Wait, the only thing on television is the MLB All Star Game? You mean there's really no more hockey until October?
That's right, folks. With the 2011 NHL Draft behind us and the frenzy that was NHL Free Agency slowing to a halt, excitement in the hockey world comes in the form of speculation and anticipation for the upcoming NHL campaign.
Trust me, I know life without hockey is tough, but why not take a look at how each team will fare next season to pass the time? What else are we going to do? Watch baseball? Of course not.
These records and rankings are preliminary. I reserve the right to change them many times before the start of the season. So, here is each team's projected record at this point in the offseason. Enjoy.
It should be another interesting year in the Eastern Conference with the Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers and even the Tampa Bay Lightning fighting for the top spot in the conference.
Upstart teams like the Buffalo Sabres and New York Rangers will hope to remove the top dogs from their thrones, but that could be a taller task than most realize.
Anyways, here are the standings.
Projected Record: 50-22-11, 111 Points
It's crazy to think that even without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin for a good chunk of the season, the Pittsburgh Penguins were one win away from being the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
Instead, the club finished just behind the Capitals and conceded the Atlantic Division to the Philadelphia Flyers due to a tiebreaker, earning the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
If everyone manages to stay on the ice this time around, the Penguins will be a very dangerous team. They have stars up front as well as on the blueline, and Marc-Andre Fleury has proven that he is capable of carrying this team if needed.
I expect them to handle the division with relative ease next season.
Projected Record: 48-22-12, 106 Points
Many are ready to crown the 2011 Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins as the number one seed in the East for next season, but there is not a whole lot of evidence to suggest that this team can take a step forward next year.
Sure, most of the core is returning, but the team did not bring anybody in that makes them a better team. Furthermore, there is very little chance Tim Thomas is able to continue to post superhuman numbers.
The Bruins are a team that is built for the postseason, and they got hot at the right time. That does not mean they are going to be the team we saw in the 2011 NHL Playoffs for an entire regular season.
Projected Record: 47-21-14, 106 Points
The Washington Capitals simply own the regular season, but next year, the Tampa Bay Lightning may make a push for the Southeast Division Crown. However, Ovechkin and company will likely continue producing, as we have come to expect in the regular season.
Perhaps if the team gets beat up a bit with the extra travel to Winnipeg, they will be more battle tested for the playoffs, despite being a three seed. We'll see.
Projected Record: 47-24-11, 105 Points
As mentioned in the previous slide, the race for the Southeast Division crown figures to be a tight one. With Steven Stamkos presumably leading the charge and most of the pieces back from a team that came within a game of the Stanley Cup Finals, there is no reason to believe Tampa will not be back with a vengeance next season.
Projected Record: 45-28-9, 99 Points
The difference between the fourth and fifth team in the Eastern Conference represents a significant drop off, in my opinion.
The Philadelphia Flyers completely revamped their entire roster this offseason, but the positive effects from it may not be immediately evident. They got younger and cheaper on offense and added a talented netminder while keeping the defense intact.
I don't expect a major drop off from this team, but a marginal decline in regular season output is to be expected.
Projected Record: 45-29-8, 98 Points
The Buffalo Sabres have made some big time improvements this offseason, adding Christian Ehrhoff and Robyn Reghr to their blueline, and also figure to get significant improvement from youngsters like Tyler Myers and Nathan Gerbe. Add to the mix one of the league's best goaltenders, and the Sabres look like a legitimate threat to knock off the Bruins in the Northeast Division.
Projected Record: 44-31-7, 95 Points
After the signing of Brad Richards, Rangers fans are ready to claim the Atlantic Division crown and make a deep postseason run. Not so fast.
True, the signing of Brad Richards makes the Rangers a better hockey team. However, if Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik fail to stay healthy, which they have a tendency of doing, New York could be right back where it started.
Not to mention, the Rangers still have two formidable opponents in their division in the Flyers and Penguins, as well as the Devils and Islanders, who are both on the rise.
I think the Rangers are a playoff team, but I'm not ready to crown them the favorites in the East just yet.
Projected Record: 40-30-12, 92 Points
You heard it here first, folks, the Toronto Maple Leafs will make the 2012 NHL Playoffs. Brian Burke has been diligently constructing a sound roster, and the team appears to be on the brink of being a legitimate contender.
Considering how competitively the Leafs played at times this season, the additions Toronto made in the offseason should be enough to get them over the hump. Plus, outside of Carolina and Montreal, there are not many other teams that could push them out of this spot, in my opinion.
9. Carolina Hurricanes: 39-30-13, 91 Points - Still not tough enough on the back end.
10. Montreal Canadiens: 39-31-12, 90 Points - Lost too much via free agency.
11. New York Islanders: 39-36-7, 85 Points - Another step forward for a team almost ready to compete.
12. New Jersey Devils: 38-36-8, 84 Points - What does Brodeur have left?
13. Winnipeg Jets: 32-38-12, 74 Points - Traveling will beat this team up.
14. Ottawa Senators: 31-41-10, 72 Points - This is a full scale rebuilding effort
15. Florida Panthers: 30-42-10, 70 Points - Despite the additions, there's no reason to believe in this team.
The Western Conference should once again be the deeper and stronger of the two conferences top to bottom. Though, I'm not sure I expect the President's Trophy to stay out West this year.
The big question is how the Canucks will respond after losing in the Stanley Cup Finals. They have also lost Christian Ehrhoff and Raffi Torres from last season's club. There could be a new champion in the Western Conference.
Projected Record: 48-23-11, 107 Points
The San Jose Sharks managed to bolster their blueline and rid themselves of one of the worst locker room cancers in the entire league, Dany Heatley. It's clear that this team is sick and tired of the way things have been going and have started to hold themselves accountable as an organization. Expect big things from the Sharks in 2011-2012.
Projected Record: 48-25-9, 105 Points
The Canucks have not lost any of their big time players, so they should have no trouble reclaiming some of the regular season success they found a year ago.
However, after a loss in the Stanley Cup Finals, tensions will be running high in that dressing room, and I think we will see a bit of a different team next season. It's go time for the Sedins and Luongo after they were exposed in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Projected Record: 47-26-9, 103 Points
After suffering through a myriad of injuries last season, the Chicago Blackhawks figure to be back with a purpose when the calendar turns to October this fall.
If Corey Crawford can pick up where he left off in the postseason, Chicago will win the Central Division.
Projected Record: 44-26-12, 100 Points
Of all of the teams in the Western Conference, the Nashville Predators are possibly the biggest dark horse candidate to head to the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals.
Backed by Vezina Finalist Pekka Rinne and the best defensive pairing in the league, Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, the Predators will continue to grind out victories night in and night out.
If only the Preds had a legitimate scoring threat, they would be a contender to win their division.
Projected Record: 45-28-9, 99 Points
The L.A. Kings were big winners this offseason, acquiring both Mike Richards and Simon Gagne. Add them to the mix with a healthy Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown, and that is one mean looking top six.
Meanwhile, Jon Quick continues to develop into a stud goaltender for the Kings. I wouldn't be surprised if L.A. ends up pushing for the Pacific Division title.
Projected Record: 45-29-8, 98 Points
The Detroit Red Wings may be set to take a step back in 2011-2012 after the retirement of Brian Rafalski, but then again, every time the hockey world expects the Red Wings to slow down they keep churning out one hundred point seasons.
This year, it will take a full season of Datsyuk and Zetterberg to make a division title possible. They are still a threat in the playoffs, but I'm expecting a small step back in the regular season for the Wings this year.
Projected Record: 45-30-7, 97 Points
While a ton of the Ducks' success next season hinges on the health of Jonas Hiller, that's not going to stop me from tempering my high expectations for this hockey team.
The best top line in hockey will be back and better than ever, and if Hiller is back to playing the way we are accustomed to seeing, there is not a whole lot standing in Anaheim's way of a postseason birth.
Projected Record: 43-30-9, 95 Points
Well, the Wild have found their goal scorer. Dany Heatley will enter the State of Hockey with high expectations after Minnesota traded one of their top scorers, Martin Havlat, to acquire him.
The Wild had an active offseason, attempting to bolster the offense to get them into the postseason. Go crazy, Wild fans. Go crazy.
9. St. Louis Blues: 41-29-12, 94 Points - They are building something special and could easily find themselves in the playoffs come season's end.
10. Columbus Blue Jackets: 41-30-11, 93 Points - The Jackets were big spenders this offseason, but don't expect them to be a playoff team overnight.
11. Calgary Flames: 38-33-11, 86 Points - The Flames are attempting to rebuild on the fly, so Iginla and Kiprusoff will keep them competitive.
12. Dallas Stars: 36-34-12, 84 Points - The Stars were not a pretty site with Brad Richards out of the lineup last year.
13. Edmonton Oilers: 35-37-10, 80 Points - Baby steps for a team a few years from the playoffs.
14. Colorado Avalanche: 36-38-8, 80 Points - I'm interested, but not overly confident, in what the Colorado Avalanche can put together next season.
15. Phoenix Coyotes: 32-40-10, 72 Points - It will be a dismal last year in Phoenix for the Coyotes.