Alright, I'm bored, and all these CBA talks and reports are kind of depressing. I'm going to pretend the problem will get solved with slight damage, lets say a lockout that ends so games start up sometime in December, with about a 65-game schedule.
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I'm going to go by division, then list the conference standings, and then bracket off the playoffs, justifying each of these to the best of my ability. I'll try not to be too much of a Flyers' homer.
1. New York Rangers Record: 44-13-8 96 pts.
Yeah, Marian Gaborik is supposed to be out until December, but if the season starts around that time, he will be healthy enough to join Richards and Nash on a dynamite scoring line. King Henrik will keep his crown as best goalie in the division (and I mean this year for all you Marty fans)
2. Pittsburgh Penguins Record: 45-15-5 95 pts.
Simply enough, a healthy Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin tandem is the scariest two-headed monster in hockey. This team will not allow its postseason mistakes to rattle them next season. The Rangers are just a tad more complete and will accrue more points in the standings.
3. Philadelphia Flyers Record: 41-17-7 89 pts.
This team has lost Jaromir Jagr and Matt Carle, key to both their offensive and defensive success last season. That being said, Claude Giroux is still a superstar who at age 24 has more talent to discover in himself. He appears ready to lead the team to a successful season in a rigorously competitive division.
4. New Jersey Devils Record: 37-19-9 83 pts.
It's no secret the Devils will miss Zach Parise's talent on the ice. Even so, Ilya Kovalchuk is still a superstar. In fact, the Devils made sure everyone knew that this was Kovalchuk's team in 2010 by giving him a 15-year contract. The defense is still intact, which if you remember, shut down the Panthers, Flyers, and Rangers on their way to the Stanley Cup Finals. Not to mention they have probably the best goalie to ever play the game; and even in the twilight of his career he is still capable of 2 more years of success.
5. New York Islanders Record: 32-23-10 74 pts.
The New York Islanders were able to augment their defense at the draft, trading their second-round pick for Lubomir Visnovsky (even though he's attempting to get back to Anaheim via some sort of appeals system disputing his no-trade clause) and 4th overall pick Griffin Reinhart. However John Tavares is still young, and even though he is transforming to an elite forward, he has no real weapons on offense to help him, especially with the departure of P.A. Parenteau. I guess Michael Grabner is a good scoring winger and Kyle Okposo is a young but decent winger as well, but it just isn't enough for the Islanders to be competitive in the Atlantic Division.
1. Ottawa Senators Record: 42-14-9 93 pts.
The Ottawa Senators are probably the most stable team in the Northeast Division. Erik Karlsson is off a Norris Trophy-winning season, and you can expect similar success. The team is pretty much the same as last year. Craig Anderson is more certain for success next season than Tuukka Rask, so I'd have to give the edge to the Senators to win the division, unless the Sens decide to break in Robin Lehner as the starter when it comes to opening night. Who knows, that could happen.
2. Boston Bruins Record: 43-16-6 92 pts.
The Boston Bruins have an immense amount of talent on both offense and defense, with memorable names like Seguin, Marchand, and Chara. Tuukka Rask has been waiting in the wings the past two years to get the starting job back after a relatively successful 2009-2010 campaign. Now he gets to prove what he's made of as he is probably the Boston Bruins starter for many years to come. At age 25 he still has time to work and be the elite goaltender people are looking for in him. Don't be surprised if I'm wrong on this one, but I think he has a somewhat difficult year, but not bad enough to ruin the Bruins' playoff chances.
3. Buffalo Sabres Record: 37-20-8 82 pts.
Ryan Miller is one of the best goalies in the game, and like always, he will anchor this team. While adding Steve Ott to the team will give the Sabres a bit of edgy play, they will miss Derek Roy's scoring. This team will be good, but not great.
4. Montreal Canadiens Record: 32-23-10 74 pts.
The Montreal Canadiens had a horrid season last year, and honestly they can't get any worse. They made small additions in Armstrong and Prust, and drafted Alex Galchenyuk to give them some scoring punch in the future. The team will keep sweating off the horrendous Scott Gomez contract and have a barely winning season. They have enough talent to win, but not enough to make the playoffs.
5. Toronto Maple Leafs Record: 30-23-12 72 pts.
Just when everyone thought the Leafs could have made the playoffs last year they go on a slide and fall into the 5th overall pick. The trade for James vanRiemsdyk helps their offense a bit, given the New Jersey native has a healthy season and starts to meet some of his expectations as the #2 overall pick in 2007. Kessel and Lupul will look to have similar success. There is not much certainty in goal though. Unless you see a trade for Roberto Luongo before the season starts, this team will be irrelevant and last place in the division.
1. Washington Capitals Record: 43-13-6 92 pts.
The Capitals were largely unsuccessful last season, until it came to the playoffs and Brayden Holtby became possessed. However, his goaltending was more impressive than say Niemi's run in 2010. I think you will see a similar performance by him. Getting rid of Semin was good character-wise for the makeup of the team, but on the same token, Mike Ribiero brings a similar personality from the draft-day trade with Dallas. This team is still pretty good, and will find an identity to put them back on the winning track.
2. Carolina Hurricanes Record: 40-19-6 86 pts.
Acquiring Jordan Staal and signing him to a ten year extension to be with his brother Eric was a great move to bolster this team's offense. If that wasn't enough Alex Semin's scoring talents were brought along for one season. Hopefully his reputation for not being a team player doesn't come to light this season.
3. Winnipeg Jets Record: 39-19-7 85 pts.
The Jets hit a home run this season bolstering their offense with guys like Olli Jokinen and Alexei Ponikarovsky. Alll they need to do now is resign Evander Kane and this team is ready to have one of their better seasons in a while
4. Tampa Bay Lightning Record: 35-19-11 81 pts.
The Lightning did add Matt Carle to their defense, which will help them on the power play quite a bit. However, giving the starting job to ex-Nashville backup Anders Lindback is a risk. This guy is probably going to struggle his first season. Unlike Rask, he has never been the starter before. This team other than that is pretty much the same, and they must be ready to improve from a disappointing season.
5. Florida Panthers Record: 32-25-8 72 pts.
This team did little to improve itself in the offseason, losing Wojtek Wolski and Jason Garrison, only to bring in injury-prone Peter Mueller. The rest of the teams in this division geared up this offseason and are ready to improve after disappointing performances. The Panthers are ill-prepared and will suffer in the standings.
1. St. Louis Blues Record: 45-15-5 95 pts.
This team is the most complete team in the Central Division. They have the scoring punch, the defensive gusto, and a goalie tandem that was great last season in Brian Elliot and Jaroslav Halak. This team fits very well and buys into head coach Ken Hitchcock's system. They will be back and ready to compete for the Stanley Cup.
2. Chicago Blackhawks Record: 41-16-8 90 pts.
The Chicago Blackhawks have the scoring ability in Kane, Toews, Hossa, and Sharp, but they also have Keith and Seabrook to hold down the defense. Their only area of concern is goaltending. Much like the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers, they have a 2-headed goalie monster in Corey Crawford and Ray Emery that will hinder the talents of the skaters on the team.
3. Nashville Predators Record: 40-18-7 87 pts.
The Nashville Predators are lucky they only lost Ryan Suter this offseason. They are also very daring to take on an albatross of a contract like Shea Weber's. However they are committed to winning, which is evident by clearing away of Alex Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn, the two personality problems on the team.
4. Detroit Red Wings Record: 38-20-7 83 pts.
The Detroit Red Wings bid farewell as Nick Lidstrom set off into the sunset, retiring from playing hockey. They sent defender Brad Stuart to San Jose to be closer to family, and they rightfully watched Jiri Hudler, scoring winger, get a payday from the Calgary Flames. This team has lost too many players from its core. However, not all is lost, as Datsyuk and Zetterberg are still amazingly talented. It will be tough this season, but the Red Wings will not be bad.
5. Columbus Blue Jackets Record: 24-30-11 59 pts.
I may be generous saying the Blue Jackets will have 59 points in the standings. Last year in 82 games they had 65 points, and really, after the Nash trade didn't get any better. This is a long road ahead for Columbus, nothing is going to be fixed soon.
1. Vancouver Canucks Record: 46-13-6 98 pts.
The Vancouver Canucks are good every year with Luongo as the starter. If Schneider is supposed to be better at this stage, then certainly they will have just as good a season, if not better?
2. Minnesota Wild Record: 44-14-7 95 pts.
The signings of both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to complement Heatley, Koivu, and Backstrom. They'll certainly be better, but it will be interesting to see how this team fits together.
3. Calgary Flames Record: 40-17-8 88 pts.
The Calgary Flames have a good, but old team. For this season I would take their roster over Colorado or Edmonton's. They will look to be back in the playoffs after some disappointing seasons lately.
4. Colorado Avalanche Record: 39-17-9 87 pts.
Gabriel Landeskog, Erik Johnson, and Semyon Varlarmov are all bright young faces for this Colorado Avalanche team. They will be good this year, but good enough for the playoffs?
5. Edmonton Oilers Record: 33-20-12 78 pts.
The Oilers are a young team that will pose a threat in the years to come. As long as their already-proven young guns stay healthy, they can shell out a winning record. However, they are too far from making the playoffs.
1. Los Angeles Kings Record: 45-13-7 97pts.
The Los Angeles Kings are the most complete team in hockey. They patiently grew from within and kept adding pieces like Carter, Richards, and Gagne to put them over the top. Drew Doughty is a force to be reckoned with on defense. Anze Kopitar is an amazing scoring threat. You can't forget Jonathan Quick was the Conn Smythe Winner as MVP of the playoffs. At age 26 he has many years to go as a top goaltender..
2. San Jose Sharks Record: 42-17-6 90 pts.
The San Jose Sharks have veteran offensive weapons in Thorton and Marleau. Logan Couture will look to have a good year as well. Bringing in Brad Stuart will certainly help on defense with a corps that already has Dan Boyle, Brent Burns, Doug Murray and Marc-Edouard "Pickles" Vlasic. Antti Niemi is no certainty to play well, but he should have a decent year and the Sharks will be likely a playoff team.
3. Phoenix Coyotes Record: 41-18-6 88 pts.
I'm going to assume Shane Doan returns to Phoenix. I can't see him leaving. That being said, the Coyotes did not do much this offseason, but they did reacquire Zbynek Michalek to help out on defense. Assuming Mike Smith has another good year, this team should be a playoff contender.
4. Dallas Stars Record: 40-17-8 88 pts.
Adding Jaromir Jagr, Ray Whitney, and Derek Roy will seriously increase this team's offensive power. The only question is Jagr's groin and Ray Whitney's age. At age 40 for both of these guys, you can never be sure they will produce or not get hurt. Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson will welcome their talent. If the Stars are not among the top teams in scoring this season, something weird must be up.
5. Anaheim Ducks Record: 33-25-7 73 pts.
The Ducks had a bad year last year. However, they have enough talent on their team to at least win half of their games. They should be able to pull off a decent season, but should focus on locking up Getzlaf and Perry.
1. New York Rangers Vancouver Canucks
2. Ottawa Senators Los Angeles Kings
3. Washington Capitals St. Louis Blues
4. Pittsburgh Penguins Minnesota Wild
5. Boston Bruins San Jose Sharks
6. Philadelphia Flyers Chicago Blackhawks
7. Carolina Hurricanes Phoenix Coyotes
8. Winnipeg Jets Calgary Flames
#1 New York Rangers vs. #8 Winnipeg Jets
The Winnipeg Jets will have one of their better seasons in a while. However, they simply do not have the experience to win a playoff series against the New York Rangers.
#2 Ottawa Senators vs. #7 Carolina Hurricanes
Carolina has had more success recently when they have made the playoffs than the Ottawa Senators.
#3 Washington Capitals vs. #6 Philadelphia Flyers
Call me a homer, but I think you'll see a repeat of the 2008 Conference Quarterfinals; a close series between these teams, but the Flyers will ultimately come out on top. The Washington Capitals have made it beyond the first round twice in recent history, ultimately losing in 7 games both times to the Penguins and the Rangers. The Flyers on the other hand have had more recent playoff success.
#4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #5 Boston Bruins
The Penguins whimpered out of the playoffs in the first round last year. I can't imagine that happening two years in a row. There is too much talent on this team. Tuukka Rask will not be ready for the pressure of a playoff run.
#1 Vancouver Canucks vs. #8 Calgary Flames
The Canucks will have no trouble beating a Calgary Flames team that is just getting back to the playoffs. They are an elite hockey club.
#2 Los Angeles Kings vs. #7 Phoenix Coyotes
The LA Kings will do the exact same thing they did to the Coyotes in the Western Conference Finals last year. There are not many teams on the Los Angeles Kings' level, and the Phoenix Coyotes are not one of them.
#3 St. Louis Blues vs. #6 Chicago Blackhawks
The Blues are going to be an improved team this year, but the Chicago Blackhawks have more playoff experience and that will show in a first-round upset.
#4 Minnesota Wild vs. #5 San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks will finally have some playoff success and make it out of the first round. I am skeptical the Minnesota Wild will be able to come together as a solid team this first year with Parise and Suter. That being said, the Sharks will be able to capitalize on that.
#1 New York Rangers vs. #7 Carolina Hurricanes
The Carolina Hurricanes will be a good matchup for the New York Rangers, and Marc Staal and the Broadway Blueshirts will have little issue beating brothers Jordan and Eric to cruise to the Conference Finals.
#4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #6 Philadelphia Flyers
It's not every year the Flyers beat the Penguins in the playoffs. Simply, the Flyguys were able to capitalize on a defensive breakdown in Pittsburgh and translate that into 4 wins. It will be much more difficult for the Flyers to beat the Penguins this year. A path to the Stanley Cup for the Flyers is a path that avoids the Penguins and Rangers.
#1 Vancouver Canucks vs. #6 Chicago Blackhawks
The Vancouver Canucks will have difficulty against the Blackhawks. However, it will come down to goaltending when push comes to shove, and Corey Crawford is not going to outplay Corey Schneider. (or Luongo?)
#2 Los Angeles Kings vs. #5 San Jose Sharks
The Sharks will put up the good fight, but the Kings just have a great playoff roster. Having just made it there and back, the Kings will have the upper hand.
#1 New York Rangers vs. #4 Pittsburgh Penguins
This series will be an unstoppable force vs. an unmovable object. Ultimately though, the Pittsburgh Penguins have two of the best players in the world right now, and that will give them the advantage over the New York Rangers.
#1 Vancouver Canucks vs. #2 Los Angeles Kings
The Canucks are itching to get their first Stanley Cup. They're not going to let the LA Kings get in the way of it. They will avenge their first round loss last year, and break any hopes anyone had of the LA Kings repeating as Cup winners.
Stanley Cup Final:
Vancouver Canucks vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
By the end of it all, the Vancouver Canucks will finally get themselves a Stanley Cup, and they'll have gone through Sid the Kid and Geno. No longer will Vancouver haters be able to use the meme "2 girls, no cup." It is just bound to happen. The Sedins are reaching an age where they may never win one if they don't soon. Everything is falling into place for them. Their continued success in the regular season will finally pay off.
Well I hope you enjoyed my predictions. Try not to be too offended by them. I'm only doing this for fun so save your advice and journalistic critique for someone who actually cares enough.
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