Well guys, we made it. The 2013-14 NHL regular season gets underway tomorrow (Tuesday), the offseason was long and tortuous, training camp and preseason gave us some minor glimpses into what the season and the future has in store.
Now it's one of my favorite times of the NHL season because I could say, reasonably, whatever I want here and then get to laugh at myself down the line when it all turns to crap....It's prediction time! (With a special guest Brandon giving his predictions)
We got new divisions this year along with a confusing as hell playoff structure that I'll break down when we get to that.
And away we go...starting in the newly named Metropolitan Division (But really we're calling it the Patrick Plus Division):
- Pittsburgh Penguins: This may seem like I'm taking the "trendy" pick, but in the regular season the Penguins' offense, led by a (hopefully) healthy Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, will be more than enough to get through the regular season. Yes, Pittsburgh's defense is porous and Marc-Andre Fleury is still Marc-Andre Fleury and that'll be a problem come playoff time, but for the regular season? The Pens are gonna be the team to beat in the Met.
- New York Rangers: Out goes Tortorella and in comes Alain Vigneault as well as some much needed skill and depth throughout the lineup. Rick Nash was a point per game player last year in a half season and Derek Stepan took the step up to being one of the better young centers in the NHL, now the Rangers are poised to take that next step into being true Stanley Cup contenders with Henrik Lundqvist playing in a contract season.
- Washington Capitals: The Caps really struggled during the first half of last season, but after a while Alex Ovechkin and the rest of the Capitals bought into what coach Adam Oates was selling and raced to the Southeast Division (RIP) crown. This year the Caps replaced PPG center Mike Ribiero with the excellently talented two way center Mikhail Grabovski which gives the Capitals what they've been longing for, a #2 center that can score but also play a 200 foot game. The Caps' defense still leaves a lot to be desired but I think Braden Holtby has proven to be a legit NHL goaltender and will help cover up some of those deficiencies.
- New York Islanders: Don't look now, but the New York Islanders are a really good hockey team. John Tavares has taken that step into super stardom and the Isles have built a pretty good support system around him to make a team that has been run down and a laughing stock for almost twenty years into an actual team. Now if only they had some midway decent goaltending then they'd be a real playoff team.
- New Jersey Devils: They lost Ilya Kovalchuck but picked up Corey Schneider. The Devils gave Ryane Clowe five years but also signed Damien Brunner to a two year deal. Martin Brodeur's got at least one more year left in the tank and Patrick Elias is still a pretty decent player but there's a lot of milage on those legs. The Devils, to me, are a team that is probably gonna be on the playoff bubble but will most likely end up in the 10-12 range if they give Brodeur the majority of starts.
- Columbus Blue Jackets: I really want this team to be good, I have not so secretly been rooting for them for a while and they're starting to get on the right path, but there's just not enough there...yet. Artem Anisimov, Marian Gaborik and Brandon Dubinsky are strong backbone to build around and Boone Jenner is gonna be a great addition for a young team, but they still have Jack "I don't know the meaning of defense" Johnson, and regression is gonna hit this team that a sack of anvils. They're gonna be fun to watch but not a playoff team.
- Carolina Hurricanes: If defense weren't required than Carolina would be one of the best teams in the league. A full season of Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, Alexander Semin and Jeff Skinner should be enough to get the Canes a lot of leads in games but their defense is gonna give a lot of those leads back. At least Cam Ward is capable enough to give Carolina some respectability.
- Philadelphia Flyers: I'm just gonna leave the Flyers Capgeek page here
Atlantic (Floreast) Division
- Ottawa Senators: They may have lost their captain in Daniel Alfredsson, but boy did they ever get an upgrade in Bobby Ryan. Finally out of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry's shadows, Bobby Ryan is set to take that next step into being considered as one of the best players in the game. Along with a healthy Jason Spezza and Kyle Turris, the Senators' offense is big, deep and fully operational. With Erik Karlsson toting a decent if not spectacular defense and Craig Anderson in goal, it's time to take the Senators seriously.
- Boston Bruins: For a team that came two games shy of winning the Stanley Cup, the Bruins really overhauled some major parts of their roster. Tyler Seguin was sent to Dallas because he's 21 along with serviceable bottom six forward Rich Peverley for Loui Eriksson, a really good offensive winger that is exiting his prime goal scoring years. The Bruins also added Jarome Iginla to fill the "aging veteran that wants one last shot at glory" role that Jaromir Jagr left when he signed with the Devils. The defense will still be as strong as ever, especially with Tuukka Rask back there so don't think the Bruins are gonna take that big of a step back.
- Montreal Canadiens: They're fast, they're small, they're the Canadiens. Alex Galchenyuk and PK Subban are gonna take a step forward this year and help anchor a pretty good Canadiens squad and Carey Price in goal in an Olympic showcase year is never not a bad thing.
- Detroit Red Wings: The Red Wings are old, and got older by signing Daniel Alfredsson, but they are still pretty damn good. MIke Babcock is probably the best tactician in the league and I may have been wrong about Jimmy Howard being just an average goaltender.
- Buffalo Sabres? I guess: After those top four teams the rest of the Atlantic division is just a dumpster fire of really bad teams. The Sabres are here out of process of elimination but that's because they came to me first.
- Toronto Maple Leafs: Holy Batman did the Maple Leafs royally screw themselves. First they trade for Jonathan Bernier because...James Reimer was too good? Then they let Mikhail Grabovski, their best center, walk on an amnesty buyout just to give boat anchor Tyler Bozak 4.5 million and David Clarkson seven years and way too much money. I really have no idea what Dave Nonis is doing, but whatever it is...it ain't gonna work.
- Tampa Bay Lightning: They have Steven Stamkos. Florida does not.
- Florida Panthers: They just signed Tim Thomas.
- Chicago Blackhawks: Did you see them play last year? They're the best team in the NHL. Hands down.
- St Louis Blues: The Blues are a really balanced team. Like the Predators but with more offensive firepower. David Perron is gonna be missed, but don't sleep on Magnus Paajarvi having an impact with the Blues this year.
- Nashville Predators: The Preds are the Blues...except without many offensive options although Seth Jones is gonna look mighty spiffy on NHL ice and Pekka Rinne is a better goaltender than what St. Louis has.
- Minnesota Wild: Zach Parise and Ryan Suter again head a good, if not great Wild team that will chase the playoffs all year but I still can't buy into the Wild being actual threats just yet..
- Colorado Avalanche: With new coach Patrick Roy behind the bench and a plethora of young center talent headlined by newly minted #1 overall pick Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado's gonna be fun to watch...but they're gonna be really really bad defensively.
- Dallas Stars: They, along with the Av's, are gonna be a fun young team to watch but they still probably won't be pretty good but they're gonna be learning on the fly this year.
- Winnipeg Jets: I dunno, they're not good at hockey.
- Los Angeles Kings: Not as good as the Blackhawks, but they are deep all throughout their lineup and are still really well coached by Darryl Sutter.
- San Jose Sharks: Joe Thorton may be aging, but he's still really good and the Sharks have some deep offensive weapons and Anti Niemi is pretty damn good though may be slightly overpaid.
- Vancouver Canucks: Torts is in and Luongo knows he's the starter now that Schneider is gone. I think Torts loosens up the reins in Vancouver now that he has a different set of talent than he did in New York, but I think the Canucks, especially the Sedin twins, are nearing the end of a good long run of solid play.
- Anaheim Ducks: Getzlaf and Perry got their new deals, Teemu Selanne is back but Bobby Ryan is gone. All things being equal...are the Ducks really that good?
- Edmonton Oilers: Hoo boy are the Oilers going to be good, Taylor Hall is one of the best left wingers in the game and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov are also going to get better. Losing Sam Gagner is blow to this team but they didn't have the strongest depth or defense to make a run into the playoffs.
- Phoenix Coyotes: Meh, Mike Smith is overrated and they're just not that good
- Calgary Flames: The worst team in the NHL and maybe the AHL.
12. Tampa Bay
13. New Jersey
2. Los Angeles
4. St. Louis
8. San Jose
Detroit over Columbus
Rangers over Toronto
Ottawa over Boston
Washington over Pittsburgh
Detroit over Ottawa
Rangers over Washington
Rangers over Detroit
Chicago over San Jose
Los Angeles over Edmonton
Vancouver over Anaheim
St. Louis over Minnesota
St. Louis over Chicago
Los Angeles over Vancouver
Los Angeles over St. Louis
Rangers over Los Angeles