NHL 2012-13 Season: Predicting the Final Standings for All 30 NHL Teams

Robert TheodorsonSenior Analyst IJuly 17, 2012

NHL 2012-13 Season: Predicting the Final Standings for All 30 NHL Teams

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    It's never too early to start predicting where teams will start and ultimately finish next season.

    With the bulk of the top free agents signed and the draft wrapped up, teams now look forward to taking care of business by signing their restricted free agents and make a few last moves as general managers scurry to wheel and deal in order to improve their team. 

    The following is a look at the division, conference and overall standing of all 30 NHL teams.

    Included is each team's best offseason transaction as well as the biggest move or inaction each team took to hurt its playoff aspirations. 

Eastern Conference: Atlantic Division

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    2011-12 Standings

    ATLANTIC GP W L OTL PTS ROW SOW SOL HOME ROAD GF GA DIFF L10 STRK
    NY Rangers 82 51 24 7 109 47 4 5 27-12-2 24-12-5 226 187 +39 6-4-0 Lost 2
    Pittsburgh 82 51 25 6 108 42 9 3 29-10-2 22-15-4 282 221 +61 6-4-0 Won 3
    Philadelphia 82 47 26 9 103 43 4 7 22-13-6 25-13-3 264 232 +32 5-4-1 Lost 1
    New Jersey 82 48 28 6 102 36 12 4 24-13-4 24-15-2 228 209 +19 7-2-1 Won 6
    NY Islanders 82 34 37 11 79 27 7 4 17-18-6 17-19-5 203 255 -52 5-5-0 Lost 1

    After narrowly losing out on the President's Trophy, the Rangers held on to dear life with the surging Penguins right behind them. The Rangers were able to escape with the Atlantic crown despite the heroic efforts of Sidney Crosby and league MVP Evgeni Malkin.

    The Atlantic had more combined points than any other division in the league.

    The Islanders missed out on the playoffs after another abysmal season. 

5. New York Islanders

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    John Tavares is the reason to pay good money to see the Islanders.

    Letting his primary setup man, PA Parenteau, go might have been foolish considering how much money the Isles always seem to have to spend. 

    Still the butt-end of many jokes, Isles management hasn't done enough for this team and has seriously derailed some of its young talent's development.

     

    Playoff Aspirations

    The Islanders are several years away from the playoffs. If they lose Tavares after his contract is up, they might be in a decade long drought. 

     

    Best Offseason Move

    Trading for Lubomir Visnovsky

     

    Worst Offseason Move

    Letting PA Parenteau go without replacing him

4. Philadelphia Flyers

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    Finishing fourth in the Atlantic isn't necessarily a bad thing.

    In fact, the New Jersey Devils did just this and took the Stanley Cup champion LA Kings to six games.

    The Flyers' season really lives or dies with the health of Chris Pronger. If the superstar defenseman is ready to go, the team could easily win the Atlantic; Pronger is that good.

    In the playoffs, his value shows tenfold. Leading three different teams to Stanley Cup Finals, always logging top minutes and putting up tons of points.

    Even though Claude Giroux may be the NHL's next big thing, the Flyers are going to miss Jaromir Jagr's production more than they suspect. Jagr turned Giroux into a household name, and as a mentor, he is irreplaceable. 

    Furthermore, the Flyers thinking that Luke Schenn's defense can replace Matt Carle's offense might be fool hearty. 

     

    Playoff Aspirations

    The Flyers' young talent in Brayden Schenn, Jake Voracek and Wayne Simmonds need more time to develop, but the Flyers as of right now are a playoff team.

     

    Best Offseason Move

    Not overpaying for Matt Carle

     

    Worst Offseason Move

    Failure to address the once again glaring goaltending issue

3. New Jersey Devils

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    Forty-year-old Martin Brodeur proved everyone wrong, again.

    To doubt the greatest goalie of all-time is not wise.

    Despite losing the Stanley Cup Finals, the Devils had a great run and showed everyone that they were easily the class of the East.

    Their closest call came against the Florida Panthers, who were the only team that could take the Devils to a Game 7. 

    Zach Parise's loss will hurt, but the development of rookies Adam Larsson and playoff hero Adam Henrique give the Devils a lot of reason to have hope for the immediate future.

    First ballot Hall of Famer Brodeur will be around for two more seasons, and Ilya Kovalchuk has finally justified his contract.

     

    Playoff Aspirations

    Parise may have been one of the biggest forces in getting the Devils to the Finals, but he wasn't the best. Kovalchuk, Henrique and Brodeur can take this team back to the Finals. 

     

    Best Offseason Move

    Making sure Brodeur retires a Devil, re-signing the entire fourth line

     

    Worst Offseason Move

    Losing Parise to free agency

2. New York Rangers

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    Brad Richards is one of the best free-agent signings in recent NHL history.

    With a new-found sense of combining hard work with skill, Richards led the Rangers all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals before succumbing to their hated rivals, the New Jersey Devils.

    It wasn't all bad news for Rangers fans, though. Henrik Lundqvist captured his first of what should be several Vezina Trophies, and the top defensive tandem of Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh proved they are among the very best in the business.

    The loss of star sniper Marian Gaborik for the beginning of next season is definitely going to hinder the early part of the season, but if management follows through and acquires Rick Nash, they will be fine.

    Rookie Chris Kreider is my personal pick for the Calder Trophy. 

     

    Playoff Aspirations

    The Rangers will make the playoffs. How far they go is up to Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards and Ryan Callahan. Lundqvist will be amazing no matter how the rest of the team is faring. 

     

    Best Offseason Move

    Keeping the team together while leaving plenty of cap room for an expensive addition

     

    Worst Offseason Move

    Not finding a replacement for Marian Gaborik

1. Pittsburgh Penguins

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    While the Penguins may be an elite sniper and top-four defenseman away from another Stanley Cup, there's no reason that reigning MVP Evgeni Malkin and the newly extended Sidney Crosby can't dominate every single game they play.

    When the Penguins shipped steady blueliner Zbynek Michalek off to Phoenix and used their first two draft picks to choose defensemen, it was clear that the Pens wanted to revamp their defense. 

    After an abysmal showing against the Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh decided to grab Tomas Vokoun from Washington instead of outcasting shamed netminder Marc-Andre Fleury. Bringing in the veteran was a wise move in case of a potential meltdown next year.

     

    Playoff Aspirations

    The Pens will make the playoffs and will most likely be Cup favorites once more. They need to add pieces and answer serious questions on defense before they can even think about running the table. 

     

    Best Offseason Move

    Addressing the defensive needs through the draft, picking up Vokoun

     

    Worst Offseason Move

    Undervaluing Jordan Staal 


Western Conference: Central Division

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    CENTRAL GP W L OTL PTS ROW SOW SOL HOME ROAD GF GA DIFF L10 STRK
    St. Louis 82 49 22 11 109 45 4 10 30-6-5 19-16-6 210 165 +45 4-3-3 Won 1
    Nashville 82 48 26 8 104 43 5 5 26-10-5 22-16-3 237 210 +27 6-4-0 Won 3
    Detroit 82 48 28 6 102 39 9 3 31-7-3 17-21-3 248 203 +45 4-4-2 Lost 2
    Chicago 82 45 26 11 101 38 7 7 27-8-6 18-18-5 248 238 +10 6-1-3 Won 1
    Columbus 82 29 46 7 65 25 4 5 17-21-3 12-25-4 202 262 -60 6-4-0 Won 2

    The St. Louis Blues had a renaissance year under Jack Adams winner Ken Hitchcock and won the Central over the heavily-favored Predators and Red Wings.

    Columbus posted the worst record in the league and missed out on drafting Nail Yakupov.

    Detroit's loss of Nicklas Lidstrom is going to have a profound impact that nobody seems to be worried about. 

5. Columbus Blue Jackets

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    The Blue Jackets are in a strange position.

    If they trade Rick Nash, they lose their only serious scoring threat, but they could gain some serious defense, which they sorely lack, among other prospects and future draft choices which could be used to create a better future.

    If they keep Rick Nash, they have an underperforming forward who will be playing in a less than ideal situation.

    After Blue Jackets management totally blew the Nash trade request up, his days with the team that drafted him first overall were numbered.

     

    Playoff Aspirations

    None, for a very long time. 

     

    Best Offseason Move

    Drafting a franchise defenseman in Ryan Murray 

     

    Worst Offseason Move

    Failure to move Rick Nash 


4. Nashville Predators

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    How much has changed in a single off season for Nashville?

    Losing Ryan Suter was bigger for the Predators than it was for Minnesota gaining him.

    Suter's departure marks the end of the NHL's best defensive pairing.

    Weber and Suter, along with goalie Pekka Rinne, took the cash thrifty Predators from being a perennial playoff doormat to being a powerhouse. 

    Somewhere along the line, the Phoenix Coyotes were able to solve the two defenders and their huge Finnish goalie and deny the Preds their shot at the cup.

    What's worse is that Nashville finally officially lost top sniper Alex Radulov to the KHL. No longer bound by contract obligations, Radulov went back home to Russia. A player of great skill but little character, Radulov's short time in Nashville is probably the last we'll ever see of the youngster in North America. 

    As of right now, Nashville has more money left to spend than anyone else in the NHL. With most to all of the top free agents gone, Nashville will need to find a way to reach the cap floor, be it offering Shea Weber a ridiculous contract or giving big offers to Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn. 

    Since the Peter Forsberg experiment failed years ago, there has been a serious lack of star power at the forward position in Nashville. Next year will be no different.

     

    Playoff Aspirations

    Nashville will suffer a serious overall points decrease with or without Shea Weber and miss the playoffs. 

     

    Best Offseason Move

    None

     

    Worst Offseason Move

    Losing Ryan Suter to free agency, poor draft

3. Detroit Red Wings

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    No matter who they get to fill positions at defense, Nicklas Lidstrom is simply irreplaceable. 

    Make no mistake, Lidstrom was the greatest defenseman of his generation and will probably be remembered as one of the top 5 of all-time.

    Fortunately for the Red Wings, they still have star centers Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg who can virtually do it all: penalty kill, power play and dominate 5-on-5 play.

    Although the Red Wings missed out on the free-agent frenzy, they have always been one of the smartest teams on how to build a winner.

    Drafting well and developing players has been a key trait in Detroit's management, and in no time, they will be at the top of their class again.

     

    Playoff Aspirations

    The Red Wings will be a bubble team and will capture either the seventh or eighth seed in the West.  

     

    Best Offseason Move

    Re-signing Darren Helm to a four-year deal

     

    Worst Offseason Move

    Losing one of the greatest defensemen in the history of the league to retirement

2. Chicago Blackhawks

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    Though the Blackhawks have been a shadow of their former selves since their Stanley Cup victory, their elite core remains intact and the defensive pairing of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook look ready to dominate once more. 

    The Blackhawks' biggest concern is whether or not to go forward with Corey Crawford. 

    The matter of the fact is that when they won the Cup, Antti Niemi wasn't a great goaltender, but he was good enough. The Hawks' depth at forward and defense won them the cup, not their goaltending.

    Not to mention that Niemi versus Leighton was possibly the worst goalie matchup in NHL Finals history. 

     

    Playoff Aspirations

    The Hawks add some pieces and make the playoffs with ease. 

     

    Best Offseason Move

    Not listening to the media and keeping Patrick Kane

     

    Worst Offseason Move

    Moving forward with Corey Crawford

1. St. Louis Blues

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    After missing out on the Presidents Cup, the St. Louis Blues looked like the most dominant regular season time in awhile.

    After dispatching the Sharks in an easy and forgettable five-game series, something just wasn't right about their matchup with Los Angeles. 

    The Kings played a similar style to the Blues, but were clearly more dominant and skilled at every position than the Blues. This much was clear even before the series started.

    Perhaps it was from lack of creative playmaking or a restrictive system, but the Blues will need more from Ken Hitchcock in the postseason if they want to win the franchise's first championship.

    There's no doubt in anyone's mind that the Blues will be a force to be reckoned with in the regular season, but they lack that huge difference-maker that is needed for a sustained Cup run.

     

    Playoff Aspirations

    St. Louis can compete for the NHL's best overall record and won't finish less than second overall in the West. 

     

    Best Offseason Move

    Re-signing Ken Hitchcock

     

    Worst Offseason Move

    Not being able to convince Vladimir Tarasenko to come to the NHL for next season

Eastern Conference: Northeast

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    NORTHEAST GP W L OTL PTS ROW SOW SOL HOME ROAD GF GA DIFF L10 STRK
    Boston 82 49 29 4 102 40 9 3 24-14-3 25-15-1 269 202 +67 7-2-1 Won 2
    Ottawa 82 41 31 10 92 35 6 4 20-17-4 21-14-6 249 240 +9 4-6-0 Lost 3
    Buffalo 82 39 32 11 89 32 7 7 21-12-8 18-20-3 218 230 -12 6-3-1 Lost 2
    Toronto 82 35 37 10 80 31 4 5 18-16-7 17-21-3 231 264 -33 3-5-2 Lost 1
    Montreal 82 31 35 16 78 26 5 12 16-15-10 15-20-6 212 226 -14 3-3-4 Won 1

    The Northeast's top two teams were both expelled from the playoffs in the first round.

    The retooled Buffalo Sabres spent big money and had little to show for it.

    Toronto and Montreal didn't have a chance to have much of a rivalry, as both teams had very forgettable seasons, resulting in high draft picks. 

5. Montreal Canadiens

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    While the Habs did address their size issue in the summer, questions still remain about how much more this team is going to be able to achieve in comparison to last season's squad.

    While franchise goalie Carey Price was signed to an incredibly large contract, perhaps somewhat undeserved, PK Subban remains unsigned, and Andrei Markov's health will be an issue until the day he retires. Tomas Kabrle, half the player he used to be during his tenure with Toronto, is the team's second highest-paid defenseman, and there will be few teams ready to take on his contract in a trade.

    Still stuck with league-wide Least Valuable Player Scott Gomez for two more years, the Canadiens don't have the amount of spending power they would prefer to bring in a top player to return the Habs back to the playoff picture.

    With the ridiculous amount of no-trade clauses—the Habs currently field eight—the team has somewhat handcuffed itself into a bad situation.

    Unless the season completely goes to hell, top prospect Alex Galchenyuk will need to sit this year out with the top organization and continue to polish his skills in lesser leagues.

     

    Playoff Aspirations

    There's no way the Canadiens make the playoffs. The roster is shoddy and not well-assembled.

     

    Best Offseason Move

    Drafting a franchise center in Alex Galchenyuk 

     

    Worst Offseason Move

    Not finding a way to get rid of Scott Gomez

4. Buffalo Sabres

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    After jettisoning Derek Roy off to Dallas, the Buffalo Sabres have serious question marks going down the middle unless last year's acquisition from Vancouver, Cody Hodgson, can immediately step into a top-six role.

    When you look at the Sabres roster, the words overpaid and underperforming immediately take resonance.

    The Sabres remind me of a New York Rangers team a few years back before all the pieces started to come together. They are a team who will live and die with their goaltender, have adequate enough defense, but do not possess forwards who meld well together into a cohesive unit that scares other teams.

     

    Playoff Aspirations

    Buffalo misses the playoffs, being right on the outside of the Eastern bubble.

     

    Best Offseason Move

    Picking up some serious talent in the first round of the draft

     

    Worst Offseason Move

    Moving Derek Roy

3. Toronto Maple Leafs

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    The Maple Leafs are the only franchise who has failed to make a postseason appearance in the post-lockout NHL.

    The team has been mismanaged up and down and left to right.

    Bad free-agent signings, poor drafting and dubious trades have failed to create a winner in Toronto.

    After the departure of Mats Sundin, the Leafs have failed to bring in any true superstar players, and while they are trying to build a young core around Joffrey Lupul, Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf, management's failure to bring in big-time difference-makers has resulted in no playoff revenue for a team that would sell out a home playoff game in a matter of seconds.

    Unfortunately for the Leafs, Roberto Luongo decided not to waive his no-trade clause to come to Toronto, citing multiple times that he wants to play for a smaller market team. If the Leafs can somehow get the goalie on board, it would instantly solve one of their biggest holes that has been glaring for seasons on end.

     

    Playoff Aspirations

    The Leafs will battle the Sabres for who can take the ninth spot in the East.

     

    Best Offseason Move

    Picking up JvR 

     

    Worst Offseason Move

    Not trading for a true first-line center

2. Boston Bruins

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    When the Bruins entered last year's playoffs without making any major additions as they did the year prior, resulting in their Stanley Cup victory, everyone questioned whether or not the Bruins had enough to go all the way again.

    After falling to the Capitals in the first round, the answer was, obviously not.

    Going into next season, the Bruins have failed to make any serious acquisitions, but still have a powerful, effective core led by Zdeno Chara.

    The most alarming move of the offseason was Tim Thomas' sudden and abrupt decision to take a season off, which came as an unwelcome and shocking choice.

    Now without their two-time Vezina-winning goalie, the team turns to youngster Tuukka Rask, who was last seen dropping a 3-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Finals to Philadelphia when he was the No. 1 goalie.

    Boston still has the pieces to be a force in the East, but the Tim Thomas debacle and the decision not to make another move to improve the team might hurt its chances in the playoffs.

    Boston does have third-year pro Tyler Seguin, who is developing at a fantastic rate, and will be ready to take over first-line center duties from Patrice Bergeron in a few seasons.

    If the Bruins can find someway to rid themselves of Thomas and Savard's contracts, they will be sitting pretty when the trade deadline rolls around.

     

    Playoff Aspirations

    Boston will make the playoffs with ease. How far it goes depends on Seguin and Rask. Look for rookie Dougie Hamilton to step up and be groomed to take over a top defensive pairing position in the next few years.

     

    Best Offseason Move

    Picking up Thomas' replacement in Niklas Svedberg

     

    Worst Offseason Move

    Not moving Tim Thomas' salary off the books to a team trying to reach the cap floor

1. Ottawa Senators

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    Though the Senators might have overachieved last season, they have a lot of good things going for them.

    Start with the fact that they have around $20 million to play with and they are already a playoff team. Despite being the East's eighth seed, they gave the New York Rangers a run for their money, taking the Blueshirts to seven games in what was a great first-round playoff series.

    The only big-ticket items on the team are veterans Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson and newly signed and reigning Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson.

    It looks like the Sens got their second-line center of the future in Kyle Turris when they acquired the former Phoenix Coyote for defensive prospect David Runblad.

     

    Playoff Aspirations

    The Ottawa Senators return to prominence, win their division, and are ready to take the next step in a final bid to get long-time captain Daniel Alfredsson his first Cup. 

     

    Best Offseason Move

    Signing Erik Karlsson to a long-term contract

     

    Worst Offseason Move

    Keeping Craig Anderson as the No. 1 goalie 

Western Conference: Northwest

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    NORTHWEST GP W L OTL PTS ROW SOW SOL HOME ROAD GF GA DIFF L10 STRK
    Vancouver 82 51 22 9 111 43 8 7 27-10-4 24-12-5 249 198 +51 8-1-1 Won 1
    Calgary 82 37 29 16 90 34 3 9 23-12-6 14-17-10 202 226 -24 3-3-4 Won 2
    Colorado 82 41 35 6 88 32 9 2 22-17-2 19-18-4 208 220 -12 3-5-2 Lost 2
    Minnesota 82 35 36 11 81 24 11 9 20-17-4 15-19-7 177 226 -49 5-4-1 Lost 1
    Edmonton 82 32 40 10 74 27 5 7 18-17-6 14-23-4 212 239 -27 4-4-2 Lost 3

    While Minnesota was all the rage of the offseason, the two-time Presidents Cup winning Vancouver Canucks haven't changed a whole lot to their team. With or without Roberto Luongo, they will still have great goaltending.

    Calgary avoided a rebuild for yet another season and will try its luck in the playoffs after making some questionable pickups.

    Edmonton picked up its third consecutive first overall draft choice, something that is sure to be discussed in this summer's CBA. 

5. Edmonton Oilers

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    On paper, the Oilers aren't that bad of a team, as their past three straight first overall picks might reflect.

    The defense leaves a lot to be desired despite having a decent core of Ryan Whitney, Ladislav Smid and Nick Schultz.

    The NHL's soon to be most hated player, rookie Justin Schultz, is getting paid an amazing $3.775 million a year without even playing an NHL game. Like Nail Yakupov, it's going to take some time to get a feel for how good the youngster will perform at the NHL level.

    The goalie tandem of Nikolai Khabibulin and Devan Dubynk leave a lot to be desired, and nobody really considers Dubnyk the Oilers' goalie of the future, so look for Edmonton to get serious about drafting or trading for a legit No. 1 backstop. 

    The trio of first overall picks, Taylor Hall, Nail Yakupov, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, will be fun to watch, but it is Jordan Eberle who I believe will lead this team to success down the road. 

    The Oilers have a lot of great young developing talent, but still lack first-line players, with the exception of Ales Hemsky, that they will need to compete with other teams next season. 

    While the Oilers will probably not finish at the very bottom of the NHL—that dubious honor will most likely belong to Columbus or the New York Islanders—Edmonton is further away from competing than most people think.

     

    Playoff Aspirations

    Once the big three get off their entry-level contracts, the defense is shored up and a great goalie is brought in, then we'll start talking about how the Oilers are going to look like the 1980s Oilers. 

     

    Best Offseason Move

    Drafting Nail Yakupov

     

    Worst Offseason Move

    Staying mum on the defense and goaltending

4. Calgary Flames

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    There's no sense in beating a dead horse when it comes to Calgary, so I won't.

    The core is a year older with no stud youngster working his way up the ladder to lead the Flames back to the playoffs.

    Having said that, Calgary's current roster is good enough to win a decent amount of games, but in the ultra-competitive West, it falls just short again.

     

    Playoff Aspirations

    Calgary finishes on the outside of the bubble looking in until the very last day of the season. 

     

    Best Offseason Move

    Picking up Dennis Wideman and Jiri Hudler

     

    Worst Offseason Move

    Picking up Dennis Wideman and Jiri Hudler

3. Minnesota Wild

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    Unless you've been living on Mars with your fingers in your ears and your eyes closed, you know that Minnesota spent near $200 million on the top two free agents this summer.

    Unfortunately, the champions of the offseason are rarely the champions hoisting the Cup. 

    Minnesota has a fairly decent top nine skaters. Depending on how well Mikael Granlund plays, he will most likely be asked to center the second line, having the privilege of playing with either Zach Parise or Dany Heatley. 

    After Ryan Suter and Tom Gilbert on defense, this is where the Wild scares me. Minnesota's restrictive system and emphasis on defense might shield it from the harsh reality that their defense is, for lack of a better word, bad, but for how long?

    Niklas Backstrom is a good goalie, but he is not a fine wine that ages better with time. 

    Minnesota is in cap trouble and will need to reevaluate how it is spending its money after next season.

    If the proper adjustments are made, I can see it back in the playoffs in 2014. 

     

    Playoff Aspirations

    Not this year, but soon. 

     

    Best Offseason Move

    "Winning" the offseason

     

    Worst Offseason Move

    Not providing depth to the defense

2. Colorado Avalanche

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    The Avs finished last season with 88 points despite having an extremely young and inexperienced team, that bodes well for next year.

    Nobody can deny what the Avs are doing is really how you build a team the right way. 

    Colorado has been drafting well enough and adding pieces through smart trades. 

    Gabriel Landeskog is the future of this team, and the young Swede looks like he could develop into a 100-point winger who can knock your teeth out and score a hat trick at the same time. Pair him up with Matt Duchene and David Jones, and you have a deadly first line. 

    My favorite move the Avs made last season was getting Steve Downie from Tampa Bay. Downie is the definition of a pest, but he also has a lot of skill that is untapped. When Downie played with Stamkos and St. Louis, we saw what he was really capable of.

    While the Milan Hejduk signing was a step backwards, Colorado needed to do the right thing and sign the lifer to another one year deal so Hejduk can retire in class after this season.

    Colorado's Achilles heel is its defense. Nobody is really sold on Erik Johnson being a true No. 1 defensemen as of this moment, and the guys behind him don't inspire a lot of confidence. 

    The goalie tandem of Semyon Varlamov and Jean-Sebastien Giguere is about as good as you can ask for without shelling out big money.

     

    Playoff Aspirations

    The Avs make the jump and capture the final playoff spot. 

     

    Best Offseason Move

    Signing Steve Downie to an extension

     

    Worst Offseason Move

    Taking too long to sign Ryan O'Reilly 

1. Vancouver Canucks

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    The Canucks will challenge for a third Presidents' Trophy in five years, but here's the problem.

    Vancouver is spending over $22 million on average defensemen. Dan Hamhuis, Kevin Bieksa, Jason Garrison and Keith Ballard are nice second and third-pairing defensemen, but they are in no way to be considered the top of their class.

    Meanwhile, the Canucks' best blueliner, Alex Edler, has one year left on his contract before hitting unrestricted free agency. Edler would be a fool to re-sign with Vancouver at a discount, never mind the fact it doesn't have enough space to give him a decent raise. Why? All the Swede needs to do is look at how much fellow teammate Jason Garrison stole and Calgary's Dennis Wideman got overpaid. 

    All this without talking about Roberto Luongo?

    At this point, it doesn't make sense for the Canucks to trade him, and Luongo is making it as difficult as possible for the Canucks to do so.

    Ever since he lost the Finals to the Bruins, Luongo has seemed a bit nutty and insists he wants to play in Florida despite the fact that the Panthers have one of the best goalie prospects in the world only a season or two away from taking over full-time. 

     

    Playoff Aspirations

    Vancouver will make the playoffs with ease no matter who is in net. I can't take it seriously as Cup favorites, though; the Sedins have regressed since their MVP seasons. 

     

    Best Offseason Move

    Signing Cory Schneider to a cap-friendly extension

     

    Worst Offseason Move

    Dragging out the Roberto Luongo trade

Eastern Conference: Southeast

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    SOUTHEAST GP W L OTL PTS ROW SOW SOL HOME ROAD GF GA DIFF L10 STRK
    Florida 82 38 26 18 94 32 6 11 21-9-11 17-17-7 203 227 -24 2-3-5 Won 1
    Washington 82 42 32 8 92 38 4 4 26-11-4 16-21-4 222 230 -8 6-2-2 Won 2
    Tampa Bay 82 38 36 8 84 35 3 3 25-14-2 13-22-6 235 281 -46 6-3-1 Won 1
    Winnipeg 82 37 35 10 84 33 4 4 23-13-5 14-22-5 225 246 -21 3-5-2 Lost 2
    Carolina 82 33 33 16 82 32 1 6 20-14-7 13-19-9 213 243 -30 5-4-1 Lost 1

    The Florida Panthers won their first Southeast Division, stealing the title from the perennial champs in Washington. 

    Dwayne Roloson crumbled in Tampa, leaving everyone's favorite pick to win the division in the dust.

    Although Carolina finished last, it had a very decent season that could have had it in first or second place if it would have won some overtime games. 

5. Winnipeg Jets

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    I was one of the few that thought the Jets could propel themselves to the playoffs in their inaugural season at MTS Centre through sheer will on the backs of those annoyingly loud Jets fans. 

    I was wrong, and Winnipeg hasn't done much to convince myself or anyone that it is closer to making the playoffs. 

    Adding Olli Jokinen, the guy who just seems to be a curse to any team with playoff aspirations, doesn't help. 

    The Ondrej Pavelec signing was one of the best moves of the offseason, Pavelec is an underrated goalie who, without him, the Jets would find themselves picking first overall at the draft. Unfortunately, Pavelec found himself in recent legal trouble after blowing a 0.20 BAC in a DUI arrest.

    The Jets don't possess very good NHL talent, and their farm system needs to be restocked with blue-chippers. 

    With the honeymoon in Winnipeg over, this could be an ugly season for the Jets.

     

    Playoff Aspirations

    The Jets are further away from the playoffs than most teams in the league. 

     

    Best Offseason Move

    Re-signing Ondrej Pavelec

     

    Worst Offseason Move

    Going after Olli Jokinen as their top free-agent signing

4. Carolina Hurricanes

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    Carolina has a very good top six with the addition of Jordan Staal. 

    It has two excellent defensemen in Joni Pitkanen and Tim Gleason, and the Canes have one of the best goalies in the league.

    It's the depth that's scary.

    All eyes will be on Eric Staal's younger brother, Jordan. The former Selke candidate will finally get his chance to prove he's a legit second-line center and will get all the playing time he asks for.

    On the wing are a pair of talented Finns in Tuomo Ruutu and Jussi Jokinen, along with former Rookie of the Year Jeff Skinner. 

     

    Playoff Aspirations

    The Hurricanes need some skilled depth, especially at defense, before they can start thinking about the playoffs again. It had better not take too long, Cam Ward is at his best in the postseason. 

     

    Best Offseason Move

    Picking up Jordan Staal

     

    Worst Offseason Move

    The amount the Canes had to give up for Staal will seriously hinder the future

3. Washington Capitals

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    The Capitals have made some very questionable moves after sneaking into the playoffs and almost making it to the Eastern Conference Finals.

    Newly acquired second-line center Mike Riberio will fill the Caps most glaring need, but it is the Caps' decision to go with gritty forwards filling out the bottom six that might do them in during the regular season.

    Washington looks like a team that has convinced itself that the playoffs are a given despite the fact that it narrowly sneaked in at the end of the season.

    Instead of signing John Carlson to a new contract and giving Karl Alzner a much deserved extension, the Capitals elected to giving Mike Green a raise and a new three-year contract. 

    Green's porous, injury-riddled play the past two seasons didn't warrant half of what he's going to earn next year, but as in Washington, it's same ol', same ol' where the general manager is never held accountable for his actions.

    Handing the reigns off to playoff sensation Braden Holtby is a bold move, and it could either fly high or crash and burn.

     

    Playoff Aspirations

    The Caps take the playoffs for granted and miss it by a hair. 

     

    Best Offseason Move

    Stealing Filip Forsberg at the draft

     

    Worst Offseason Move

    Giving Mike Green a raise and a contract longer than one year

2. Tampa Bay Lightning

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    The Bolts' horrible 2011-12 campaign was founded on the hope that Dwayne Roloson would continue to play at an elite level after taking the Lightning to within one game of the Stanley Cup Finals two years ago.

    Tampa has the skill, the depth and the experience to become dominant once more.

     

    Playoff Aspirations

    Tampa returns to the playoffs on the back of the league's best scorer, Steven Stamkos. 

     

    Best Offseason Move

    Addressed the defensive needs of the team, no matter the cost.

     

    Worst Offseason Move

    Failure to pick up serious skill in the bottom six 

1. Florida Panthers

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    If you laughed at Florida winning the Southeast, you're wrong.

    Take a look at the Cats' record last season: 38-26-18 

    If the Panthers could have finished in half of those overtime loses, they would have been a 100-point team. 

    As it was ultimately their downfall against the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, there's no doubt the Panthers have been working on finishing and being prepared to play more than 60 minutes. 

    Last year, the Panthers were drastically underrated and written off by pretty much everyone. The team has proved it's a force to be reckoned with.

    What's even scarier is that the Cats possess two of the NHL's top prospects in Jacob Markstrom and Jonathan Huberdeau.

    With plenty of skill coming through the pipeline and having the benefit of playing in a great location, there's no doubt the Panthers are on the rise for the foreseeable future. 

     

    Playoff Aspirations

    Florida captures their second Southeast title and marches into the playoffs with more confidence. 

     

    Best Offseason Move

    Not giving into Roberto Luongo's trade request

     

    Worst Offseason Move

    Spending no money to improve the team after winning their first Southeast crown

Western Conference: Pacific

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    PACIFIC GP W L OTL PTS ROW SOW SOL HOME ROAD GF GA DIFF L10 STRK
    Phoenix 82 42 27 13 97 36 6 10 22-13-6 20-14-7 216 204 +12 7-1-2 Won 5
    San Jose 82 43 29 10 96 34 9 5 26-12-3 17-17-7 228 210 +18 7-3-0 Won 4
    Los Angeles 82 40 27 15 95 34 6 9 22-14-5 18-13-10 194 179 +15 5-2-3 Lost 2
    Dallas 82 42 35 5 89 35 7 4 22-16-3 20-19-2 211 222 -11 3-7-0 Lost 5
    Anaheim 82 34 36 12 80 31 3 7 21-18-2 13-18-10 204 231 -27 4-5-1 Lost 1

    The Kings became the first eighth seed in NHL history to win the Cup. What's even more important is that they are coming into next season with almost an identical roster.

    Dallas made some very interesting moves, picking up old-timers Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney.

    Meanwhile, in Anaheim, Teemu Selanne was brought back for perhaps his final year, and the Bobby Ryan trade rumors continue to swirl. 

5. Phoenix Coyotes

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    Phoenix was fighting for the life of its team last season, and it did so admirably, making it all the way to the Western Conference Finals.

    Despite its best season ever, it still looks like doom and gloom in the desert. 

    Can hockey be successful in Arizona? Obviously, that goes without question.

    Can the team be profitable over a sustained period? Probably not.

    It's hard to believe the Coyotes could go from first to last, but it just feels like the energy has been sucked out of the team, especially Shane Doan, who is still unsigned and considering leaving his legacy behind and heading off to greener pastures. 

     

    Playoff Aspirations

    Phoenix takes a drastic fall and misses the playoffs. It might not even be Phoenix anymore. 

     

    Best Offseason Move

    Bringing back Zbynek Michalek

     

    Worst Offseason Move

    Everything and anything related to money and ownership issues

4. Dallas Stars

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    Whether of not the Buffalo Sabres knowingly sold the Stars damaged goods is now history.

    Dallas' top six was looking great despite its age, but now with Derek Roy out for the beginning of the season, the team might need to seek another forward to fill that roster spot. 

    Looking at the age of their roster, the Stars seem to be in win-now mode, but their skill might not back up their expectations. 

    The most important thing for Dallas is to not rush top prospect Radek Faska to the pros. 

     

    Playoff Aspirations

    The Stars finish just outside the bubble. 

     

    Best Offseason Move

    Picking up Ray Whitney, Derek Roy and Jaromir Jagr

     

    Worst Offseason Move

    None

3. Anaheim Ducks

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    The Anaheim Ducks found themselves a team in dismay and their season in shambles in the early part of the year.

    As soon as management snatched up Washington's new divorcee, Bruce Boudreau, the Ducks' fortunes started to change. 

    It's a shame that the team decided it was time to ship veteran offensive defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky off to the Islanders. If he was still on the team, I'd give the Ducks a real shot at winning the Pacific. 

    I really like the Ducks' offense, and they have some real talent on defense despite the lack of mobility. 

    When fully healthy, Jonas Hiller is among the best in the league, and that's what's expected of him going into next season. 

    Although Anaheim finished last in the Pacific last season, I think it will make a concerted effort to push Teemu Selanne back into the playoffs for what could be his final season, though it seems like we say that every year. 

     

    Playoff Aspirations

    The Ducks have enough to make the playoffs, but not enough to go deep. 

     

    Best Offseason Move

    Not moving Bobby Ryan

     

    Worst Offseason Move

    Letting Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry within one year of unrestricted free agency

2. San Jose Sharks

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    As stubborn as the Calgary Flames and Washington Capitals, but better, San Jose seems determined to hold on to the failures of the past and give it another shot. 

    Their defense finally solidified, the Sharks' biggest concern is no longer a concern, but a strength.

    Like so many other teams, lack of depth at forward is going to be their downfall during their inevitable postseason bid. 

    Even though he has won a Cup with Chicago, Antti Niemi isn't the answer in goal, and at this point, the organization would welcome their old whipping boy, Evgeni Nabokov, back with open arms. 

     

    Playoff Aspirations

    Same stuff, different season. 

     

    Best Offseason Move

    Extending Marc-Edouard Vlasic long-term

     

    Worst Offseason Move

    Adding no serious depth at forward

1. Los Angeles Kings

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    The LA Kings have everything they need to become repeat champions.

    Unlike the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks, the Kings did not have to gut the team after winning the championship. 

    In fact, if you look at the roster, you won't even recognize a change for the most part. 

    The Kings' only "problem" is finding a new home for backup goaltender Jonathan Bernier, and then finding his replacement. With the return LA is going to get on Bernier, the situation is hardly a problem. 

    The Kings have no weak points and could easily take the West by force. 

     

    Playoff Aspirations

    It's hard to repeat as champions, and I don't think they will, but predicting them to finish their season anywhere short of the Western Conference Finals is foolish. 

     

    Best Offseason Move

    Re-signing Dustin Penner, Jarret Stoll and Dwight King

     

    Worst Offseason Move

    None

Final Standings

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    Eastern Conference

    1. Pittsburgh Penguins
    2. Ottawa Senators
    3. Florida Panthers
    4. New York Rangers
    5. Boston Bruins
    6. New Jersey Devils
    7. Tampa Bay Lightning 
    8. Philadelphia Flyers
    9. Toronto Maple Leafs
    10. Washington Capitals
    11. Buffalo Sabres
    12. Carolina Hurricanes
    13. Montreal Canadiens
    14. New York Islanders
    15. Winnipeg Jets

     

    Western Conference 

    1. St. Louis Blues 
    2. Los Angeles Kings
    3. Vancouver Canucks
    4. Chicago Blackhawks
    5. San Jose Sharks 
    6. Anaheim Ducks
    7. Detroit Red Wings
    8. Colorado Avalanche 
    9. Dallas Stars
    10. Minnesota Wild
    11. Nashville Predators
    12. Calgary Flames
    13. Phoenix Coyotes
    14. Edmonton Oilers
    15. Columbus Blue Jackets