Another NHL season will be here in two weeks time, give or take, and like many fans, I like to predict who will finish where. Last year, while many of my NYR predictions came true (early exit, Lundqvist can’t carry the team to the cup, Stanley Cup window is closed) I was hit or miss around the league. Injuries will always do that. (See Carey Price, Montreal.) My Stanley Cup prediction of the Washington Capitals vs Chicago Blackhawks didn’t exactly pan out, but I did pretty good calling the way the divisions would play out. You can read last year’s predictions and a recap of how I did by clicking here .
While you can check the front page of BlueCollarBlueShirts.com for more of my Ranger predictions and thoughts, here is how I see the 2016-2017 NHL season going down.
Capitals – despite last year’s crushing playoff defeat to eventual champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins, I think the Capitals still have the firepower and goalie to get them to the promised land. What is funny is the similarity that Lundqvist and Ovechkin share. You know I’m one of the people who think Lundqvist should be traded because of his terrible contract. Some Capital fans feel the same way about Ovi.I wouldn’t agree with their thinking, just because I think Cups are now won in this new cap NHL with offense. Last year’s President Trophy winners have a good shot at repeating. However, just like Lundqvist, Ovechkin needs to get the monkey off his back and win the Cup. Watching Crosby win another one should fire Ovi & the Caps up. However, this team hasn’t moved past the second round since Ovi got there. Will this be the year? I think so.
Penguins – let me start by saying that I am biased, as you all know. I despise the Penguins. However, logically looking at them, the reason I don’t see them repeating as Stanley Cup champions is because there isn’t much history to support it. Sure, the franchise did it back in the days of Super Mario Lemieux & Jaromir Jagr, but this is a different NHL. The salary cap (you know how much I love cap, ugh) prevents teams from repeating. The long grind of multiple NHL seasons also takes a toll. I think we saw that with the Blackhawks and Kings last season. The biggest thing to watch in Pittsburgh is to see what happens with the goalie situation. A rookie Matt Murray won a Stanley Cup last season. Why pay Marc-Andre Fleury top dollar, especially when he has been shaky in the past? Do the Penguins explore trading Fleury for another offensive weapon or blue line help? I don’t think the team you see right now is the team we see come April.
Devils – this won’t be a popular pick, and perhaps I’m over-rating Taylor Hall a bit here, but as someone who watched almost every Edmonton Oiler game last season, Hall is the real deal. Just look at how teams are winning Cups these days, since the new salary cap went into effect. Quality offense and a solid goalie who doesn’t kill the cap. Hall brings the offense and Cory Schneider is just as good as any goalie in the NHL on any given night. As a Ranger fan, it still drives me mad that the Devils were able to steal Hall for practically nothing. I mean, the Rangers couldn’t trade Staal or Girardi and picks for Hall? The Devils are also one of those organizations that don’t stink for very long, and I think they make their return to the tournament this season.
Flyers – This is a team on the rise, led by Claude Giroux. The Flyers never really had a shot in the playoffs last year, with a white-hot & rested Capitals waiting for them. Whether the Flyers can get a better seed in this years tournament, well that’s up to them. The Flyers have an offense that can get going on any given night, but needs to be more consistent, like any team, to rack up points. Simmonds is one of those players that you love to hate, but wish he was on your team. He’s had some run in Philly. With new blood like Shayne Gostisbehere anchoring the defense, the Flyers will be a threat this season.
Rangers – I’m giving the Rangers the slight nod over the Islanders here. I think both teams regress going into this season. Check out the front page of this blog for more on the Rangers, but simply put, they got worse from last season. And last season wasn’t pretty. The Rangers have enough talent to make a playoff run, but whether they do or not is another question. Being a biased Ranger fan, perhaps I’m overrating Buchnevich & Vesey a bit, but if they can get into a groove, maybe the young blood carries them into the tournament. I just don’t see the Rangers ever winning a cup with the bloated contract of Henrik Lundqvist. If you are going to rebuild in some areas, you got to rebuild every area, or you’re just left with an incomplete project.
Islanders – no question about it, John Tavares is the best player in the tri-state area. However, he can’t do it all, and he will be captaining a team without Okposo, Martin or Neilsen. Will Chimera & Ladd be better than what left? It’s debatable. The Islanders may also have a goalie situation. Greiss played great last year, towards the end of the season. Are Halak days numbered? Where as a Ranger fan, I expect the blueshirts to make a big splash at the trade deadline, for better or for worse, I don’t really see that with the Islanders. The Islanders got so many problems going on, between their building, a new owner and trying to draw fans. I think the product on the ice is secondary to everything else going on in Islander land. After showing signs of trying to get over the hump, I think the Isles take a step down this season.
Hurricanes – Just like their mascot, I think it will be “Stormy” in Carolina. After cutting bait on Eric Staal late last year, Carolina plans to get younger as they try to repeat the success of their 2006 run. The Hurricanes do have good talent in the organization, but the Metropolitan division is the toughest in hockey. Last year, the Metro sent 5 teams to the playoffs. The Metro also has the last two President Trophy winners and last years Stanley Cup Champs. You need to be great to win in this division and the Hurricanes aren’t that right now.
Bluejackets – I would be shocked if head coach John Tortorella makes it through the year. After benching Jack Johnson and Brandon Dubinsky in the World Cup, I’m going to say that Torts has some fractured relationships in his locker room. This is a team that started out 0-8 last season, before Tortorella was brought in to right the ship. Atkinson and Hartnell would be wise to seek a move, because they are just toiling around in Ohio. Stipe Miocic won the UFC World Title. Lebron brought a Championship home in the most dramatic fashion possible. I don’t see the Bluejackets bringing anything home but their gear at the end of the regular season.
Lightning – are you ready? Spoiler alert: The Tampa Bay Lightning are my pick to win the Stanley Cup this year. After knocking on the door the last few years, I think the Lightning break through and win their first Cup since 2004. The Rangers, who lost the Cup in ’14 & lost in the ECF in ’15 wound up falling in the first round last year. The Bolts lost the Cup in ’15 and lost in the ECF in ’16. However, this Lightning team is more stacked than ever and with a healthy Stamkos, should have the edge over the Penguins or Capitals in a 7 game series. Jonathan Drouin, who will play a full season, is a great in-house addition to the team. It’s amazing, the Bolts knew how special Drouin would be and wouldn’t deal him despite Drouin holding out. The fake Stamkos sweepstakes are over as well. There is talk about trading Bishop because of cap reasons, but I would leave the team as is. On a Ranger aside, the Bolts have just owned Lundqvist the last 10 meetings, or basically when the Rangers gave up a bounty for MSL. Ugh.
Panthers – after a surprising run last season, which ended in an even more surprising first round loss to the Islanders, the Panthers seem primed to make a nice run this year. The Panthers have not yet named a captain, as of this writing, but make no bones about it, Jagr is a leader. Jagr is what makes this team exciting. However, with the addition of Keith Yandle for next to nothing (Great job Rangers!) joining Aaron Ekblad & co., the Panthers have a quality defense. Luongo, akin to Lundqvist and Ovi, is another long-time veteran looking for his first Cup. While I think it will be the other Florida team that does it this year, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Panthers made a go of it either.
Canadiens – two huge developments are going on in Montreal this season. Most importantly, the Canadiens have former Hart & Vezina winner, Carey Price back in net, after a season-long injury last year. Gone is long-time fan favorite, PK Subban, who was oddly traded to Nashville for Shea Weber. I’m still trying to figure out this trade. I just don’t get it for either side. I’m interested in seeing how Price does. He is now becoming somewhat injury prone. Can he last a whole season? If he does, I would expect Montreal back in the playoffs. With not one Canadian team making the tournament last season, Montreal should have the best shot at it.
Sabres – Brian Gionta may be the captain of this young Buffalo squad, but Jack Eichel is the man to watch on this team. Their defense is improving, with Rasmus Ristolainen leading the way. Their goaltending situation is a little shaky with Robin Lehner, but this is a team that has some firepower offensively. They tanked two years ago to be in the McDavid/Eichel sweepstakes. Last year was a rebuild. If they can sneak into the playoffs this year, it will be a huge step in the right direction. The Sabres franchise, under new ownership, looks to have a brighter future than most rebuilding teams in the league.
Senators – Erik Karlsson mans a team that had a shaky season last year. Former Ranger Derrick Brassard enters the team, who led the Rangers in scoring last season. More on that trade on the front page of this site. There is optimism in O-town, with Bobby Ryan & Kyle Turris leading the way. There’s a lot of changes on this team from last year. While the Maple Leafs dominate the majority of headlines in Ontario, it should be the Senators who have the better season.
Red Wings – after being obliterated by Tampa in the playoffs last year, the Red Wings, with I believe, a 26 consecutive season string of playoff runs (Too lazy to google the exact number, but it’s around there), won’t make the playoffs this season. Pavel Datsyuk, who just retired, was second on the team in scoring. Another Rangers aside – the Coyotes were allowed to trade for his dead weight contract to make the cap floor. Where was Gorton to offer Nash, Girardi or Staal? Zetterberg & Nyqvist should have good seasons, as well as sophomore Dylan Larkin, but in this division, I don’t think it will be enough. They snuck in last year and didn’t do much to improve their chances this year.
Maple Leafs – the talk of Toronto finally made a move in the right path when they got Auston Mathews with the first pick in the draft. Just watching the WCH, can you imagine if Edmonton got the first pick again? Just imagine Mathews & McDavid every day! Anyway, that won’t happen and neither will the playoffs for Toronto. However, it should be a learning experience for a bunch of young talent and Toronto should be competitive again in two years. On the bright side, depending on how you look at it, the Leafs will celebrate their Cup win from 50 years ago (1967) this season.
Bruins – The Bruins missed the playoffs by a tie-breaker last season. That’s heart-breaking. However, I don’t think they will have to worry much in April, the playoffs will be a long gone dream for this team by then. The Bruins are still an old club. Can you believe that Chara is entering his tenth season as Captain in Boston? Can you believe the Islanders gave him away for Yashin? How did that work out! I think it will be a long season in Beantown.
Blackhawks – the Blues had their fun last year. Now back to reality. After many seasons of long playoff runs, that included 3 Stanley Cup wins (Why couldn’t this be the Rangers?) perhaps fatigue and the grind got to one of the best teams in the salary cap era. The Blackhawks were bounced out in the first round and had a long summer to think about it. The team from last year, is largely in-tact. When you have Kane and Toews on the same team, there is no excuse not to make the playoffs. The Blackhawks will regain hold of the Central division again.
Blues – I’m surprised Ken Hitchcock was allowed to coach last season after years of agony in the playoffs. The Blues finally got out of the first round last year, getting the Blackhawk monkey off their back. The Blues won two 7 game series last year, making it to the WCF, before losing to the Sharks. Too bad for them, because I think that was their best shot at a Cup. Like Chicago, their star players all remain, as Shattenkirk, subject of many trade rumors, stayed in STL.
Predators – the Predators made the playoffs as a wildcard last year, losing to the Sharks in the second round. The biggest talk in Nashville is the Subban/Weber deal. I think Subban will be fine there. The Predators have the second highest paid goalie in hockey, with Rinne. You know my theory – you can’t win a Cup with a top 5 paid goalie in this league. I think it will be more of the same in Nashville – a decent regular season before a first or second round exit.
Stars – despite finishing first in the Western Conference standings, the Stars were upset by the Blues in the second round. The Stars are another solid team in this league. They are better than treading water, but they aren’t dominant either. To me, they are a head up above the majority of the teams in the league, but won’t win the big one. Spezza and Benn lead the offense, with Klingberg running the defense. The biggest problem in Dallas is the goalie situation. You got Lehtonen & Niemi making more than Lundqvist combined. Dallas should’ve explored trading for a top 5 paid goalie, rather than paying the goaltender position 17% of their cap.
Avalanche – Patrick Roy is done with the organization. Can Jared Bednar take a team of young bucks like MacKinnon, Landeskog, Duchene and Barrie to the playoffs? Jarome Iginla must think so, because this veteran chasing a cup is remaining in Colorado. I just think most of the teams in this division are far superior. Roy feels the organization is making mistakes, and that will remain to be seen.
Wild – the Minnesota Wild have made a few first round exits in the last few years. This year, I think they will exit before the playoffs start. The Wild with stars like Koivu, Parise and Suter bring long time Hurricanes captain & one time Ranger bust Eric Staal into the mix, while Vanek leaves the team. Devan Dubnyk had a good run last year as the starting goalie. However, this team seems like it’s missing something to be considered a perennial playoff contender. Playing in the western conference doesn’t help them much either.
Jets – just like the NFL team, I don’t expect the Jets to do much this season. They are a young club, with Blake Wheeler getting the C this season over one of the best defensemen in the league, Dustin Byfuglien. The Jets are a team that seems like they’ve been rebuilding forever. Like most bottom of the barrel teams, the Jets just have too much competition in their division to make a real run at it.
Ducks – the Ducks won the division last year and were upset in the playoffs by wildcard Nashville. The Ducks have a scary good offense, led by Perry, Kesler & Getzlaf. The Ducks seem to always have good teams and did win the Stanley Cup 10 years ago. However, since then, they just seem to have good regular season, but wilt in the playoffs. I think the trend will remain true this season as well, as their stars continue to age a bit. I just don’t see Gibson or Bernier playing well enough to carry the team when they need them to the most.
Kings – there were a lot of upsets in last years first round. None bigger than the LA Kings, being dominated by the San Jose Sharks. It was almost a given the Kings would make quick work of the Sharks, as they’ve done in previous seasons. For LA, winners of 2 Stanley Cups in the salary cap era, is it burnout of the long grind? Maybe. However, I’d be shocked if they didn’t have a deep playoff run this season. Jonathan Quick is arguably the best goalie in the NHL. Doughty is arguably the best defenseman in the NHL. Kopitar ain’t shabby either. I expect LA to rebound and make a go of it this year, even if they finish second in the division.
Sharks – last years WCF champions had a magical season, but ran into a team that had the NHL and NBC promoting them. Seriously, the whole Stanley Cup was about what Pittsburgh was doing right and wrong, while the Sharks were playing second fiddle. A pure disgrace. I mean, you had blowjob Pierre McGuire high fiving guys on the Pens after either Game 2 or 3. Memory is a little hazy of which game it was. The big question going into this season in San Jose is “are the Sharks for real?” Did they just catch LA beat-up? Can the Sharks handle the Kings or Blackhawks in a 7 game series in 2017? They have quality players in Burns, Thornton, Couture and Pavelski. They also have a taste of it. I’m just not sure if this team got a lot of luck on the way to the Cup last year.
Oilers – my favorite west coast team because of Cam Talbot, but let’s be honest, the Oilers gave the Rangers the 1994 Cup. In fact, when I was in Edmonton last season, fans consider the 1994 Cup the Oilers 6th Cup! I watched nearly every Oilers game last season and I really picked the right time to jump on the train. Connor McDavid can be better than Crosby when it’s all said and done. If you’re a fan of hockey, you need the NHL pass just to watch him night in and night out. I have no clue what Edmonton was thinking with the Hall trade. There’s no explanation that will do, especially with Yakupov still there. They did pick up Lucic though. The Oilers D is as shaky as it gets around the league, but with McDavid hopefully playing a full season (he missed 4 months last year after being boarded by Michael Del Zaster) perhaps the defense won’t be needed as much. I think the Oilers get a taste of the playoffs this season.
Flames – when you think of the Flames, you think of Johnny “Hockey” Gaudreau. He was amazing to watch in the WCH this year too. The Flames brought in Brian Elliot of STL to help mind the nets. I’m surprised they didn’t try to make a run at Fleury. I don’t know if Elliot is that much of an upgrade. Giordano and Wideman anchor a defense that was a bit better than most teams last season. When I was in Calgary last season, it didn’t seem many fans had high hopes for the team and only cared about Johnny Hockey. The Flames need to bring in some pieces, veterans perhaps, to make a real go of it.
Coyotes – the Coyotes might be the most interesting story in the NHL. The Coyotes hired 27 year old John Chayka to be the GM of the squad. As someone who is 34 years old and thinks they could’ve done a better job than Glen Sather these last few years, I’m interested in seeing what Chayka pulls off. To get to the cap floor, the Yotes took the dead contract of Datsyuk of Detroit. Again, where were the Rangers to unload maybe Nash, Girardi or Staal? This team is a work in progress with young guns such as Domi and Duclair (I FUCKING HATED THAT THE RANGERS TRADED THE DUKE) leading the way. Doan is the old reliable in Arizona, but this is not a team built to win. It’s built to be around. Does anyone ever see the Coyotes being a buyer at a trade deadline?
Canucks – I said two years ago I thought the Rangers should’ve tried to make move for the Sedin brothers. They are just rotting in Vancouver. The NHL does a horrible job marketing its stars, but the Sedins do themselves no favors playing in Vancouver. Ryan Miller has been on a downward spiral the last few seasons. I wouldn’t want him as my netminder. Their defense is atrocious. It seems Canadian teams are locks for number 1 picks, and it wouldn’t shock me if Vancouver held the number 1 pick come June 2017.
EASTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFF TEAMS:
- Tampa Bay Lightning
- Washington Capitals
- Pittsburgh Penguins
- Florida Panthers
- NJ Devils
- Montreal Canadiens
- Philadelphia Flyers
- NY Rangers (Not gonna lie, I’m being a total homer here.)
WESTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFF TEAMS:
- Anaheim Ducks
- Chicago Blackhawks
- LA Kings
- St. Louis Blues
- San Jose Sharks
- Nashville Predators
- Dallas Stars
- Edmonton Oilers
Eastern Conference Finals
Tampa Bay Lighting vs Washington Capitals
Western Conference Finals
Chicago Blackhawks vs LA Kings
Stanley Cup Finals
Tampa Bay Lightning over Chicago Blackhawks
There you have it folks. Like Metallica, I’m riding the lightning. Before I get the tweets from the people who live in their parents basement and never seen Mike Richter play – YES I WANT THE RANGERS TO WIN THE STANLEY CUP. However, they’ve won 4 cups in 90 years. Odds aren’t for the Rangers. Keep it on the main page of BlueCollarBlueShirts.com for more Rangers analysis and opinions.
I’m blogging like a mad man this week, so feel free to send me your hate mail, feedback and love sonnets to:
@NYCTHEMIC on the tweet tweet.