You could argue that making any Stanley Cup predictions prior to the start of the regular season is a bit foolish, if not downright stupid.
After all, teams have yet to solidify their rosters. There are still battles going on for key positions and line assignments.
And, even when these things are sorted out we'll still have 82 games of potential injuries, trades, and waiver acquisitions that could vastly change the fortunes of any number of teams.
We really don't know anywhere near enough to begin predicting who will lift Lord Stanley's Cup in June, or do we?
Looking at the team's who've won a Stanley Cup, post-lockout: Carolina (2006), Anaheim (2007), Detroit (2008), Pittsburgh (2009), Chicago (2010), we can glean some useful information that could help determine who is likely to win the Cup in 2011.
First, each of these teams had significant depth on their rosters.
Be it Doug Weight in Carolina in 2006 or John Madden in Chicago last season, the presence of a talented, veteran player on your bottom two lines suggests you've got a hell of a shot at making a successful run at the Stanley Cup.
Secondly, each team was well-balanced, with significant talent at forward and defense.
Now, most people believe that "defense wins championships" and this may be true to a point.
However, if all you have is a great defense and a thin offense, recent history suggests you aren't going to make a serious bid for a Stanley Cup.
Third, each of these teams had, for the most part, "good enough" goaltending.
As the "new NHL" has become much more focused on team-wide speed and skill to win games, the need for a so-called "money goalie" has diminished to a significant extent. Having a big-name goalie certainly can't hurt, but it isn't the necessary piece that it once was.
Considering all of these factors, it seems that picking a group of Stanley Cup candidates for 2011 is a bit easier than one would have initially thought.
Suffice to say that any team that can solidly lay claim to at least two of these three criteria should be considered a potential Cup-winner and any team with less than that, can be counted out of the conversation.
Now, reasonable people can disagree on what constitutes "depth" or "good-enough goaltending," but given the past five Cup-winners, there appears to be a reliable gauge for measuring such attributes.
So, one should use such measurements when identifying a team's alignment with these attributes.
Finally, before you work your way through this list and scoff when you don't see your team or another you feel deserves to be mentioned, remember, a prediction is just a fancy way of saying "wild-ass guess."
Such guesses can be educated, as I believe these eight are, but, no one, and certainly not I, knows what the future holds.
But that doesn't mean I won't subject myself to ridicule and hostility by pretending I do.