2009-2010 NHL Predictions, Just In Time!

I didn’t have time to write a full-on 2009-10 NHL preview before my European excursion (I only had enough time to either write one or remember my wallet, and I stupidly chose the latter), so in the interest of later being able to say “I told you so” and have you say “what are you talking about, 90% of your picks were wrong” and me say “I don’t come down to where you work and slap the NHL Predictions mop out of your hand!” and you being like “what?”, I wrote down my picks on a piece of paper before the season started and have subsequently typed them here, with my token rambly explanations.

I have two very simple rules when picking regular season standings: 1) Teams with new coaches always get a boost, unless that coach is a bemulleted ESPN hockey analyst, and 2) STOP PICKING THE PANTHERS AS YOUR SLEEPER TEAM, DAN, YOU EFFING MORON, THEY’RE YOUNG AND FAST AND GOING TO FINISH NINTH AGAIN SO PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON’T DO IT.

Onward to the picks…

EASTERN CONFERENCE

1. New Jersey Devils
2. Boston Bruins
3. Washington Capitals
4. Pittsburgh Penguins
5. Philadelphia Flyers
6. Montreal Canadiens
7. New York Rangers
8. Ottawa Senators

9. Florida Panthers
10. Carolina Hurricanes
11. Toronto Maple Leafs
12. Buffalo Sabres
13. Tampa Bay Lightning
14. Atlanta Thrashers
15. New York Islanders

Pundits are all ready to hand the Atlantic Division to the Pens or Flyers, but don’t forget that the Devils won the Atlantic last year despite an injured Martin Brodeur and a dire slump in the final month of the season. Call the trap dated all you want, but Jacques Lemaire is still one of the best defensive minds ever to coach in this league, he got the sub-mediocre Minnesota Wild to the playoffs in the West multiple times, and he should give enough of a new coach boost for the Devils to pace the Conference in fewest goals against, as well as the most out-of-whack “Good Record to Amount You Are Actually Scared To Play Them In The Playoffs” ratio.

I assumed the Pens would have to fight injuries and post-Cup malaise this year, and they still probably will, but so far they’re off to a dynamite start. Everyone was already dubbing the Flyers a Cup contender in preseason too, but for whatever reason, my gut forsees their lack of team D and goaltending leading to a so-so first half, a John Stevens firing, and a second-half surge that’ll put them right back into the Cup race, much like the Pens a year ago, but dicks.

I’m not high on Washington this year, but also have no confidence in Carolina or Florida to knock the Caps off their cushy division perch; a second Southeast team will probably make the playoffs just out of sheer probability, but I don’t have confidence picking which, so I left them out of the picture altogether. Tampa still has a long way to go, Atlanta’s terrible, and I’m not picking the “young, fast Panthers” as my sleeper for my fourth straight year of predicting, at least until I’m able to tell Stephen Weiss apart from David Booth (this will never happen).

The Canadiens aren’t going anywhere in the playoffs, but their ok-enough offense and their semi-annual coaching change should keep them in the playoff picture in a generally thin conference. The Rangers should easily join the other three perennial Atlantic division playoff teams — I’ll take a healthy 20 games from Marian Gaborik over two seasons worth of Scott Gomez — and I’m banking on the Senators to emerge from the Toronto-Buffalo-Florida-Carolina stretch run to snag a playoff spot, as Toronto still just doesn’t have the skill and the three latter teams haven’t improved — Ray Whitney has to just explode at some point, right?



WESTERN CONFERENCE

1. Calgary Flames
2. Detroit Red Wings
3. San Jose Sharks
4. Anaheim Ducks
5. Chicago Blackhawks
6. Vancouver Canucks
7. Edmonton Oilers
8. Dallas Stars

9. St. Louis Blues
10. Minnesota Wild
11. Los Angeles Kings
12. Columbus Blue Jackets
13. Colorado Avalanche
14. Nashville Predators
15. Phoenix Coyotes

The Detroit and Calgary picks are already looking a bit shaky, with Johan Franzen’s injury and Calgary’s 5-goal collapse against Chicago this past week, but I’ve gotta stick with my guns. Counting out Detroit is like counting out The Patriots; just when you think they’re getting old and the Marian Hossa departure will affect them, they’ll end up plugging in five young annoying-ass dudes you’ve never heard of who are instantly better than most teams’ second liners.

Calgary, meanwhile, now possesses three of the league’s 10 best defensemen with the Jay Bouwmeester signing, a formula that brought the Ducks a Cup two years ago. If their D-trio (Can we call them ‘Dio’?) stays healthy, coupled with their new coach boost and Mikka Kipprusoff (regular season Kipprusoff), they’ll shave a nice chunk off their Goals Against mark and glide into the playoffs for some classic 270% capacity-crowd playoff games. (Do dudes in Calgary buy tickets to just stand in the city of Calgary during games? Their attendance figures are ridiculous.)

The Sharks and Ducks are both legitimate Cup contenders who could both easily win the East, and I actually forsee the younger, slightly quicker Ducks having more eventual upside, but for the regular season I’ll go safe and stick with the Sharks winning the Pacific. San Jose also went a long way towards dispelling their image as a team full of notorious playoff chokers by going out and acquiring…Dany Heatley?? Awwww crap, never mind. They couldn’t coax Alexei Yashin out of his European contract?

The bottom half of the Western standings, as usual, is a toss-up. Chicago — who played far better defensively last year than I would’ve ever expected — is a lock and could overtake Detroit in the Central, but after that, your guess is as good as mine; Dallas might squeeze one good season out of Marc Crawford before he wears out his welcome with a million coach reaction-shots in which the black/gray ratio in his hair keeps mysteriously fluctuating. Edmonton is a young, always fast, always hungry team who were badly in need of a coaching change; I’m not sure Pat Quinn is the direction I would’ve gone with that team, but if he works half the magic in Edmonton that he worked with those undermanned early-2000s Leafs teams that kept winning Playoff series, the Oilers could be a serious sleeper. Vancouver’s still got Luongo, and so far that’s been enough for a playoff spot; I also foresee a step back for Columbus and St. Louis, though not really for any reason other than typical year-to-year fluctuation in a tough conference. Sorry, Columbus fan.

L.A. is a sleeper for a lot of people, and they’re off to a good start, but I’m still not sold on them defensively as a team that could hang in a playoff race for a full season. Nashville’s got to tank at some point too, though probably not this season, because I picked them to. These standings are all predicated on Ed Jovanovski getting hurt for Phoenix, obviously, cause if he’s healthy just go ahead and toss that team the Cup.

That’s all for now — we’ll revisit this time capsule of half-obviousness, half-random, inexplicable boldness at the end of the season to see just how wrong and pointless this whole exercise was (i.e., the only reason to ever do preseason predictions). I went 5 for 8 on MLB Playoff teams (called those Yankees and Red Sox!!! Heard it here first, fellas!!!!)

EASTERN FINALS: Penguins over Rangers

WESTERN FINALS: Ducks over Flames

Cup Finals: Penguins over Ducks. You wanna pick against them? I don’t.

What’s that? Crosby and just spontaneously combusted as I hit the ‘PUBLISH’ button? Sweet.

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2 Responses to “2009-2010 NHL Predictions, Just In Time!”

  1. John V Says:

    I know you’ve been antipodean to most of the National Hockey League action since opening night, so let me help key you in on something: No team is worse than the Maple Leafs.

    The team that put the final nail in Therrien’s coffin looks absolutely atrocious in every game I’ve watched them in. We’re not talking “this team is developing” bad either. If there are rats in the locker room (and Scott Mellanby is nowhere to be found) they are surely abandoning ship as this team is sinking faster than Pittsburgh native Dan Orlovsky hopes of being a starter in the NFL after his two-step out of the endzone against the Vikings last year.

    Mikka and the Flames are balancing awesome new uniforms with horrdendously awful new patches for their 30th. While I am a big fan of their amazing D, Kipp could be in a world of hurt if the pad regulations kick in which cause both he and another goalie to lose 6 inches of leg pads because of poor measurement rulings that the NHLPA is fighting as we speak. The only way the Flames go anywhere exciting this year is if Mike Vernon forgets he’s older than Yoda, dons the old uni, and the Vernon Field kicks into high gear at the right time and soars them through the playoffs.

    That other goalie in question? MAF.

    The Wild are also going to have their hands full as this is definitely a rebuilding year. Hopes are high in the Great North that the infusion of coaches (and players) from the Pens will help breathe an air of fresh life into a town that has been subjected to hockey the brand of hockey Lemaire used to almost kill the league with its lack of excitement.

    I’m guessing your predictions are going to be pretty accurate except the Blues and Kings make the playoffs instead of the ‘Nucks and the Stars. Pens win the cup against either the Flames or the Sharks; whichever team’s goalie doesn’t choke.

    Watch the Hawks next year.

  2. steven Says:

    flames will beat ducks and then flames will go on to win the cup

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