Friday, October 09, 2015

The Peerless Prognosticator Presents: Your 2015-2016 NHL Division Prognostos

The Washington Capitals have not played yet, so the season has not yet started.  That gives us barely enough time to present this year's prodigious prognostos, the only ones you'll ever need.

Eastern Conference

Metropolitan Division

1. Washington Capitals. What, you were expecting us to pick someone else? We’re picking them to win the division, win the Stanley Cup, and Barry Trotz to be elected Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. This could be the best chance ever for the Caps to win a Stanley Cup. It is the most balanced and stylistically varied team in its history.

2. Pittsburgh Penguins. Breaking…the Penguins signed Phil Kessel to play alongside Sidney Crosby. Oh, you knew? Well, isn’t that good for you. Only one thing matters to this team this year: health. If they have it, they can win the Cup. If they don’t, making the playoffs is iffy.

3. New York Rangers. We were torn here about which borough would finish higher, Manhattan or Brooklyn. In the end, the difference is Henrik Lundqvist. But don’t mistake this team for last year’s; it’s not as good.

4. New York Islanders. There is something about this team we just don’t like, and it’s not just because, well…they’re unlikable (which they are). John Tavares is a beast, but are there enough teammates to join him for the ride? And their goaltending…that’s going to be an issue. Write it down.

5. Columbus Blue Jackets. The Blue Jackets lost more man games to injury last season than General Lee lost at Gettysburg (there is our Columbus/Civil War reference for the day). Even if some guys (read: Nick Foligno) don’t quite finish with the numbers they had last year, Columbus will be better, if healthy.

6. Philadelphia Flyers. It’s going to be a long, long winter in Philadelphia. They have two too many Schenns, not a lot of forward depth, and a defense that will have goalie Steve Mason throwing his blocker at them before the season is 30 games old.

7. New Jersey Devils.  The Devils used to like to play a lot of 2-1 and 1-0 games. This year there will be a lot of -1 and -0 games, and they’ll be on the wrong side of them. The only reason they get the nod over Carolina is Cory Schneider in goal.

8. Carolina Hurricanes. The only excitement this season in Raleigh is going to be all the speculation on where Eric Staal will be traded. Brother Jordan will be heard to whimper, “can’t you take me with you, bro?”

Atlantic Division

1. Tampa Bay Lightning. Maybe the best one-two punch in the league. That would be general manager Steve Yzerman and head coach Jon Cooper. The Lightning are skilled and deep. About the only thing that might cause concern is if goaltender Ben Bishop is average…or worse.

2. Montreal Canadiens. Last year, Carey Price was just about the only thing separating the Canadiens from the playoffs and early tee times. He will have to be just about as good this year. “Just about” still makes the Habs a playoff team, but they are second best in a weak division outside of the Lightning.

3. Detroit Red Wings. The last time the Red Wings missed the postseason, “The Simpsons” was just ending its first season on television. Someday, that consecutive-years streak of playoff appearances is going to end (24 years and counting). It won’t be this year, but don’t mistake this team for your Daddy’s Red Wings.

4. Ottawa Senators. It is so easy to overlook this team. They took advantage of that to finish with 99 points last season. They could do it again.

5. Florida Panthers. There is a future for this team (maybe not in Florida, but that’s another matter). It just won’t be this year. At least we’ll have Jaromir’s Mullet , which we are surprised is not yet a Twitter name.

6. Boston Bruins. This is the NHL’s version of a vintage car that is rusting on the side of the road. Zdeno Chara is not “older” as much as he has become “old.” They lack scoring depth, and they have similar depth problems on defense. Tuukka Rask might the only thing saving this club from perhaps being a lottery contestant.

7. Toronto Maple Leafs. Looks like this year’s theme is “Be Patient.” Yeah, that’s going to be a winning slogan. Only once in 12 seasons as an NHL coach has Mike Babcock coached a team that lost 35 or more games. This year will make two.

8.  Buffalo Sabres.  Having Jack Eichel is nice.  Adding Evander Kane and Ryan O'Reilly...ditto.  It won't be nearly enough this year, though.  Talk to us next year.

Western Conference

Central Division

1. St. Louis Blues. These are regular season standings, right? The Blues are a great regular season team. Besides, they have Troy Brouwer.

2. Chicago Blackhawks. You do remember that the Blackhawks finished third in the division last year, right? Well, they’re still at least that good. Losing Brandon Saad will hurt, but not a lot. The only question here is how much that Patrick Kane thing might be a distraction.

3. Minnesota Wild. If the Capitals are the trendy Eastern Conference pick to do good things this season, the Wild might be that team in the West. The only question here is whether Devan Dubnyk was a one-hit (ok, four-month) wonder in goal.

4. Nashville Predators. The Predators have a lot of good pieces, but there are two questions on defense that merit examination. First, was last season merely a hiccup for Shea Weber (his performance numbers – goals, assists, points – dropped last season)? Second, is Sean Jones ready to take a big step upward?

5. Dallas Stars. If the Pittsburgh Penguins are going to be the “fun-to-watch” team in the East this season, the Stars will claim that title in the West. Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza, and new addition Patrick Sharp. They should be able to score. It’s the rest that will be the problem.

6. Winnipeg Jets. The Jets were a nice story last season, reaching the playoffs in their fourth season in Winnipeg. This year, cold reality sets in. They are not that strong in goal, and while Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien are playing for contracts, they might be doing it somewhere else in March.

7. Colorado Avalanche. When Patrick Roy took over as head coach for the Avalanche in 2013-2014 and led them to 112 points and their first playoff appearance since 2010, he was “fiery.” Last year, the Avs finished with just 90 points, last in the division and out of the playoffs. Roy was just “loud.” If Colorado doesn’t improve this season, whispers might be heard about Roy being “on the hot seat.”

Pacific Division

1. Anaheim Ducks.  Bruce Boudreau has had an interesting progression in his almost-four years in Anaheim.  Missed playoffs, lose in first round, lose in second round, lose in conference final.  Guess that means losing in this year’s Cup final.

2. Los Angeles Kings.  Missing the playoffs altogether after winning the Cup in two of the three previous years has a way of making players and coaches cranky.  That will be taken out on Kings’ opponents this year.

3. San Jose Sharks. Team Disappointment (Western Conference edition) finally gave up the ghost last season, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2003.  It cost Todd McLellan his job behind the bench.  Peter DeBoer will do better, but not all that much.  Key will be how Martin Jones copes with a bigger workload in goal, not that he’s out of Los Angeles.

4. Calgary Flames.  The Flames went deeper into the postseason last year than at any time since losing in the Cup final in 2004.  This could be a breakout year for Sam Bennett, just as last year was for Johnny Gaudreau.

5. Vamcouver Canucks.  After the Year of Tortorella, the Canucks returned to the postseason last year.  Their 48 wins was something of a surprise.  There will be no surprises this year.  The Sedins and Ryan Miller are all on the wrong side of 35 years old.

6. Edmonton Oilers.  You would think that someday, with as many top-five draft picks as this team has had over the last six years (five, four of them first overall) that they would be on their way to Oiler Dynasty 2.0.  Even with Connor McDavid, “The Best Prospect Since Sidney Crosby,” they are at least a year away from the postseason.

7. Arizona Coyotes.  Their whole season is based on two words: “Auston Matthews.” Woof.

Later…the postseason and awards.

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