Okay... it's just training camp.
I am really stoked about this coming season, the beginning of horribly overpaid contracts once again handcuffing the big spenders. We know at least one or two of these guys will be a total bust in their new home and could be almost untradeable.
That aside, I have been sitting around trying to figure out, from an objective standpoint, who is going to finish where. It's not an exact science, of course.
I'll list my predictions and the whys and hows of it.
1. Detroit - St. Louis improves and Nashville falls back. This equals a still easy schedule for the Wings and probably the final season of their free points within the division.
2. Anaheim - Boy, this could be really wrong. Bertuzzi is really an issue here. If he doesn't fit in, he'll drag them down. If he does, they finish here. If Niedermayer comes back, they could be first.
3. Colorado - I am going on a leap of faith that Budaj will be consistent. Theodore is unlikely to be the actual starter by November. Ryan Smyth is potentially a huge addition, if he has chemistry here.
4. San Jose - These guys are stuck in the middle, not quite Cup contenders and not in danger of missing the playoffs. I don't know if they have the right make up to go all the way.
5. Vancouver - Reality bites the mighty Nucks behinds a bit. They fall back, probably finish with 96-98 points. That said, I think they'll be more ready for the playoffs this year and Luongo won't be denied much longer.
6. Minnesota - They could finish as low as eight or as high as three this season. It all rests on their relatively inexperienced goalies and Demitra and Gaborik staying healthy.
7. Nashville - They're probably still a playoff team, though I could be swearing at this pick by Christmas.
8. Calgary - I watched Keenan send my Canucks to the bottom of the league. I watched him mess up my Bruins as well, though O'Connell was the biggest villain there. I don't think he ruins the Flames, depends how he gets along with Huselius, Kipper and Iginla.
9. St. Louis - I think Legace is underrated. I think Kariya is serious about winning. I also think the Blues could make the playoffs and, while I hated the Blues twenty years ago, I like John Davidson enough to pull for these guys... though not at the expense of Vancouver.
10. Dallas - They just have to take a step back. Their line up is lacking. They have less finish than Vancouver. The core is another year older.
11. Los Angeles - Get them a goalie and I put these guys at #8. Maybe LaBarbera can be the guy to get it done.
12. Chicago - They are getting better. Maybe next year they contend for a playoff spot. Too much youth to do it this year.
13. Columbus - Are they ever actually going to get better? I'd be choked if I lived in Columbus.
14. Phoenix - Disaster, no direction. Are they going with youth or are they relying on veterans? Wayne might actually be part of the problem.
15. Edmonton - That crashing noise you just heard was the Oilers Stanley Cup blimp hitting the ground.
1. Ottawa - The East is free wheeling and no team can score like these guys.
2. Rangers - Yes, they are better. I am still not convinced they are Cup material.
3. Tampa Bay - The rest of the division is beneath them at this point. They win by default.
4. Pittsburgh - Everyone is excited about the Pens and their chances, but they remind me of the 80s Oilers. It took them three or four tries to win it all. They will probably make it past the first round this year, but I don't see them winning the Cup... yet.
5. Buffalo - Yes, they lost a lot. In their favor is the best development system in the NHL. Stafford gets a top spot this year. He is ready. Pominville has a lot of talent. If Connelly is 100%, watch out for them.
6. New Jersey - It's fashionable to pick them to miss this season. Brodeur is the reason I say they make it and bow out in the first round.
7. Carolina - They aren't the Cup champs from two years ago, but they underachieved last year. They bounce back a little this season.
8. Philadelphia - The new additions make them a playoff team, though I don't know that they'll love these long term contracts four years from now or when a better crop of free agents comes along.
9. Toronto - Not quite, Leafs. Toskala is a start, but not quite playoffs yet.
10. Atlanta - These guys could crash really hard this year if Lehtonen's confidence is gone.
11. Montreal - I think it's odd that the Habs are excited about Carey Price when goaltending is the least of their problems. They are going to have to trade a goalie to get some help on the blueline.
12. Islanders - Garth Snow proved me wrong last year. He could do it again.
13. Washington - Dark horses for sure, their core is still too young for the most part. Nylander scored a lot with Jagr, but he was a 60 point player before he went to the Rangers. If he scores 60 or less, they finish here.
14. Florida - Might get better... but we've been saying that for a LONG time now.
15. Boston - Dammit.... I want them to win. I really do. I just see them hanging out down here from opening night till the lights go out.
When I pick who finishes where, I do my best not to be a "homer." Since Vancouver, Dallas and Boston are my favorite teams and I am picking all of them to fall a little (or a lot in Dallas), I believe my predictions are objective. Now, are they accurate? Last year, I picked Columbus to make the playoffs.....