2010-11 NHL Predictions: Bold Proclamations of Winners, Losers and Sidney Crosby

Jon Neely@@iamjonneelyAnalyst IOctober 7, 2010

PITTSBURGH - MAY 8:  Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins takes the ice against the Montreal Canadiens in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Mellon Arena on May 8, 2010 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The Penguins defeated the Canadiens 2-1.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

There's just something about the preseason.

It has its purpose; each team uses it in whatever way they deem necessary, along with radio, TV, and internet personalities preview, analyze, and look ahead to absolutely every single possible scenario that could take place in the upcoming season.

Then they do it again. Then they change their mind.

But eventually, it just gets old.

There are only so many ways we can say Alex Ovechkin will win the scoring race, San Jose will disappoint their fans again, or Sean Avery will find a new way to get suspended.

We need real hockey, and we need it now.

So enough already—let's dive right into this new season head first.

It's just too bad the Minnesota Wild and the Carolina Hurricanes kick off the season in a barn somewhere that isn't North America; a game which seven people will watch on TV.

But after that, things get really good. I promise.

And just in case you thought I was going to take my own advice and skip the prediction process—nope.

Where the fun in that be?

So here are my picks on who wins each division, who hoists Lord Stanley's Mug, and a whole lot else that will happen between now and then—when hopefully the winning goal will be a little more, um, noticeable.

Here goes nothing, we'll start things off in the West.

Pacific Division

Could this be the season that the Los Angeles Kings finally surpass the San Jose Sharks, using their talented young core mixed with gritty veteran Ryan Smyth and his nose, rocketing to heights unseen and win the division?

No, but they'll come close.

San Jose, in the end, will once again win the Pacific, and Antti Niemi will continue to prove that as long as he's between the pipes for one of the league's most stacked offensive teams able to outscore anyone, he can be a starting goaltender in the NHL.

Joe Thornton will end his last season with the Sharks with 80-plus assists, helping linemate Dany Heatley once again reach the 50 goal mark; though Thornton won't be taking his talents to South Beach, he will sign with a team in the East next summer.

As for those up-and-coming Kings, they will be breathing down the neck of the Sharks all season, and finish the campaign with home ice advantage heading into round one of the playoffs.

Anze Kopitar will increase his 34 goal total from last season and get 40.

And Drew Doughty will win the Norris Trophy. No doubt about that one.

The Phoenix Coyotes will take a step backwards and miss the postseason (even though that's what everyone said about them last season too) as will the Anaheim Ducks; even though both Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf will have career years.

As for the Dallas Stars, enjoy your final season with Brad Richards and his 90 point seasons.

Northwest Division

The Vancouver Canucks are icing an all-world roster as far as talent goes this season, and with the Sedin twins at their best, Roberto Luongo minus the 'C' on his helmet, and a new-look defense core standing in front of him, there is no way they don't have this division won by the time mid-March is upon us.

They will challenge the Washington Capitals for most goals scored this season, as long as Alex Burrows comes back from injury roaring again.

There will also be a league-low in Swedish twin jokes made in 2010-11, as the brothers two proved last season that when they're playing at the top of their game, they are physically unstoppable.

And still impossible to tell apart.

The Colorado Avalanche won't sneak up on anyone this season, but they will be a legitimate playoff contender lead by the no-slump sophomore, Matt Duchene.

The Minnesota Wild will have the same old season it seems they always have: Martin Havlat will get injured, Niklas Backstrom will quietly have a great season, and Brett Favre will swear that this time, the retirement is for real.

It's a mystery why the Edmonton Oilers shipped Pat Quinn to the press box this season, relieving him of his head coaching duties at the worst possible time; it just so happens that the Oilers have the entire 2009 World Junior Canadian Team playing for them this season—a team Quinn coached to an undefeated record and Gold Medal just a year ago.

The kids will do okay.

Taylor Hall will have his fair share of highlights. Magnus (Don't Call Me Svensson) Paajarvi will score more goals than him and win the Calder Trophy. Jordan Eberle will still only be known for his clutch performances in junior, and nothing else. And as for Nikolai Khabibulin, well, people will get over his legal issues soon enough—unless he goes to jail, then they most certainly will not.

As for Brent Sutter and his old looking new-look Calgary Flames, this season will not go well.

His additions (again) of Alex Tanguay and Olli Jokinen is essentially the same as buying an expensive car and quickly realizing it's a piece of junk before abandoning it in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Then, just a year later seeing that same car in an ad for half the price and buying it, expecting it to somehow work out better for you this time around 

Can somebody please ask Sutter how that was even close to being a good idea?

Central Division

The Chicago Blackhawks may have won the Stanley Cup in 2009-10, but they will not repeat as division champions.

The Detroit Red Wings will reassert themselves as a dominant force in the league and take back the control they lost last season.

Jimmy Howard will have a bumpy ride this year but with the roster as strong as ever, the Wings will roll over the competition on their way to a 100-plus point season.

As for the bus load of players the Hawks sent packing this offseason, they will miss them far less than everyone thinks they will.

Let's put it this way: They still have arguably the most talented offense in the league, one of the best blue lines to boot, and a goalie that no one is really sure about in the net. How is that any different than last season?

Jonathan Toews is one of the best players in the world, Patrick Kane is now a solidified super star, and Duncan Keith is the reigning Norris Trophy winner.

GMs around the league would sell their first born for a roster like that.

The Nashville Predators will be invisible this season except for Shea Weber, who will finish second in Norris Trophy votes and unless Rick Nash scores 50 goals (by Christmas) the Columbus Blue Jackets have no chance at a playoff spot.

As for the St. Louis Blues, they're full of young talent and a budding blue line and should surprise many this season.

I have little faith that they will be one of the eight teams in the playoffs come season's end, but if they can squeak in to the final spot, I predict they'll beat the first and second ranked teams in two classic game sevens and make it to the Conference Finals on the shoulders of Jaro Halak.

Then trade him in the offseason and put their faith in a unproven, over-hyped, less skilled goaltender to carry the franchise. Just a year in the life of Halak.

Southeast Division

Dustin Byfulgien is going to hate playing for the Atlanta Thrashers—mainly because they're going to be terrible.

The Carolina Hurricanes has a shot to be a playoff team this season if Eric Staal has a comeback campaign, Cam Ward can stay healthy, and Calder nominee to be, Brendan Sutter has a stellar season.

It's just too bad that now, instead of only getting run over by the Washington Capitals, they now have to deal with an offensive powered Tampa Bay Lightning too.

Speaking of those Lightning, they'll be in the playoffs when it's all said and done, even if Vincent Lecavalier has a disappointing season again (which is a guarantee), Simon Gagne gets injured and has a disappointing season (which is a guarantee), and they get less-than-stellar goaltending (which is a guarantee).

Lightning fans will thank their lucky stars every night for Steven Stamkos, who will be pushing 60 goals this season.

As for the Washington Capitals, with all the glitz and glamour and Russian accents you could ever want, will once again run away with the Southeast Division—this is a recording.

Ovechkin will win the Rocket Richard Trophy with 60 goals, Niklas Backstrom will have an MVP-like season amassing 110-plus points, and it will still be just as funny as it ever was to say Alexander Semin's name when talking hockey with your friends.

Oh, and as for the Florida Panthers: who knows.

Northeast Division

It will be evident right from the start that the Montreal Canadiens will rue the day they ever traded away Halak.

Carey Price is not the answer, and will tell the Habs' fans to "chill out" more than once this season, before chilling out on the bench himself.

Mike Cammalleri will have an outstanding offensive year, but they'll pay Scott Gomez approximately $1 million per goal this season.

The Buffalo Sabres have the best goalie on planet Earth in Ryan Miller and one of the best young defensemen on said planet in Tyler Myers, but neither will be able to do enough for the Sabres to avoid a disappointing season; their forwards are poorly pieced together and other than Myers, they're limited in the talent department on defense.

Nick Foligno will be the Senator that everyone will be talking about in Ottawa as he'll have a major breakout campaign; meanwhile the newest addition, Sergei Gonchar, will be injured for the majority of the season.

That's not a prediction—that's one of those things that fit into the same category as death and taxes.

As for the Toronto Maple Leafs and their $22 million worth of defenders (the highest paid defense-core in the NHL), they'll need the blue line to be solid beyond belief if they have a shot at making any noise. Goaltending is automatically better without Vesa Toskala in the net, but that's like saying your day is better when you don't get sucker-punched in the face—they've still got work to do.

Over/under on how many times Brian Burke uses the word 'truculent' during interviews and/or press conferences: 7,000.

The class of the Northeast will be the Boston Bruins, who are poised for an excellent season at every position. The addition of Nathan Horton will be big, not to mention Tyler Seguin having a quiet, but effective rookie season.

The biggest reason they will win the division is Tuuka Rask, who will play over 60 games and assert himself as one of the NHL's best.

And Rask will cap it off by winning the Vezina Trophy, mark my words. I'll bet my Patriots' Randy Moss jersey on it.

Atlantic Division

No Mark Streit. No Kyle Okposo. No chance for the New York Islanders.

At least they have Rick Dipietro back—for now.

The Rangers will be the better team named New York, but other than that, neither have a shot at seeing playoff hockey.

Marian Gaborik is a torn ACL waiting to happen and John Tortorella is a ticking lawsuit time-bomb. Henrik Lundqvist better get his big boy pads on this season—he's going to need them.

The New Jersey Devils have some seriously dangerous weapons up front, including Ilya Kovalchuk who re-signed with the club, in case you hadn't heard, and will be a force to be reckoned with this year.

But does anyone get the feeling that after playing all those games for all those years, that eventually it's going to catch up to Martin Brodeur and his aging body? This could be that year.

They'll still do well, but won't last long come playoff time.

The Philadelphia Flyers will hover around that final playoff spot again this season, as long as they can find someone, anyone, to play in between the pipes for them.

Look for Mike Richards to have an MVP-type season while carrying the team on his back.

Claude Giroux will be this year's breakout star.

The Atlantic will belong to the Pittsburgh Penguins, lead by Sidney (Look Ma I Can Score) Crosby and the new-look defense who looks capable of shutting any team down.

Marc-Andre Fleury will be one of the best goaltenders statistically and Evgeni Malkin and his parents will battle Crosby right to the end for the league scoring title.

There just isn't another team in the NHL who looks as dangerous and as ready for the long season as the Penguins do.

Western Conference Finals:

Vancouver Canucks vs. Chicago Blackhawks

Eastern Conference Finals:

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals

Stanley Cup Finals:

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Vancouver Canucks

Stanley Cup Champions:

Pittsburgh Penguins


Now, let's get this NHL season started before I do something stupid and watch another Miami Heat preseason game.


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