The 2013 NHL season is literally right around the corner...no really it is and with any start of the season it's time to make some bold, not so bold, and totally out there predictions that will surely come back to bite me in the butt.
Now, predicting an 82 game set is a hell of a lot easier than predicting a 48 game set due to being able to go back and look at past 82 game performances for players and teams. Not so easy with 48 games but all in all these are for fun and should be in the ballpark of the actual totals.
Here's how its gonna work. I'm gonna list my predictions for the conference standings then break it down by division so here goes nothing.
- New York Rangers
- Boston Bruins
- Carolina Hurricanes
- Pittsburgh Penguins
- Washington Capitals
- Philadelphia Flyers
- Tampa Bay Lightning
- Buffalo Sabres
- Ottawa Senators
- Florida Panthers
- Toronto Maple Leafs
- New York Islanders
- New Jersey Devils
- Winnipeg Jets
- Montreal Canadiens
New York Rangers: After finishing last season at the top of the Eastern Conference and two games from the Stanley Cup Final, the Blueshirts loaded up by acquiring big winger Rick Nash adding him to an already dangerous top 6 forward corps. The Rangers defense should remain as stout as ever and with the best goaltender in the world behind them expect a lot of good things from the Rangers this year.
Pittsburgh Penguins: A healthy Sidney Crosby may be the Pens 2nd line center...let that sink in for a bit. Done? Ok now remember that after Kris Letang the Pittsburgh defense is kind of thin and their goaltending consists of Marc-Andre "I gave up 26 goals in 6 playoff games last year" Fleury and Tomas Vokoun who is 36 years young. Can Fleury bounce back after that playoff series? Maybe, but he still isn't that good between the pipes.
Philadelphia Flyers: No matter what happens this year the Flyers are gonna be a fun team to watch with Claude Giroux looking to build on a big year last year and Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn coming into their own. Also, they have a thin defensive corps and a Cosmonaut as a starting goaltender...like I said, should be fun.
New York Islanders: A young team led by John Tavares and Michael Grabner should give a few teams a run for their money this year but they just don't have enough yet with Ryan Strome and Griffin Reinhart still down in Junior. The Islanders should be an enjoyable team to watch.
New Jersey Devils: The reigning Eastern Conference Champions take a huge hit this year with the loss of Zach Parise and relying on an aging Patrick Elias and Travis Zajac to get the puck to Ilya Kovalchuck to put up points and while I think they could they also have a goaltending tandem that is a combined 79 years old and that could be very troublesome in the Atlantic Division this year.
Boston Bruins: The Big Bad Broons are still stockpiled with talent up front and on the back end. Even though Tim Thomas went off to hunker down in the woods of Colorado for the year the Bruins won't miss a step with Tuuka Rask manning the goal crease this year.
Buffalo Sabres: In a division where it's Boston and then everyone else the Sabres get the second best spot by virtue of having Ryan Miller and Tyler Myers on their team, other than that its gonna be a long season in Buffalo saved by playing in the Northeast.
Ottawa Senators: The Sabres and Sens will be fighting all season to finish second behind the Bruins and with an aging Spezza and this being Daniel Alfredsson's farewell tour look for the Senators to enter a transition phase this year as they look to build around stud defenseman Erik Karlsson.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Oh Toronto, I so want you to be a good hockey team, and this year you have a chance to take a big step forward. With Phil Kessel still on the roster surrounded by some pretty good offensive pieces (hello Nazem Kadri) and if they could get even average goaltending out of James Reimer and Ben Scrivens then maybe they could challenge for something...but don't expect much out of the Leafs this year.
Montreal Canadiens: Uh...well...you got out of that Gomez contract. You still got Carey Price and PK Subban, and that Galchenyuk kid is gonna be pretty good for you soon. Get used to hearing "Not Winning for MacKinnon" a lot this season.
Carolina Hurricanes: Hoo boy did the Canes load up this offseason, trading for Jordan Staal and adding Alexander Semin really gave Carolina that much needed scoring depth to paired with Eric Staal, Jeff Skinner and Jussi Jokinen. Also, Cam Ward is still the goaltender for the Hurricanes giving them the division almost by default.
Washington Capitals: After the Dale Hunter experiment caged Alexander Ovechkin, the Caps went out and hired Adam Oates in hopes of bringing Ovechkin back to his run and gunning old self. To replace the lost of Alexander Semin the Caps brought in Mike Riberio and Woltek Wolski (and the Caps thought Semin was enigmatic?). I think that the Caps will be better offensively but that defense still looks leaky and the question of whether Braden Holtby is for real or just captured some playoff luck (Bet on the latter) and if Michal Neurvirth can take push Holtby into that starting role.
Tampa Bay Lightning: The Lightning improved their goaltending by adding
a warm body Anders Lindback in the offseason and signed Matt Carle to help improve the back end and with Victor Hedman expecting to really step up that should help the Lightning offense which with Steven Stamkos still on board should power the Bolts through into the playoffs
Florida Panthers: Oh those lovable Panthers, they're a whole bunch of parts thrown together to make the playoffs last year and this year its back to waiting on guys like Jonathan Huberdeau, Nick Bjugstad and Jakob Markstrom (who should be up some time soon if not starting this year) to mature and get into the show.
Winnipeg Jets: After a somewhat triumphant return the Jets crash back down to earth (pardon the pun). With some shoddy goaltending in Ondrej Pavelec and Al Montoya and some questions on offense outside of Evander Kane, who the Winnipeg press wants to run out of town, the Jets really don't have much as they try to ditch the Atlanta Thrashers taste in everyone's mouth that won't go away any time soon.
So, these were my predictions/look at the Eastern Conference for the upcoming season and tomorrow will be a look at the Western Conference...thoughts guys?