The Season is almost ready to start, so here's the first half of my 1st Annual Regular Season Predictions! I am going to have a disclaimer and say that any predictions that end up wrong were unforseeable by myself, and any prediction that are correct will be dwelled upon and gloated about.
10. New Jersey - Brian Gionta remains unsigned, Scott Stevens shows no signs of coming out of retirement, and they are so far over the cap as of Oct 1. that they will be unable to play on opening night. Broduer will keep them competitive, but they'll miss the playoffs.
13. NY Islanders - Former backup goalie Garth Snow is now taking up cap space while simultaneously trying to manage it. Charles Wang abandons his plan to bring in Sumo wrestlers as goalies and signs his current one to a 15 year deal. Yashin is the captain. Obviously they're going nowhere.
2. NY Rangers - Jagr is healthy again, Lundqvist is now a proven champion, Shanahan was drawn by the Broadway lights and Petr Prucha aims to follow up his stellar rookie year. This transplanted euro squad will be dangerously talented all year. They're a top 8 team.
6. Philadelphia - Forsberg is the new captain, Gagne will take on a bigger role. Richards and Carter will show their performance last year wasn’t a fluke. Hatcher will slowly get worse, and the goaltending situation remains uneasy at best. Philly will be in the hunt for a spot, but it'll be touch and go.
14. Pittsburgh - Malkin, Crosby, Rechhi, Leclair, Gonchar. Do these names strike fear in you? Ok, do half these names strike fear in you? Ok, what about the first two only? Ok then! What about Colby Armstrong? Ya. That’s right. The Cheese (I made it up and I hope it sticks) is coming for you! Will do better than last year, but not a whole lot.
11. Boston - Thankfully, the Bruins ejected that Joe 'do nothing' Thornton guy, who was obviously the problem. Now the Bruins have a pair of skilled centres in Bergeron and Savard to take over, and are looking to supporting players Sturm and Murray (and Kessel?) to step it up. Chara anchors the defence.
1. Buffalo - Gone are several key playoff performers Mckee, Dumont, and probably Connolly. Still in town are Briere, Vanek, Kotalik, Drury, Campbell, Lydman and Miller. There will be an adjustment period, but Buffalo is still a force to be reckoned with.
12. Montreal - Aebischer or Huet? This team has plenty of skilled stars up front, (Koivu, Kovalev, Samsanov) but what they really need is some size and a good defensive group. Souray was on a lot of highlight reels last year, but for all the wrong reasons. Do not buy stock in Aebischer.
5. Ottawa - With Spezza, Heatley and Alfredsson, these guys will do fine. They will be just as much of a threat as last year, and if the leadership reigns begin to shift to Spezza, watch out. Gerber has proven he can do fine in the regular season behind a good team.
9. Toronto - Oh god. Alright, well they dumped a lot of dead weight. Unfortunately, they also picked up more dead weight, and then signed that dead weight to bad contracts. But that’s ok. The new look Leafs are improved, and they only barely missed the post season last year.
7. Atlanta - Last year they were high flying. They were tough. They were dirty. They were fiesty. They did probably everything they could to make the playoffs. But in the end, Atlanta's goalie problems cost them a spot. If Lehtonen stays healthy, Atlanta has a very good shot.
4. Carolina - No more Weight. No more Recchi. No more Johnson. But lets face it, this is a very very good team. Conn Smythe winner Ward will take the reigns in net and run with them. They have one of the best leaders in the game with Brind'amour. No one will be taking this team lightly anymore.
8. Florida - The Panthers have replaced Luongo with Bertuzzi. They will have a bruising 1st line, but for the first time in a long time, their goaltending will be rather questionable. Bouwmeester is now the team's unquestioned number one defenseman, but he needs to put the puck in the net more often if the Panthers want to win. Still, they're my darkhorse team in the East.
3. Tampa Bay - MVP St. Louis had an 'off year' last, and he will be looking to bounce back. This team is stocked with talent up front, with Lecavalier and Richards not yet even hitting their prime. Although their defence is anonymous, the Lightning will be bolstered this year by a true number one goalie in Denis.
15. Washington - Chris Clark is the captain of a squad of AHLers. Ovechkin will again dazzle the NHL, but will have little help from the rest of his team. Olaf Kolzig better have some painkillers behind that mask, because this whole season is probably going to hurt.