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Season predictions for the NHL are never an exact science ... unless you're the guy who stuck his neck out and pimped the Washington Capitals as division champions last October. Then you're a flippin' genius, of course.

Injuries, trades, slumps, surprises, hirings, firings, rookies, chemistry, the brain of the modern NHL goaltender ... all of these factors are positively unpredictable by their very natures. Raise your hand if you had the Philadelphia Flyers with 95 points and in the Eastern Conference finals last August. We'll wait.

Still, if there's one thing that's contentious crack-rock to hockey fans it's standings predictions. We can't help ourselves -- every late summer, we digest random opinions and then regurgitate either feelings of hope or insulted rage.

Such is the case with the official NHL 2008-09 predictions from The Hockey News, available in its annual yearbook that's filtering out to fans as we speak. THN sent us the following standings predictions from that issue:

First of all, The Hockey News predicts the Detroit Red Wings will win the Stanley Cup. Shocking, isn't it?

Here's how they see the League breaking down:

Eastern Conference

1. Montreal Canadiens
2. Pittsburgh Penguins
3. Washington Capitals
4. Philadelphia Flyers
5. Ottawa Senators
6. New York Rangers
7. New Jersey Devils
8. Carolina Hurricanes

9. Tampa Bay Lightning
10. Boston Bruins
11. Buffalo Sabres
12. Florida Panthers
13. Atlanta Thrashers
14. Toronto Maple Leafs
15. New York Islanders

So what will the reaction be from the Koules Administration if the Bolts fail to make the postseason? Furthermore: If the Boston Bruins finish 10th, will the vocal coaching-change minority begin screaming for Julien's removal for a more offensive coach?

Penguins still win the division, huh?

Western Conference

1. Detroit Red Wings
2. San Jose Sharks
3. Minnesota Wild
4. Dallas Stars
5. Anaheim Ducks
6. Edmonton Oilers
7. Chicago Blackhawks
8. Calgary Flames

9. Nashville Predators
10. Phoenix Coyotes
11. Vancouver Canucks
12. Columbus Blue Jackets
13. Los Angeles Kings
14. Colorado Avalanche
15. St. Louis Blues

Hey, maybe Sakic should just retire then ...

This conference is the Thunderdome of hockey; your heart goes out to the Blue Jackets and Coyotes, two good solid teams that are going to need some huge breaks to make the cut. Off-season darlings Edmonton and Chicago make the Stanley Cup playoffs? A Rolston-less Wild team wins the division? Interesting.

Not to get ahead of ourselves, but Ducks/Stars in Round One would be a damn war, wouldn't it?

Thanks to Ryan Dixon for shooting these over. Check out the THN yearbook for player rankings and all sorts of goodies.

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