Thursday, October 1, 2009

NHL Preview/Predictions

So I figured I should throw together a preview for the NHL this year.

Here are my thoughts:
Eastern Conference:
Atlantic Division (Predicted Order of Finish)

Pittsburgh Penguins - With Crosby and Malkin, you can never count this team out. I'd say they're the pre-season favorites to win the division.

Philadelphia Flyers - Chris Pronger will bring some much needed balance to the defense and made Randy Jones expendable. Great move. Ray Emery could be Stanley Cup Finals good, or the player that played in Russia last year. The Flyers' success largely depends on him.

New Jersey Devils - It's bad when your biggest weapon is your goalie.

New York Rangers - I like the Gaborik acquisition, but I don't think he can make up for the offensive deficiencies that the Rangers have.

New York Islanders - Good luck Marty Biron. The fans won't expect much from you there, but you're probably playing for the worst team in the conference now. Tavares should be fun to watch though.

Northeast Division (Predicted Order of Finish)

Boston Bruins - Despite losing Kessel, I think that they have a great shot at winning the division again. Tim Thomas needs to continue last year's form for this to happen though.

Montreal Canadiens - If there had been another week in the season last year they would have missed the playoffs, as they were limping towards the finish line. There are a lot of new faces and question marks on this team, but I like the changes they've made, and a third straight playoff appearance is likely on its way.

Toronto Maple Leafs - The Leafs have went from rebuilders to playoff contenders really quickly. I'm not sure they will make the playoffs, but they will be in the mix until late in the season.

Buffalo Sabres - They have some solid talent, but I don't think they have what it takes to make the playoffs.

Ottawa Senators - They got a great deal for Dany Heatly, but this team has too many issues to be much of a threat this year.

Southeast Division (Predicted Order of Finish)

Washington Capitals - The Capitals have Ovechkin, Backstrom, Semin and Green to give them a ton of offense. They'll need it too because you're not going to see their defense hold opponents in check very well. If they have any thoughts of winning a Stanley Cup they really need to beef up their defense.

Carolina Hurricanes - The 'Canes made a great run in the playoffs last year, I see them giving the Caps a serious run for their money for the division title.

Florida Panthers - The Panthers hung in the playoff race until the last couple of weeks last season. I really like the look of their roster, and think they could make the playoffs for the first time since 2000. However, only 18 or so fans will watch them do it.

Tampa Bay Lightning - Tampa has become a who's who of former Flyers, as they have Antero Nittymaki, Todd Fedoruk and Steve Downie on the team. They also picked up Alex Tanguay this year and still have Lecavlier and St. Louis... they will challenge for a playoff spot.

Atlanta Thrashers - Kovalchuk is still a highlight reel player, and one of my favorite players to watch in the game, but one man can't do everything for this team.

Playoff Bound Teams:
1. Washington Capitals
2. Pittsburgh Penguins
3. Boston Bruins
4. Philadelphia Flyers
5. Carolina Hurricanes
6. Montreal Canadiens
7. Toronto Maple Leafs
8. Florida Panthers

Western Conference

Central Division
(Predicted Order of Finish)

Detroit Red Wings- The Red Wings are aging, and they lost Marian Hossa to free agency, but it's really hard to pick against the Red Wings. I can't remember the last time someone else finished in front of them in the division (Ok I just checked, it was the 99-00 season when they last finished somewhere other than first in the division).

Chicago Blackhawks - If anyone can wrest the division away from Detroit, it's the Hawks. They lost Havlat this year, but they did manage to lock Hossa down for the rest of his career, and he should be a big help when he comes back from injury.

St. Louis Blues - The Blues broke a long playoff drought last season, and they're only going to get better this year.

Columbus Blue Jackets - The Jackets made the playoffs for the first time ever last season, and they were quickly disposed of. Still, it was nice to see them show that they are more than just the team Rick Nash plays for.

Nashville Predators - Seriously, relocate this team now.

Northwest Division (Predicted Order of Finish)

Calgary Flames - The Flames added Jay Bouwmeester and have Rene Bourque back from injury. Along with the addition Olli Joikenen, I think they have a great shot at taking the division.

Vancouver Canucks - The Canucks managed to keep the Sedin twins and still have Luongo. This team is set for awhile.

Minnesota Wild - They missed the playoffs this past season, but they added Martin Havlat and they still have a pretty good defense. They will definitely return to the playoffs this year.

Colorado Avalanche - The Avalanche are rebuilding, and lost long time captain Joe Sakic to retirement. However, there is a wealth of young talent on the team and they won't be kept down for long.

Edmonton Oilers - The addition of Khabibulin was nice, but I don't think they have enough on their roster to really make a playoff push this season.

Pacific Division (Predicted Order of Finish)

San Jose Sharks - The Sharks have one of the best rosters in the league, but they continually underachieve in the playoffs. They should run away with the division again this year, but I'm not holding my breath for them in the playoffs.

Anaheim Ducks - No more Chris Pronger, but this team is always dangerous.

Dallas Stars - Brenden Morrow is back from an injury that kept him out most of last season. They'll need a big year from him if they hope to get back to the playoffs after missing them for the first time since 2002 last year.

Los Angeles Kings - The Kings have some nice additions this season, but it's hard to see them competing for a play off spot.

Phoenix Coyotes - See Nashville.

Playoff Teams:
1. San Jose Sharks
2. Detroit Red Wings
3. Calgary Flames
4. Chicago Blackhawks
5. Vancouver Canucks
6. St. Louis Blues
7. Anaheim Ducks
8. Minnesota Wild

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