It's that time of year again, folks. Hockey is back, and the faceoff of the 2011-2012 NHL season is less than two weeks away.
With the preseason already underway, the ongoing river of "expert" predictions is in full swing. Not to be one left out of the fun, we had to chime in with another set of controversial, fan-angering standings projections.
For the Eastern Conference, the offseason of '11 was an eventful one. The deaths of three recent or current players dampened the ecstasy over Winnipeg's long-awaited return to the league's fold. Elsewhere, free agent signings were the talk of the summer—Washington's signing of Tomas Vokoun, Buffalo's grabs of Ville Leino and Christian Ehrhoff, the Rangers' landing of big fish Brad Richards and Florida's frenzy of signings kept columnists talking throughout July and August.
The quantity of headlines has made the conference even tougher to predict, which is why we're going to go out on a limb more than just once or twice in this predictions. Public opinion aside, this will be the blunt truth—and it might get ugly, at times.
As a warning to hockey fans in the Philadelphia, New York and Montreal areas, we recommend you hit that "minimize" tab now before getting all wound up (as you will momentarily). All other readers, however, are free to continue...and then chime in with your own criticism in the comments section below.
Note: We have been asked about the relative resemblance to ESPN Magazine's NHL preview, and can assure you that this was done completely independently and without knowledge of their predictions. However, it sounds like ESPN sure did hit the mark, though!
Note No. 2: This article is the complement to our complete Western Conference Predictions, published later in the week.