So here we go with predictions for the Eastern Conference. Mind you, I have not looked at any other blogs predictions. Why? Because unless a team gets injured, I’m usually right 85% of the time. What I do is simple, I look at each team and compare each one by certain categories, and when it’s all said and done, I’ll rank them. Now this is just for the regular season. Western Confernce will be tomorrow. Here we go:
15. Islanders: I’m sorry but I just don’t know what to expect from this team if they’re not healthy. They’re in the right direction, and if they stay healthy, they will not be last in the Conference, bank on that. Message to bubble teams after the Olympics: Avoid a healthy Islanders team because they will beat you.
14. Atlanta: Offensively, you’re stacked. Scoring goals should not be the problem. However for all the goals you score, your young defense will give up more, and if they don’t, your shaky goaltending will. Unless something improves during the season, I don’t see you making a legit run.
13. Toronto: This will be the team that every offense will not want to face. On the defensive side, they’re huge and will be very aggressive. As of right now I’m not convinced of your offense for a full season, and your goaltending will be the drama for this team. Make no mistake Toronto fans, you could be in the hunt come March, but offense and goaltending will be the reason you land in this spot.
12. Tampa: Good revamping off-season for this club. In all honesty I like the top 6 forwards, but you’re lacking depth behind them. The defense will be much improved, but I’m uncertain about Smith as your everyday goaltender staying healthy. If the Lightning do not get support from the bottom 6 forwards, or more injuries occur to key players, the season will be over before it even gets started.
11. Ottawa: See Tampa. Basically the Senators will be as good as their goaltender can take them. There is enough depth to take you close to the playoffs, but the Senators need a good hot streak if they want to compete against the other teams ahead of them.
10. Rangers: They were so close to being named my “Dark Horse” team, but your defense right now just doesn’t scare anybody. If you can get Gaborik to play more than 50 games, the Rangers have a legit shot. If not, I don’t believe there is enough depth of talent to get the Rangers to the playoffs, and Lundquist will not be able to do it by himself. The future of the Rangers will depend on a highly skilled, yet often injured star.
9. DARK HORSE Florida: Panther fans, don’t worry, the last two teams (Boston, Carolina) I picked to be DH actually made it to the playoffs. You didn’t change the roster, and to be honest, Boumeester didn’t get you in the playoffs, so losing him is a mute point. The Panthers have some talent, depth, and a drive to get into the playoffs, and could do it this year.
8. Buffalo: The reason you didn’t make it to the playoffs last year was due to injuries. Like Florida, you’re core is intact, you have depth, and still developing young talent. Stay healthy and get behind Miller, and you’re in. Message to Tim Connelly: 70 games please.
7. Montreal: On paper, you look good. Fast players, great potential first line, should have solid defense, and a great goalie tandem. However if this team doesn’t gel and win out of the gate, you can expect everyone from the Panthers to the Leafs breathing down your necks, and one of them will knock you out.
6. New Jersey: Devils fans you have a saying “In Lou We Trust.” That’s the easy and polite way of saying “We’ll stop complaining about every offseason, and we’ll let Lou work his magic during the season, so that way, we can all say “Told you so…again” at the end the season if/when you win the division. Yes it is possible, but you need to add a few more players. Coach is a proven winner, forwards should improve from last year, defense is again solid, and oh yeah, you have Marty. Sit back and enjoy the ride.
5. Carolina: Hurricanes are out to prove last year was no fluke. They’ve kept the forwards, made some minor changes on the defense, coach Paul Maurice is favored to be here the entire season, and you just locked up your Conn Smythe goalie for a while. What Carolina needs to do is get off to a hot start and give the Caps a run for their money. Just be careful of injuries, and they’ll be tough to beat again.
4. Philadelphia: Two words “Chris Pronger.” Two more words “Ray Emery.” If both show up every night, and gives this team a boost that has enough forward scoring, and defense to beat anybody, count the Flyers as Cup contenders. Enough said.
3. Penguins: Don’t worry fans the hangover will only prevent the Penguins from winning the regular season standings. Pitt has lost some players on defense, but made some nice moves in the off-season to help the core for me to put them in a nice position to possibly three-peat to the Cup Finals.
2. Boston: I bet they’re still pissed, which is going to be motivation for this team all year long. Losing Kessel won’t kill them, but might sting. It will depend on how the younger core players react, and how much damage Savard can do in a contract year. It would be a bad idea to burn Thomas out before the Olympics. If Thomas is ready to go by the playoffs, Bruins will be Cup contenders this year.
1.Washington: Another team playing with a chip on their shoulders. They replaced some aging forwards with some soon to be aging forwards, but should be more productive. The defense is another year experienced, and the goaltending is in capable hands. The Conference is the Caps to lose.
Welcome to the Hockey Season. Enjoy.