Tuesday, October 06, 2015

NHL Predictions

As always, the starred teams are the ones making the playoffs.  Do I even need to explain this, really?  Isn’t this a universally-acknowledged thing?

Central Division
Blues, Blackhawks*, Jets*, Wild*, Stars, Predators, Avalanche

We’ll start with the champions’ division and also probably the deepest division in hockey, as you can easily make a case for any of these clubs to make the playoffs.  Literally anyone here could crack top-three in the Atlantic, for instance.  I have to go with St. Louis since they haven’t quite worn out their annual cycle of playoff choking yet, Chicago always makes it, Jets get there only partially due to Canadian homerism and what the hell, let’s take Minnesota.  It’s wholly believable that Devan Dubnyk will have another superstar season, right?  Right?  It wouldn’t shock me at all to see Winnipeg, Minnesota or hell, even St. Louis fall back to make way for one of the bottom three clubs (particularly Dallas) but I’ll be conservative with my Central picks.

Pacific Division
Ducks, Sharks*, Canucks*, Kings*, Flames, Oilers, Coyotes

Also a tough division, aside from the Coyotes.  It’s possible even Edmonton could surge into playoff contention if Connor McDavid actually is the real deal, though I’ve learned to never, ever, ever, ever, ever pick the Oilers to succeed.  The tricky thing here is picking which teams will take a step back — San Jose, Vancouver, Calgary and even Los Angeles could conceivably be in for a rough year.  My ‘pick either the Kings or Blackhawks every season’ plan is in jeopardy since Chicago lost some notable guys and L.A. had one personnel embarrassment after another this summer.  Anaheim should repeat as champs but after that, who knows.

Atlantic Division
Lightning, Canadiens*, Red Wings*, Senators, Sabres, Bruins, Panthers, Maple Leafs

Yeesh, speaking of teams taking a step back.  Is it possible to not like anyone in a division, save Tampa Bay?  Can we just give the Lightning a #1 or #2 seed now and give them a seven-month bye to the playoffs?  Montreal is the next best team here and even they’re a Carey Price injury away from rocketing into mediocrity.  The only certainty here is a Leafs last-place finish.

Metropolitan Division
Rangers, Penguins, Capitals, Blue Jackets*, Islanders*, Hurricanes, Flyers, Devils

As a self-loathing Leafs fan, I really want Phil Kessel to absolutely light things up playing with Crosby and Malkin this season.  Like, I’m talking a 60-70 goal campaign.  It boggles my mind how thoroughly Kessel was railroaded out of town by Toronto’s media and (not yet proven to be competent) front office staff, when all the guy did was single-handedly carry the team to any manner of respectability for six years.  Anyway, Pittsburgh will be good if very top-heavy past their elite guys, Washington will choke in the first round again, the Jackets will get another rare postseason appearance and who knows, we may even be blessed with a New York/New York playoff matchup. 

Stanley Cup finals: Lightning over Ducks

This is the year the Chicago-or-Los Angeles pick’em is upended as one of these warm-weather teams wins the Cup and we get a hundred “what’s happening to our sport?” thinkpieces/whines from various Canadian media outlets.  It’s probably just a matter of time before Tampa become championship regulars (unless Stamkos actually is planning to leave town, which I still doubt) while the Ducks may have a window of maybe one or two more seasons before they gather some of that Sharks/Blues/Capitals/Canucks-esque “we’ll never win” funk.  (Man, a lot of teams have that funk.)  You heard it here first, the Lightning will win the Stanley Cup….well, heard it here and from several other spots, I’m not exactly going out on a limb here.  Part of me is rooting for Pittsburgh just to see Kessel hoist the Cup and see the Toronto media’s collective head explode.

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