - They're not as bad as some people think, but I'm not sure they're still a playoff team.

11. Los Angeles Kings - They lack top-level talent, but they have a lot of grit, young players with potential, and Marc Crawford will have them playing hard.

12. Dallas Stars - They're getting older, Modano's upset about losing the C, and Turco got shelled in the playoffs. I sense this is the year everything falls apart in Dallas, and they end up tearing the team apart next summer.

13. St. Louis Blues - They made some moves to bring the team closer to respectability, but they are still a long way away from contending.

14. Phoenix Coyotes - This is a team going nowhere fast, even with the addition of Ed Jovanovski.

15. Columbus Blue Jackets - How does Doug MacLean still have a job? Aside from drafting Rick Nash, he hasn't done anything to bring this team closer to contention in 6 years?

Hart Trophy - Eric Staal, Carolina
Art Ross Trophy - Eric Staal, Carolina
Rocket Richard Trophy - Ilya Kovalchuk, Atlanta
Norris Trophy - Zdeno Chara, Boston
Vezina Trophy - Mikka Kiprusoff, Calgary
Calder Trophy - Phil Kessel, Boston
Adams Trophy - John Tortorella, Tampa Bay

Stanley Cup:
NY Rangers over Minnesota, because it will probably be a result that no one is expecting.

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