Monday, April 14, 2014

Stanley Cup Prediction

The Maple Leafs had defied the odds and were seemingly sitting pretty, but it just wasn't meant to be.  "The Rains Of Castamere" started playing over the ACC's sound system, and the befuddled Leafs were stabbed by Lord Corsi, who whispered "The Fenwicks send their regards."

If anything, the Leafs' failure is kind of a relief.  A token playoff appearance would've only prolonged the Randy Carlyle/Dave Nonis era and caused longer-term damage to the franchise.  Now, Carlyle will surely be fired and while Nonis himself will likely stay on (that five-year extension signed last summer, shudder, almost guarantees it), you'd think he'd be required to make some changes to his front office staff.  Brendan Shanahan could well become the latest Leafs figurehead to bring a big name and nothing else to the table, though if you can say one thing about Shanahan, it's that he tends to not tolerate bullshit.

The worst part about cheering for a bad team is when that team isn't just bad, but also dumb.  No team shot itself in the foot quite like the Leafs, as you could easily argue that there's definitely playoff-caliber talent on the roster; the problem was that it was hamstrung by terrible coaching (Carlyle failed at even such basics as line construction and juggling minutes) and just too many stiffs on the roster.  Much has been written about the disastrous David Clarkson signing, but not enough has been made of the Leafs just allowing good players like Clarke MacArthur and Mikhail Grabovski were allowed to walk for nothing.  The Leafs had clearly downgraded themselves between the last game of the 2012-13 season to the 2013-14 opener, so I'm not sure why anyone's surprised they didn't make it back to the postseason, even in a somewhat weak Eastern Conference.

I just want my team to be smarter.  No more instantly-awful signings like the Clarkson deal, no more scoffing at advanced statistics, no panic moves like trading Jake Gardiner/Morgan Rielly/Nazem Kadri since lord knows the Leafs have traded many a young star for a "proven veteran" in the past and seen the move blow up in their faces.  I am absolutely okay dealing with failure as long as it's constructive failure in the form of a rebuild.  Being both a losing team and a stupid team isn't fun.  I don't want to cheer for the hockey Knicks.

Anyway, enough of my Leaf complaining, let's get onto the actual good teams.

Penguins over Blue Jackets
Rangers over Flyers
Canadiens over Lightning
Bruins over Red Wings
Avalanche over Wild
Blackhawks over Blues
Ducks over Stars
Sharks over Kings

Rangers over Penguins
Bruins over Canadiens
Blackhawks over Avalanche
Sharks over Ducks

Rangers over Bruins
Sharks over Blackhawks

Sharks over Rangers
It's at this point that I'll put a major caveat on my Stanley Cup final prediction.  I'm not picking San Jose as much as I'm picking "the winner of Kings/Sharks" to win the Cup.  If L.A. gets out of the first round, they're my new favourite to go all the way.  Maybe you could argue that I should pick the Kings anyway since lord knows picking the San Jose Sharks to make a deep playoff run is a proven recipe for failures, yet here I go again.  Heck, if I wanted to really wuss out and add even more caveats, I'd go ahead and state that the Cup champion will be one of the Sharks, Kings, Ducks, Blackhawks or Bruins.  If anyone other than those five teams is hoisting the Cup at the end, I'd be awfully surprised.  But hey!  Why not the Sharks?

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