Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Drop The Puck Already

Or Horcoff will steal your land, your women and your livestock and send you to the gallows.

OK, picks for the upcoming season. The last two years I have actually been seven for eight in the West (blind squirrel, nuts etc etc, right?) while last season I had five of eight in the East, one better then the year before.

Stanley Cup pick in September of last year was Detroit over Ottawa.

So, here goes nothing, with my picks for the Western Conference.

The heavyweights remain the heavyweights with a few teams beginning to slide, to be replaced by a couple of young up and comers.
Detroit will win the conference again. The addition of Hossa, the pipeline of young talent, the excellence of Lidstrom, Datsyuk and Zetterberg - compare what the Penguins lost to what the Wings gained in the offseason and is it any wonder that Detroit is the model franchise in the NHL? Their division remains the weakest in the conference to boot.

San Jose has been the Vancouver of this cycle. I would say Ottawa except the Senators at least made it to the Finals. There has been a lot written about the Sharks being a favourite year after year but its been four years now that they have fallen short and only in the first year did they make it past the Conference SEMIFINALS. Todd McClellan may give them that new coach bounce in the regular season that wins them a tough division and Dan Boyle is a nice addition but I'm thinking come the spring they will fall short again.

Wild On Jack Lemaire is just like New Jersey - year after year players leave and it looks like they will fall off. Year after year they defy expectations. The Northwest is going to be determined by whoever stays healthiest but all things considered the emergence of Koivu and Burns and the additions of Zidlicky and Brunette should offset the losses they had during the offseason. The real drama here is Gaborik - he is the one guy whose loss could really damage this franchise in the years to come.

The Ducks will finish fourth. Its their last kick at the can and that motivation will get them by the Stars but this team has been bleeding NHL players for the last two years and they are no longer what they once were.
The Stars had a nice spring and look to be a good bet again. Big problem for them is that middle of the playoff pack means three tough series in a row. Bigger problem is that Zubov and Modano are getting old - the sublime Russian is already out. Will be an issue all year I'm afraid.
Oilers in sixth. They are not going to repeat that shootout magic but this club won a lot more games in regulation as the season wore on. And that good luck in the shootout was more then offset by the lack of NHL players on their roster and the fact that they were gutted by injuries, again. They've added two quality pros in Visnovsky and Cole, they finally have the depth to spoonfeed the kids some soft minutes and the goaltending will be solid, if not spectacular. They don't have the top end talent of the Flames but after the top three guys on Calgary's roster the Oilers beat them hands down, imo. That depth eases them past the Flames in the standings.
I look at Calgary and how their team has changed since 2004 and I'm reminded of the Blues. Remember how the Blues had such a nice team at the turn of the century and then frittered it all away? Sutter has shown a remarkable penchant for moving out useful players and the end result has been a roster laden with dead wood. Some of that has been cleaned out but along with the bad have gone Tanguay, Huselius and Nolan. I like Cammalleri and Bourque and Glencross are nice pickups but I look at this team and I don't see them being better then last year. If Kipper is sliding (and I think a lot of this has to do with both team defence and the defence corps itself being weaker) then this team might not make it.
Chicago is the sexy new pick to move up and they have upgraded with Huet and Campbell. Too shallow up front though, I think, to make more of a move then the last playoff spot. Still a nice thing is happening in Chicago, finally.
Out of luck, in no particular order:
The Avs begin to slide down the ladder. They have nice depth up front and on the back end but that goaltending is not going to cut it and I also think that injuries are going to be a major concern this season. Hejduk is a shadow of his former self and they are depending too much on Sakic and Foote. Stay healthy and shore up the goaltending and they will be a force but I think it tips the other way. Plus I think Granato is a terrible coach, certainly nowhere near Quenneville's calibre.
Canucks' fans talk about having a healthy blueline and the difference it will make but the problem on this team is scoring goals. Demitra, Bernier and Wellwood probably won't even make up for the loss of Naslund and Morrison, imo, and the depth up front is shaky. Not enough NHL players. The Sedins are great and I'd take Kesler any day but this club doesn't have much going on up front and the idea that they are going to bring in a big player because of the cap room that they have ignores the fact that by the time such a player becomes available, if they become available, it may be too late. Can't win every game 2-1.
The Preds have been bleeding players for years now and Trotz has kept them afloat. But this year they take a step back. A nice team a couple of years ago is getting torn apart. There should be only two dozen teams in this league, at the most, and Nashville should be one of the ones dumped. Its just a no-go. Terrible thing for the fans that have caught on there but I would say it gets ugly very very soon.
Tough for the Coyotes to be caught in a brutal division. A lot of nice youth there and picking up Sauer was a terrific move. Jokinen is garbage though, I really think so, and they have too many kids to take a run at the big boys.
Columbus? Who cares? Really. Fuck those guys.
The Blues have really nice uniforms and I miss the Plagers. Other then that they are waiting and
hoping that in three years or so they have enough kids to look like an NHL team again. Plus Andy Murray will drive everyone crazy and get fired.
The Kings finally signed O'Sullivan but this team is really really going to be the shits again. They have gigantic holes pretty well everywhere and will probably compete with the Islanders for the first pick overall. Its been over forty years of people barely caring though so what's another one?
General points:
Whoever comes out of the West will win the Cup.
Detroit and the Pacific three are the class of the conference and one of those will likely win the Cup.
The Northwest is going to be vicious, again. Injuries will determine the results here and any team can finish first to fifth. The healthiest team will probably win the division. Any team from the NW that gets to the second round will likely get waxed, again.
Other then the Kings and Blues everyone will be competitive, at least.
The gap between Detroit and the rest of the conference is greater then ever. The Wings have added an elite player and they have a ton of young players getting better. Look for Franzen to have a monster year. This year could be a joke.


HBomb said...

Given even-odds on the Western Conference champion and the choice of either a) Detroit or b) any of the other fourteen teams....

I'd take Detroit. And even then, even-odds might not seem fair....

Seems like the consensus top eight this year are Detroit, the "Pacific three", Chicago, Edmonton, Calgary and Minnesota. Seriously, if I've read 20 predictions from various publications, at least seventeen have this exact set as the top eight in some order or another.

chrissyt said...

Those teams are the safe bets though. Detroit is a no brainer. Sure the competition in their division is picking up, but its still nowhere near the level of the NW or the Pacific in terms of competitiveness. Chicago looks like the best of the rest in the Central. Nashville would be in that discussion if they hadn't lost Radulov to the KHL.

The Pacific earns spots 2, 4, and 5 because they play 12 games against the Kings and Coyotes, plus the Stars, Sharks, and Ducks are pretty good hockey teams.

The NW takes 3 spots, 3, 6, 7/8. Probably 9 too, depending on how the Yotes and Preds (Jackets?) fare.

I like the Oilers chances though. Sure they played like 24 OT games and won a ridiculous 19 of them, but that was last season.

The Oilers improved the most over the off-season, with the Wild a close second. Calgary is flying on a wing (Iggy) and a prayer (Kipper, Bertuzzi). Vancouver still has a lot of cap space...and Row-berto so who knows. And the 'Lanche have Budaj/Raycroft as their goaltending duo, wtf is up with that? They lost too many games last year relying on Theo/Budaj, and they downgrade their goaltending? Imagine if the Avs went with Huet/Budaj, they'd probably be picked over the Oilers/Flames for a playoff spot.