From @DregerFace. Dreger Face is one of the few good things to come
out of this lockout.... If this doesn't show how boring the lockout was I don't
know what will. BRING ON THE HOCKEY
The season is back and I am excited so I thought I would write a quick predictions post. I LA to be in the SCF last year, but otherwise I wasn't awesome... Anyway here we go! (Last year's: Western Conference
and Eastern Conference)
(Note this is based on rosters as they are right now (as they were over the lockout), with no trades and the assumption that most (if not all) unsigned RFA's are signed).
- Pittsburgh Penguins-
- A healthy Sid and Malkin, Neal a year older, a D corps looking damn good, and a backup who is better than their overrated but still good starter... They are the cream of the crop.
- Losing Thomas will hurt, but Rask is damn good and they have a very deep forward corps. Their D (as usual) is top heavy and a little lacking in depth.
- This may be a bold pick and I think it is completely dependent on their goaltending. If one of Holtby/Neuvirth can give them above average tending I think they are a damn good team. They still have 2 of the best forwards in the game (Ovechkin and Backstrom), a bunch of good young defenders, and some great pieces on the team and coming up. Besides I think they are in a weak division.
- I didn't love the Nash trade because I think it hurts them long term and Nash is not that young. Their 3 highest paid (and best) forwards are now 32, 30, and 28. If they are on this year that should be one of the best lines in hockey. Add in a very good and young d corps with potentially the best goalie in the game? Yeah... they're good.
- This should be an exciting division. I think Bryz rebounds to at least league average. Their D has taken a bit of a hit but is still deep. Their forwards (as everyone knows) are pretty damn good.
- I didn't love every off/late season move, but Staal is a great centre, and Semin is so talented that the hatred on him just boggles the mind. They have a very good goalie and now a pretty deep forward corps. Pitkanen is underrated on the back end and they have some other good pieces back there. They could probably use one or two more though.
- I think the Roy trade was really stupid, but otherwise they didn't change to much from last year. I think last year was mostly an off year from a pretty good roster. I don't know if they have a true #1 C but they do now have Ennis, Hodgson, plus a few others (Adams in the AHL comes to mind). They have a couple very good forwads (Vanek and Pominville for example), some good defenders and a great goalie tandem (Miller may be a tad overrated but this is balanced out by how underrated Enroth is).
- This is purely dependent on goaltending. They decided to go with the unproven Lindback so we'll see how that turns out for them. Fortunately they have some good guys in the AHL who played great in last years playoffs. In front of them they have a pretty good d corps with the addition of Carle and their top end forwards are of course elite. Their depth forwards are okay (could use some improvement), but that is why they are on the borderline of the playoffs
- They have good goaltending. A weird sentence when talking about the Senators. Anderson is a little inconsistent year to year but the rat (look at picture of him) should provide league average tending. Behind him they have two guys who are just destroying the AHL. So why do I not have them higher? Well I think their forwards are questionable: They have an elite centre (Spezza), a formerly elite guy at the end of his career (Alfredsson), and a good player who has been quite the injury case and who I believe overperformed last year (Michalek). They traded away one of their good young forwards for much needed help on D which doesn't help either. Behind those three they have Turris (will he finally be their number 2 C? Time will tell) and a mix of depth forwards and young/prospects. While some look like they may have bright futures (Silfverberg comes to mind) I don't know if they are ready and if there are enough good guys to build scoring lines in the NHL right now. On D I think they are in trouble. Karlsson is a very good Dman, no doubt about it. I still think he overperformed last year and will take a step back. Behind him they lost Kuba (replaced with Methot for arguments sake) and lost Cowen for the year on an injury. They'll have trouble back there.
- Their outcome is based purely on goaltending. Can Reimer regain his form? Can Scrivens translate his AHL dominance to NHL success? Do they trade for Luongo? Without league average goaltending (basically nonexistent between lockouts) this ranking may very well be too high. With it (or better) they could actually probably make the playoffs. Their forwards are pretty good (though lacking a number 1 C as everyone knows). They have an all star in Kessel and then a bunch of very good wingers in JVR, Lupul, and the underrated MacArthur. AS well they have a 1a/1b C in Grabovski, an enigmatic Russian (I just really wanted to write that) in Kulemin (who is 7th in KHL scoring....though he is on Malkin's line), Mr. Glass-Tim Connolly, a 3rd line C forced into 1 C in Bozak, a question mark in the former (pre-serious concussion) top 2 C in Lombardi, and a bunch of prospects in Kadri/Frattin/Komorov. On D they have a couple good pieces in Gunnarson, Gardiner, and Phaneuf, (plus 2 effective offensive dmen in Liles and Franson) but due to which side they play on it may be difficult to make effective pairings. With Holzer pushing from the AHL and Leafs fans praying that Ranger will want to sign with them their D corps could use some improvement.
- Put simply they overperformed their record last year. They had the worst goal differential of playoff teams last year (one of two to be negative with a whopping -24) and had a terrible regulation+OT wins of 32 (the next lowest in the playoffs was Ottawa with 35). Compare that with the Leafs with 31. They led the league in the loser point with 18 OTL. Their team may be improved by the addition of Huberdeau but beyond that I don't find their roster particularly impressive. They have a couple of good pieces everywhere (Cambell, Kulikov, Versteeg, etc) but overall I am not that impressed.
- This may be the only team where I let the cap influence my rankings. They may actually have trouble signing Subban which I find hilarious. They did not fire their previous GM soon enough and he just destroyed this team. While they are fortunate to have a few very damn good (great?) young players to build this team around in the future they are full of a lot of over paid crap. Paccioretti, Subban, Price (he is awesome) and potentially Galchenyuk will make a good core for the future. Today they have some good veterans to play around them (Plekanec, Cole, Gorges, and a few others come to mind), plus a couple young players who seem pretty good (Desharnais and Diaz come to mind), but overall they have a bunch of boat anchors and guys who seem to be on the downside of their career. If they do better it is because Price single handedly drags them higher (which isn't impossible, I just don't know how likely).
- Am I really predicting that the former Stanley Cup Finalists come in 13th? Yes. They lost their second best (or best depending on who you ask) forward/player in the offseason. They still have one elite player (Kovi) and a couple good players (Zajac comes to mind). They have a couple good (great?) young players coming up like Larsson, but for the most part this is just a very old team which came together at the right time of the year. Their goaltending tandem is ancient and I have zero faith in it. Up front they are depending on Salvador (coming off a career year), Zubrus (coming off a great year in his mid 30s), and a simply old Elias to all have good years. Their forwards are meh at best, their D is not very good and pretty damn old and their tending is ancient. Good luck.
- They have some good prospects and good young players and I do like the resigning of Enstrom and the signing of Jokinen. All that being said I still think they are missing a lot of pieces. As well I don't have much faith in their scumbag goalie (I think drunk driving is terrible and too many people overlook it or shrug it off). Also, for my amusement, I hope they run Kane out of town for no good reason as he may be their brightest star!
- I don't think they are quite ready to put everything together yet. They lost PA Parenteau and they haven't addressed their tending. They tried to bring in a new Dman from Anaheim but he doesn't even want to play there. We'll see how this one works out.
*I think 7-9 will be tight.
- St Louis Blues
- I doubt Brian Elliot repeats but Halak is that good. They have a defensive minded coach with a team that can play his game. They have a deep forward corps which may lack a bonafide star but is just consistently good through and through. On defense they have a perennial Norris candidate IMHO in Pietrelangelo plus some other very good defenders (Shattenkirk and Jackman to name a few). With potentially the best nonNHL prospect coming over (Tarasenko may be that good), they are a scary team.
- I called the Kings for the cup last season and somehow I was right. The changes from this time last year? Added Carter and subtracted Johnson (with a young guy coming out on their D). They're good.
- They have yet to put everything together and have an aging corps, but they are not yet that old. They have an absolutely incredible 1-2 punch in net (though that likely won't last) a deep forwards corps and deep D-corps. Honestly I can see them getting another presidents trophy, but I like the two I have ahead of them and the Sedins are no spring chickens. So 3rd it is.
- They're aging but they're still good. As Thornton, Marleau, and Boyle's time come to an end, Couture, Pavelski, and Burns are ready to carry the torch. They have some other very good players (Havlat, Murray, and Vlasic to name a few) and Niemi is solid, though not spectacular. They have the big names to be higher, but I think age and middle of the pack goaltending will hold them back some.
- I'll make this one short and sweet. They could be top of the conference but I have zero faith in Crawford. If he plays well they will be, if not they'll be around here. The rest of their team is very damn good, but in hockey you need goaltending.
- They lost Lidstrom (and some others including Hudler) and they are aging, but Datsyuk is that good and Howard is underrated (basically identical stats to Quick over the last three years). They have an okay D corps still led by Kronwall and still have a bunch of good/great forwards. Add in some good prospects and they should be okay, but not spectacular.
- Yes I know, they won the off season... We'll see how that turns out in the long run. But regardless they added two very good players and now have a pretty potent offense with Heatley, Parise, Koivu, Setoguchi, and top prospect Granlund. Their goalies have always been a strong point (though I am quite saddened by Harding's recent diagnosis of MS and don't know what this will mean for him). On D, Suter will help, but it is their lack of quality back here which I think keeps them to the back of the playoff pack for now. With their two new stars (plus Koivu already) and top end prospect pool they can have a great future if they play their cards right. If not those contracts can drown them in the long run. Either way they should be fun to watch this year.
- I haven't liked every move of Nieuwendyk (particularly the Neal trade), but I think he has built a pretty good team. The D corps still needs some improvement but the forwards are looking pretty good being led by the next generation in Benn and Errickson. With Lehtonen in net I think they make the playoffs.
- I hope I am wrong on this one as they deserve better. That being said they lost 2 of their deadline acquisitions (Kostitsyn and Radulov), lost their second best defender (Suter) and another solid guy in Boiulillon (sp?). Their forwards lack high end fire power and their D corps is not as intimidating as it once was. Still Rinne is incredible so I hope they surprise me.
- This is another team that may surprise. They have an underrated tender (Hiller), though he is coming off a bad season. Up front they are very top heavy with Getzlaf, Perry, Selanne, and Ryan. The problem is that it drops off pretty significantly behind them. Their defense actually looks improved to me with their young guys continuing to improve and the addition of Allen (of course they would love Schults), however it is mediocre at best. I think it is lack of forward depth that holds them back, but maybe their AHL prospects can elevate them.
- They have some great young forwards plus Stastny and Hejduk. They have at least league average goaltending in Varlamov/Giggy. And they have some good prospects. So what is holding them back? 1: I think they lack enough good forwards and 2: I think their defense needs some improvement. But they could definitely surprise.
- They aren't quite ready (IMHO) for the next step, but I think they'll be damn exciting to watch. The fact that the Oklahoma Barons are in ~7th place in their conference with RNH, Hall, Eberle, and Schultz producing the way they are speaks some to their organizational depth. Basically though what I see for the NHL oilers is a great young forward corps with Hemsky and Horcroff to lead them, plus Schultz and some okay 3-6 Dmen on the back end. I would include Whitney who I used to really like, but my understanding is that many believe his skating will never be the same again. If they are smart enough to hand the reins over to Dubnyk they may do better, but if they keep playing Khabi I think they could do worse.
- I know this is coming from a Leafs fan but they need to blow that team up. It is the 2007 or so Leafs. Their stars are getting older and they keep making moves to tread water. They over pay for Wideman who is solid, but seems a silly move. They make a sideways move for Hudler/Jokinen but at least get younger. Besides that this team is old and they need to blow it up. Maybe Kipper's tendency to play a tonne of games can help them in the shortened season but I don't have much hope.
- I underrated them last year and maybe I am doing it again, but frankly I don't think they're that good. Smith is a good goalie, but I think he had a career year last year. OEL will be a future star and Yandle is also pretty damn good. They have some good depth players, but their forwards are completely lacking, Doan is old and starting to decline and they lost their top scorer (Whitney) from last year.
- Do I really need to fill this in? They're bad.
*I think 6-11 will be tight again this year like it was last.
- Western: St Louis over LA
- Eastern: NYR over Pittsburgh
- New York Rangers win the cup over the St Louis Blues
Drop the puck!