Hockey’s Back! NHL 2017-2018 Predictions: Analyzing All 31 NHL Teams, Who Will Win The Cup, Who Makes The Playoffs, Whose Window is Closing, Teams on the Rise, Who Fails & More. Plus: New York Rangers Preseason Preview & Thoughts.

To me, this is the year that Connor McDavid surpasses Sidney Crosby. Photo Credit: Getty Images.

What’s up everyone and welcome to another blog here on BlueCollarBlueShirts.com. HOCKEY IS BACK!

In the last 24 hours, I purchased & played “NHL 18” for the Playstation 4, bought a brand new Kevin Shattenkirk Adidas Rangers jersey (like a sucker), finalized all my road trips for the 2017-2018 season and got all the tickets (in hand) to the home games that I want to attend this season. What games do I want to attend the most? If you know me, this should be a no-brainer! Of the 6 home games I bought from a season ticket holder, I will be there for the home opener, the Oilers game, the Thanksgiving weekend game and the Jean Ratelle game. Those games stick out the most to me and I’m ready to get roaring.

Guess what else happened in the last 24 hours? The NHL Network “conveniently” charged my Paypal account $139.99 for the season package. The package is well worth it, but they took that money out before I could add in a 10% off coupon code. It’s amazing how fast and greedy the NHL can be to take your money. However, when it comes to them providing refunds or displaying any sort of customer service, they are long gone like a Maury Povich DNA contestant.

While money has been leaking out of my bank account like water through a busted pipe, I guess there are worse addictions out there! Hopefully, with all season expenses now paid for, this pipe will hold on until next season. Or if things go well – when the Rangers make the playoffs. The only thing I can guarantee you is this – my money is safe from buying a Henrik Lundswiss jersey!

The NHL centennial led to the Rangers announcing that they will honor Jean Ratelle’s number 19 on 2/25/18. Photo Credit: NHL.com

I know many fans enjoy the summer and tune out on hockey. Several of you readers, that I haven’t heard from since May, are now starting to catch up on some of the blogs I did over the summer. If you’re one of the people that forgets the ice for the beach, you can check out all the blogs I did during the summer, by visiting the main page. The “Delorean” blogs, which were blogs of me reviewing old Ranger games, as if I was living during the year of when the game was played, were a big hit.

Over the course of the summer, I also gave my thoughts on all the big topics, such as the Shattenkirk signing, the NHL awards, buying out Girardi, the Stepan/Raanta trade, etc. I also did a ton of book reviews. The reason I mention all this, is because when I do this blog, I will not be rehashing anything that I’ve already written about in-depth. These blogs are long enough already! However, it’s easy to scroll around and find what you need, if you so choose to.

Before jumping into the meat and potatoes of this blog, here are my last several blogs:

New York Ranger Media Day Thoughts, AV’s Craziness and Why I’m Still Skeptical. Plus: An In-Depth “Behind the Bench” Book Review, as Craig Custance Interviews 10 Of The Best Coaches in the NHL Today, Including John Tortorella!


Frank Boucher Update: The Boucher Family Shares Exclusive Pictures/Heirlooms From Frank Boucher’s Career, The Latest Update on Trying To Get The Rangers To Notice The Greatest Ranger Of Them All, The Frank Boucher Award & More


George Grimm’s “We Did Everything But Win: Former New York Rangers Remember the Emile Francis Era (1964-1976)” In-Depth Book Review. Tons of Famous NYR Alumni Speak All Things Rangers, Many “Close, But No Cigar” Seasons, Comparison With Today’s Era & Much More


The Latest Rangers & NHL Rumblings: Time for Zucc & McDonagh To Step Up, Pets & Vets, NYR Whack Tanner Glass Like He’s Tommy In “Goodfellas”, Frank Boucher’s Family Reaches Out, Cam Connor, Arizona Rangers, Jagr Watch, Who Gets the “A” on the Jersey, Traverse Tourney, Kelly Talbot’s Efforts in Houston & Much More


The Sixth Delorean Blog: May 12th, 1995, as the Rangers take on the Quebec Nordiques in Game 4! My First Ever Playoff Game, Steve Larmer = the OT Hero, Mike Richter Adds Another Moment to His Legacy After Healy Struggles, Brian Leetch, Matteau Fights, The Lockout, Tons of Free Video, Collective Soul, The Jerky Boys & Much More From a Memorable Playoff Victory



If you missed it, Frank Boucher continued to be a big topic on this site all summer long. I’m in contact with the family and it is my goal to get the Rangers to retire his #7 jersey. You may know me as the guy who doesn’t like Henrik Lundswiss, but I want to be known as the guy who championed the Rangers to do the right thing, in regards to the greatest Ranger of them all.

As I do every season, I will give you my division finishes for the upcoming season, followed by my playoff predictions. If you are just here for the Rangers, then scroll all the way down until you see the picture of Rangers GM, Jeff Gorton.

There is just one thing I want to mention, before doing these predictions. Every Stanley Cup contender can say they were hurt by the addition of the Las Vegas Golden Knights and their expansion draft. If a fellow Ranger fan grumbles about  how losing Oscar Lindberg hurt the Rangers, while they aren’t wrong, they are also over reacting. Every contender lost someone they wanted to keep around. While it sucks to see Lindberg go, it’s the nature of the beast. It’s just business. However, the Penguins, the Capitals, the Bluejackets, etc, all were a victim of the same process.

I bring this up just because I’ve seen Ranger fans on social media talk about how losing Lindberg hurt the Rangers big time. Do you think the Penguins wanted to lose a 3 time Stanley Cup winner in Marc-Andre Fleury? Sure, Matt Murray seems ready to be the bed rock of that team, but Fleury is a great insurance plan.

The salary cap, the Vegas expansion and having an idiot for a commissioner, affects every team equally. When Ranger fans try to make excuses for failures, the reality is that they just weren’t good enough to win it all.

Oh and please, keep in mind, I am publishing this blog on 9/18/2017. I do like going back and looking at prior prediction blogs. What I can’t predict in this blog are injuries and trade deadline moves. I am just going by the current rosters and I am sure come February of 2018, many of these rosters will be different.

NOTE: As usual, I am dedicating the majority of space and time to the Metropolitan division, for obvious reasons.

Let’s go to the predictions:

Like the NBA’s Patrick Ewing and Reggie Miller, of the 1990’s, Henrik Lundqvist & Alex Ovechkin have had to deal with their own version of a Michael Jordan during their career, in Sidney Crosby. Ewing & Miller, stalwarts of their respective franchises for years, never could beat Jordan & win it all. Is it time to accept that Lundqvist & Ovechkin are Ewing & Miller? Photo Credit: NHL.com/Getty Images.

METROPOLITAN DIVISION

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS – The Washington Capitals may have won the President’s Trophy last season, but it was the Pittsburgh Penguins that knocked the Caps out of the playoffs, en route to their second straight Stanley Cup. This season, I see the Penguins not only taking first place in the toughest division in hockey, but winning the President’s Trophy. I also see the Curse of the President’s Trophy continuing, but that’s for later on.

At 23 years old, Penguins goalie, KING Matt Murray, has 2 Stanley Cups beside him, at his yellow and black throne. That’s two more than long-tenured veteran, the faux King, Henrik Lundswiss. What have I told you a million times on this blog? You can’t win a Cup with a Top 5 salaried goalie in this salary cap era. You have to build through the middle. The goalie isn’t as important as it used to be.

With Fleury in Vegas, the Penguins lost a bunch of talent from their 2 Cup winning teams, such as Kunitz, Bonino, Daley, Streit and Cullen. Backing up Murray will be Antti Niemi, someone who could never control the pipes full-time in Dallas. The Penguins also added former Ranger Matt Hunwick, so I expect Hunwick to score a ton of goals against NYR this season. That’s the way it always goes.

This two-headed monster of a team, led by Crosby & Malkin, will always be in the thick of the things as long as both players remain healthy. What shocks me is the great work by GM Jim Rutherford. If it wasn’t bad enough, as a Ranger fan, that the Penguins are so dominant, it is that they are able to add under-the-radar type of guys and those players deliver. And when I say deliver, I mean they deliver big-time. Look at Murray in the 2016 playoffs. Look at Jake Guentzel in the 2017 playoffs.

While the Penguins may be weaker than the team that hoisted the Stanley Cup in June, so is every other contender, especially in the Metropolitan division, which to me, remains the toughest division in hockey. I don’t see the Penguins cake-walking to the top, but I do see them cruising towards the playoffs.

As a Ranger fan, we’re all supposed to hate the Penguins. That said, (take a shot – regular readers will get that joke.) wouldn’t it be something if Jaromir Jagr returns and finishes his career here?


COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS – Last season, the Blue Jackets made the mistake of finishing in third place in the ultra-competitive Metropolitan division. Their reward? The reigning & defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins, in the first round.

In sports, while there are lightening in a bottle type of teams that win it all, (Think 2012 Kings), there’s also the teams that build and gel together over seasons. We all know the story of the Gretzky Oilers, who lost a SCF to the Islanders, before returning the next season and starting a dynasty of their own. While I don’t see the Blue Jackets winning the Cup this year, I do think they build off the momentum they created last season.

John Tortorella is no stranger to winning and is certainly no stranger to winning in the playoffs. He has this team ready and has rejuvenated Sergei Bobrovsky back to Vezina winning form.  The Jackets added Jordan Schroeder, Tyler Motte and Artemi Panarin to replace Sam Gagne, Brandon Saad and Scott Hartnell. The Jackets are a young team on the rise, rather than say the Capitals or Rangers, who have tried and failed in recent years.

The Blue Jackets, who had an epic consecutive game winning streak last season, won’t be “a surprise” in the 2017-2018 season. Teams will prepare for them differently. However, Torts is no slouch either and will have his team prepared. Hockey is getting strong in Ohio.


WASHINGTON CAPITALS – The greatest writers in the history of mankind couldn’t write a sadder tale than the story of the Washington Capitals. Three President trophies and nine division titles have been won by this team since 2000, yet during the Ovechkin era, the team has never made it past the second round. Last season, the Capitals were like Craig Carton at a casino and went all in. They crapped out and didn’t even have enough money for bus fare for the way home.

The Capitals went all in last year and bombed like Kathy Griffin at a GOP comedy show. While I wouldn’t call them rats leaving a sinking ship, the Caps lost Karl Alzner, Kevin Shattenkirk (mid-season rental), Justin Williams, Marcus Johansson and Nate Schmidt, among others. Who did they sign over the summer to replace this talent? Devante Smith-Pelly. Ouch.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom in D.C. The Capitals still have a former Vezina winner who plays like a Vezina candidate, (Unlike the highest paid goalie in the league, Henrik Lundswiss) in Braden Holtby.

The Capitals still have their core that can win. Ovechkin is still there, although people are starting to wonder if he’s peaked. TJ Oshie & Evgeny Kuznetzov got some head-scratching deals over the summer, as each received 8 year deals. Most long-term deals for players rarely work out. Kuznetzov is still only 25, so the Caps may not regret that one, but giving 30 year old TJ Oshie eight more years? I don’t know about that one.  I guess that’s a problem for whoever the future GM of the Capitals will be.

This may be the weakest Caps team of the last five seasons. That said, (another shot) they are still a good team. However, the window is closed. They are a playoff team for sure, but Pittsburgh won’t struggle with them.


Mats Zuccarello and the Rangers are hoping to be smiling in June.

NEW YORK RANGERS- The heart and soul of this blog, I’ve talked about the Rangers in-depth already. I just don’t see how this team is any better than the team that lost to Ottawa in May.

Put it this way, if someone said to you, “Hey, how do you think your team will do if they lost their number 1 center, the goalie who had the better stats, the biggest shot blocker on the team, the best teammate who will throw down at the drop of the hat & a young player with potential?” What’s your answer?

With the number 1 center (Stepan), the best goalie from last season (Raanta), the warrior of the team (Girardi), the strong-willed Tanner Glass and Oscar Lindberg gone, the Rangers think that Kevin Shattenirk (A great offensive defenseman, but he’s not Karlsson), Pavelec (with goaltending that’s been weaker than the levees at New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina) and Anthony DeAngelo (a headcase) are the answer. I just don’t see it.

I’ve talked about this numerous times. You can’t half-way rebuild a house. The Rangers are trying to get younger in some areas, but they still got Lundwiss & Marc Staal to drag them down. You gotta be in or out, or else you’re just in a perpetual state of mediocrity. Sure, the Rangers are a perennial playoff team, but they aren’t championship material. If the Rangers are happy with selling some playoff tickets, great. If they want to generate some real major money by winning a Stanley Cup, this isn’t the roster for that.

While I may sound down on the Rangers, I think the Rangers flirt with third, and possibly second place all season, before settling into a wild card spot. Again, for all these Metro teams and really the entire NHL in general – the road to the Cup is in Pittsburgh. I don’t see how the Rangers are beating the Penguins, with these current rosters.


CAROLINA HURRICANES – The talk around the league is that the Carolina Hurricanes will be looking to return to the playoffs, after a long layoff. But that’s what it will be – talk.

You can see why people like the Canes. With new blood Sebastion Aho having a strong season last year, things are looking up. The Canes, who have solid players under their employ, like Jordan Staal, Jeff Skinner and Justin Faulk, went out and spent some money in the off-season. The Canes added Justin Williams, Trevor Van Reimsdyk, Marcus Kruger and Scott Darling. They also added former Ranger, Josh Jooris, so again, expect him to have monster games at MSG.

The Canes could be the Blue Jackets of last season. There is optimism in Carolina right now. However, it takes time for teams to come together. I don’t think the Canes are ready to knock off the Penguins, Capitals, Blue Jackets or the Rangers from the top 4 spots in the division. Sure, they could grab a second wild card, but there has been a lot of improvement in the Atlantic division too. The Canes are a team to watch this year, but I think they will be better next season.


PHILADELPHIA FLYERS – The Flyers still have Giroux, Simmonds, Gostisbehere and Voracek, but said goodbye to Steve Mason, Michael Del Zaster and Brayden Schenn. For the Flyers, they are all about getting younger. While I don’t see the Devils & Flyers, who had the number 1 & number 2 pick in the draft, respectively, making the playoffs, I do think both teams are heading in the right direction. The biggest problem is trying to rebuild in the Metropolitan division. It’s not forgiving.

All eyes will be on Nolan Patrick. While this past draft wasn’t as deep as say the draft of two years ago, which saw McDavid & Eichel enter the league, Patrick, from all accounts, is a highly skilled player. However, I just don’t see him dominating the league in his rookie season, like an Auston Matthews.

Brian Elliot is your new netminder in Philly. He’s been inconsistent over the years. The Flyers still pack a punch, but I don’t see them punching a ticket into the playoffs this season.


NEW YORK ISLANDERS – As always, the Islanders remain their own worst enemy and have a ton of off-ice distractions. Where will they play? Will Tavares be here? Will there even be an Islanders next season?

If you live in NY like me, you know all the drama surrounding the Islanders and their horrible home ice at the Barclays. The Nassau Coliseum is no longer an NHL approved arena. There is talk about building a new arena in Queens, but really, how can the NY market support another arena? The Islanders will host 41 (44 with preseason) games a year. Are concert acts, the circus, wrestling, MMA, and whatever else, going to go to a new building in Queens, when MSG, the Rock, the Nassau Coliseum and Barclays are already more established?

The major storyline, as the team approaches the trade deadline, will be John Tavares. In a league where strong center play is the key to winning Cups, Tavares is coveted by every team in the league.

Tavares wants stability. There has always been talk about him going to Toronto when he becomes a FA. Do the Islanders deal him and get something back? Or do they just lose him? Tavares has stated numerous times, just like Islander fans themselves, he wants to know where the Islanders will be next season. The franchise, as usual, is a mess and in limbo. Charles Wang was okay for the post Spano shenanigans, but once Nassau County politics fucked him over, the franchise lost their stability.

On ice, the Isles picked up Jordan Eberle, who Oiler fans wanted out all season long. The Islanders said goodbye to Travis Hamonic, Mikhail Grabovski and Ryan Strome. The Islanders will go as far as Tavares will take them, but if he’s sick of the Mickey Mouse operation, this team will remain in the toilet where they belong.


NEW JERSEY DEVILS – The Devils took Nico Hischier with their first overall pick at the draft and hope he can develop into a major threat in the NHL. However, it may be in the Devil’s best interest to play to the bottom of the league and put themselves in position for another number 1 pick. They won’t go anywhere this year.

The Devils shuffled up their roster and did add some familiar names like Marcus Johansson, Drew Stafford and Brian Boyle. They also moved on from Mike Cammalleri and Devante Smith-Pelly. Corey Schneider remains in net for the Devils, but there are rumblings about moving on from him too.

You have to wonder who’s playing defense for the Devils this season. They don’t exactly have the 1927 Yankees out there. This will be another long season for Devil fans, but if you can get another young primo talent in the draft, you could have a duel-headed monster going into next season. It’s weird seeing the Devils, who once were a perennial playoff power house, sink so low, but it happens to all teams.


Will Steven Stamkos remain healthy this season? Can Carey Price live up to his massive contract, which kicks in next season? Photo Credit: NHL.com/Getty Images.

ATLANTIC DIVISION

MONTREAL CANADIENS – June 2018 will mark the 25th anniversary since a team from Canada won the Stanley Cup. For the Montreal Canadiens, owner of the most Stanley Cups in league history, they would like to be the team to end the drought. The way Ranger fans thought the Rangers choked to Ottawa in the playoffs, is the way Canadien fans feel about their loss to the Rangers.

The Canadiens will be good again this year. Everyone is healthy. Let me make it clear now – CAREY PRICE IS NOT THE HIGHEST PAID GOALIE IN THE LEAGUE… yet. Henrik Lundwiss still is. Price’s contract goes into effect next season. Take a look at it:

Season Salary Signing Bonus (incl. in salary)
2018-2019 $15,000,000 $13,000,000
2019-2020 $15,000,000 $13,000,000
2020-2021 $9,750,000 $8,750,000
2021-2022 $13,000,000 $11,000,000
2022-2023 $7,750,000 $6,750,000
2023-2024 $8,500,000 $6,500,000
2024-2025 $7,500,000 $5,500,000
2025-2026 $7,500,000 $5,500,000

I remain true – teams can’t win a Cup with a Top 5 salaried goalie in the salary cap era. The Canadiens should be able to win the Atlantic division, but as it’s been for the last 25 years, the NHL will bid them a nice “au revoir”, before the Stanley Cup can be presented.


TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING – If you recall, the Bolts were the sexy pick, by many league experts, to win the Cup last season. Injuries, up and down the roster, all season long, prevented that. The Bolts did change a lot of their roster as well, moving away from Brian Boyle, Jonathan Drouin and Ben Bishop. They are hoping that a healthy Steven Stamkos can bring this team back to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they were two out of the last three previous seasons. I expect the Bolts to be a player this season. This will also be a team to watch for Ranger fans, as Dan Girardi reunites with long-time friend Ryan Callahan.


OTTAWA SENATORS – Last season’s playoffs were the coming out party for Erik Karlsson and company. Jean Pageau, the sole owner of Henrik Lundqvist, looks to pick up where he left off in the playoffs. Don’t let this Senators team deceive you, they are deep. They got a taste of winning last year and I expect they will have a bigger appetite this year. Goalie Craig Anderson has already said he’s all in and wants to retire as a Senator. While it won’t affect their play on the ice, what concerns me is the lack of fan support and politics with their arena. Even fans come out for the Florida Marlins when they are winning.


TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS – Welcome back to the playoffs Toronto. After last season, how can anyone bet against these guys now? They should be a perennial playoff team for years to come. Sure it’s been 50 years since a Cup win, but for the first time since their brutal Game 7 loss to the Boston Bruins, from 2013, things are looking up again. I alluded to this when talking about Carolina. While we have seen five teams enter the playoffs from the Metropolitan division before, I think teams like Toronto and Ottawa prevent that. Scary thought – Auston Matthews is even better than last season.


BOSTON BRUINS – the Boston Bruins are perhaps the biggest victims of the rise of the two teams from Ontario. The Senators & Leafs, who struggled to make the playoffs these last few seasons, are now poised to be a force in the tournament. With Montreal & Tampa strong, this may leave the Bruins as the odd man out. The Bruins still have their same core and didn’t do much to improve their chances in their rising division. For the Bruins, their best chance to make the playoffs is by getting some cheating tips from Belicheck and the Red Sox.


DETROIT REDWINGS – Just like their fellow Original 6 team, in the Boston Bruins, the Redwings will also struggle with Toronto and Ottawa on the rise. The biggest highlight for the Wings, this season, will be opening up their new venue. From the iconic Joe, to a building named after pizza you only find in the hood, perhaps it’s appropriate for the city of Detroit. I think it’s going to take time before Detroit is a player again. This could be the new Deadwing era.


BUFFALO SABRES – Sometimes, the biggest mistake a sports franchise can make is allowing their players to dictate everything. While it may work for Lebron James in the NBA, Jack Eichel getting rid of coach Dan Blysma, may backfire. The Sabres are a mess. They added a “who’s who” of guys past their prime, with Benoit Pouliot, Jason Pominville and Chad Johnson. While I don’t think the Sabres are a mess defensively, as say the Devils, they also have a questionable third and fourth line, just like the Devils. Jack Eichel will continue to cry this season.


FLORIDA PANTHERS – The Jaromir Jagr tour closed up in Sunrise in April. The Panthers, who made the playoffs two seasons ago, will have to remember those days, as they don’t have a fucking chance in hell this year. This is a franchise in major trouble. People don’t go to their games when they win. They certainly don’t go to their games when they lose. With scuttlebutt of new franchises being explored in Quebec and Seattle, the Panthers might cat nap through this season and reemerge with a new life elsewhere.


Did the window close on the Blackhawks? Photo Credit: SBNATION.com

CENTRAL DIVISION

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS – This is going to be one team to watch this season. No matter what happens this season, any fan in this league would ejaculate in their pants for three Cups in six years. The Blackhawks biggest competition isn’t the other team on ice, it’s the salary cap. It’s amazing the amount of talent the Blackhawks have had to move away from over the years. It’s why I’ve been saying for years that the cap needs to be amended. Teams shouldn’t be punished for drafting right and making the right moves. There needs to be something in place to protect teams from losing homegrown stars.

By the time June 2018 rolls around, the last Blackhawks Cup will be three years old. Will they return to their glory or has the salary cap smacked parity across their face? You know the top names in Chicago and know what they can do. Was the Nashville sweep of last season a fluke or an omen? Time will tell on that on one. That said (another shot for ya) I expect the Hawks to remain at the top of the Western Conference standings.


NASHVILLE PREDATORS – The Predators are the dream scenario for the league, while the Panthers & Coyotes remain hellish. Hockey is thriving in hillbilly Tennessee, where the players even have more teeth than the fans. (If you’re offended by that joke, you need to get a sense of humor.)

Smashville is becoming a major city in the hockey world, and with most of the team returning from last year (Notably, Carrie Fisher’s husband retired) they seem prepped for another run. I don’t know if they wiffed on their kick at the can 100%, but they should be better in April 2018 than what they were in April 2017. Don’t forget, this was the second wild card (8th seed kinda) in the Western Conference. I expect a stronger finish this season.


WINNIPEG JETS – Remember two seasons ago, when not one Canadian team made the playoffs for the first time in a long time? This season, I could see 6 Canadian franchises in the tournament. (WPG/MTL/EDM/TOR/OTT/CAL. Sorry Vancouver, you suck!)

The Jets are another young team with young guns. I believe this will be the team that the Minnesota Wild and Dallas Stars will be cursing about all year, as the Jets dash their playoff hopes. At least one JETS team will make the playoffs this year!


ST. LOUIS BLUES – You know that I’m a Rangers fan that watches the Pacific division more than the Central division because of Cam Talbot, right? I’m 5000 words in here, and still trying to hammer on!

What can I really say about St. Louis? It’s the same old shit. They are kinda like the Rangers. They have a solid core of guys, but always choke at the end. They should get the wild card this year, but it will be the same old story. No Stanley Cup, for a team that’s been Cupless in their 51 year history. Who would’ve thought that their first three seasons in the league would be the closest they would ever get?


MINNESOTA WILD – With the ascension of the Jets & the Preds, I believe the Wild will be on the outside looking in this season. I’m aware they had their best finish in team history last season, but that means nothing here. I know Bruce Boudreau teams usually make the playoffs, but I also know how they finish in those playoffs. Instead of a disappointing playoff loss this season, I expect disappointment to come much earlier this year. When Matt Cullen is one of your bigger signings in the off-season, it’s tough for me to envision great things.


DALLAS STARS – The Stars are another shit or get off the pot team. After playing miserably last season, the Stars fired head coach Lindy Ruff and brought back Ken Hitchcock, who was the coach of the 1999 Dallas Stars Cup Champs team. Previously, Hitchcock was failing with the Blues every year. I don’t see this return marriage producing much in year one. Who knows how long Hitchcock will last anyway, as he said he was going to retire after his run with the Blues was over.

The Stars did add some talent to this team, with goalie Ben Bishop manning the pipes. Joining him on the team are Alexander Radulov, Martin Hanzal and Marc Methot. While I have the Stars in the same spot as they finished up last year, who knows, maybe they could surprise us and battle for a playoff spot. Anything can happen, but if I was a gambling man, and I am, the Stars don’t make the Spring Tournament.


COLORADO AVALANCHE – While the Patrick Roy playing and coaching eras for this once great franchise are gone, I don’t see how Colorado could be any worse than last year. Then again, Matt Duchene wants out and may be out by the time preseason ends.

You have to wonder if the Avalanche are even trying, as they have $11.6 million in free cap space. When Nail Yakopuv is your big catch, you have a problem. Varlamov and Bernier will probably both be named the number 1 goalie, at different points in the season for the Avalanche too. It’s really just a mess in Colorado. Not getting the right ping pong ball in the draft and with no generational talent on the horizon, the Avalanche may be bad for a while. Who knows how long Sakic will be able to survive at the helm either?


With young great stars on both sides, The Battle of Alberta, between the Flames & the Oilers, may become one of the hottest rivalries in the NHL, again. Photo Credit: Global News.

PACIFIC DIVISION

EDMONTON OILERS – Like you thought I would put anyone else here! The Oilers were one competent official away from making it to the Western Conference Finals last season, but apparently, some officials don’t believe in goalie interference. Sour grapes aside (I’m a diehard Rangers fan that pulls for the Oilers because Cam Talbot is my favorite player in the league), the Oilers will be good this year. Real good.

When the Pittsburgh Penguins hoisted the Cup in June, I said on this blog and on my twitter that it will be the Penguins vs the Oilers for the Cup next year. I still buy that. At the NHL awards, Connor McDavid got all the awards, the same awards that Crosby was used to winning. Now, does this motivate Crosby? Will Crosby be  Michael Jordan showing a young Kobe Bryant how it’s done? Or is Connor McDavid a 2016 Lebron James, and ready to dominate it all now?

You can already see the league pushing for McDavid, as he is on the face of the video game, advertising materials and all the other ilk. It’s only a matter of time before Pierre McGuire starts bottling his semen for desert, just like he does with Crosby.

I think the Oilers, because of bad seasons prior, have what it takes to win. Sure Eberle and Hall are jettisoned out, but to win in this league, you need that generational center. That’s McDavid. You need a goalie who can handle his own. That’s Cam Talbot. With a dependable blue line and the improving Leon Draisaitil, for the first time in a long time, there will pressure in Edmonton to win now. All eyes are on the new poster child, number 97.


CALGARY FLAMES – Yes, the Calgary Flames! Despite a poor showing in the playoffs, I think this is another one of these teams that benefited by being bad for so long and now are ready to compete. Led by JOHNNY HOCKEY (I just love saying that name in a bar room voice), the Flames are another team with a solid blue line and have scorers on the ice. I’m not sure who comes out of camp as starting goalie, as there are strong arguments for both Eddie Lack and Mike Smith. Whoever wins that battle should be serviceable enough. I’ll save you the Flames should be on fire pun, but I expect them to scorch (couldn’t resist) through the Pacific.


ANAHEIM DUCKS –  the winner of the division last year and the benefactors of terrible officiating in their second round series with the Oilers, I don’t see the Ducks repeating on top of the division this year. In fact, I see them taking a step down, as their stars from their 2007 Cup win, continue to age. As a matter of fact, I see the Ducks, winner of the Pacific division for the last 5 years, having a tough time keeping up with their Albertan counterparts. The Ducks are lucky they got that Cup in 2007, in a SCF that I don’t think anyone watched. Ever since winning the Cup, the Ducks are just one of those teams that are good enough to look dominant for a bit, but can’t get over the finish line.


ARIZONA COYOTES – Call me too loyal to my ex-Rangers and being a Antti Raanta fan, but I see the Coyotes making the playoffs this year. This may be the most “controversial” ranking/prediction I have on this list. I just think if everything goes right, things could align for the Desert Dogs. The toughest thing for the Coyotes, is like the Islanders or the Panthers, they are a team in limbo. I don’t even know if a playoff run could make the people of Phoenix give two shits. If any team is relocated to Quebec, Seattle or Portland, this would be the franchise. However, on the ice, with a true leader in Derek Stepan, a solid starter in Raanta & with the young star Max Domi rising, I think the Yotes grab a playoff berth.


SAN JOSE SHARKS – A Stanley Cup finalist two years ago, I think the Sharks hopes at a Cup are speared. Just like the Predators, I think they choked with their chance. The Sharks & Ducks were on top of this division for a while and LA was their top rival. Now, the three California teams will have to deal with tough competition north of the border. Marleau, who is overrated to me anyway, is gone. I’m surprised they didn’t kick the tires on Jagr, since Jagr had the same production total as Marleau anyway. This team is still solid defensively, but there are many miles on this team. I see them missing the playoffs.


LA KINGS – Are the LA Kings another team whose window has closed? The Kings were bad last year, largely due to the injury to Jonathan Quick. They are another team banged by the salary cap. They are also watching their stars, from their 2012 and 2014 Cup winning teams, age real quick. I think LA has to go down before they can go back up again. This division used to be dominated by teams that play hockey in summer like weather. Not anymore.


VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS – I have read several people say the VGK will be a playoff team this year. Wishful thinking. While the VGK are the best expansion team ever (at least on paper), talent wise and because they play in a diluted NHL, they won’t make the playoffs in their first year. It takes time to build a team and create chemistry. Perhaps if Vince McMahon was running the league and not Gary Bettman, VGK would qualify for the tournament. It’s in the NHL’s best interest for VGK to succeed, especially with the Raiders coming to town soon. I expect Oscar Lindberg to have a career year. MAF will miss winning, but with everything he’s gone through & the way he’s handled everything, I’ll be rooting for him. However, if you want to place a sure bet in Vegas, put your money on MAF not hoisting the Cup for the third year in a row. Will he get his fourth Cup in Vegas? I would bet on that happening before Lundswiss raising a Cup!


VANCOUVER CANUCKS – I still can’t believe that the Sedin brothers are still there. The Canucks are Cafucked this season. While their situation is much direr than the Rangers, you gotta wonder, what the hell are they doing there? What’s the point of keeping high priced veterans? This is a team that needs a total dismantling. I see them as the worst team in the NHL in the 2017-2018 season.


You can check my old blogs or twitter – I called Oilers over Penguins before anyone. I’m just making it official here!

Playoff predictions:

EASTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFF TEAMS:

  1. Pittsburgh Penguins
  2. Montreal Canadiens
  3. Columbus Blue Jackets
  4. Tampa Bay Lightning
  5. Washington Capitals
  6. Ottawa Senators
  7. Toronto Maple Leafs
  8. NY Rangers

WESTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFF TEAMS:

  1. Edmonton Oilers
  2. Chicago Blackhawks
  3. Nashville Predators
  4. Winnipeg Jets
  5. Calgary Flames
  6. Anaheim Ducks
  7. St. Louis Blues
  8. Arizona Coyotes

Eastern Conference Finals

Pittsburgh Penguins vs Tampa Bay Lightning

Western Conference Finals

Edmonton Oilers vs Chicago Blackhawks

Stanley Cup Finals

Edmonton Oilers defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins in 7

We’ll see how great or how bad I fucked this up nine months from now! Either way, so glad to see hockey back!


“I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” Photo Credit: NHL.com

I talked a lot about my Ranger thoughts going into this season already on previous blogs and in this one, but some closing shots before I go home here:

  • Jeff Gorton says he’s still in the market for a center. Maybe he should’ve thought of that before trading Stepan and Raanta for next to nothing & another soft Swede. What was he doing all summer?
  • Will any team sign Jaromir Jagr? I would love him on the Rangers just for my own personal enjoyment. Seriously, when Jagr became a free agent, I didn’t expect teams to line up and throw their panties at him like he was Tom Jones at one of his concerts. However, it’s disgusting the deal Patrick Marleau got from Toronto, for the same amount of production Jagr brought last season.
  • I still don’t buy this Marc Staal “needs to earn his spot on this team” bullshit. Sounds like a motivational tool from AV. If you think they are going to leave a guy, making nearly $7M, in the press box all season, I got this brand new bridge to sell you. It’s in the 300’s of M$G, where Marc Staal won’t be this season!
  • Pavelec continues to scare the hell out of me. I’m really interested in seeing how he does in the preseason. Halverson is most likely third on the NYR goalie depth chart, at least until something can be done about getting Igor Shestyorkin here.
  • Chris Kreider put a scare into RANGERSTOWN when he took a spill in practice on Friday. Luckily, he’s ok. It’s amazing how one injury can change a season. Fantasy Football players, especially David Johnson owners, can relate!
  • The new NHL adidas jerseys on sale for $250. Ridiculous, right? I’m an asshole and bought one anyway.
  • I won’t be attending tonight’s preseason game, because the Giants are on. However, I’ll be in the building Wednesday night. I’m really looking forward to feeling the cold air and hearing the sounds of the game again.
  • Thanks to everyone for all the kind words over the summer. I really wanted to squeeze one more Delorean blog in, but time caught up to me. Hockey is here, I’ll take it!

Keep it here on BlueCollarBlueShirts.com for more Ranger & NHL opinions during the season. I can promise you this – no one does the type of blog that I do!

LET’S GO RANGERS

NOTE: As I was finishing this blog, I heard about the death of long time wrestling personality Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. I worked with him once during my independent wrestling days. While he was in the early stages of his illness, he still possessed the same wit and demeanor that I enjoyed when I was growing up and being a fan of his. “A friend in need is a pest!” RIP Brain.

Sean McCaffrey

BULLSMC@aol.com

@NYCTHEMIC on twitter

Comments

  1. I don’t think Chicago will make it past second round maybe not even first round. Blues may not with the cup but they will take out one or two contenders, if the get hit and healthy they may take out three.

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