With the season starting, well, right now, it's probably time to unveil the official predictions for the year. In addition to myself, Jazzy V and Scott Lepp contributed their much more sane predictions for the year, so enjoy, and remember I've predicted at least one finalist the past two years and gotten pretty much everything else wrong!
Arik's 2011-12 NHL Predictions
1. Washington- Jesus Christ this team is unreal. Especially now that Vokoun signed and they're done with growing pains from learning a new defensive system.
2. Boston- Minimal change from a Stanley Cup winning season means they'll have a hell of a year. Even if Thomas falters, you're still gonna see a dominating year with Rask behind him.
3. New Jersey- Yeah, this is kinda outta left field, but with the system as strong as ever and Parise back, the Devils will be a lot better than expected, especially since Crosby isn't back yet.
5. Carolina- Call this my one completely inane and insane prediction, but I love Carolina this year. I think they stand to do exceptionally well.
6. Montreal- How good is Subban? Very. How good is Plekanec? Exceptionally.
7. Toronto- Mike Milbury just said on live TV that they won't make the playoffs. They're winning the Cup for sure.
8. New York Rangers- I'm pretty sure Brad Richards is the second best center on this team. But then again, my man-crush on Dubinski is about the size of most New Yorkers egos.
9. Philadelphia- I can't believe they traded away two of the best players in the entire league so they could sign a marginally better goalie. *looks at Bryzgalov's twitter feed* Never mind, I believe it.
10. Buffalo- Ehrhoff is not very good. Neither is that other guy that got signed. Or the other one. Point is, Buffalo spent a lot of money on not a lot of talent.
11. New York Islanders- Tavares rules. We share a birthday which bumps this team up like two spots at least.
12. Florida- People are somehow thinking Tomas Fleischmann is the best guy ever and he's gonna lead the Panthers to fame and glory. People being that guy Dobber at Puck Daddy. He's awful.
13. Tampa Bay- How many good years does St. Louis have left? What about Roloson?
14. Winnipeg- Smart move made by Winnipeg: claiming Brett MacLean on waivers. Other smart moves by them: N/A.
15. Ottawa- I'm not entirely sure this is a real NHL team.
1. Vancouver- I don't think they're the best in the West, but they're in the easiest division by far, and that counts for a lot of points.
2. San Jose- Another case of a coin-flip: the Kings will be neck and neck with the Sharks all season.
3. Chicago- So that Saad kid looks pretty decent, no? If only he'd cheer up wokka wokka
4. Los Angeles- That Mike Richards acquisition is going to let them murder the west. Anze Kopitar is gonna rack up massive massive points.
5. Detroit- Absolutely nothing has changed about this team. Datsyuk is still really awesome.
6. Nashville- Craig Smith is a Predator now? AWESOME. ON WISCONSIN AND WHATNOT.
7. Columbus- Much like the Richards trade for the Kings, having Carter on the BJs makes them a totally different team
8. Anaheim- I don't think they're a "good" team per se, but they're still playoff quality.
9. St. Louis- I just had to restrain myself from putting all the Central teams in the playoffs. Ridiculous.
10. Phoenix- Dave Tippet Dave Tippet Dave Tippet Dave Tippet
11. Dallas- Jamie Benn and Louie Eriksson more than make up for the loss of Richards. Benn is amazing.
12. Colorado- Pretty decent goaltending, improving forwards, slightly better defense. Not a playoff team, but they're getting there.
13. Calgary- This team is an injury away from 12th or worse. But hey! Great draft this year!
14. Minnesota- I find nothing redeeming about this team.
15. Edmonton- The Oilers D is hilariously awful. HILARIOUS.
Justin's 2011-12 NHL Predictions
1. Washington- Solid in most places, Elite in the others. This team has no weakness.
2. Boston- The best goaltending tandem in the league and lots of depth.
3. Pittsburgh- Showed what they could do sans Crosby and Malkin last year-imagine what they'll have with one or both.
4. New York Rangers- Richards does a lot for this team, but development from their under 25 guys is what puts them here.
5. Montreal- Price is legit, no matter what Habs fans think from time to time. Subban? Amazing.
6. Tampa Bay- Stamkos et al will produce, but I'm somewhat skeptical of their goaltending.
7. Philadelphia- Too much talent lost for this team to realistically compete this year.
8. Buffalo- That 200 kajillion dollars Pegula spent over the off season will get them in.
9. New Jersey- Brodeur sucks. They're not going to be able to get around that.
10. Toronto- Still not sold on Reimer or their first line.
11. Florida- The team just isn't good enough without Volkun to hit the top 8.
12. Winnipeg- These guys are the Atlanta Thrashers. Don't forget that.
13. New York Islanders- Great young pieces, but Nabokov will be the downfall of this team.
14. Carolina- One more year of development from guys like Sutter and Skinner is needed.
15. Ottawa- Can't shake the feeling of dread when I think about this team.
1. San Jose- Top 9, Top 4 and goaltender are all difference makers. Don't be surprised if they win 55 games this year.
2. Vancouver- Kesler's injury will hurt a bit, but not enough to drop them out of title conversation.
3. Chicago- Crawford & Emery will be decent enough that it won't affect the team.
4. Los Angeles- That forward corps should be the envy of almost every team in the league.
5. Nashville- They have everything except for an elite scoring threat. That'll be their downfall eventually.
6. Detroit- This will finally be the year the old guns will take a step back. Not much of one, mind you, but it will be back.
7. St. Louis- Still not sold on Halak, but the rest of the team is pretty good at even strength.
8. Columbus- Carter's addition and development on the blue line make this a playoff team.
9. Calgary- Kiprusoff-if he lasts the whole season-will once again be their doom.
10. Anaheim- I'm skeptical of Hiller's recovery and I don't think they'll get the bounces.
11. Phoenix- I don't think there'll be that much of a drop off, but that's because I'm delusional about their goaltending.
12. Dallas- Ribero's still around for the tough minutes, but losing a guy like Richards is never easy.
13. Edmonton- Their goaltending and defense are spectacularly bad, but the young forwards will make up for most of that.
14. Minnesota- Heatley and Setoguchi are going to get murdered on the top line. The defense sucks.
15. Colorado- Varlamov plays less then 41 games. Mark my word. This team sucks, by the way.
Scott's 2011-12 NHL Predictions
1- San Jose Sharks- The Sharks have it all, save for maybe goaltending. But, the changes made in the off-season and a Canucks team with some injuries in the first ¼ of the season should open the door for the Sharks to win home-ice throughout the post-season.
2- Vancouver Canucks- I'll take a full season of Alex Edler over Christian Erhoff any day. Last year's injuries forced the Canucks to show off their depth and they'll need to do the same to keep up with the Sharks. Regardless, they win the weak NW without much of a struggle.
3- Detroit Red Wings- Year-in, year-out, the Wings will contend. If they can get another above-average season out of Jimmy Howard, they should be able to stave off the ‘Hawks.
4- Los Angeles Kings- The Kings are getting close. With Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards leading their top 6 forwards, this is going to be a tough team to put away.
5- Chicago Blackhawks- The ‘Hawks have too much talent to fall much lower than this. But, they'll need Corey Crawford to remain solid in order to hang onto their post-season position.
6- Anaheim Ducks- Jonas Hiller. I repeat, Jonas Hiller.
7- St. Louis Blues- Are the Blues always a sleeper pick? A very nice trade last year and the emergence of Alex Pietrangelo (dark horse Norris nom?) means good things for the Blues.
8- Nashville Predators- Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Pekka Rinne and Barry Trotz. That's gotta be enough to slip into the playoffs doesn't it?
9- Columbus Blue Jackets- The Jackets made improvements but I have trouble seeing them knock any of the teams above them out... save for maybe the Blues.
10- Phoenix Coyotes- I have no confidence in a goaltending tandem of Mike Smith and Jason LaBarbera.
11- Calgary Flames- Asking for a better season of Miikka Kiprusoff while weakening the defense in front of him is not a recipe for success.
12- Minnesota Wild- Mikko Koivu is one of the most underrated centre's in the NHL. Unfortunately, his reward is Dany Heatley.
13- Dallas Stars- I see a Colorado Avalanche-style drop for the Stars this season. Never understood how they were competing for the playoffs last year, and without Richards, can't see them getting a sniff. Oh wait - they got Souray! ... nevermind.
14- Edmonton Oilers- I think the Oilers will be improved and so I knocked them up to 14 to be nice. At some point management is going to have to think about acquiring some real experience.
15- Colorado Avalanche- It's gonna really hurt when they watch the Caps win the draft lottery next year.
1- Pittsburgh Penguins- Players returning from injury should only add to a team that learned to win without their stars last year.
2- Boston Bruins- I'm just not sure the Sabres or Habs have enough to overtake the B's. However, after 2 long runs, the Bruins could be ripe for the picking this year. See the ‘Hawks from last year.
3- Washington Capitals- I believe in Alex Ovechkin returning to form.
4- Buffalo Sabres- The Sabres were on the right track without overspending in the off-season. But, solidifying depth among the roster will help this team regardless of the cost.
5- Tampa Bay Lightning- Stay the course in TBay. Another year of experience for the youth will help, as will any and all prayers regarding the health and longevity of Dwayne Roloson.
6- Montreal Canadiens- The return of Andrei Markov could eventually pay dividends for the Habs.
7- New York Rangers- One Marion Gaborik nick away from sitting in the 10 hole.
8- Carolina Hurricanes- They always seem to surprise me.
9- Philadelphia Flyers- The Flyers sold way too much for way too little. However, it's a one-off and the Flyers will look good for 2012/2013.
10- Toronto Maple Leafs- If it were any other team pitting their playoff hopes on a kid like James Reimer, we'd all laugh at them. Even if he is the answer, the Leafs are in tough to make the post-season.
11- Florida Panthers- Money spent doesn't necessarily mean success. But, they're likely improved and could just surprise people.
12- New Jersey Devils- No respect? Maybe so. I'd like to see Parise and co. earn it back.
13- New York Islanders- Much like the Oilers, a lot depends on the development of youth. Their youth is nice, but you have to be careful not to ask for too much development.
14- Winnipeg Jets- There's not much here. Much like the Devils, the Thrashers rode a streak that aided in their finish in the standings. They're ‘moving' (zing!) in the right direction, though.
15- Ottawa Senators- I like Craig Anderson and I like that this team prides itself on being tough to play against, but I don't buy it.
Tomorrow our award picks will go up- and remember, go Flames!