It may still be a little early to give my prediction on where I think each team will finish at the end of the NHL regular season – but it isn’t too early to give my "pre"-prediction of where they might finish.
What follows is just a few minor predictions on the final standings and maybe even a few award predictions.
In no specific order, here are the eight teams that I think will make the playoffs from the Eastern Conference:
- Pittsburgh Penguins – A couple of departures and a couple of minor-signings shouldn’t hurt the current Eastern Conference champions.
- Montreal Canadiens– I don’t know if another number one seed is in store for the Canadiens after losing Mark Streit and Cristobal Huet, but a division championship seems within reach.
- New York Rangers – A slightly weaker offense and a slightly stronger defense make the Rangers more of a threat to win their division this season.
- Washington Capitals – Signing Jose Theodore was a great move. Assuming Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green have another season like they did, then the Caps will be sitting in prime position at the start of the playoffs.
- New Jersey Devils– Welcome back Bobby Holik! The Devils always find a way to make the playoffs – and I’m sure Martin Brodeur will make sure they find their way in again.
- Ottawa Senators – Even though they went through a tremendous slump at the end of the regular season last year, the Sens still have a solid club…and this year they have a reliable backup too.
- Buffalo Sabres– They may have held on to players they should have dealt away, but Buffalo made a smart move by signing defender Craig Rivet. They made an even smarter move by signing Patrick Lalime, so hopefully Ryan Miller can get some rest this season.
- Philadelphia Flyers – The Flyers went surprisingly deep into the playoffs and will come back even more determined this season.
Also, in no specific order, here are the eight teams that I think will make the playoffs from the Western Conference:
- Detroit Red Wings – I don’t think losing Dominik Hasek will affect the defending Stanley Cup champs’ winning mentality.
- San Jose Sharks – Dan Boyle for Brian Campbell – fair enough.
- Anaheim Ducks – Scott Niedermayer will be back to start the season (we think) and so the Ducks will be in the playoffs.
- Calgary Flames– MVP candidate Jarome Iginla will absolutely lead his team into the playoffs. However, losing Kristian Huselius will hurt the team’s offense.
- Dallas Stars– Brenden Morrow showed tremendous leadership in the playoffs last season. The Stars might be able to tie everything together this season and win the Cup legitimately, and not with a foot in the crease.
- Chicago Blackhawks – Hello Brian Campbell and Cristobal Huet. And while I’m saying hello to everyone – Hello playoffs.
- Vancouver Canucks – Pavol Demitra will be a good fit into this roster. Don’t expect the same disappointment that happened last year. The Canucks definitely have the experience and talent to make the playoffs.
- Nashville Predators– There will be some battle for the eighth and final spot in the playoffs between several teams. The Preds have the most solid roster of all those teams. Re-signing Shea Weber and Dan Ellis should put Nashville into the playoffs.
- Hart Trophy (MVP): Ini, mini, miny, Crosby. Sid “the kid” will come back with a vengeance this season.
- Vezina Trophy: Dan Ellis will put up some good numbers and make a run at the award, but, Martin Brodeur enjoys winning the Vezina and I don’t think he will give it up this season.
- Norris Trophy: Time to go out on a limb. Mike Green is going to prove that he can be one of the best defenders in the league this season – but that doesn’t mean he will be the best. Nicklas Lidstrom will take home the award yet again.
For now, I’m sticking with these predictions. Feel free to criticize and disagree. I know there was a lack of originality in the award selections, but can you really disagree? A more in-depth analysis of the preseason rankings will be coming soon, with all 30 teams in it.