Thursday, October 28, 2010

Season Predictions - Who Is Going To Win That Gold?


I wrote these up a couple of weeks ago whilst I was on jury duty, saving our fragile flower of democracy from the barbarian hordes.
Plus ... Heather Moyse!

As a general rule when it comes to this type of thing I really think its a bit of a mug's game although maybe that's me just saying that if my picks are shitty then I really didn't care too much so what. Generally I do well at this type of thing. In the playoffs I generally pick around eleven of fifteen series correctly, which is pretty decent I think, and in the regular season I usually have a pretty good handle on, if not the order of finish, then the general whereabouts of where teams place. I guess because I follow the Oilers my Western picks tend to be more accurate. Last season I got seven of the Campbell playoff teams right but only four out east. Of course it could just be luck. Maybe I should write the names on cards and toss them down the stairs, the same way as I do my annual employee reviews. Guy who goes the fewest stairs gets fired. No ambition.

I don't do any indepth analysis at all and I can't say I know enough about many of these teams, as far as I am concerned there are too many of them anyhow but that may just be the cranky old guy in me talking. Give me a sixteen to twenty team league and I'd be happy and yes Gary Bettman can kiss my arse. Worst commissioner ever. So don't ask me who plays in Atlanta because I'm liable to say Eric Vail. Other than all of the poor Blackhawks who got exiled there I haven't a clue.

Now of course injuries can derail a club's season pretty quickly but I really don't look to far into that except when its an obvious factor (note what I say about the Rangers). I've added short comments in italics afterwards - we're only a tenth of the way into the season but there have been plenty of surprises. A long long way to go but for example the Devils have gone a long way towards fucking themselves good and hard. Its early but they've dug themselves a decent hole. Too bad. ;)

Anyhow I get a kick looking at these after the fact but that's probably because I'm a bit of a schmuck.

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The Clarence Campbells

I think the West has six playoff shooins, barring injury, and then its mostly a crapshoot.

San Jose continues to be this cluster’s answer to the Ottawa Senators, outstanding regular season results undermined by failure in the playoffs. As a franchise (and as individual players) they will be defined by this unless they get over the hump. Marleau and Thornton were excellent last spring but people only forget your foibles if you win the Cup. They are in a tough division and they have a couple of question marks but I expect them to roll to first place in the conference once again. Too much talent and the two headed goaltending situation look spretty good to me.

Slow start for the Sharks, three (!) points out of the division lead. Niemi has been awful and a lot of guys are carrying around awful minuses. A big Dman would help - I wonder of Doug Wilson ever regrets not trading for Pronger.

Vancouver is the sexy preseason pick this season to go all the way and its easy to see why. Chicago dismissed the Canucks’ nemesis, amongst others, and Nik Lidstrom is another year older. Adding Malholtra gives them real strength up the middle and Hamhuis and Ballard will add to an already decent D. For them, like the Sharks, their season will be defined for most fans, for better or for worse, by their spring results but with their talent and depth (and the fact that their division is shit) I expect them to get a nice seed here and perhaps even challenge for first in the conference.

An uneven start for the Canucks with Hamhuis, Ballard, Burrows and Salo (surprise!) all injured. Again they are just three points out of the conference lead despite this. They'll roll in a bit I think.

Chicago is getting written off by everyone already, actually I have seen them referred to as a playoff bubble team at least once. I don’t think so. I think their goaltending is better (Turco’s numbers were better than Niemi’s despite playing behind a weak team). They have to replace Sopel but their top four D remain untouched. And up front Brouwer scored more goals than any of the dearly departed which makes me think he is just fine stepping into the top nine permanently. They need a couple of the kids (Morin has been very good and Skille has done well too, plus Stallberg is a guy with all of the tools) and/or Fernando Pisani to step it up (Pisani has seen time with Sharp and Kane in the preseason) and if this happens then I think they will be just fine, especially with Hossa available for the entire season. I think they surprise everyone by how well they do and I expect them to be a serious contender come the spring.

A weird start for the defending champions. Campbell is back but now it looks like Hossa may be out for a few weeks which could hurt - he and Sharp have been killer. Turco has been solid after a slow start - no surprise there. Toews has been so-so and Kane hasn't an ES goal and is a minus six. Hjarmallson has taken a beating too. A mixed bag allround. Tied for most points in the west but they have played more games than anyone else. Good news for the Hawks is that guys like Kopecky (8 points), Brouwer (6) and Stallberg (3 goals) have contributed. An iffy pick for me here, it was a tossup between them and Detroit.

Detroit had such a terrible start last season and then they poured it on. Along with the teams already mentioned I think they are a legitimate Cup contender but I think they are starting to fray around the edges a bit. The next transition will be the biggest test for Holland, whose franchise has eighteen straight seasons as a legitimate contender under their belt. Imagine! I can’t think of any franchise in any sport with that type of record, which also coincides with the arrival of Nik Lidstrom in Michigan. Lidstrom lost a bit of a step last season and probably will show his age a bit more this year, which means he is probably a top ten defenceman now, rather than just the best, period. But with he and Rafalski getting near the end and guys like Zetterberg and Datsyuk not really that far from there, time is running out on this group. Maltby is done and Draper and Holmstrom are probably not too far behind. The times are changing but these guys will be in the mix at least one more time.

Wings are the best team in the conference so far and once they pick up their games in hand they will be in first overall I'd bet. Maybe a little bit surprised but not really.

The Kings are on the upswing. This is the season that they move into contender status and I would believe that they want to win a round in the playoffs at least. The problem for them is that the Sharks own the division which means that they look to be slotted for the brutality that is the four/five series in the West. Too bad for the Kings who I think are a year away yet but who will make a ton of noise this season, announcing to everyone that they have arrived. They just have such a nice club, a mix of old veterans, guys in their prime and wonderful kids. They’re close. Not just there yet.

Kings have had a terrific start at six and three and maybe they are closer than I thought. Key for them is Smyth and Justin Williams staying healthy. And they're surviving missing Doughty so far too although I would guess they'd rather not have that issue for a while.

Phoenix surprised a lot of people last season and this year I think they fall back a bit. Not much but a little. Losing Michalek is going to hurt quite a bit but I never bet against a Tippett team’s ability to be competitive. They had a lot of luck last season (esp. in shootouts) and so expect a backslide but they are for real.

A few people picked the Yotes to backslide and they have. Of course its still early and interesting to note - three Bettman points. Last year this club won a lot of shootouts. They have those three points and they are tied for seventh, three points out of first. Instead they are in fourteenth.

This is where it gets iffy and you could probably slot any one of six or seven clubs. Injuries and luck are going to play a role here as none of these clubs really stand out from the rest.

Someone has to come out of the Northwest other than the Canucks, right? Right? I guess so although I’m not sure who. I guess we’ll say Calgary even though the loss of Langkow is going to hurt. Unless they implode (which is possible) they just have too many solid players at every position to ignore. It wil be tight but they will sneak in.

A brutal start for the Flames but since then they have taken off as their long list of injuries had shortened. They have a deep roster and the gambles on Tanguay and Morrison have worked out very well so far. Jokinen? Not so much. And Bouwmeester has also underwhelmed. Still, they may be better than advertised. Six and three is a nice start.

I look at the Preds and see Arnott and Hamhuis gone and I think they can’t do this but I never bet against Barry Trotz. He always gets it done with whatever he is given and he has enough talent to lift these guys into the last spot in the playoffs.

First in the conference so far. They'll come back but a fast start can get you a playoff spot. I look at their roster and have no idea - Cal O'Reilly? Barry Trotz.

St. Louis bounces back from a year where everyone expected them to rise into the cream of the conference. Still a couple of years away but the addition of Halak is going to help a lot.

Nice start for the Blues - Halak has a .929 SV% and a GAA of 1.81

Colorado had a lot of luck last season. A lot. I love Craig Anderson but to expect these guys to get on a run like they did last fall that will propel them into the playoffs again is highly unlikely. They’re going to fall back to earth a little.

Running in place over nine games and now Anderson is out. Might be a freefall if he is gone for any length of time.

They’re not your dad’s Dallas Stars, which is great, because I hated them, those bunch of fuckers. The whole old gang is gone now, Zubov and Hatcher and Modano and Turco and Lehtinen too and these guys are just another mediocre club now. They have enough up front to push them ahead of a lot of the other turtles but not much. This might be Crawford’s last year coaching, which means we can look forward to him being back on the CBC again soon.

Reasonable start for Dallas and Brad Richards has been tremendous. I don't think it will last because I hate Dallas. No other reason.

Seriously who cares now? We’re getting to those dreary teams that are really stuck in no man’s land, neither on their way up nor even rebuilding. Just boring and crappy.

Like Anaheim. The Ducks have fallen fast and hard but they still have some serious quality up front and Jonas Hiller so they should stay out of the basement. They are thin enough that if they are hit by injuries they could really plummet though.

The Ducks were terrible their first few games but Getzlaf, Perry and Ryan have all come along and Selanne can still produce on the PP. Their resurgence coincided with Tony Lydman's return. Coincidence? How the hell should I know?

I miss Wild on Jack Lemaire. Well, not really. God what a dull club that was. But they were good. Now they’re a little more exciting, I guess, but shitty. Or maybe they’re good? Don’t think so, don’t really care.

Meh.

The BJs looked like a team on the rise a couple of years back but it seems to be coming apart at the seams a little and one wonders if Howson might be in jeopardy here. He made some smart low risk bets early in his tenure but now one looks at this roster and other than Rick Nash there’s not much going on anywhere. Of course they could finish seventh what with the mess that is the bottom of this conference but I’m thinking this is about where they end up.

Columbus has had a decent start. They don't score at all but they don't give much back either. Five (soon to be six) and three isn't too bad though.

Your Edmonton Oilers. Hey if they remain injury free they could creep up a notch or two but you cannot ignore that they have a ton of kids learning on the job, their D is really quite bad and their goaltending is likely going to be poor. That’s not a good combination at all and remember they finished way up the road in last this season past. They’re going to need a lot of breaks to go their way and a few clubs to get riddled with injuries (looks like the Islanders are getting a headstart on this) just to get out of the lottery. At this point of the rebuild its probably not a bad thing if they add another blue chip prospect.

Hey there, right on the money!

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The Prince of Waleseses

The East, like the west, has a handful of contenders, a half dozen clubs who are probably safe bets to make the playoffs and then a whole whack of clubs who will fight for those last two spots. Whereas the Oilers are alone as the dregs of the west I think there are a couple of disasters out east though, maybe three.

Washington is probably the class of the conference again, helped along by the weakness of their division. For the Caps its all about the spring this year.

Creeping up the standings after a slow start. First in the conference again I'll bet.

New Jersey is the eastern version of Detroit. Always in the mix, at least in the regular season, not so much the playoffs these days. Adding Arnott and having Kovulchuk for the entire year means they are the favourites in a vicious division.

Nobody though they would be where they are so I'm not alone. John MacLean equals Wayne Cashman? Could be. They're terrible. Same number of points as Edmonton and they've played three more games.

Les Sabres did very little this past summer, again, but they will probably win their division, again, backstopped by the best goalie in the game and likely augmented by another raft of homegrown talent. There are times you expect a bit more from these guys, especially looking at their forwards who leave you wanting a bit more at times. Maybe this season they meet expectations and if they do then this team will cruise.

Bad start for les Sabres. Myers has been terrible and it appears they miss Tallinder and Lydman. The offence is there but the D looks pretty porous so far.

Pittsburgh needs some wingers but they always need wingers. I’m thinking if Staal gets healthy and they don’t get to the conference final at least then we might see Shero go in a different direction. Of course one can also say that if the hockey gods had smiled on them last spring they probably would have made their third stright final so maybe I’ll just shut my mouth. I’ll take New Jersey and the Caps in the regular season but until proven otherwise I’ll take the Pens when it really matters.

OK but not great. Other than Crosby and Malkin they're getting no offence from their forwards.

Speaking of laying in the weeds, the Flyers really pulled that off last season, just inching into the playoffs and then somehow going nearly all the way, thanks once again to CFP. Say what you will about the guy, he is the shit definitely. As usual thir goaltending is suspect (will they ever learn? Ever?) and dumping Gagne won’t help but they are so deep up front and on the blue that I suspect they will make it to the playoffs a little easier this time around. Probably don’t want the fifth seed though.

Slow start. Not a surprise, interesting to see if they get it together soon.

The Bruins should make the second season fairly easily even without Marc Savard in the lineup. Claude Julien is a terrific coach and they have the goaltending which should be enough to win a lot of two to one games.

Bruins have only played six games but have a nice start under their belt. They are really deep up front.

Everyone is up in arms about the Sens’ goaltending but it was iffy last season and they still made some noise. Gonchar is underrated defensively and they should have enough to make the playoffs. The big concern for them in injuries, Gonchar, Alfredsson and Spezza have all missed time the past couple of years. Eric Murphy is a good coach though so I expect they will muddle through.

Poor start for the Sens. Just another team now.

I was really tempted to pick the Leafs here, I think they actually have a decent shot this season, but I am going with Tampa who have added some nice pieces to an already impressive group of forwards. If they get halfway decent goaltending and defence then I think they sneak in here.

So far so good for Tampa who are tied for first in the conference. Stamkos has been ridiculous. Simon Gagne - no goals and a minus eight. huh?

Hard to believe but yeah I think the Leafs are in the mix. Their goaltending is going to be at least decent, imo and they have a deep blue. The additions of Versteeg and Armstrong will help up front and having Kessel all season is going to be big. They probably won’t score enough goals but they will be in the conversation.

So far decent for the Leafs. They haven't the goalscoring and man is Phaneuf a dummy but they have enough to be in the playoffs in this conference I think.

Carolina had an awful lot of injuries last season but they came on strong and I think they’ll be in the hunt for this last playoff spot too. Other than that I don’t have anything to say about these fuckers.

Mediocre.

Yeah I have the Habs this low and I might drop them even lower. I don’t think Price is the guy I can already see this becoming ugly fast and the season spiralling out of control. They had a lot of luck last spring plus phenomenal goaltending and Halak was the man in the regular season too. Could be bad news here.

OK so these guys are the big surprise so far. Price has been pretty good and they are in first with nothing from Gomez or Gionta.

The Rangers barely missed the playoffs last year the dummies and they’re not going to be close this season for one reason, the chances of Gaborik being healthy for two seasons in a row are just about nil.

Nailed this one. Except they are in a playoff spot now. Won't last though I think.

The Thrashers are on the cusp of dregs territory. I look at this club and I think why bother? Seriously. Playing in a market that cares very little about them, poorly run (which of course contributes to the first issue) and a cautionary tale for those fans who think that a run of top picks guarantees you success like Chicago or Pittsburgh. The Thrashers had five top two picks (!) – none are with the club anymore. What a disaster.

Fold this franchise please. Thank you.

Dale Tallon has a chance to make his name as a great GM if he can turn the Panthers around. Another franchise like Atlanta, flashes of mediocrity interrupting poor season after poor season, the best players exiled year after year, we’ll see if he can make these guys relevant. And hopefully he has someone handling his important postage this time.

Pete De Boer is getting a lot out of these guys but they have had some bad luck and bad calls against them. Likely a long season for them.

The Islanders are another club who are a cautionary tale, especially seeing as they have been getting and discarding lottery picks for what seems like decades. Their talent pool is probably shallower than the Oilers and they already have lost Streit and Okposo to injury. They are lottery bound, probably a good bet to finish last overall. Watch for Roloson to get sent to a contender come the spring.

Great start for the Islanders all things considered. They sure do score a lot of goals. They sure do give them back. Tavares has six goals, four of those are on the PP and he has a hefty minus. Oh well. And Roloson? Lights out so far.

9 comments:

n said...

The Heather Moyse picture reminded me. Check out http://thestar.blogs.com/olympics/2010/10/women-in-motion-promo-from-rory-hinds-on-vimeo.html and tell me that doesn't bring back some of the Olympic rush. Gawd, it'd be nice if the papers would skip telling us about the Leafs' 4th liners or basketball players in South Beach, and just had pictures of Olympians doing great things.

Andrew said...

"Eric Murphy is a good coach..."

Hehehe this made me laugh!

macaotim said...

Too many words to read without talking about sex or beer. Perhaps next time a chart would be more palatable.

hunter1909 said...

Hey wtf is going on here!?

Anyone can make "predictions" once the season is underway!

I could tell you with 100% certainty the 113,000,000 UK pounds Euromillions numbers...from last week.

PS: This comes from the guy who picked Oilers for 6th in the West, looked like a genius for exactly 2 games, and now is back holding his burger flipper at Wendy's.

Black Dog said...

lol Hunter, well they are three weeks old, I swear ;) you can certainly tell as I am almost 100% wrong

Sorry Tim - it won't happen again ;)

Black Dog said...

Thanks Andrew

Good stuff n, I'll check it out.

Doogie2K said...

So don't ask me who plays in Atlanta because I'm liable to say Eric Vail.

I hear Willi Plett's a mean son of a bitch. Plus, they got a good veteran leader on the blue line in that Pat Quinn guy. He could be a coach someday.

spOILer said...

Re: Sabres

Don't forget Pominville is out too.

They should have signed one of those two FA Dmen. Tough for a fan to believe in a team like that. Although, maybe they wouldn't stay for any money.

The Devils have returned to the Hell from whence they came. Couldn't have happened to a nicer GM too.

The Canucks should be--should be--unstoppable this year. Which makes me very very sad. I am not looking forward to our first meeting against them.

Black Dog said...

lol Doogie. I had those hockey cards. (Yes I am that old)

spOILer - my pal is a huge Sabes fan and he was not expecting this at all. Both Tallinder and Lydman were not their old selves last year. Its still early but they're having a really tough time.

Yeah I think the Canucks will be scary once they start clicking. Both Chicago and SJ don't like world beaters. Still early though.