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10 Bold Predictions for the 2013 NHL Season

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistJanuary 10, 2013

10 Bold Predictions for the 2013 NHL Season

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    We are just a couple of days from the lockout officially being over and teams starting up for the 2013 season.

    After a few days of practice, the first games will be played Jan. 19, and then we will be off an running on the chase for 2013 Stanley Cup.

    When games are played and championships are there to be won, predictions are ready to be made.

    Here are 10 bold moves you can look forward to seeing this season.

    (You can get a cup of coffee with these predictions—as long as you are willing to pay $2.50. Make it $5 if you go to Starbucks.)

Expansion

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    Once competition begins again and the season finally starts, the NHL executives will start the process of rebuilding their business.

    No better way to do that than with an infusion of cash.

    They will get that by adding two expansion teams (source: edmontonjournal.com). Look for Quebec City, Toronto and Seattle to be the most prominent candidates.

    Those expansion franchises will pay upwards of $265 million per team to join the league and will help ease the financial pain of the lockout (source: Toronto Globe and Mail).

Flyers Fall Apart

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    On paper, the Philadelphia Flyers appear to be a team that can contend with the New York Rangers, Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference. They are led by Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell and loaded with offensive talent.

    However, this shortened season is not going to the be the Flyers' year. There are too many defensive problems.

    The biggest may be the inconsistent Ilya Bryzgalov in goal. Chris Pronger is not likely to come back any time soon on defense, and without his presence, the Flyers lack stability on the blue line.

    The Flyers have other injuries on the blue, and Kimmo Timonen is too old to bear the lion's share of the load.

    The Flyers will give up a boatload of goals and head coach Peter Laviolette will be angry all season.

    If the Flyers even make the playoffs, they will be out in the first round.

Jarome Iginla Traded

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    The Flames have put together their roster as if they are going to make a big run in the Western Conference.

    General manager Jay Feaster is just fooling himself. His team will be on the outside looking in at the end of the season.

    Once the Flames have played 25-to-30 games, their fate will be obvious.

    Feaster will finally make the move he needs to, and he will trade high-scoring forward Jarome Iginla. He'll try to trade him to an Eastern Conference team so he doesn't come back to bite him, but that may not be possible.

Olympic Hockey

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    When the NHL and the NHL Players Association concluded their negotiations Jan. 6, there was no word on whether NHL players would remain participants in the Olympics.

    There's some grumbling from NHL owners about it because that means they have to shut the season down for two to three weeks every four years.

    After shutting the season down for four months because of the lockout, that's a small price to pay.

    Hockey gets a huge bump from the stellar competition at the Olympics and the two sides will agree before the end of the 2013 regular season that NHL players will once again participate in the Olympics.

Oilers, Wild Both Make Playoffs

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    It won't be a complete changing of the guard in the Western Conference, but the new guard will assert itself in 2013.

    Both the Edmonton Oilers and the Minnesota Wild will make the playoffs this season, and at least one of those teams will win a playoff series.

    The Oilers have a boatload of talented young players that they have plucked from the top of the draft in recent years and once they learn how to win, there will be no stopping them. Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov will form the nucleus of one of the most exciting teams in hockey.

    The signing of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter will help the Wild awaken from their long slumber and become a solid playoff team as well. Rookie Mikael Granlund will provide excitement as well.

    The future is bright for both teams.

Bruins Miss Thomas

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    The Boston Bruins appear to be set up as a prime contender in the Eastern Conference.

    They have a swashbuckling team that wants to repeat the success it had in its 2011 Stanley Cup run.

    With stalwarts like Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin, Dennis Seidenberg and Milan Lucic leading the way, they have weapons aplenty.

    Just one problem.

    Tim Thomas decided to take a year off and sit out the current season. The Bruins appear to have a star in Tuukka Rask in goal, but he's not going to just become another Thomas.

    Rask will be good—but not great.

    That won't be enough to bring home the Stanley Cup.

    The Bruins' season will end in the second round of the postseason.

Sidney Crosby: MVP

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    Perhaps there's nobody that needs to get back on the ice more than Sidney Crosby.

    After two basically lost years in 2011 and 2012, Crosby is healthy and he will be ready to assert himself again.

    Crosby didn't play after taking concussive hits in consecutive games in Jan. 2011, and while he managed to comeback early in 2011-12, he couldn't stay in the lineup.

    He didn't come back for good until late in the regular season.

    He's ready to play again, and Crosby should return to form as the best player in the NHL—regaining that title from teammate Evgeni Malkin.

New York Rangers Win Stanley Cup

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    It looked like it would be a near certainty that cooler heads would not prevail and the 2013 season would be canceled.

    That would have been disastrous for the New York Rangers.

    Head coach John Tortorella's team is set up to have a magical run. The Rangers were the No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference last year during the regular season, but they lost the Eastern Conference Finals matchup with the Devils.

    They didn't have enough goal scoring to get the job done.

    They addressed that in the offseason, bringing in studly Rick Nash from the Columbus Blue Jackets.

    They have a stellar lineup and there should be no stopping the Rangers.

    They will hoist the Stanley Cup in late June.

Seth Jones Becomes No. 1 Draft Pick

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    Seth Jones is in the driver's seat to become the No. 1 pick in the NHL draft.

    Jones, a 6'3" defenseman, is a brilliant skater, shooter and passer. He is also an African-American player.

    There have been several African-Canadian stars in the NHL like Jarome Iginla, Grant Fuhr, Mike Grier and Anson Carter, but there has never been an African-American superstar hockey player.

    Jones is the son of Popeye Jones, an assistant coach with the Brooklyn Nets. Popeye Jones had a long career in the NBA, but his son chose hockey over basketball and he is thriving.

    He could become a breakthrough star in a league that could use some good publicity.

Gary Bettman Says Goodbye

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    Enough is enough.

    Gary Bettman knows the handwriting is on the wall.

    If he doesn't, he'll get the message as the season plays out.

    When you are the commissioner of hockey, you have to represent all sides.

    Bettman represents the owners.

    He has locked out players three times in his career and the game has suffered badly.

    He may have great business skills, but he is bad for the game of hockey.

    Shortly after he hands out the Stanley Cup in late June, Bettman will tender his resignation and the NHL will enter a new era.

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