It's Time For NHL Eastern Conference Predictions Again!

Sebastien TremblayCorrespondent ISeptember 24, 2009

Predictions, predictions, predictions. Yes, it’s time to try and determine the rankings again. Every year, before season starts, fans devour every bit of predictions they can get and, of course, those poor writers they don’t agree with are considered amateurs or out of their minds.


So for a writer, predictions are horrible to do. Because there is honestly no way to know how a season will turn out. When a few predictions are off, it screws up the entire thing and we look like we don’t know what we’re talking about.

But predictions are always based on actual rosters, expectations and on the previous year’s results, not on possible injuries, under-performances and trades. It’s like walking on egg shells.


As an example, last season, on paper, the Lightning didn’t look so bad. They even had some analysts and experts thinking they would get back into the playoffs right away thanks to the « new, improved » roster changes over the summer. Well…they were very wrong. The Lightning crumbled to the bottom…again.


Did anyone expect Colorado to have their worst season since the start of the franchise in 1995-96? I don’t think so. But injuries to both Joe Sakic and Paul Statsny, underperformance by both goaltenders and a weak defense did the trick and Colorado crumbled.


The same goes for Boston. On paper, Boston didn’t look so strong. But the combination of young emerging talent, team effort and great coaching helped them rise to the top of the conference. And Montreal two years ago…same thing. Nobody saw it coming.


So predictions are technically impossible. But for the sake of it, and because it’s fun to argue with people about it. I’ll give it a shot. My predictions are based, of course, on current rosters and possible rookies, injuries and last year’s results.


I’m going to focus on the first 8 teams, those who « should » make the playoffs. Keep in mind, things can change quickly... and most likely will!


Top 8 Eastern Conference teams


1-Philadelphia Flyers


Their top six of Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Daniel Briere, Simon Gagne, Scott Hartnell and Claude Giroux all have 60-70 points potential and more. They just added a huge scary, snarling monster like Chris Pronger to an already impressive defense corp. With those tweaks, they should rise a few spots in the rankings.


They were fifth last year, tied with Pittsburgh with 99 points. Add to that a more consistent goalie in Ray Emery, well at least more than Marty Biron and the Flyers can only go up the rankings.



2-Washington Capitals


They have the two best offensive weapons of the NHL at their position: Ovechkin up front and Mike Green at the blueline. Add to that another 40 goals scorer in Alex Semin and a 90 points playmaker Niklas Backstrom, the veteran experience of Mike Knuble and Brendan Morrison, a rookie goalie waiting to prove himself like Varlamov and a great supporting cast…and you’ve got a very scary team.


Just imagine if one of their youngsters suddenly break out?!



3-Boston Bruins


I don’t expect the Bruins to be as dominant, simply because now teams are waiting for them. Who will pick up those lost Phil Kessel goals?


If Bergeron and Sturm can get back to form, if Krejci keeps the same pace and if Wheeler need to avoid sophomore jinx, if Recchi really has one good year left and if Tim Thomas can be as spectacular…then yeah, sure they can do it again. But that’s a LOT of "ifs".


4-Pittsburgh Penguins


The only reason they don’t rank first is because of two consecutive Stanley cup runs. Those « long seasons » wears down players like nothing else. Even super-players can’t play that intense all the time. The blueline is young but very talented.


As for up front, this is where I have doubts. Of course, Crosby and Malkin are arguably the best two centers in the league. But how about some quality wingers?


Are Guerin and Kunitz the right fit for Crosby for a full season? And who is Malkin going to play with? There’s not much depth on the wings…that could, again, hurt them in the regular season.


5-New Jersey Devils


Perennial playoff team and cup contender. Martin Brodeur will be looking to beat more records again and secure his spot as Team Canada’s number one goalie. Zach Parise found his stride last year, which relieves Patrick Elias from a lot of offensive pressure. Rolston should be back healthy.


Travis Zajac has shown he’s a good second or third line center and they have some depth at all position. What else can I say…the Devils are never very far from the top. Lou Lamoriello always finds a way to ice a playoff team.



6-Carolina Hurricanes


Who ever watched the "Cardiac Canes" during the last playoffs has to be wondering what they can do now. If they can follow through on their post-season success…watch out for the Canes.


There have been slight upgrades to their roster but all the key pieces are still in place. Plus, Cam Ward wants the backup job behind Brodeur for Team Canada…so you can bet he’ll be on fire.


7-Montreal Canadiens


The major overhaul in Montreal will make the team more consistent and resistant. Now chemistry has to kick in. There should be a slight improvement from last season. And please stop with the "they’re too small" nonsense. Patrick Kane cruises around the ice at 5’9 and 160 pounds? Ask him if he thinks he’s too small.


Or maybe you don’t know who Derek Roy is? Well he’s only 5’8. How about Marc Savard at 5’10? Or Martin St. Louis at a whopping 5’9? Are they too small? No? Then shut up.



8-Ottawa Senators


With the new addition of Pascal Leclaire, who’s got a lot to prove, Ottawa might have finally found the number one goaltender they’ve been looking for. As long as his health keeps him in the lineup.


Then there’s Michalek and Cheechoo, whom combined, can replace Heatley and add depth, plus, who would want Heatley back after all the crap he had the fans go through. Only thing is the slightly above average defense, it’s not bad, but not very impressive either…so Leclaire will have to work hard.

Those big cannons up front will have to cope for the lack of offensive support on the backend.



The rest…


9-Buffalo – Same roster, not enough improvement. They should try to bring back Briere! Or at least add to their defense but they’re very close. They miss the offensive defensemen they lost in Campbell and the leadership Drury brought.

10-Tampa Bay – Better? Slightly…but Hedman and Stamkos need to develop further before anything great happens. The teams financial trouble will catch up to them again and screw with their minds.

11-New York – Where is the offense besides Gaborik? Is there a legitimate first center? If Gabo goes down, who picks up the slack…Lundqvist can’t do it all alone. Can Sather use a calculator? Or are those overpaid contracts just part of his incompetence?


12-Florida – Lost their best player in Bouwmeester, and made no real roster upgrade. They should stop hoping for Nathan Horton to step up. Let’s hope Michael Frolik picks up where he left off. He should be their best player.

13-Toronto – Many tough guys, but only one true scorer, Kessel…injured until November. Can Niklas Hagman can keep up the highlight goals? And Grabo cool down? Brian Burke has an interesting idea but just wasted two first round picks.


14-Atlanta – Antropov for four years? Are they trying to be bad? Nikolai Antropov

should be spelled like this: Inconsistent Waste. Message to Kovalchuk: DON’T re-sign. You deserve better. Management sucks in Atlanta…


15-Islanders – Poor Tavares. I would have loved to see him wear anything else that an Isle jersey. The Islanders will, again, be dead last. How many hot prospects are they going to waste like this? We should see Tavares sign the very first 30 years contract from Garth Snow…sarcastic? Not really and that’s the problem. Management sucks here too.



These are MY predictions. Obviously, I’m going to be wrong about a few of them…which normally screws up the entire rankings! So let me know what you think, and why, cause a good friendly argument is always welcome with me.