Well another decent season for the National Hockey League was put into the history books.
If you read my post last year, I called most of the right dark horses. I said the Canucks will make the playoffs as a wild card. They didn’t even need to be a wild card they had such a successful year. I also said the Predators would make it in but as a wild card. They soared through the rankings in the regular season last year.
Of course it is somewhat of a crap shoot but it is fun. The standings next year no doubt will not emulate last years NHL standings; there will be some teams who I feel will get in once again and others who will go down a bit. Fanbases will be happy when I stroke their team, some will be upset when I speak what I feel is the truth.
Atlantic Division Predictions
1. Tampa Bay Lightning
2. Detroit Red Wings
3. Florida Panthers
4. Ottawa Senators
5. Toronto Maple Leafs
6. Montreal Canadiens
7. Boston Bruins
8. Buffalo Sabres
So your first reaction is probably: “what kind of shit are you smoking that made you rank the Toronto Maple Leafs so high?”
I call it…the fallacy of Mike Babcock.
This is where the Maple Leafs will have a coach that is so good he will make them at least competitive no matter how bad they look on paper. In turn, this will piss off Toronto fans when they may barely miss the playoffs; they as fans will want a lottery pick. I really have this exact feeling. I may be dead wrong, but I call it the “Babcock effect”. Count me as one of the fans who feels a decent coach can turn a team around no matter how bad they look on paper.
So with that said you probably notice the Canadiens low after a decent season last year. Yeah, I believe they are trending downwards. I admittedly don’t follow them often but only hear from fans how bad of a job Michelle Therrien is doing. Carey Price is the force behind that team and I simply don’t believe a team can keep up in the ranks with their goalie playing their heart out. Just look at the New York Rangers with Tortorella. They kept trending downwards even though Lundqvist played his ass off.
The Sabres, yeah, they suck. I am not a believer in Tim Murray at all. Dan Bylsma is a wild card but I truly feel with the losing culture they had in place last year, it’s going to backfire. They are going to become the next Edmonton Oilers. Let’s not forget the idiotic trade and signing of Ryan O’ Reilly. Their two decent prospects in Grigorenko and Nikita Zadorov for him? Tim Murray is going to ruin this team.
I feel the Panthers are going up. A nice young core, some decent depth, and a decent coach. Keep an eye on this team. Dale Tallon did a fine job in Chicago before putting them in cap hell. But hey, I’d prefer the cup if it means my team goes in cap hell for a few years after.
And the Lightning, yeah, no brainer. Called them in first last year. Look for them to be a threat once again this year.
One team I am honestly not sure of is the Boston Bruins. I feel Lucic was the identity of that team and I’m banking on Don Sweeney looking like a fool this offseason. Not sure if Julien is being tuned out by the roster either.
Detroit will be an interesting team to watch. I feel like Blashill will just pick up where Babcock left off. Holland will also continue his brilliance as general manager. I can’t see Detroit falling anytime soon.
Metropolitan Division Predictions
1. Pittsburgh Penguins
2. Washington Capitals
3. New York Rangers
4. New York Islanders
5. Columbus Blue Jackets
6. New Jersey Devils
7. Phiadelphia Flyers
8. Carolina Hurricanes
This is an interesting division. More interesting than the rest.
I truly feel the Rangers reign of dominance may come to an end. I’m familiar with Vigneault. He usually has a few good years until teams start to tune him out just like the Vancouver Canucks did.
I can’t help but think the Penguins were doing well with coach Mike Johnston until they got decimated with injuries. And with the addition of Phil Kessel, I see them playing lights out on offense while Johnston keeps them playing decent on defense. His system had Marc Andre-Fleury looking great. I just can’t see Pittsburgh trending downwards and feel last year was an anomaly.
The Capitals will be up there for sure. I’m not sure if they will rank as high as second but they will be a playoff team. And when they get in, they will be dangerous with game seven legend Justin Williams. I love that pickup. Barry has them playing good hockey. I was wrong about him as a coach. He has done a solid job in Washington.
The Blue Jackets and Islanders could rotate. I feel the Islanders may be slightly ahead. But both teams both have solid, young talent. Like I said, don’t be shocked if one or the other gets in as a bottom seed.
The Devils, not a bad team. But also not great on the forward side of things. I am not sure how their new coach from Wilkes-Barre will do either.
The Flyers I feel may trend a bit down but be good in the future. Their defense core is still the worst in the league and I believe it will take some time to fix. The other teams I ranked ahead of them I just feel are simply better teams than the Flyers, who are pretty much Giroux, Voracek, and maybe Provorov as of now. Not to forget Couturier.
The Hurricanes, yeah, no brainer for me here. Nothing screams cup contender or on the rise from that squad to me. But then again, they could prove me wrong. If they get into the playoffs that means I have a chance with Salma Hayek.
Central Division Predictions
1. St. Louis Blues
2. Nashville Predators
3. Chicago Blackhawks
4. Minnesota Wild
5. Dallas Stars
6. Minnesota Wild
7. Winnipeg Jets
This is hands down the toughest division in hockey. All the teams in this division are good and could be considered playoff teams. I feel I will be dead wrong in my predictions for this division.
You could rotate the Jets with the Wild, the Blackhawks with the Stars. Here is my reasoning for why I ranked it how I did here:
-The Blackhawks are always going to be a playoff team as long as Toews, Kane, and Keith are there. Along with Coach Q. Sharp and Oduya are big losses but do not mean no playoffs
-The Blues are the kings of the regular season. How they do in the playoffs is the bigger concern.
-The Wild have a nice core. People thought they would trend downwards this year and coach Yeo was in trouble. Misjudgment there. Their goaltending is the biggest concern but they haven’t missed the playoffs in years with Suter and Parise at the helm.
-The Predators have the best defensive core in the league and Laviolette usually stays decent as head coach (until year three or so usually).
I can’t see these four teams missing for those reasons. The Stars are the wildcard for me. I feel they may either be able to sneak in as a lower seed, or pass the Predators or Wild. They have a nice young core and elite offensive prowess.
The Avalanche are still a big question mark but again have a nice young core. They too are speedy as hell. They are too inconsistent. One year they finish high, the next, quite low. I’m not too sure if that inconsistency means they are as good as the five I listed above them.
The Jets, I’m sorry to their fans. I really do think last year was an anomaly and I’m not buying them as an elite team. The six teams I ranked ahead of them I feel are flat out better. Of course I ranked the Jets in the bottom of the division last year, and they finished fifth in reality.
Pacific Division Predictions
1. Anaheim Ducks
2. Vancouver Canucks
3. Los Angeles Kings
4. San Jose Sharks
5. Edmonton Oilers
6. Calgary Flames
7. Arizona Coyotes
Here is when my homerism comes in and big time.
I also follow this division more than the other divisions in hockey besides maybe the central division (since that one is so competitive and fun to watch).
I don’t even know if the Anaheim Ducks are a safe bet to finish first. Bruce Boudreau has always been a regular season coach though, so they are the logical choice. Look out Ducks fans about Bieksa though. Don’t complain if he manages to bring your defense down by himself. But like I said, the logical choice for first is the Ducks.
Here is where I will be crucified; I think the Canucks will be a better team this year than last. I follow this team more than any other team. I know Willie Desjardins is a winner. I predicted wild card last year and they instead came in fifth in the western conference and had 101 points. Willie will keep the good times rolling.
Ryan Miller needs to emulate what he did last year. 28-15 as a starter and solid for the most part before he got hurt. I couldn’t ask for more from him. If Jakob Markstrom breaks out like he did in the AHL last year, this could be an awesome goaltending duo.
Bieksa, Matthias, Kassian. All misfits that are gone and replaced by better guys. I truly believe Matt Bartkowski and Clendening will be good on defense. Clendening was solid for us when we had an injury bug in January-March. Little do Canucks fans forget that Sbisa was as well.
Sven Baertschi will be coming in to play on the second line. I can’t see him playing worse than Higgins or Burrows did offensively on the second line. He will put up better numbers. I am a believer.
Horvat and especially Linden Vey will have better years. If Vey doesn’t have a better year he will be gone. I’m rooting for him as he seems like a solid kid. Brandon Prust will be a hellraiser just like Derek Dorsett was on the fourth line. And enter in big Jake Virtanen and Ron Kenins.
Call me a homer, but that’s how I see things. The sky is not falling for me. We aren’t cup contenders but we will be fine.
The Sharks are a wild card to me. Will new coach Peter Deboer be the spark needed for this team? I always felt he was a good coach in New Jersey who was just brutal on the young kids like Adam Larsson. Paul Martin and Joel Ward are also coming in. I’m not sure about Martin but I know Joel Ward is good…for the postseason at least if the Sharks do make it.
The Kings might improve or they might bust. I really don’t know. I do feel Stoll, Richards, Voynov, and Williams all gone is a huge hit to their identity and core. Yeah they now have Lucic but he doesn’t make up for four guys. They will be a team to watch this year.
The Oilers have made all the right moves this offseason. Better moves than any offseason they have had in five or so years. But they are like that dirtbag boyfriend the girl you liked in high school had. They do all the right things but then screw over their fans once the regular season starts. I can’t see how they don’t improve with the changes they made. But if they still suck, the city of Edmonton may be cursed just like Cleveland is.
As for the Calgary Flames, yeah, call me a hater. I wasn’t impressed by them at all last year even though they knocked out my Canucks. It was a giant “whatever” feeling. Bob Hartley usually gets tuned out by his team and I feel that happens anytime with this Flames squad if they keep playing the way they are. Believe it or not, I think Dougie Hamilton will be a bomb in Calgary. He certainly was when I watched him in Boston which is part of the reason why he got dealt. There also is something there that simply does not add up. Boston got rid of him for a low return, meaning not only was he a turnover machine, he may have had character issues. I do however like their addition of Frolik. But I can’t for the life of me see Monahan and Gaudreau replicating the seasons they had last year.
So there you have it. Let the hate mail commence!
Here is what I am predicting the 2015-2016 post season to look like:
Lightning .vs. Senators/Islanders/Blue Jackets (two of these three make it)
Red Wings .vs. Panthers
Penguins .vs. Senators/Islanders/Blue Jackets (two of these three make it)
Capitals .vs. Rangers
Blues .vs. Wild
Blackhawks .vs. Predators
Ducks .vs. Stars/Sharks (most likely Stars)
Canucks .vs. Kings