Hockey Hockey Hockey! Eastern Conference Predictions
I had become content with no hockey. In fact, Christmas came early with news on the Blue Jays, which filled the void while visions of Kessel danced in my head. The anticipation for the World Juniors was more exciting than ever, with no NHL to compete with. You see, I was livid. It was like losing a best friend who I only get to see nine months out of the year anyway. I felt betrayed, and shared every other emotion the myriad angry fans displayed. As the days passed, losing my friend was no longer difficult to cope with. I was sure I wouldn’t even care if the lockout ended. But then it did. And I’d be lying to you if I denied staying up until quarter-after-five when the announcement was made. Ever since then I’ve been playing catch-up with all the news and transactions from last year, and I’ve had a hell of a time in doing so. Anyway, I believe I have a decent grasp on the dynamics of the Eastern Conference. Here are my brief predictions:
Last Year: 1st
In With the New: Rick Nash, Taylor Pyatt, Jeff Halpern, Aaron Asham
Out With the Old: Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky, Tim Erixson, Ruslan Fedotanko, Brandon Prust
Why: A line with Nash, Richards and Gaborik is godly. How do you stop that? I would expect in a full season from these three roughly 220 points. Also, Lundqvist is currently the hottest goaltender in the league. The Rangers are going to be scary good.
Last Year: 2nd
In With the New: Garnet Exelby, Christian Hanson, Aaron Johnson, Michel Oullett
Out With the Old: Andrew Bodnarchuk, Joe Corvo, Benoit Pouliot, GregZanon
Why: This really goes without saying. The Bruins’ depth is phenomenal. This year should be much the same as last year, except the formidable Rask will be taking over for the formidable Thomas in net.
Last Year: 12th
In With the New: Joe Corvo, Marc-Andre Gragnani, Alex Semin, Jordan Staal, Tim Wallace
Out With the Old: Bryan Allen, Bryan Dumoulin, Derek Joslin, Brandon Sutter
Why: This is where you might think I’ve gone crazy. Jumping nine spots is massive in any league. However, Carolina has the advantage of a relatively weak division. I don’t think Florida will come close to repeating last year, and Washington is in a bit of a decline. The Hurricanes have picked up another Staal to make that three in total (I’m crossing my fingers they’ll grab Marc in 2015 when his contract with the Rangers is up). I also believe Semin will benefit greatly from a change of scenery with a bounce-back season on the scoreboard.
Last Year: 5th
In With the New: Luke Schenn, Ruslan Fedotenko, Bruno Gervais
Out With the Old: Sergei Bobrovsky, Matt Carle, Jaromir Jagr, Pavel Kubina, James Van Riemsdyk
Why: The Flyers had a great season last year and actually knocked out the Penguins in the first round through sheer fire power. Any time you beat the Penguins through goal scoring alone, you know you’re offensively talented. The back end has been an issue, but trading JVR for Schenn (yet another pair of siblings united) will help, and with a bounce-back season from Bryzgalov, the Flyers should be able to contend with the best again. The influx of young talent is only getting better with age, which bodes scary news for the rest of the conference.
Last Year: 4th
In With the New: Brandon Sutter, Tanner Glass, Dylan Reese, Thomas Vokoun
Out With the Old: Jordan Staal, Steve Sullivan, Aaron Asham, BrentJohnson, Zbynek Michalek, Richard Park
Why: Crosby is back (for good hopefully). Simple as that. When your top two lines are centered by Crosby and Malkin, it almost doesn’t matter who surrounds them. Though the loss of Staal hurts, the Penguins are still in great shape, and will continue to be for probably another decade. Fleury will be questionable, but he will look to quell any negative notions early after a terrible first round against the Flyers.
Last Year: 7th
In With the New: Joey Crabb, Zach Hamill, Jordan henry, Jack Hillen, Mike Ribeiro, Ryan Stoa, Wojtek Wolski
Out With the Old: Keith Aucoin, Chris Bourque, Cody Eakin, Jeff Halpern, Joel Rechlicz, Alex Semin, Thomas Vokoun, Dennis Wideman
Why: The Capitals finished in the top three in the East in each of the four seasons prior to 11/12, including consecutive first place finishes. Ovechkin had his first disappointing season (even though he still put up respectable numbers), and Semin disappeared almost entirely. But with the subtraction of Boudreau, look for the Capitals to bounce back a little, but not quite to the form they displayed so consistently before last season.
Last Year: 6th
In With the New: Krystofer Barch, Harri Pesonen
Out With the Old: Eric Boulton, Zach Parise, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Petr Sykora, Matt Taormina
Why: The Devils look much the same as they did last year, minus Parise. For that reason alone, the Devils will lose a lot of their punch. Offense has been a problem of late, but they’ll make do with a formidable defensive corps. The Devils carry six on the back-end as last year, who, along with the ever-reliant Brodeur, managed a top-ten finish in GAA.
Last Year: 11th
In With the New: Mark Dekanich, Olli Jokinen, Al montoya, Alexei Ponikarovski
Out With the Old: Brett Festerling, Mark Flood, Tanner Glass, Chris Mason, Tim Stapleton
Why: If you just spit out your coffee, give me a second. I understand it may be a long shot, but for the sake of fun, allow the Jets to be my dark-horse. The players will want to give their all for a fan-base who are still on a high after receiving their beloved franchise back. The Jets look pretty decent on paper, even though they’re not too far removed from the Thrashers of old. Antropov and Ponikarovski are reunited and may provide a great spark on the third line. The Jets may just surprise everybody and surpass a rather lackluster challenge from the rest of the conference.
Drop a comment below and let me know what you think? how do you see the Eastern conference shaping up? Who has the best shot at a lottery position? I look forward to these next 48 games. Even though it will be a shortened season, it shall be invigorating nonetheless.
*New and old players provided by TSN.