NHL: Predicting the Final Records for Every Team in 2011-2012

Tab BamfordSenior Writer IOctober 5, 2011

NHL: Predicting the Final Records for Every Team in 2011-2012

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    On Thursday night, the NHL season begins, and NBA fans will finally have something to do for the next six months.

    All kidding aside, it's an exciting time of year for hockey fans because the records are all square and, at least in theory, everyone has a chance to win it all.

    Before the season begins, Vegas puts their odds out there for teams to win championships and individuals to win awards. But in this slideshow, we'll predict what each team's record is going to be when the dust settles in April and what the respective conference playoffs will look like.

    For the record, I took the time and did the math. The number of total wins represented in this slideshow is exactly 1,230the number of eligible wins in any 82-game regular season.

Atlantic Division: Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Predicted Record: 50-23-9
    Predicted Points: 109
    Predicted Finish: first in Atlantic Division

    Consider that the Pens finished last year with 106 points without Crosby, Malkin and Staal for most of the season. This year, they won't get the ridiculous start that Crosby had to last year, but they have Staal and Malkin healthy for the first time in a while. With strong defense and a great goalie, they'll be tough to beat this year.

    X-Factor: Jordan Staal

    If he can stay on the ice, the Pens center depth is still pretty good despite not having Crosby. If he misses time again, the Pens might enter the trade market.

Atlantic Division: Philadelphia Flyers

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    Predicted Record: 45-27-10
    Predicted Points: 100
    Predicted Finish: second in Atlantic Division

    Certainly one of the more intriguing summers in the NHL took place in Philly, where they traded away two players that were supposed to be part of their core and started a youth movement...before signing an aging goalie and naming an ancient defenseman their captain. Lots of change in Philadelphia means lots of questions need answers.

    X-Factor: James van Riemsdyk

    Obviously the team is expecting continued success from Danny Briere and more improvement from Claude Giroux, but those two guys alone can't account for the departures of Jeff Carter and Mike Richards up front. They need a major step forward from vanRiemsdyk this season.

Atlantic Division: New York Rangers

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    Predicted Record: 44-27-11
    Predicted Points: 99
    Predicted Finish: third in Atlantic Division

    With news on Tuesday that Sean Avery's time with the Rangers may be over, the team has unloaded one big headache. The problem they have, though, is the continued headaches of Marc Staal, who needs to be on the ice.

    X-Factor: Marc Staal

    No pressure on Mr. and Mrs. Staal to get their boys healthy this year, eh? It looks like Marc is going to miss some time to begin the season, but the Rangers desperately need to get him on the ice for their blue line to succeed.

Atlantic Division: New Jersey Devils

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    Predicted Record: 40-30-12
    Predicted Points: 92
    Predicted Finish: fourth in Atlantic Division

    Being without Travis Zajac to start the year is almost enough to negate the return of Zach Parise. This is a huge year for the Devils, as both Parise, and Martin Brodeur will need new deals next summer.

    X-Factor: Zach Parise

    In a contract year, how much will he bring to the table coming back from injury? And, if the Devils aren't in the playoff picture in mid-January, is he in a Devils' sweater in March?

Atlantic Division: New York Islanders

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    Predicted Record: 32-31-19
    Predicted Points: 81
    Predicted Finish: 5th in Atlantic Division

    They're still going through some growing pains with the Islanders, and have a lot of unsettled issues on the roster. Oh, and they're still paying Rick DiPietro for 53 more years.

    X-Factor: Josh Bailey

    At some point, the Islanders hope the eighth overall selection in the 2008 draft will produce more than 35 points in a season.

Southeast Division: Washington Capitals

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    Predicted Record: 51-18-13
    Predicted Points: 115
    Predicted Finish: first in Southeast Division

    They've finally added a goalie, Tomas Vokoun, and a couple other quality veterans like former Blackhawk Troy Brouwer. That, and the return of Mike Green, has the Caps in position for a run at the President's Trophy.

    X-Factor: Alexander Semin

    Everyone loves to question his effort, but there's no denying he can play the game. He's in a contract year, so this will be a huge season for Semin one way or another. Will he emerge as a 100-point player, or are his critics right?

Southeast Division: Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Predicted Record: 47-23-12
    Predicted Points: 106
    Predicted Finish: second in Southeast Division

    Nobody can deny the firepower the Bolts have up front, and they'll need with questions floating around the back end. Their blue line will need to step up and the goalie position will have to be more settled than it was last year for this year to be a division-winning campaign

    X-Factor: Victor Hedman

    Hedman's a physical beast, but the Bolts will need him to be better in every aspect of the game (including scoring) for this year to be a success.

Southeast Division: Carolina Hurricanes

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    Predicted Record: 44-30-8
    Predicted Points: 96
    Predicted Finish: third in Southeast Division

    They were pleasantly surprised by Jeff Skinner last year, and Eric Staal continues to be a consistent offensive force, but they simply don't have the depth to compete with Washington and Tampa in a top-heavy division.

    X-Factor: Jeff Skinner

    Two words: Sophomore Slump. If the Canes are going to be in the mix for a playoff spot this year, he has to be a top-tier scorer again.

Southeast Division: Florida Panthers

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    Predicted Record: 41-30-11
    Predicted Points: 93
    Predicted Finish: fourth in Southeast Division

    Not many teams made as many moves this summer to improve and reach the salary floor, as the Panthers did. They've added a lot of salary and quality veterans to their roster but lost Tomas Vokoun in net. They'll compete with a lot of people this year but might not be ready to win in a tough division.

    X-Factor: Brian Campbell

    After signing a blockbuster deal in Chicago, he ended up being the team's third defenseman because of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. After a shocking trade to Florida this summer, he'll get a chance to be a No. 1 again, and the Panthers will hope he can get back to the 50-60 point range.

Southeast Division: Winnipeg Jets

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    Predicted Record: 30-36-16
    Predicted Points: 76
    Predicted Finish: fifth in Southeast Division

    They'll have fans in the seats this year, but that doesn't change the need for better players on their roster. When you add the travel, they'll have to deal with in their division, this won't be an easy transition year for Winnipeg.

    X-Factor: Dustin Byfuglien

    He signed a monster contract extension last year and then disappeared after the All-Star game. Can he give the Jets anything in the second half?

Northeast Division: Buffalo Sabres

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    Predicted Record: 49-25-8
    Predicted Points: 106
    Predicted Finish: first in Northeast Division

    Not that the Sabres had many holes to start with, but they were very aggressive this summer and have set expectations at a fever pitch heading into the season. Following Chicago's lead a couple years ago, is new ownership all it takes for the team to take a long run into May and June?

    X-Factor: Christian Ehrhoff

    He got paid this summer and will be expected to back up his fat paycheck with another solid 50-point season in front of Ryan Miller.

Northeast Division: Boston Bruins

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    Predicted Record: 45-23-10
    Predicted Points: 100
    Predicted Finish: second in Northeast Division

    The question that every champion needs to ask is simple: how was your summer? Boston isn't the youngest team in the conference but have most of last year's players back for another run at the Cup.

    X-Factor: Tyler Seguin

    With Mark Recchi retired and a number of key players getting older around him, the youngster will need to be a contributor all season in Boston this year.

Northeast Division: Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Predicted Record: 40-24-18
    Predicted Points: 98
    Predicted Finish: third in Northeast Division

    They've upgraded their defense and have handed the keys to the castle to James Reimer in net, but will they get enough scoring this year to make the postseason a reality?

    X-Factor: Phil Kessel

    He MUST be a bigger impact player on the offensive end for the Leafs to make the playoffs this year.

Northeast Division: Montreal Canadiens

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    Predicted Record: 43-32-7
    Predicted Points: 93
    Predicted Finish: fourth in Northeast Division

    The didn't do a ton of upgrading this summer, and their division got better around them. Carey Price will likely be on the short list for the Vezina again next summer, but will the Canadiens be on the short list of eight teams that play more than 82 games this year?

    X-Factor: Peter Budaj

    If the Habs are going to make the playoffs or a deep run into the postseason, they cannot skate Price out there 82 times in the regular season. As the backup, Budaj will need to be better than mediocre to keep Montreal in the mix and Price healthy/rested.

Northeast Division: Ottawa Senators

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    Predicted Record: 21-41-20
    Predicted Points: 62
    Predicted Finish: fifth in Northeast Division

    It's going to be an ugly year in Ottawa.

    X-Factor: Jason Spezza

    How soon can the Sens find a trade partner to further their rebuilding process by dumping Spezza?

Eastern Conference Standings

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    The playoffs would begin as follows:

    1. Washington  vs.  8. Toronto

    2. Pittsburgh    vs.   7. New York

    3. Buffalo         vs.   6. Boston

    4. Tampa         vs.   5. Philadelphia

Northwest Division: Vancouver Canucks

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    Predicted Record: 49-25-8
    Predicted Points: 106
    Predicted Finish: first in Northwest Division

    The Canucks still benefit from playing in a soft division, but they have a couple major questions heading into this season. How will Ryan Kesler play this year? and Who is going to make up for the loss of Christian Ehrhoff? The Canucks best point-producing defenseman left, and there's a huge hole waiting to be filled by a group of injury-prone veterans.

    X-Factor: Dan Hamhuis

    Vancouver is hoping he can skate in more than 70 games and replace some of Ehrhoff's production.

Northwest Division: Minnesota Wild

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    Predicted Record: 39-30-13
    Predicted Points: 91
    Predicted Finish: second in Northwest Division

    Thanks to San Jose management deciding to make changes, the Wild added a couple solid forwards in Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi. The problem, though, is they didn't account for the loss of Brent Burns on their blue line and continue to regret trading Nick Leddy to Chicago for Cam Barker.

    X-Factor: Dany Heatley

    Minnesota is banking him being the 90-point player they've lacked for years.

Northwest Division: Edmonton Oilers

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    Predicted Record: 39-35-8
    Predicted Points: 86
    Predicted Finish: third in Northwest Division

    The Oilers continue getting younger, bringing their top draft pick into the NHL season yet again. If they continue getting solid performances from their youngsters, the turnaround will be complete and they'll be back in the playoffs soon. It just isn't likely to happen this year.

    X-Factor: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

    He'll get a shot in the NHL this year. With young players all over the roster, he won't feel young or out of place.

Northwest Division: Calgary Flames

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    Predicted Record: 38-39-5
    Predicted Points: 81
    Predicted Finish: fourth in Northwest Division

    The Flames are stuck between a few quality veterans and a non-existent youth movement. While Jarome Iginla continues to stay committed to the Flames, trading him might be their best chance at rebuilding the franchise into a contender.

    X-Factor: Mikka Kiprusoff

    He might need to play the best hockey of his life for this to be a playoff team.

Northwest Division: Colorado Avalanche

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    Predicted Record: 32-36-14
    Predicted Points: 78
    Predicted Finish: fifth in Northwest Division

    The Avs are the wild card in the Western Conference this year. If Pete Mueller can stay healthy and Erik Johnson clicks on the blue line, they could be in the mix for a playoff spot. If their goaltending struggles and injuries crush their roster again, they'll be in the mix for the top pick in the 2012 draft.

    X-Factor: Erik Johnson

    The Avs certainly traded enough to get Johnson last year. Now, the former top overall pick needs to step up and play like an elite defenseman.

Central Division: Chicago Blackhawks

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    Predicted Record: 48-22-12
    Predicted Points: 108
    Predicted Finish: first in Central Division

    Chicago addressed all of their weaknesses from last year directly in free agency and (most importantly) didn't commit to longer than one year with more than one of their free-agent additions. If the experiment of Patrick Kane playing his natural position, center, works out and he skates the entire year with Marian Hossa, the two could be in enormous numbers.

    X-Factor: Dave Bolland

    You don't have to look further than the playoffs last year to see the impact a healthy Bolland has on the Chicago lineup.

Central Division: Detroit Red Wings

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    Predicted Record: 47-24-11
    Predicted Points: 106
    Predicted Finish: second in Central Division

    Reality is that, between Chicago and Detroit, the team that stays healthy the most this season will probably win the Central. If the Wings can get 75 games from Zetterberg and Datsyuk, they'll be hard to beat for the division crown...or the conference championship.

    X-Factor: Niklas Kronwall

    With Brian Rafalski gone and in the final year of his deal, Kronwall will be asked to play a bigger role this year by both his team and his agent.

Central Division: St. Louis Blues

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    Predicted Record: 44-27-11
    Predicted Points: 99
    Predicted Finish: third in Central Division

    The most important person on their payroll this year will be the trainer, as the Blues are good enough on paper to make the playoffs this year. But keeping Chris Stewart, TJ Oshie, David Backes and others on the ice for more than 75 games is a must if they're going to see postseason hockey.

    X-Factor: Jaroslav Halak

    He needs to be healthy and consistent this year. But that's the story all over the Blues' roster.

Central Division: Nashville Predators

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    Predicted Record: 40-32-10
    Predicted Points: 90
    Predicted Finish: fourth in Central Division

    D-Day has arrived in Nashville, where their three best players are all in the final years of their respective contracts. If they aren't in the playoff hunt at Christmas, it might be hard for management to not start dismantling the team with the future in mind.

    X-Factor: Shea Weber

    The Preds are probably going to have to choose between Weber and Pekka Rinne/Ryan Suter at some point this year. His salary demands will determine how soon the trade winds blow in Music City.

Central Division: Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Predicted Record: 34-35-13
    Predicted Points: 81
    Predicted Finish: fifth in Central Division

    The Jackets added firepower in Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski but still have a lot of questions and holes. They also happen to play in one of the toughest divisions in the NHL, which doesn't do them any favors. If they can put it all together, Rick Nash might be a sleeper for the Hart.

    X-Factor: Steve Mason

    They paid to upgrade their blue line and traded for Jeff Carter, but if Mason sucks again, it was all worthless.

Pacific Division: Los Angeles Kings

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    Predicted Record: 46-27-9
    Predicted Points: 101
    Predicted Finish: first in Pacific Division

    Wayne Simmonds is a nice hockey player but swapping him out of the lineup and putting Mike Richards in his place is an enormous upgrade for the Kings. If they can keep Anze Kopitar healthy all year, they'll have enough balance all over their roster to win the West.

    X-Factor: Drew Doughty

    After being a Norris finalist in 2010, he took a step back last year. He still got paid this summer—big timeand now will have to back it up on the ice.

Pacific Division: San Jose Sharks

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    Predicted Record: 44-27-11
    Predicted Points: 99
    Predicted Finish: second in Pacific Division

    Doug Wilson decided to blow things up (to an extent) this summer and unloaded some key pieces in a few surprising moves. Adding Brent Burns on the back end is a huge addition, but trying to replace Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi with an already-questionable Martin Havlat could make for a hole in the offense.

    X-Factor: Martin Havlat

    He has to play in at least 65 games for the Sharks to be a top-six seed in the West, and he has to be healthy in April for the Sharks to get out of the first round of the playoffs.

Pacific Division: Anaheim Ducks

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    Predicted Record: 43-26-13
    Predicted Points: 99
    Predicted Finish: third in Pacific Division

    There are a lot of question marks heading into this season and a lot of them have to do with health. How long will Jonas Hiller be on the ice? Can Ryan Getzlaf play a full season? What can be expected from Lubomir Visnovsky?

    At least Ducks fans will look at the beginning of the season with one of, if not, the best scoring line in hockey with the Hart Trophy winner headlining the roster.

    X-Factor: Cam Fowler

    After a promising rookie season, Fowler will be asked to play a bigger role on the team this season.

Pacific Division: Dallas Stars

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    Predicted Record: 38-33-11
    Predicted Points: 87
    Predicted Finish: fourth in Pacific Division

    One of their best players, Brad Richards, is gone, and they're bankrupt. Expecting better than fourth place in the division this year might be a bit much, but there are a few players to watch in Dallas.

    X-Factor: Jamie Benn

    He might be one of the best young players not many people have heard of. He's got 30-goal potential, and on a bad team in Dallas, won't have many people telling him to stop shooting.

Pacific Division: Phoenix Coyotes

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    Predicted Record: 28-40-14
    Predicted Points: 70
    Predicted Finish: fifth in Pacific Division

    The 2011-12 season will unfortunately be a waste of the talents of Keith Yandle and Shane Doan, but at least, BizNasty will keep fans entertained on Twitter.

    X-Factor: Paul Bissonnette

    He's a funny guy on a team that won't have a lot to be smiling about.

Western Conference Standings

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    The playoffs would begin as follows:

    1. Chicago vs.       8. Minnesota

    2. Vancouver vs.    7. Anaheim

    3. Los Angeles vs. 6. St. Louis

    4. Detroit vs.          5. San Jose