You knew it had to come to this eventually. Every Tanguay, Drury and Havlat in the world has made their pre-season predictions, and I might as well throw my hat in the ring, too. I’m more or less obligated to do it.
Obligated or not, I’m always more than happy to make predictions, if only for the sole purpose of your amusement. Today I present to you, dear reader, Your Obligatory Ultra Super Spectacular Pre-Season Speculation Post. The rejected and more descriptive version of that title was simply Kevin Makes Predictions so You Know Who Not to Bet on, but that didn’t have as nice a ring to it. Today I'll start with the Eastern Conference, and work my way over to the West tomorrow.
Enough of the Obligatory Lead In, you know how this goes. Teams. Predictions. Snark. Let’s get to it!
Possible point totals are in parentheses. No scientific calculations involved, simply a ballpark figure.
(The elite 3 ½)
1. *Ottawa Senators (115) – This team is primed and ready to make another run. Buffalo is out of the way, so the Sens should cruise to the Northeast title.
2. *Pittsburgh Penguins (109) – I’m convinced Sykora, Sydor and another year of development for the kids will put them over the top. Don’t rule out the Rangers as Atlantic champs, though.
3. *Atlanta Thrashers (95) – A lot of people are selling the Thrashers, but this is a wide open division, so a title for the Thrashers is not out of the question.
4. New York Rangers (106) – It pains me to say so, but these guys are going to be good. Pittsburgh is going to have a hell of a time holding them off.
The cluttered middle ground
5. New Jersey Devils (93) – I have a hard time finding any team to put in the fifth spot. The Devils are here because they always seem to find a way to get the job done. With Lou and Sutter at the helm, this team is going to find a way to succeed.
6. Buffalo Sabres (93) – It’s going to be a down year, but the Sabres are still better than a lot of teams in the East.
7. Montreal Canadiens (92) – ‘Gloom and doom’ is the story in Montreal, but I’m not buying.
8. Tampa Bay Lightning (91) – I’m having a hard time placing this team ahead of the two behind it, but four Atlantic teams will not make the playoffs. The Bolts’ defense is going to hold them back an awful lot, but they’re still a solid team.
9. Philadelphia Flyers (90) – Lupul or not, this team is going to be solid. There’s no doubt about it. I’m sure you disagree.
10. Toronto Maple Leafs (90) – It’s a tough sell but the additions of Toskala and Blake should put this team in the playoff hunt. I want to put this team higher. Really, I do. Problem is there’s too much clutter for them to compete with.
Close, but no cigar
11. Washington Capitals (87) – I like the Caps and the additions they made this off-season. Their problem is that the rest of the conference improved, too.
12. Carolina Hurricanes (81) – New season, same Hurricanes.
13. Florida Panthers (80) – A lot of people like the Panthers this year. I, for one, don’t. It’s going to be the same old story in Florida.
The trash heap
14. New York Islanders (74) – You certainly can’t accuse me of being a homer. No team can lose all the pieces that the Islanders did and still make the playoffs, even if losing Yashin is addition by subtraction.
15. Boston Bruins (66) – The B’s might be the only team in the East who hasn’t improved significantly. I’m not buying Manny Fernandez. Enjoy that lottery pick.
Tune in tomorrow for the Western Conference!
Ballhype - Your Obligatory Ultra Super Spectacular Pre-Season Speculation Post (Part I)
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