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Sunday, August 12, 2012

2012-13 NHL regular season predictions: Eastern Conference

August is always a time of slow NHL news, especially since the free agency “frenzy” has cooled down and NHL training camps are still about a month away.

However, with a lockout looming over the league and the players—following Gary Bettman’s announcement yesterday that there will be no hockey in October if the NHLPA and the NHL don’t find a way to come to an agreement and renew the current CBA (which is set to expire on September 15, 2012)—the following rankings will most likely change or won't happen at all if the entire season is wiped out!

2012-13 NHL regular season predictions: Eastern Conference

15.NEW YORK ISLANDERS = 75 points

The lowly Islanders didn’t do much in terms of improvement in the offseason. Up front, they lost an important offensive weapon when P-A Parenteau took his talent to Colorado, and the team didn’t replace his production via free agency or trade.

On the blue line, the team is really thin after Mark Streit and Travis Hamonic, and the uncertainty surrounding Lubomir Visnovsky, who wants his trade to Long Island voided, certainly doesn’t help.

In goal, the team is counting on the veteran Evgeni Nabokov and the oft-injured Rick Dipietro to hold the fort. Worth noting is that John Tavares will continue to improve and be an offensive force for years to come despite all of the above.

14.BUFFALO SABRES = 78 points

The Sabres barely missed the playoffs last season, but GM Darcy Regier didn’t do anything to improve a team that struggled to score goals. Heck, Regier even traded inconsistent, yet productive, pivot Derek Roy in exchange for agitator Steve Ott and depth defenseman Adam Pardy.

Roy’s departure, combined with a lack of a true No.1 centre in Buffalo will hamper the Sabres’ chance at making the playoffs. Unless Cody Hodgson explodes offensively or draft picks Zemgus Girgensons and Mikhail Grigorenko make the team and provide a much-need spark, the season will be long in Buffalo.

13. TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS = 81 points

The Leafs added to an already potent offensive core of Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul and Mikhail Grabovski, with the acquisition of James Van Riemsdyk on their top-six. Jay McClement was also brought in to help their penalty kill. However, GM Brian Burke has yet to address the team’s goaltending woes. Unless he acquires someone like Roberto Luongo before the season starts, the team will rely on James Reimer and Ben Scrivens to win some games, which is not a good idea.

12.WINNIPEG JETS= 82 points

The Jets did not make any major improvement, other than veteran Olli Jokinen, to a line-up that failed to make the playoffs last year. While the Jets had great success at home last season, they failed to compete in most of their road games in 2011-12.

Blake Wheeler, Andrew Ladd and Evander Kane will carry the load offensively, while Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom will provide offensive punch from the blue line. Al Montoya, who’s an improvement over Chris Mason, will back-up Ondrej Pavelec for the upcoming season.

11.MONTREAL CANADIENS = 84 points

While the Canadiens finished last in 2011-12, they have a better team than their record on paper. With the stellar play of netminder Carey Price, the Canadiens always managed to play tight games and have a chance to win. However, a lack of offensive punch cost them way too many games last year.

A healthy Andrei Markov and an improving P.K. Subban will certainly help the team improve their dismal power play, but after their first line of David Desharnais, Erik Cole and Max Pacioretty, only Tomas Plekanec represents an offensive threat.

Veteran Brian Gionta should add some scoring punch after an injury-filled season and Rene Bourque might bounce back after a lacklustre campaign, but still that won’t be enough for the Habs.

10.NEW JERSEY DEVILS = 87 points

After the departure of all-star Zach Parise for his hometown, the Devils will be hard-pressed to find goals this season when Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrick Elias and Adam Henrique are off the ice.

On defense, the team can count on steady defensemen like Henrik Tallinder, Anton Volchenkov and Bryce Salvador, but they are lacking a true offensive defenseman as Marek Zidlicky is a defensive liability.

In goal, Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg are one year older and their performance will falter as a result.

9.FLORIDA PANTHERS = 89 points

Despite making the playoffs last season, the Panthers had a losing record, if we account for the OTL, and they had a goal differential of minus-24.

After Stephen Weiss, Tomas Fleischmann and Kris Versteeg, the Panthers are thin up front. Talented youngster Jonathan Huderdeau will certainly make the team out of training and contend for the Rookie of the Year award. On defense, the team added steady veteran Filip Kuba to an already potent group of Dmitry Kulikov and Ed Jovanovksi.

In goal, the less than flashy duo of Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen gets the job done, but it will not be enough to make the playoffs this year.

8.OTTAWA SENATORS = 93 points

The Senators barely made the playoffs last season, and it will happen again this year. With the return of Daniel Alfredsson for one more season, and the emergence of Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza will not be the only offensive threat in the national capital.

Still, GM Bryan Murray traded dynamic forward Nick Foligno in exchange of Ottawa-native Marc Methot, and replaced Foligno’s production by signing Guillaume Latendresse who missed most of last season due to injuries. Craig Anderson will be backed-up by lanky goalie Ben Bishop, which should ease his workload and allow him to perform well all-season long.

7.PHILADELPHIA FLYERS = 95 points

Look for the Flyers to have problems defensively with the departure of Matt Carle and the season-ending injury suffered by Andrej Meszaros. Couple that with Chris Pronger's unlikely return this season after suffering from concussion symptoms, and things are ugly for Philly on the back-end.

Offensively, the Flyers will still score plenty of goals despite Jaromir Jagr’s departure, with talented forwards like Brayden Schenn, Scott Hartnell and Daniel Briere. In goal, look for the most colourful goaltender (Ilya Bryzgalov) to have his ups and downs this season as he gets more comfortable to his new defensemen, most notably Luke Schenn, Bruno Gervais and Nicklas Grossman.

6.TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING = 96 points

GM Steve Yzerman addressed his team’s shortcomings during the off-season by acquired young talented netminder Anders Lindback to replace over-the-hill veteran Dwayne Roloson.

Stevie Y also added much-needed depth on the blue line with the signing of Matt Carle and Sami Salo, who will complement a solid top-four with Eric Brewer and Victor Hedman. At forward, the Bolt can count on sniper Steven Stamkos, as well as captain Vincent Lecavalier and playmakers Martin St. Louis and Teddy Purcell to carry the offensive load.

5.CAROLINA HURRICANES = 98 points

One of the most improved teams in the conference, the Hurricanes added two very talented players in Alex Semin (UFA) and Jordan Staal (PIT) to their offensive corps. They will allow Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner to finally play great offensive players and not the likes of Chad Larose and Jiri Tlusty.

The steady play of underrated goaltender Cam Ward will go a long way to the Canes’ success in 2012-13. Youngsters Jamie McBain and Justin Faulk are slowly emerging as the team’s top two offensive guys on the blue line. Their continuing development will help improve the team's defense-offense transition for their talented forwards.

4.PITTSBURGH PENGUINS = 104 points

With the return of a healthy Sidney Crosby, the Penguins will have a 100-point season for a fourth consecutive year. Despite the departure of Jordan Staal and Zbynek Michalek, the Penguins boast a group of very talented players in Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Chris Kunitz and Kristopher Letang.

The additions of Tanner Glass and Brandon Sutter up front will give the team size, grit and depth, while Tomas Vokoun’s signature will allow M-A Fleury to get more rest during the season and perform better in the playoffs.

3.BOSTON BRUINS = 100 points

The Bruins opted for stability next season as their roster will be almost identical to last year.

The most noticeable changes will be the addition of rookie defenseman Dougie Hamilton in replacement of Joe Corvo who went back to Carolina. The other major change is Tuukka Rask being annointed the No.1 goalie, with all-star Tim Thomas taking a sabbatical year.

Because of their depth and their talent, the Bruins will win the Northeast Division for a third consecutive season.

2.WASHINGTON CAPITALS = 101 points

After a sub-par season from Alexander Ovechkin and an injury-riddled campaign for Mike Green, the Capitals are ready to bounce back under new head coach Adam Oates.

A healthy Green, the acquisition of dangler Mike Ribeiro and the emergence of stud goaltender Braden Holty will allow Oates to employ a more offensive style of play that fits his team better.

Despite the departure of Alex Semin via free agency, the Capitals are loaded with offensive weapons who will help them rank among the best teams on the power play this season. A full season of Nicklas Backstrom, now free of concussion symptoms, along with the emergence of youngster Marcus Johansson will give the Caps a very deep threesome at center with Ribeiro—a strength the team has lacked in recent years.

1.NEW YORK RANGERS = 115 points

The Blue Shirts, who finished first in the Eastern Conference last year, will still be the team to beat this season with the addition of superstar Rick Nash. The team didn’t lose any major players via free agency and Glen Sather managed to acquire Nash for depth players (Anisimov, Dubinsky and Erixon).

Sather also managed to add depth and grit up front by signing Taylor Pyatt and Arron Asham. With superstars like Richards, Gaborik, McDonagh, Staal, Girardi and King Henrik in goal, the Rangers boasts the deepest group of talented players in the conference.

Do you agree with the above predictions for the Habs? If not, why?

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7 comments:

Fred,

Interesting picks.....as I'm sure everyone else will that comments. I would make a few changes.

1. Boston (too much depth)
2. Pittsburgh (a healthy Crosby)
3. Carolina (most improved in entire league)
4. New York Rangers (strong top line but less depth)
5. Montreal (much less injuries, Price and Subban become superstars, improved scoring from current roster, good depth)
6. Wahington (back to offense)
7. Philedephia (defense is solid enough)
8. Ottawa (young players will carry them)
9. Florida (will battle all year)
10. Tampa Bay (Salo & St. Louis start to show their age)
11. New Jersey (Will struggle in net and offense)
12. New York Islanders (Continue to improve)
13. Toronto (Kessel will drop off, goaltending issues)
14. Buffalo (Too many mistakes, GM fired)
15. Winnipeg (I hope I'm wrong but....)

Bet I get a few comments from number 5???

1. New York
2. Boston
3. Washington
4. Pittsburgh
5. Philadelphia
6. Montreal
7. Ottawa
8. New Jersey
9. Buffalo
10. Tampa Bay
11. Florida
12. Carolina
13. Toronto
14. NYI
15. Winnipeg

I honestly have no idea where Montreal will finish.

On one hand I say to myself that this D-core is not very good at all. They are going to struggle to keep the crease clear, they will struggle in their own zone and we are going to let in alot of goals.

Up front we solidified our 3rd and 4th lines but still have not done much to add scoring prowess.

On the flip side we had alot of injuries last year. We did not have Gionta and his 30ish goals last year and more importantly we did not have markov.

If Markov can stay healthy then we'll see btter break out passes, quick puck movement and we'll see an emergence on the PP which was our achilles heal last year.

I think 12-15 is out of the question and will not happen again. Also think top 4 is definitely out of the question because we are nowhere near that good.

I do however think that anywhere between 5-11 is where we will finish depending on whether we can simply remain healthy and then what we get for Scott Gomez money.

Hopefully, I'll get some feedback, and not bashing:
1-NYR: I believe that with the addition of Rick Nash in their top six, the Rangers MUST be considered Stanley Cup contenders;
2-WSH: with coach Adam Oates' promise to return to a more offensive system, the dynamic roster should be back to its peak numbers that we got us used to (and young Holtby will have a full season experience by the time playoffs roll in);
3- BUF: last season-ending push was no fluke as this team had to deal with several injuries to key players (i.e. Miller), and with with the addition of Steve Ott, the Sabres can now play a physical game as well as rolling in offensive lines (plus, I can't imagine Leino and Ehroff being as abyssmal as last season!);
4- PIT: in my opinion, the Penguins can be the supremacy of the Eastern Conference pending only two conditions-A) the health status of Sidney Crosby, and B) the addition of a scoring winger "a la" Dany Heatley to complement better Crosby (just like James Neal with Malkin);
5- BOS: so far, the Bruins have ABSOLUTELY zero guarantees that Nathan Horton will be back from his concussion issues to complement the top six, and I believe that Tuukka Rask has yet to go through the growing pains of being a number 1 goalie;
6- CAR: simply put, one of the greatest communicating coach in the game, Kirk Muller managed to nearly make miracles with last year's roster, so now add Semin and Jordan Staal to their top six, and here come the Canes;
7- FLA: with a tough demanding coach like Kevin Dineen, along with the rising of some youngsters in their line-up (i.e. Huberdeau, Kulikov, and Quinton Howden), the Panthers will be part part of the spring playoff dance (and could place higher should they acquire Luongo);
8- TB: GM Stevie Y finally fixed his goaltending issue with the acquisition of Anders Lindback in net, and solidified his D with Sami Salo and Matt Carle (and let us not forget the great motivating coach that is in Tampa);
9- OTT: in my ranking, this is TEAM X as they're too many unmeasurable factors that could affect this team's position, anywhere from #7 to #12 (i.e. Can Karlsson produce at same pace as last season? Can Latendresse re-discover his scoring touch, like he once had in MIN? Can rookies Zibanejad and Silfverberg have a true offensive impact in the Sens top 9?);
10- WPG: my heart goes for all Jets' fans so that their team make the playoffs this year as they have now solved a few issues, such as size in the middle (with the addition of Olli Jokinen), and the back-up goalie position (Al Montoya surely represents a younger and better upgrade than Chris Mason);
11- PHI: now, that is THE team that will definitely face the most adversity this year as Lilja, Meszaros, and Pronger are all slated to not be ready for the season's opener as they're all recuperating from various injuries (Pronger's career being in doubt, the Flyers are in dire need for an upgrade at D, more than just Bruno Gervais and M-A Bourdon);
12- MTL: "les Habitants" will definitely be a much more gritty, competitive team on the ice this season with coach Therrien in place (and a better PP team with a healthy Markov), along with the additions of Armstrong, Prust, and Bouillon, but too many questions still remain on their 2nd-3rd line competency to provide scoring relief to the 1st line of Desharnais-Cole-Pacioretty;
13- NJ: I personally doubt that Clarkson will be able to reproduce his season of 30 goals with the loss of captain and linemate Zach Parise, and can Henrique completely fill that void left by Parise's departure while Father Time might eventually catch on future HHOF goalie Martin Brodeur... ;
14- TOR: can coach Randy Carlyle turn this defensively horrendous team into a tight cohesive defensive minded team, while goalie Reimer still remains an unproven asset in net as a #1 goalie?!? ;
15- NYI: the additions of Visnovsky and Boyes won't be enough to fulfill the numerous question marks that remain behind Tavares, Moulson, Streit, and Nabokov.

Pitt
Caps
Florida
Philly
NY
Carolina
Buffalo
Habs
So 8th, you forgot Eller and Leblanc being healthy, and supposedly Leblanc is already bigger and working hard on skting improvement.

Also at least a couple rookies should get soome injury call-up time and Gallagher-Beaulieu could also make an offensive impact (compared to last year anyways).

Yemelin-Diaz both will be up to speed and Subban wont need to be "the man" and could even be in a 2nd pairing with Gorges.
And of course the biggest impact is Markov, who makes all others around him better.

NY Rangers had 14 more goals than Habs last year, so really, with a better PP and shootout record all will be fine.
And Cammalleri is gone, so team cut biggest PP deadweight.

don

no way for montreal to make playoffs.
no scoring ,only cole and patches are reliable.
big stupid loss in giving up on muller.
watch carolina, biggest push in standings, maybe 4th in east.
canadiens picked wrong coach, and he will not be around at end of season.need another top forward.

@ Anon,

How can you say that. Therrien was the guy more or less responsible for Pittsburghs success and is a really good coach. Granted we do not know how the team will react but coaches are only as good as he player he has for his system and then current group of guys seems to match how Therrien plays.

As for a lack of goal scoring we did not have Gionta, did not have Markov, had Bourque playing in a position he is not accustomed.

If Markov stays healthy then we will have one of he best outlet passers in the game and one of the best PP quarter backs. We truly have not had him in the line-up for 2-3 years now but prior to that we were one of the top scoring teams in the league when we had Carbo as coach.

Our PP will get better with markov meanign there is a good chance that some of the OT losses don;t even go to OT anymore resulting in more points.

Add Gionta and his 25-30 goals a year, a resurgence of Plekanec with steady linemmates and then experience that guys like Eller, Desharnais, Pacioretty, Subban, Emelin, Diaz have gained and all signs point to a better team.

Not saying dominant but no denying better.

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