Disclaimer: Warning, the following article is based on my predictions for the upcoming NHL season. The article was written as that of an impartial observer, and as a hockey fan first before any team allegiances. If you have any concerns or criticism please make it constructive, if not do not expect a comment in return. Thank you and enjoy.
First let’s quickly knock the bottom twenty spots out before we get to the good stuff.
27. Florida Panthers
25. Phoenix Coyotes
24. Buffalo Sabres
22. Minnesota Wild
21. Edmonton Oilers
18. Ottawa Senators
16. Dallas Stars
14. St. Louis Blues
13. New York Rangers
Now for the meat and potatoes of the article the top 10 best teams for the 2009/2010 season.
10. San Jose Sharks:
Additions: Scott Nichol
Departures: Jeremy Roenick, Mike Grier
Player to watch out for: Devin Setoguchi
Status Unknown: Jonathan Cheechoo, Patrick Marleau
Simply put Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau have something to prove. Both were stripped of their letters and are fighting for a spot on Team Canada. As long as both are with the club come game time they will turn up the burner and play better then before. This will bode well for talented young winger Devin Setoguchi who in his first full year recorded over 30 goals and nearly 70 points. I am expecting bigger things from the Sharks Offence.
The Sharks have a highly offensive defensive core quarterbacked by Dan Boyle. Four of their top seven defensemen recorded 30 points or more including 57 by Boyle. The “D” is strong and will likely let few goals in.
The one thing concerning me is the status of Marleau and Cheechoo; this could dog them this season which is why they are dropped a little further down on the list. Cheechoo clearly can not be happy with the club wanting him to leave so badly, and may see an even further drop in his already low totals. Patrick Marleau also has rumour surrounding him after losing the captaincy and may find himself on the outs next season.
Additions: Mikael Samuelsson, Sergei Shirokov Aaron Rome, Andrew Raycroft, Mathieu Schneider, Brad Lukowich, Christian Erhoff
Departures: Mattias Ohlund
Player to watch out for: Cody Hodgson
The Vancouver Canucks have a solid core from the back-end onwards. Captain Luongo is as solid as they come in net, and will lead this team into the playoffs once again. On defence you have a much underrated core of players. Kevin Bieksa provides a scoring touch as well as a strong physical presence. Now losing Mattias Ohlund is a huge loss as he is one of the steadiest players in the league, but the rest of the boys on defence will pull through. With the additions of Lukowich, Schneider, and Erhoff the Canucks now have a formidable defence and will be a very strong competitor. The absence of Ohlund will not be as sorely missed as first thought.
Up front the Sedin twins will look to continue their winning ways and could likely improve on last seasons totals. Look for Ryan Kesler and Pavol Demitra too improve on their seasons. The one player who I am most looking forward to is Cody Hodgson. Hodgson is my odds on favourite to win the Calder trophy, and will have a stellar rookie campaign for the Nucks. Overall Vancouver is a team to watch out for, and could stretch far into the playoffs.
8. Calgary Flames:
Additions: Jay Bouwmeester, Nigel Dawes, Brian McGrattan
Departures: Jordan Leopold, Michael Cammalleri, Todd Bertuzzi
Player to watch out for: Jay Bouwmeester
The Calgary Flames have a defensive core that can rival that of any team. With three Canadian Olympic hopefuls the blue line will be the Flames’ best asset. Jay Bouwmeester has been stuck in hockey’s wasteland in Florida, and will likely thrive in Calgary. Expect a breakout year from the all-star defender.
On offence they have lost Cammalleri and Bertuzzi, which will be quite significant, but they have Jokinen for the whole year, and with a stingier defence I don’t see it as a huge issue. Finally with Iginla vying for captaincy I would expect an excellent start to the season for the rugged forward.
The Flames will be improved on last year, and will be a much stronger competitor.
Additions: Mike Knuble, Brendan Morrison
Departures: Sergei Fedorov, Viktor Kozlov
Player to watch out for: Mike Knuble
The Washington Capitals are building themselves a solid foundation for excellence in the future, and will continue their winning ways this season. A line of Ovechkin, Semin, and Backstrom is one of the best in the league, if not the best. They have two solid lines of offence, and should lead the charge to the top of the Southeast division.
Well on defence you have Mike Green. Far and away the best offensive defensemen in the league. With 31 goals and 42 assists no one can touch this guy. I would even think he could improve on those numbers this coming season. From their on in the defence severely lacks offence, but is solid enough in their own end.
In goal I would expect Simeon Varlamov to start in net after the terrific playoffs he had last year. Jose Theodore’s head may not be in the game for a while after tragically losing his son this summer.
Additions: Jay McKee
Departures: Petr Sykora, Rob Scuderi, Philipe Boucher, Hal Gill
Player to watch out for: Chris Kunitz
With Bylsma returning for a whole season you may suspect they would do a lot better then this, but that may not be the case. Over the course of the off season they have taken a big hit to their defence without actually filling in the holes. Finding their way out of the steel city are: Rob Scuderi, Philipe Boucher, and Hal Gill. All have the ability to log big minutes in a game, and all were solid players. By only adding Jay McKee they may have a tougher time defending for Fleury.
On offence again they are going to lose Sykora which will inevitably weaken their offence, but his totals will be matched and beaten by mid-season acquisition Chris Kunitz. Kunitz will have a stellar year with the Pens. After nearly recording a point a game with hem last year I would expect him to possibly finish next season at a point a game or better.
In goal steady as ever with Fleury guarding the pipes.
Overall the Pens will have a good year, but the losses on defence will likely have big impacts on where they finish.
5. Anaheim Ducks:
Additions: Joffrey Lupul, Luca Sbisa, Saku Koivu, Nik Boynton, Evgeny Artyukhin
Departures: Chris Pronger, Brendan Morrison, Drew Miller
Player to watch out for: Andrew Ebbett
Status unknown: Rob Niedermayer
Despite trading Chris Pronger to the Flyers the Ducks will be a much improved team. The Ducks tried to fill in the void on defence by signing Nik Boynton. Now obviously this isn’t going to do the trick entirely but it helps. Now a weaker back-end may cause problems, but they still have Niedermayer so it can’t really be all that bad.
On offence they have a lot of firepower. They have 6 players who could score at least 60 points and 2 more that could tally 50. This bodes very well for the Ducks. I would pay very careful attention to three players in particular: Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Andrew Ebbett. Getzlaf and Perry both should start off well, and likely improve on last years totals. Now Andrew Ebbett is a player that really didn’t turn any heads last year, but quietly did a very solid job for the Ducks. In 48 games he managed 32 points, and this year I could see him scoring upwards of 50.
In goal Jonas Hiller will likely get the nod to start the season, and should do very well based on what he did last year. If not Giguere is a very solid goalie to fill in if needed.
4. Boston Bruins:
Additions: Steve Begin, Derek Morris
Departures: Aaron Ward, Steve Montador
Player to watch out for: Milan Lucic
Status unknown: Phil Kessel
The defence is as solid as any with defensive stalwart Zdeno Chara on the prowl. Chara is as good as they come and will be heavily relied on next season. Dennis Wideman is also a guy that has come into his own with the Bears and will likely spend his time beside Chara on the first unit. In the off season Boston lost 2 defenders, but they also picked up one that will likely balance everything out.
On offence they could be missing Phil Kessel when the season starts which would be a devastating loss. However if they do manage to lose him they will likely see a very good return which may work out well for Boston. Marc Savard may have something to prove after being snubbed by Hockey Canada, and could put up good numbers. I also am anticipating a breakout year for young Milan Lucic who shows shades of Cam Neely.
In goal it doesn’t get a whole lot better then Tim Thomas. The highly unorthodox goalie will likely want to retain his Vezina trophy, and could possibly do even better then before.
Additions: Todd Bertuzzi, Jason Williams, Patrick Eaves
Departures: Marian Hossa, Chris Chelios, Jiri Hudler, Mikael Samuelsson
Player to watch out for: Jonathan Ericsson
Although the Red Wings have lost their leading goal scorer they will as always be a force to reckon with once again. Even though they lost a lot of offence without gaining much at all. They still have: Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Holmstrom, and Franzen who can all put up good numbers. The Red Wings for once also have a plethora of young talent and are finally getting progressively younger.
On defence there is only one change and that is the ousting of Chris Chelios such that Jonathan Ericsson can fill in his place. The defence is solid and will let very few shots through to goaltender Chris Osgood.
In goal is really the only question mark. Can Osgood still play at a higher level? If so another finals appearance may be in the books for the Wings.
2. Philadelphia Flyers:
Additions: Chris Pronger, Ian Laperriere, Mike Rathje, Ole-Kristian Tollefsen, Brian Boucher, Ray Emery
Departures: Joffrey Lupul, Luca Sbisa, Mike Knuble
Player to watch out for: Claude Giroux
During the entry draft the Flyers made a blockbuster move that landed Chris Pronger in the city of brotherly love. This move was very smart on their part. Pronger is one of the most dominant players in the league. A steady two way defenseman that can hit, score, and everything in between. Put him beside Coburn or Timonen and no one is getting through.
On offence you have the best core of players in the Eastern conference. With guys like Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Claude Giroux, Simon Gagne, and Daniel Briere (if healthy) you are going to be scoring a lot of goals. Losing Knuble and Lupul is tough but Giroux shall fill in nicely. Also with Laperriere and Carcillo you won’t want to mess with anybody on this team.
In goal again is a huge issue, can Emery regain his NHL form, and if not can Boucher step in and play as well as he did in San Jose? This could be the Flyers Achilles heel.
Additions: Marian Hossa, John Madden, Tomas Kopecky
Departures: Martin Havlat, Matt Walker, Sammy Pahlsson
Player to watch out for: Dustin Byfuglien
I would be very surprised if the Blackhawks don’t go deep into the playoffs this year. Marian Hossa will thrive alongside Toews and Kane, and all will put up amazing numbers. Sharp, Versteeg and Byfuglien should all contribute nicely and it wouldn’t surprise me if the Hawks end up with the most goals once all is said and done.
On defence they have a very solid group of guys. With the ability to throw out three solid pairings very few goals will be had.
In goal Huet will have to pick up the pace to fill in for Khabibulin which may cause some problems, but I don’t expect many.
If all goes as I have discussed the playoff picture would look a little like this:
1. Philadelphia Flyers
2. Boston Bruins
3. Washington Capitals
4. Pittsburgh Penguins
5. Carolina Hurricanes
6. New Jersey Devils
7. New York Rangers
8. Ottawa Senators
1. Chicago Blackhawks
2. Anaheim Ducks
3. Calgary Flames
4. Detroit Red Wings
5. Vancouver Canucks
6. San Jose Sharks
7. St. Louis Blues
8. Columbus Blue Jackets