Wednesday, October 8, 2014

2014-15 NHL Season Predictions

Hello out there, we're on the... no I will not quote Stomping Tom anymore but hockey is starting so he has to be invoked. Sorry. But that shouldn't get you too down because the NHL season is starting today! The game is as healthy as its ever been, allowing us to spend our entire summer thinking about whether high rollers at the Wynn in Vegas want to see the Florida Panthers play the Las Vegas Wranglers (sic), or whether everyone must bow down to the impressive might of CORSI. But now the game on the ice has returned, so it's time to make some predictions. These are sure to fail, since I'm making them, but who isn't excited to see the game back again? Let's get to it...

Metropolitan Division:

1. Pittsburgh
2. Washington
3. New York Rangers
4. New Jersey Devils*
5. New York Islanders*
6. Columbus Blue Jackets
7. Philadelphia Flyers
8. Carolina Hurricanes

Everyone agrees on 1st place and 8th place in the Metro division. After that, it's a crapshoot. 2-7 could end up in any order, and each can have a legitimate justification. The Capitals should be better defensively because of their new bench boss, but can they rely on solely Alex Ovechkin's goals and strength through the middle? I think they can, but that's largely due to everyone else being more meh than they are. The Rangers are weaker than they were a year ago, but they're still good enough to avoid a Wild Card spot. The Islanders and Devils both have their issues scoring, but improvements on the blue line and in net for the Islanders and Mr. Schneider actually playing will propel those teams into the playoffs. I worry about Columbus' depth sans Nathan Horton, and Ryan Johansen's pre-season holdout will affect his form in the first portion of the season. The Flyers are on a precipice waiting to fall, and Carolina's injury woes are already brutal. Paging Mr. McDavid's reps?

Atlantic Division:

1. Tampa Bay Lightning
2. Boston Bruins
3. Montreal Canadiens
4. Detroit Red Wings
5. Florida Panthers
6. Toronto Maple Leafs
7. Ottawa Senators
8. Buffalo Sabres

The Lightning are going to be the sexy pick this year, not only because of a healthy Steven Stamkos, but because of a young team that is on the rise and growing together. It doesn't hurt that they have a stalwart in net and the improvements they have made to a fledgling defense corps and to their bottom 6 were impressive. The Bruins cap hell forced them to shed important players from last year, which mean their defense will take a big hit this season. Montreal will probably take a step back from last because of circumstances, but the team anchored by Price and Subban will be the class of Canada at least. The Red Wings injuries, lack of depth, and overall massive turnover will lead to them missing the playoffs for the first time in an eternity, and might also signal the end of Mike Babcock in Detroit as well. 5-7 could honestly be in any order, although I think Ottawa are closer to Buffalo than they are Toronto, while those same Leafs will be wondering when Randy Carlyle gets the axe and the Panthers will improve dramatically, but enough to make the postseason yet (enough to keep Dale Tallon's job though).

Central Division:

1. Chicago Blackhawks
2. St. Louis Blues
3. Minnesota Wild
4. Dallas Stars*
5. Colorado Avalanche
6. Nashville Predators
7. Winnipeg Jets

The Blackhawks and Blues are once again the class of the division here, even though both still have some unattended problems. Chicago has to wonder whether Brad Richards will do well enough against Western Conference center depth to propel the Hawks back into the Final, and St. Louis has to hope that either Jake Allen or Brian Elliot take the goaltending reigns and run with 'em. But both have dynamic Top 6's, lockdown defense corps, and great leadership. The Wild may have some issues in net and with their defense, but that Top 9 is scary, and should be enough to propel them into the postseason. The same can be said with Dallas, who will be the NHL's most fun team to watch this season, and despite the green-ness of the blueliners, Lindy Ruff will make them work, just like he's done with every other young defense corps he's dealt with. The shocker here is Colorado, who for some reason got deliberately slower when their team is based on speed and quick puck movement. Semyon Varlamov won't stand on his head like he did a year ago, and those possession numbers are incredibly scary. They can't allow as many shots as they did, but I fear they will again. Nashville doesn't have the center depth to compete in the Western Conference, and Winnipeg is being patient for something... what that something is I don't know.

Pacific Division:

1. Anaheim Ducks
2. Los Angeles Kings
3. San Jose Sharks
4. Vancouver Canucks*
5. Arizona (nee Phoenix) Coyotes
6. Edmonton Oilers
7. Calgary Flames

This one's pretty self-explanatory. Despite the Ducks never pulling it off in April or May, they always do from October-March, where the Kings seem to not care just so long as they get in. San Jose might have had a train-wreck of an offseason when they signed John Scott, but they're still good enough to at least get it. Vancouver will be better because they have actual goaltending now, and a coach that seems to understand that you can't have the Sedins killing penalties. Arizona will have a new name, but not necessarily new fortunes. Edmonton's young kids will grow up, but not fast enough to challenge for the postseason just yet, and Calgary... keep Connor's number on speed-dial.

Playoff Predictions:

Eastern Conference:

TB over NYI in 5
MTL over BOS in 7
PIT over NJ in 6
WSH over NYR in 6

TB over MTL in 7
WSH over PIT in 6

TB over WSH in 5

Western Conference:

ANA over VAN in 6
LA over SJ in 5
CHI over DAL in 6
STL over MIN in 5

LA over ANA in 6
STL over CHI in 7

LA over STL in 5

2015 Stanley Cup Final:

LA over TB in 6 (Highly original)

Awards Predictions:

Hart Trophy; Steven Stamkos
Vezina: Tuukka Rask
Norris: Alex Pietrangelo
Calder: Jonathan Drouin
Selke: Anze Kopitar
Jack Adams: Willie Desjardins

There you have it. I did predict the Kings winning the Cup prior to last season, so that has to be something, right? Let's just drop the puck already.

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