Preseason predictions and rankings are about as much a guessing game as the weather. Until we've seen 30+ games of regular season action it is impossible to accurately predict how teams will perform. Yet it seems that as much as I cringe when I read everyone elses' rankings and playoff projections, I can't resist following suit. I'll try and check back on these mid-season and see how far off base I am, so you can hold me to these.
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Northeast Divison:Conference finish in parentheses
Were it not for the tie-breaker going to Montreal these would have been the standings last season. The only difference I see this year is that I don't have Montreal making the playoffs. Montreal and Toronto could finish within a point or two of each other. I'm just not buying the Habs, and while I have Toronto on an upward trend this year, I still think they fall just short of the playoffs. Ottawa gets in the Nail Yakupov sweepstakes, and if you're going to be bad, at least there's that silver lining.
Everyone below the Isles is a crapshoot, but I feel as confident as I can be (which is not very confident in September!) that the top 8 teams I have listed will earn a playoff birth. If Crosby plays and I believe he will, Pittsburgh should win the Atlantic, and I see Washington running away with the Southeast. My surprise here is sneaking the Isles in at 8 and keeping any combination of Montreal/New Jersey out of the playoffs. I just have a gut feeling that things are coming together out on the Island and Garth Snow's patience will pay off this year with the honor of being swept by Ovechkin and the Caps.
Here are my preseason player nominations for the major NHL awards to be given out ONLY amongst the Northeast Division:
Hart Trophy:David Krejci Bos-F
I loved Krejci's game in the playoffs last year. Other than Thomas I thought he was the next most important player on the Bruins roster and this year I think he takes on that responsibility full time. If his linemates stay healthy (keep your head up Horton!) I could see Krejci finishing with a monster 25g 55a season for 80pts. Totals which would very likely lead his team and probably the division.
Vezina Trophy:Ryan Miller Buf-G
Ryan Miller has a lot of things going for him entering the season. He finally has a capable backup to provide him with some much needed days off throughout the year, and his defensive corps was strengthened significantly this off-season. I see those two things equating to a return to form for Ryan and his second Vezina trophy in three years.
Norris Trophy:Tyler Myers Buf-D
Freakish size? check Great skating ability? check Rocket shot? check Physicality? check Long term contract? check Oh sorry I'm not talking about Zdeno Chara, this is the year Myers overtakes Chara and becomes the beast of the Northeast.
Art Ross Trophy:David Krejci Bos-F
I know my blurb above for the Hart says that I projected Krejci for roughly 80 points and in the NHL that won't be enough to win the Ross. But remember these are Northeast division awards, and I'm not sure anyone else in the division will best those numbers. Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy, Jason Spezza, Mikhail Grabovski, and Tomas Plekanec may come close, but I see those guys in the mid to upper 70's.
Lady Bing Trophy:David Desharnais Mon-F
No I don't watch every Habs game, and maybe someone else in the division is more deserving, but every time I do see Montreal Desharnais stands out as a very gentlemanly player. Not sure that's a compliment.
Bill Masterton Trophy:Max Pacioretty Mon-F
If Pacioretty plays a full season and plays regular top 9 minutes than who better exemplifies perseverance than him? Nobody, in fact he could be a Masterton trophy winner for the league as well.
Selke Trophy:Tyler Seguin Bos-F
I know he was -4 on the season last year, but I think with his skill set and all that time he spent on the 4th line learning how to be a grinder and play in his own end is going to pay off. He showed flashes of brilliance during the playoffs, and I see him primed for a breakout season. Taylor Hall may have had the better rookie campaign, but Seguin is a far more complete player and he is going to dominate at both ends of the ice.
Calder Trophy: Jared Cowen Ott-D
I'm not an Ottawa insider and I haven't watched him in camp but even if he doesn't make the team for opening day he'll have an impact this season at some point. Cowen is a big boy (6-5 226 lbs) and he made the transition from juniors (Spokane-WHL) to the AHL (Binghamton) look easy last year. There is no reason to believe he will have difficulty making that next transition to the NHL, and given that Ottawa is rebuilding I see that happening sooner than later.
Brett Lindros Award: Tim Connolly Tor-F
Tim Connolly wins the trophy awarded annually to the player most likely to end up talking to the lampshade. One more big hit and Connolly might hear the lampshade talking back. Sorry for the cheapshot, but I had to find an award I could have a Toronto player win!
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