We did it! We made it through another offseason, and the moment we have all been waiting for is FINALLY HERE!!!!
Hockey is back!
Which means it is time to give my rundown on the season ahead. Take out your wallets and head to Vegas, because you can bet on it:
Starting out East with the top-heavy Atlantic Division, I don’t think I’m going to blow anyone away here with this, but you’ve got some really good teams. Tampa Bay is still the best team in the NHL, lead by Kucherov, Stammer and young gun Brayden Point up front, with maybe the best defensive-defenceman in the league in Victor Hedman, and the most athletic goalie in the league in Andrei Vasilevskiy. Tampa is going to win the division again, and most likely claim the President’s Trophy. They’re just too good, and too deep.
Boston is going to be solid again this year, and have a good mix of young, hungry kids fighting for minutes in the big league, with some solid veterans and maybe the best first line in hockey (if they keep Pastrnak on the first line, which is yet to be seen). I believe they come in second again.
… Becuase while the Leafs made the big splash this offseason signing John Tavares, it just isn’t good enough. I’m sorry Leafs fans, but when the Bruins ousted you in the first round last year, and Jake Gardiner cried about his -5 performance, you all screamed for better defence next season. And guess what!? You didn’t do that! The Leafs still have a joke of a defensive core. And while they added Tavares potential 40 goals, you lost JVR’s 36 goals from last year. I’m no idiot, obviously Tavares is way better than JVR, but you can’t ignore the facts. The point is, with all the pressure in Leaf Land, the team isn’t as good as the expectations imply, and that equals a third spot in the Atlantic. And I would even go as far to say as maybe even a Wild Card spot if they’re not careful.
For the rest of the division, I think Florida and Buffalo will be better, and could squeak into the playoffs. But at least their fans will be cheering into the final week of the season which is something to look forward to.
I also believe with the lack of pressure and underdog mentality that the Ottawa Senators face here, they will not be as bad as people think. Watch for them to have a quick start this season. That leaves the worst team in the NHL in my opinion – the Montreal Canadiens – to drop to the bottom.
- Tampa Bay
In the Metro, I think Crosby and Malkin can do no wrong and will be back at the top of the division. Philly has a great offensive machine, with some young d-men that will come into form this year in Gostisbehere, Provorov, and Sanheim, and I see that group taking a big step. They just need their goaltending to hold up (what else is new).
I don’t have high expectations for the hungover Washington Capitals. Something about their summer tells me they will have a slow start, have big egos, a less-motivated Ovechkin, and could potentially even miss the playoffs. Does anyone remember how poor of a regular season Holtby had last year before he got hot in the playoffs? They can’t afford that again, and they don’t have Grubauer to save their ass if he does. And now they will be without Tom Wilson for 20 games.
Next up is the 5-0-1 preseason Carolina Hurricanes (what!?). Obviously that success wont continue into the regular season, but I do think rookie coach Rod Brind’Amour has something cooking in Carolina, and expect them to keep it tight to an eventual playoff spot all year.
Columbus has done nothing to impress me this offseason, and isn’t this about the time that John Tortorella loses the dressing room? Combine that with the fact that their best forward, Artemi Panarin wants out, and you have a Columbus team on the outside looking in.
- New Jersey
- NY Rangers
- NY Islanders
Oh Lordy is this division going to be fun to watch or what? Solid from top to bottom, I could see it being one of those divisions that is separated by 7 points all year, much like the Metro was last season.
You have the Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators at the top, there isn’t much arguing about that. I think that Rinne (35) is getting a little long in the tooth though, especially compared to Hellebuyck, and I expect that to be the difference in the end, much like it was in Game 7 of the second round last year.
St. Louis impressed me in the offseason, acquiring Tyler Bozak, David Perron, and Ryan O’Reilly. Not the flashiest names maybe, but those are the types of players that turn a middle of the pack team into a contender. I’m still not convinced they’re close to the Cup or anything, but I think they will be hungry to get back into the playoffs.
Then you have the young guns in Colorado. They still have a great first line in Landeskog, MacKinnon, and Rantanen and I really like the addition of Phillip Grubauer to tighten up the goalie situation. Expect them to get a Wild Card spot again.
Dallas, Chicago and Minnesota won’t be dogshit by any means, but I see them as a few points worse than the teams mentioned above, and that will be the difference in the end.
- St. Louis
Last but not least, we get to the Pacific Division. A couple weeks ago this list might look a little different, but with the addition of Karlsson to the San Jose Sharks, and the fact that they lost nothing in the process, makes them a little scary. With the core they already had, Evander Kane playing as well as he did down the stretch, and Burns, Karlsson, and Vlassic munching minutes (which makes Martin Jones a Vezina candidate already), you’ve got a scary team. Hopefully Joe Thornton didn’t curse them by cutting off his beard the other day.
Next up is the Vegas Golden Knights, and we all know better than to count them out right? So I’m not gonna do that. They may regress a bit with the loss of Perron and Neal, but with the addition of Pacioretty from Montreal, I think they will be just fine.
Then you have the Calgary Flames, and just like the St. Louis Blues, I love their offseason moves and think they could have improved more than anyone with the additions of Neal, Hanafin, Lindholm, Derek Ryan, and Austin Czarnik. It helps them fill out more, and allows them to stick guys like Sam Bennet on the 4th line, making this a pretty deep squad. If Mike Smith stays healthy, the Flames will be back in the playoffs.
In SoCal, it feels like the Kings and Ducks are on upswing going down still, and with the addition of 36 year old Kovalchuk in LA, that doesn’t help their case. The Ducks should probably be able to grab a Wild Card spot, but they will need John Gibson to stand on his head, as scoring could be an issue for them.
In Edmonton, they still have the best player in the NHL, but didn’t address their issues this offseason for some reason, and now expect the team to be better than it was last year? I don’t buy it. Maybe they improve by 5-10 points, but they are still not good enough to get in the playoffs.
- San Jose
- Las Vegas
- Los Angeles
I think it would be ridiculous to do a full playoff prediction at this point, so I will leave you with this:
The Winnipeg Jets will beat the Boston Bruins in the 2019 Stanley Cups Finals.
Good luck to your team this year! And remember, nothing is won or lost in the first game, week, or month. So everyone just needs to CALM THE FUCK DOWN and enjoy the hockey.