Well folks, the NHL season starts tonight and you know what that means: Mindless predictions are coming from every corner of the internet.
But no one in hockey is as smart as I am, and so I feel it morally incumbent upon me to make all the good predictions. The ones that are most likely to come true! Now, don’t come to me in April and say, “Hey buddy, you got three of these 20 predictions wrong!”
That isn’t my fault! Hockey is a game of mistakes after all, and sometimes even when you are so so so smart you don’t get it all right. Even if you’re getting a whole hell of a lot right. Which I always am.
20 – Minnesota comfortably makes the playoffs, but doesn’t overwhelm anyone.
The Wild made the postseason last year and that was so nice for them even if the team wasn’t that good. The good news is they improved this summer, both on the ice and behind the bench. That’ll be a boost to the ol’ point total so they’ll make a postseason return for sure. But don’t mistake that for them being actually very good. They really aren’t. They’re just better than “pretty good.” Which, hey, it’s an improvement.
19 – Goaltending dooms an otherwise solid Leafs team.
I really don’t trust Freddy Andersen as far as I can throw him, so while the Leafs continue to improve and Mike Babcock gets more to work with, I can’t see them finishing anywhere near the playoffs. Auston Matthews probably waltzes to the Calder, though. He’s gonna have a lot of skill to help him score 60-ish points.
18 – The Flyers continue to improve even as Steve Mason comes back to earth.
Mason turned in another high-quality performance last season — he’s at .922 for his career with the Flyers — but this season he’ll probably just be league-average (maybe even a little lower than that). The good news is the Flyers have improved at just about every other position in recent years, and particularly on the blue line. That really helps them take another step forward under Dave Hakstol, a sneaky Jack Adams candidate.
17 – Calgary just misses the playoffs.
Almost everything the Flames did this offseason has improved the team. But even if you believe heavily in Brian Elliott (I do!) and Glen Gulutzan (not without more evidence!) it’s tough to see this team as one of the eight best in the West. Too many holes at the bottom of that roster, and putting someone like Troy Brouwer or Micheal Ferland with Gaudreau and Monahan doesn’t seem like the best use of anyone’s time.
16 – Columbus will still be quite bad.
I don’t think this is the year John Tortorella gets fired (at least not mid-season) but even Scotty Bowman wouldn’t have enough to work with here to get this team anywhere close to the playoffs. Pretty much every aspect of their roster is riddled with question marks, their admittedly excellent goaltender can’t stay healthy, and they have one of the worst coaches in the league.
15 – At the age of 39, Jarome Iginla has one last 20-goal season.
Iginla’s contract is up after this season, and this is probably it for this future Hall of Famer. With the exception of the lockout-shortened 2013 season, Iginla has cleared 20 goals every season since 1998, and that streak doesn’t stop this year. He’ll score his 20th in his final regular-season game and ride off into the sunset. He’ll finish with just four fewer career goals than his GM.
14 – The Canucks get to December and fire their coach because they realize what everyone has known for two years: Their team is awful.
That means firing the coach. That means making some trades. Maybe even the Sedins get dealt at the deadline. And with the sell-off, they finish dead last in the league. Maybe this isn’t all that bold.
13 – Chicago takes another step back.
The last four 82-game seasons Chicago has finished with 101, 107, 102, and 103 points. This is the year they only hit 99. Now, 99 points is a lot and everything. They’re still a good club. But they needed one of the best performances in recent years from Patrick Kane to hit 103, and they didn’t win their division, which has only gotten tougher thanks to Nashville’s summer. And hell, I wouldn’t wanna play ’em in the first round.
12 – People will act like Edmonton won the Taylor Hall trade.
Taylor Hall is only — sorry, “only” — going to score 25-35-60 for the Devils because he quite frankly doesn’t have as much offensive help in New Jersey. And because Edmonton is going to cut its goals-against total, people will say Peter Chiarelli won the Hall/Larsson trade. Larsson will — through sheer force of MSM will — become one of the league’s more overrated defenders.
11 – The streak is over.
Wings miss the playoffs. I’ve been saying it for years but now this is the year when it happens for real. How does it not happen with how things have gone this summer?
10 – Another round of Carlyle in Anaheim goes quite poorly.
The Ducks will barely scrape into the playoffs because they have too much talent not to (at least in that division), but boy is this team not going to be good. Carlyle gets canned this year after a players’ revolt.
9 – Erik Karlsson wins the Norris because his point total comes down and everyone thinks he concentrated more on defense even if his game didn’t change.
Guy Boucher and Marc Crawford somehow can’t turn around a roster with four good players on it. But because Boucher preaches boring, defense-first hockey, it’ll look like Karlsson is so defensively responsible and therefore actually good now. Point-a-game defense? Get lost buddy! Try only scoring 60!
8 – Ben Bishop gets traded, Marc-Andre Fleury does not.
The Bolts’ crease is crowded, no doubt about it. Everyone knows Ben Bishop is getting traded. I’d bet it’s closer to the deadline (when teams can bring on more cap space). Meanwhile, Pittsburgh can’t find a buyer for the goalie they’d prefer not to have around after Matt Murray emerges as The Guy.
7 – Sidney Crosby wins the scoring race by as big a gap as Patrick Kane did last year (17 points).
Last year Kane was the only player to break the century mark, and Crosby will do that too. But I’d put Crosby down for more points than Kane had last year. A full season of Mike Sullivan pushes the Penguins to the Presidents’ Trophy.
6 – Ryan Johansen clears 70 points, P.K. Subban hits 55.
Speaking of the Presidents’ Trophy, the Predators get close, but superior goaltending is what gets the Pens there instead. They’ll have to console themselves with huge years from the two excellent young players David Poile has acquired with stunning swaps.
5 – Dallas trades for a goalie, make a deep playoff run.
Despite the protestations from their management this summer that the goaltending situation is perfectly fine, it is evidently not, and they make a trade. Will it be for Ben Bishop? Tough to say, because who knows whether they have the juice (or indeed, the desire) to meet Steve Yzerman’s asking price. But they need to make a change in goal, and they’ll realize it around Thanksgiving.
4 – Henrik Lundqvist turns in a Vezina-worthy performance, but the Rangers miss the playoffs.
Everyone knows the Rangers’ defense stinks. Including the Rangers. So the fact that Lundqvist is going to go .922 again this year (like clockwork, I tell ya) is enough to get him the nod even as the Rangers fail to make the postseason.
3 – Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand are the only real highlights as the Bruins finally decide to blow it up.
Another year without the playoffs in Boston is enough to get Don Sweeney to pull the trigger on some higher-profile trades: David Krejci gone. Maybe Tuukka Rask too. Zdeno Chara leaves money on the table and retires. Let the kids give this car a spin in 2017-18.
2 – Another Rocket for Alex Ovechkin.
Ho hum. No big deal. Caps are still awesome, Ovechkin still pots 50-plus. He’ll do it ’til he’s like 38. He’s magic. I don’t know what else to tell you.
1 – Bill Peters and that beautiful young blue line get the Hurricanes back into the playoffs.*
I really like this team, folks. So many good moves this summer. It’s enough to make a decent team hurt by rotten seasons from Cam Ward and Eddie Lack last year a playoff club this time around. And because the league loves a rags-to-(relative)-riches story, Bill Peters wins the Jack Adams he (should have) had a good claim on last season.
*This is dependent upon them actually getting something resembling average goaltending, which isn’t a guarantee.
Have a good season, everyone!
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