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What We Learned: 20 bold predictions for the NHL season

Ryan Lambert
Puck Daddy

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Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

 

Real life hockey that counts is just days away, folks. And that means you're about to be inundated with predictions from experts of all types.

Will TSN continue to act like the Jets have a legitimate shot at doing anything of note? Of course. Will Barry Melrose be pulled from his tanning bed deep beneath the ESPN studios so he and Linda Cohn can predict yet another 82-0-0 season for the Rangers? Yes. Will Bleacher Report steal those predictions word-for-word? Obviously, and with the requisite "presenting it as a 34-page slideshow."

But because those predictions are always wrong and never specific enough, for the third year in a row somehow, here are 20 Bold Predictions for the upcoming NHL season.

1. After missing by a single point last year, the Predators will break 100 points again — and challenge for the division title — as their young forwards start contributing more. Barry Trotz will finally win the Jack Adams as a result.

2. There won't be a tighter three-team division race in hockey than the Northeast.

3. This will be the victory lap season for Teemu Selanne and Nicklas Lidstrom, who ride off into the sunset as the best two European players to ever play the game. Teemu will also score the 59 points necessary to edge past fellow Finn Jari Kurri on the all-time scoring list.

4. Brent Burns will quickly become one of the highest-scoring defensemen in the league this year. Getting power-play time with Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and so forth will help that.

5. Rick Nash, who finally has a real center, will push Steven Stamkos for the Rocket Richard.

(Coming Up: The phenomenal Evgeni Malkin; Clarke MacArthur's Shanny protest; Antti Niemi could be ready for Sharks; Petr Sykora's waiting game; Jimmy Howard's preseason stinkfest; RHN gets caught on a junior move; Ducks are Finnish rock stars; Olli Jokinen's Datsyuk obsession; Jonathan Toews ailing; ESPN's devilish fail; Stars go bankrupt; Ryan Johansen makes the Jackets; Brooks Laich shifts back to center; Viktor Hedman vs. stardom; great goal by Gustav Nyquist; and San Jose pisses off pizza lovers.)

6. The Islanders are going to win a good amount of games thanks to a decent power play, but still won't make the playoffs due to that whole "goaltending" issue.

7. The Capitals will win the East by at least eight points when their offense bounces back big-time after a sub-league-average finish in goals for last year. You can expect a big year from Mike Green.

8. Only two coaches will get fired this year. At most.

9. The Coyotes will miss the playoffs for the first time in two years when the can't-miss tandem of Jason LaBarbera and Mike Smith do indeed miss. No one will notice.

10. Jaromir Jagr will begin to really slow down in the second half of the year because he's old. He'll still finish with 50-something points.

11. Drew Doughty in the Norris conversation. Believe it.

12. The Central Division will send four of its five teams to the playoffs. Sorry, St. Louis.

13. Dany Heatley will adjust well to Minnesota. Devin Setoguchi will not.

14. Sidney Crosby will miss 10 or 15 games and still finish in the top five in scoring. But Evgeni Malkin will win the Art Ross and the Hart in a walk.

15. Jacob Markstrom will at some point take over the Panthers' starting goaltending job.

16. The Canucks will win the President's Trophy once again, even if most of the Northwest did get better in the offseason (not so fast, Calgary).

17. The Lightning will wholly fail to replicate their success from the stretch run and playoffs last year for some unknown reaso… their goalie is HOW old?

18. The Oilers will finish 30th once again. Obviously.

19. The Devils will "miraculously" make the playoffs when their best player is healthy for the whole season and their coach isn't a complete dolt like John MacLean apparently was. Last year is going to end up like the 2006-07 Flyers: forgotten among another characteristic run of success.

20. Dallas will be out of the playoffs well before the last game of the season this time around.

Have fun out there, gang. It's finally hockey season again.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: Toni Lydman? Saku Koivu? Whatever. Teemu Selanne? Finland's gonna go nuts.

Boston Bruins: Benoit Pouliot is still "full of potential" (no one tell Jack Edwards). It's interesting, though, Pouliot says he pictures himself as more of a scorer. His career stats tell a different story.

Buffalo Sabres: "Indeed, the Sabres' seven-day visit to Germany and Finland is essentially about hockey." Essentially, yes. The trip a professional hockey team has taken to Europe to play a number of hockey games is essentially about hockey.

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Calgary Flames: Olli Jokinen spent the summer studying the work of Pavel Datsyuk, Ryan Kesler and Henrik Zetterberg to understand how to better be a two-way forward. If he's even half-decent in his own zone at this point Flames fans are going to act like he hung the moon.

Carolina Hurricanes: Paul Maurice is a big fan of Justin Faulk and it's very likely the 19-year-old makes the team, even as the 'Canes still have NINE defensemen on the training camp roster. Paul, you're allowed to cut some of them.

Chicago Blackhawks: Jonathan Toews was out of Sunday's preseason finale against Washington, and the Blackhawks recalled two players for the game instead. Seems dumb to me that you can send someone down and then recall them just to play a preseason game. If you want'em available for the game, leave'em in NHL camp.

Colorado Avalanche: Matt Duchene scored twice as the Avs gutted the Kings 4-1 in Las Vegas. And look, ESPN, I know it's the City of Sin and all that, but you don't need to have both teams' logos be Devils'.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Forwards Ryan Johansen, Cam Atkinson, Maksim Mayorov and defenseman David Savard are all going to be on the Blue Jackets' opening-night roster. That's significant because they're all rookies. One suspects the Savard decision was made easier by the Wisniewski suspension, and the kid's really lucky Columbus doesn't play Pittsburgh in the first month of the season.

Dallas Stars: The Dallas Stars filed for bankruptcy in Delaware because that's the easiest place to complete the process quickly. In related news, the Coyotes are moving to Delaware. Oh y'know, no reason.

Detroit Red Wings Presented by Amway: Jimmy Howard did not have a very good preseason. In his first three games, he went 0-2-1 with a 3.75 GAA and .836(!) save percentage before he stopped 25 of 27 on Sunday in a 3-2 win. I'm sure he'll bounce back, obviously, but jeepers. That's really bad.

Edmonton Oilers: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins got demolished by Victor Oreskovich when he tried to make a juniors move on an NHL defenseman. "I was reaching for the puck and had my head down. I can't be doing that," he said. Well, you can. You're just going to get killed.

Florida Panthers: Florida went 1-4-1 in the preseason, but they're all excited to start the season anyway. Stephen Weiss also missed four days with a minor groin injury, so that probably didn't help the preseason record much.

Los Angeles Kings: The Kings think they're going to contend for the Stanley Cup. Let me know when they're the best team in their own division.

Minnesota Wild: The Wild are quite happy with Dany Heatley's play in the preseason thus far. How many goals you think he gets this year? Put me down for 30.

Montreal Canadiens: This is an actual headline: "Habs need a healthy Markov and productive Gomez." Well, that's it then.

Nashville Predators: Craig Smith made the team, despite scoring only one goal in the preseason. Probably didn't hurt that the one goal came with 10.3 seconds left in overtime of the last exhibition game.

New Jersey Devils: Petr Sykora is left just waiting for word on if he made the team or not. Meanwhile, the other Petr Sykora is swearing to a bunch of guys in a Czech bar that he used to be in the NHL.

New York Islanders: The Islanders signed Steve Staios to a one-year deal and in doing so helped ensure that the Rangers, Penguins, Flyers and Devils all score an extra five goals this year.

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New York Rangers: The Rangers had quite the Sunday. Woke up in Sweden, traveled to Slovakia for a game then headed to Switzerland to stay over for a game Monday against a team called EV Zug, which I can't believe is a real name. Next on the tour: Serbia, Slovenia and San Marino, then a vacation in Singapore.

Ottawa Senators: The Sens say they aren't concerned about their offensive output. Their D and goaltending is going to be so bad that it won't matter even a little.

Philadelphia Flyers: We know you're all so excited about the Flyers this year, but Dany Briere would like to remind you that this is just the preseason and besides with all these new faces the team might struggle and also by the way they got worse in the offseason despite acquiring 57-year-old Jaromir Jagr. OK, he didn't say those last two things but I mean, the subtext was there.

Phoenix Coyotes: "Coyotes feel they're deeper, but are they better?" No. That was easy.

Pittsburgh Penguins: The last thing the NHL, Eastern Conference and especially Atlantic Division needed was a pissed-off Evgeni Malkin. But here we are. He's gonna be phenomenal this year.

San Jose Sharks: Could Antti Niemi be healthy enough to start the season? It's starting to look that way. Always good when your starting goaltender is ready, especially if three of your first four games are against division opponents.

St. Louis Blues: The Blues are really excited over how good they think David Backes will be as a captain. The hope here is that he inspires the rest of his teammates to also attempt to pound every Canadian opponents' face into a fine paste.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Viktor Hedman wants to be a difference-maker this season. I thought he was one of the best defensemen in the East toward the end of last season. Kid's gonna be a star in the very near future.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Clarke MacArthur is right, if they take away our right to lower a shoulder into an opponent's chin, this league is headed to hell in a hand basket.

Vancouver Canucks: Cody Hodgson scored twice in the preseason against the Oilers and in doing so fulfilled the promise every Canuck fan ever believed he had.

Washington Capitals: Brooks Laich got shifted to third-line center between Jason Chimera and Joel Ward after playing all of training camp at left wing. This is just a reminder that the Caps are apparently paying their third line a combined $9.375 million against the cap this year.

Winnipeg Jets: The Jets are gonna try not to have a second-half meltdown this year. I assume they will just be middlingly bad throughout the season instead.

Gold Star Award

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No one really stood out this weekend so with that in mind I'm going to default, as always, to Teemu Selanne. Boy he's great.

Minus of the Weekend

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Used to be if the Sharks scored four at home, fans would get free pizza. No more. Pizza is the best food and denying it to people should be punishable by death.

Play of the Weekend

What a goal by Gustav Nyquist. He was in the corner and then in the slot in the blink of an eye.

Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week

User "ObsessedCreative" is trying to help.

To Pittsburgh: Ales Hemsky

To Edmonton: Tangradi, Letestu, Niskanen, 2nd round pick

Signoff

I say we get liquored up and take them to the Peachtree Dance.

Ryan Lambert publishes hockey awesomeness rather infrequently over at The Two-Line Pass. Check it out, why don't you? Or you can email him here and follow him on Twitter if you so desire.

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