7.27.2008

Off-season predictions

Alright, I, for one, am really really really really really really really really really really bored.....so I'll go out on a limb and make predictions of all sorts. I'll go team by team so it doesn't get too confusing.

Anaheim Ducks: Conference Standings: 7th. League Standings: 13th. Leading Scorer: Corey Perry, 85 points. Playoff Finish: First-round loss. The Ducks will take a surprising fall in the standings due to a freak injury (undisclosed) to would-be-leading-scorer Ryan Getzlaf (61 points in 52 games). In the 30 games following Getz's injury, Anaheim goes 10-15-2-3, and just manages to make the playoffs, losing in the first round.

Atlanta Thrashers: Conference Standings: 9th. League Standings: 17th. Leading Scorer: Ilya Kovalchuk, 94 points. Playoff Finish: Doesn't qualify. Atlanta comes painfully short of the playoffs, as usual. Despite the maturation of Tobias Enstrom (45 points, tops in ice time for Thrashers), the emergence of Eric Perrin (Career high 25 goals, 60 points), the arrival of Zach Bogosian (39 points, plus- 12 in rookie season), and the continued steady play of Ilya Kovalchuk (48 goals), Atlanta simply can't achieve their main goal.

Boston Bruins: Conference Standings: 6th. League Standings: 12th. Leading Scorer: Marc Savard, 102 points. Playoff Finish: Second-round loss. Boston takes another step towards becoming a solid team with the underrated addition of Michael Ryder. Boosted by a skilled passing center (Savard), Ryder takes a Jonathan-Cheechoo-leap and hits 45 goals. Dennis Wideman and Zdeno Chara anchor a defense that leaves goaltenders Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez bored in the crease. Unfortunately, the playoffs are still a challenge and the second round is the limit.

Buffalo Sabres: Conference Standings: 10th. League Standings: 20th. Leading Scorer: Derek Roy, 90 points. Playoff Finish: Doesn't qualify. The Sabres fail to reach the playoffs for the second straight season, inviting rumors that the entire team needs to be remade. Derek Roy and Jason Pominville (86 points) are still catalysts and leaders, but even the help of Craig Rivet on the blue-line and Ryan Miller in goal cannot carry the team to the promised land.

Calgary Flames: Conference Standings: 3rd. League Standings: 5th. Leading Scorer: Jarome Iginla, 106 points. Playoff Finish: Second-round loss. Calgary chooses the good side of the rumor mill for 08-09, topping the Northwest division. Led by Iginla, Matthew Lombardi (71 points), Todd Bertuzzi (surprise 33-goal season), and Dion Phanuef (69 points), the Flames take the Western Conference by storm, and reach the second round of the playoffs.

Carolina Hurricanes: Conference Standings: 15th. League Standings: 29th. Leading Scorer: Eric Staal, 70 points. Playoff Finish: Doesn't qualify. There's always a casualty when a team improves. Carolina is the casualty of Boston. Struck by the injury bug and stronger conference rivals, the Canes miss the playoffs once again. Fortunately, they get a closer chance at John Tavares.

Chicago Blackhawks: Conference Standings: 9th. League Standings: 18th. Leading Scorer: Jonathan Toews, 87 points. Playoff Finish: Doesn't Qualify. The Hawks continue their transition to one of the stronger young teams in the NHL by coming tantalizingly close to making the playoffs. Jonathan Toews redeems his incomplete rookie season with a strong sophmore season, while Patrick Kane continues to shine, scoring 30 goals and 85 points. Jack Skille and Nick Hjalmarsson are the next generation of skilled rookies, while UFA-signee's Brian Campbell and Cristobal Huet have solid seasons.

Colorado Avalanche: Conference Standings: 8th. League Standings: 15th. Leading Scorer: Paul Stastny, 84 points. Playoff Finish: First-round loss. The Avs make it to the playoffs again, this time with all stars intact. Joe Sakic returns for one last season, scoring a highly-respectable 61 points. The team, however, fails to mount a succesful playoff run, falling victim to the San Jose Sharks.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Conference Standings: 15th. League Standings: 30th. Leading Scorer: Rick Nash, 77 points. Playoff Finish: Doesn't qualify. The Blue Jackets unfortunately do not attain the rise to the playoffs that many are predicting. However, when brutal injuries come at random to key players such as Kris Russell, Mike Commodore, and R.J. Umberger, the Blue Jackets suffer a catastrophic fall to the bottom of the league. However, the idea of Derick Brassard, John Tavares, and Michael Peca as their top-3 centers provides hope for next season, as does rookie Nikita Filatov's 65-point performance.

Dallas Stars: Conference Standings: 4th. League Standings: 7th. Leading Scorer: Mike Ribeiro, 91 points. Playoff Finish: Third-round loss. The Stars have a strong season once again, largely bolstered by the strong performance of a full season from Brad Richards (86 points), and the surprise adjustment to the NHL of Fabian Brunnstrom, who scores 60 points as Ribeiro and Brenden Morrow's right winger.

Detroit Red Wings: Conference Standings: 2nd. League Standings: 2nd. Leading Scorer: Henrik Zetterberg, 101 points. Playoff Finish: Second-round loss. The Red Wings remain among the top teams in the NHL, although they fail to defend the Cup. Marian Hossa provides a solid 35-goal season playing alongside Pavel Datsyuk for the majority of the year. Jimmy Howard is not a spectacular back-up, but Chris Osgood proves that last season's solid record was not because of a lighter schedule.

Edmonton Oilers: Conference Standings: 6th. League Standings: 11th. Leading Scorer: Ales Hemsky, 83 points. Playoff Finish: First-round loss. The Oilers are another team whose youth pays off with a return to the playoffs. Led by Andrew Cogliano, Hemsky, and Sam Gagner, the Oil has a succesful season, only to be flattened by Calgary in the playoffs.

Florida Panthers: Conference Standings: 12th. League Standings: 24th. Leading Scorer: Nathan Horton, 70 points. Playoff Finish: Doesn't qualify. The Panthers must once again suffer from a season of mediocrity. After losing captain Olli Jokinen, the Cats improve slightly on defense, but weaken on offense when talented but inexperienced Shawn Matthias is essentially the only replacement for Jokinen. Cory Stillman does help a weak left side, though.

Los Angeles Kings: Conference Standings: 13th. League Standings: 25th. Leading Scorer: Anze Kopitar, 84 points. Playoff Finish: Doesn't qualify. The Kings tried, they really did. However, the promised land cannot be reached. Drew Doughty makes the team easy, as expected, and surprise rookie Justin Azevedo (I just know this guy is going to be awesome) does himself justice as well.

Minnesota Wild: Conference Standings: 10th. League Standings: 19th. Leading Scorer: Marian Gaborik, 88 points. Playoff Finish: Doesn't qualify. The Wild unfortunately return to the land of the playoff-less following a season in which offense is lacking. Pavol Demitra, Brian Rolston, and Mark Parrish's offense is essentially replaced with the untested skills of Colton Gillies and Benoit Pouliot, and second-year man James Sheppard. Still, it likely won't be difficult for Minnesota to return to the upper-echelon of the NHL.

Montreal Canadiens: Conference Standings: 3rd. League Standings: 6th. Leading Scorer: Alexei Kovalev, 85 points. Playoff Finish: Third-round loss. The Habs prove that last season wasn't a one-year wonder by advancing to the Conference Finals. Led by the outstanding play of Kovalev and the Kostitsyn brothers (76 points for Andrei, 50 for Sergei), Montreal has another strong season.

Nashville Predators: Conference Standings: 11th. League Standings: 22nd. Leading Scorer: Jason Arnott, 76 points. Playoff Finish: Doesn't qualify. The Preds just can't jump to even the 8th spot in the conference, this time falling to 11th. A lack of star-power on the roster is a spot of worry, but Nashville continues to believe that winning doesn't come from names alone.

New Jersey Devils: Conference Standings: 7th. League Standings: 14th. Leading Scorer: Zach Parise, 78 points. Playoff Finish: First-round loss. New Jersey continues to be an example to the league, showing that offense is just as important as defense if you want to win a championship. Free-agent arrivals Brian Rolston (30 goals, 65 points) and Bobby Holik (40 points) help somewhat, but it's clear that the Devils need to make a solid free-agent offer to a big scorer on the market.

New York Islanders: Conference Standings: 14th. League Standing: 27th. Leading Scorer: Bill Guerin, 62 points. Playoff Finish: Doesn't qualify. The Isles continue to suffer as they lack the appeal for big free agents, and have a lower quality of youth ready to play in the big leagues. Rookie Kyle Okposo impressively finishes with 53 points, but a lack of offense from the team dulls the valiant efforts of goalie Rick DiPietro.

New York Rangers: Conference Standings: 8th. League Standings: 16th. Leading Scorer: Scott Gomez, 75 points. Playoff Finish: Doesn't qualify. The Rangers manage to squeak into the final playoff spot in the East, despite losing Jagr, Straka, and Avery, and essentially replacing them with Nikolai Zherdev, Aaron Voros, and Patrick Rissmiller. Offensively, the team struggles, but a finally solid defense led by Wade Redden, Paul Mara, and Dan Girardi shows improvement.

Ottawa Senators: Conference Standings: 13th. League Standings: 26th. Leading Scorer: Dany Heatley, 97 points. Playoff Finish: Doesn't qualify. The most phenomenal and surprising change in a team's status is the result of the Senators' 08-09 season. For nearly unexplainable reasons, Ottawa tumbles from the top of the league all the way to the cellar. However, it appears that injuries, even short ones, can lead to a total collapse. Daniel Alfredsson, Martin Gerber, and Chris Phillips are among the players on the Sens who are injured for short periods of time, although combined, the team slips horribly.

Philadelphia Flyers: Conference Standings: 4th. League Standings: 8th. Leading Scorer: Daniel Briere, 94 points. Playoff Finish: First-round loss. Some things never change. Others change for only a season. Only two years removed from their historic collapse, the Flyers are back atop the league, this time smartly using offense rather than suspension-provoking physicality. Six players score 20 goals, but more impressively, 8 players have over 50 points.

Phoenix Coyotes: Conference Standings: 12th. League Standings: 12th. Leading Scorer: Olli Jokinen, 74 points. Playoff Finish: Doesn't qualify. The hoped-for rising of the Phoenix Coyotes is at least another year away. The offense has solidified, featuring Jokinen, captain Shane Doan, and youngsters Peter Mueller, Martin Hanzal, and Daniel Carcillo. However, it's the defense's turn to slightly remodel and strengthen. Ilya Bryzgalov stays a solid goalie.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Conference Standings: 1st. League Standings: 3rd. Leading Scorer: Sidney Crosby, 115 points. Playoff Finish: Cup Finals loss. The champion of the East returns nearly the same, replacing players with players, and the names make little difference to their playoff finish, which is exactly the same as last season. Crosby and Malkin are stars once again, and Miroslav Satan slightly redeems himself with a 29-goal season playing alongside Crosby.

San Jose Sharks: Conference Standings: 1st. League Standings: 1st. Leading Scorer: Joe Thornton, 107 points. Playoff Finish: Stanley Cup winner. The Sharks have every hockey fan in North America (and beyond) saying "About time!" San Jose storms the NHL, winning the President's Trophy and the Stanley Cup, as they've been on the verge of since the millenium began. Strong performances from every player, obviously.

St. Louis Blues: Conference Standings: 14th. League Standings: 28th. Leading Scorer: Brad Boyes, 70 points. Playoff Finish: Doesn't qualify. The Blues continue to dwell at the bottom of the league. Offense continues to be an issue, although the development of Alex Pietrangelo inspires some hope. The draft will be key to the Blues' success this year.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Conference Standings: 5th. League Standings: 10th. Leading Scorer: Vincent Lecavlier, 103 points. Playoff Finish: Second-round loss. The Lightning's last place finish sure paid off. Ryan Malone (65 points), Steven Stamkos (72 points), and Jeff Halpern (43 points) give Tampa an offense that shatters throughout the league and makes a Tampa-Pittsburgh game worth paying 100 bucks for a good ticket. The goaltending of Carey Price stumps them in the playoffs, though.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Conference Standings: 11th. League Standings: 21st. Leading Scorer: Jason Blake, 64 points. Playoff Finish: Doesn't qualify. The Leafs miss the playoffs once again, but several bright spots occur in the season. Jason Blake returns as a legitimate scorer, finishing with 27 goals among 64 points, while rookie Luke Schenn only takes a few AHL games to adjust to the NHL, where he scores a modest 21 points, but is solid defensively.

Vancouver Canucks: Conference Standings: 5th. League Standings: 9th. Leading Scorer: Daniel Sedin, 92 points. Playoff Finish: First-round loss. In a surprising rebound from last season's playoff-less finish, the Canucks are a top team in 08-09. The additions of Pavol Demitra, Steve Bernier, and Kyle Wellwood improve an offense that has been criticized for several years, while the defense remains fine. Roberto Luongo cannot boost the 'Nucks past Dallas again, though.

Washington Capitals: Conference Standings: 3rd. League Standings: 7th. Leading Scorer: Alexander Ovechkin, 123 points. Playoff Finish: First-round loss. The Capitals prove that last season's division win wasn't a fluke, actually finishing atop the league as well. However, they are still unable to mount a successful playoff run, falling as prey to the Boston Bruins in the first round.
Some immediately blame losing Cristobal Huet.



Complete League Standings:
1st-
San Jose Sharks
2nd- Detroit Red Wings
3rd- Pittsburgh Penguins
4th- Montreal Canadiens
5th- Calgary Flames
6th- Dallas Stars
7th- Washington Capitals
8th- Philadelphia Flyers
9th- Vancouver Canucks
10th- Tampa Bay Lightning
11th- Edmonton Oilers
12th- Boston Bruins
13th- Anaheim Ducks
14th-
New Jersey Devils
15th- Colorado Avalanche
16th-
New York Rangers
17th- Atlanta Thrashers
18th- Chicago Blackhawks
19th- Minnesota Wild
20th- Buffalo Sabres
21st- Toronto Maple Leafs
22nd- Nashville Predators
23rd- Phoenix Coyotes
24th- Florida Panthers
25th- Los Angeles Kings
26th- Ottawa Senators
27th- New York Islanders
28th- St. Louis Blues
29th- Carolina Hurricanes
30th- Columbus Blue Jackets


Complete Conference Standings:
WEST~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~EAST~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
1st.
San Jose Sharks~~~~~~1st. Pittsburgh Penguins
2nd. Detroit Red Wings ~~~2nd. Montreal Canadiens
3rd. Calgary Flames ~~~~~3rd. Washington Capitals
4th. Dallas Stars~~~~~~~~4th. Philadelphia Flyers
5th. Vancouver Canucks ~~~5th. Tampa Bay Lightning
6th. Edmonton Oilers~~~~~6th. Boston Bruins
7th. Anaheim Ducks~~~~~~7th. New Jersey Devils
8th. Colorado Avalanche~~~8th. New York Rangers
9th. Chicago Blackhawks~~~9th. Atlanta Thrashers
10th. Minnesota Wild~~~~~10th. Buffalo Sabres
11th. Nashville Predators ~~11th. Toronto Maple Leafs
12th. Phoenix Coyotes ~~~~12th. Florida Panthers
13th. Los Angeles Kings ~~~13th. Ottawa Senators
14th. St. Louis Blues~~~~~~14th. New York Islanders
15th.Columbus Blue Jackets~15th. Carolina Hurricanes


Art Ross trophy:
Alexander Ovechkin, 123 points.
Hart trophy: Patrick Marleau
Norris trophy: Dion Phaneuf.




That's all for me. Sorry for not trying to predict individual team records, but that would've gotten too complicated. And if the league standings are too lined up compared to conference standings, that would be the fault of not predicting records as well. Please comment with your own opinion, even just for your favorite team!

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