There should be a lot of celebrations for the Rangers this season.
A year ago, the NBA went through a lockout of its own.
The rhetoric between the league and its players association was decidedly negative, and for the longest period, it seemed like a season-long lockout was in order.
However, just when all seemed to be lost, the two sides came together and saved the season. NBA teams started playing on Christmas Day. The season consisted of a compressed 66-game regular season and a full playoff schedule.
I believe the NHL will follow the same model. Despite the lack of optimism in mid-October, the two sides will come together before they are forced to pull the plug on the year.
Once that happens, the league will have to work on the particulars. I believe the NHL teams will each play 66 games with fewer nights off than usual.
In some ways, it will be even better than the standard NHL season because there will be more games played per week, and each game will mean that much more.
My predictions for the final standings follow on the next six slides.
|New York Rangers||38||20||8||84|
|New York Islanders||25||32||9||59|
This division looks much like last year's finish, but the Devils will slip precipitously without Zach Parise and assistant coaches Larry Robinson and Adam Oates. The New York Rangers will pick up where they left off last season, and instead of falling short of the Presidents' Trophy, they will be the best team in the regular season this year.
The Sabres have lacked the requisite amount of grit the last few seasons, but that will no longer be the case. The Senators shot up the standings last year, and their surge will continue this year. The Bruins will learn that life without Tim Thomas is not so thrilling. Montreal will become a respectable team this year while the Maple Leafs don't have the defense or goaltending to contend.
The Lightning have too much talent to languish like they did last year. Carolina should be right on Tampa Bay's heels. The Capitals and Alex Ovechkin are no longer a good match for each other. The Panthers got the breaks last season, but that won't happen this year. Winnipeg just does not have enough strengths.
The Blues should be one of the hardest working and best teams this year, while the Blackhawks will be chasing them closely throughout the season. The Predators will still be tough despite the loss of Ryan Suter. Detroit will run with the also-rans for the first time in decades. The Blue Jackets are in too deep a hole.
The Vancouver Canucks are still one of the best teams in the league, and they may have the all-around talent to go all the way. The Wild will make the playoffs this season, and so will the Oilers. Colorado is not consistent enough at this point. The Flames will start selling off parts prior to the trade deadline.
The Kings are the best team in the division but just by a hair. San Jose will make one more run but fade at the end of the season. A veteran Dallas team will have injury issues. Anaheim will be stuck in neutral while the Coyotes will go full-speed in reverse.