The puck drops tonight for the 2017-18 NHL season. The longest offseason in sports has finally waned and as the leaves turn color, so too do we publish our predictions for the upcoming campaign.
We have some notable calls…..as well as some caveats. Here are a few (other than the gratuitous number of penalties we will see for the first month as the league tries to thwart stick to hand checking and face off violations).
1. We have Toronto finishing 4th in the conference and first in their division. Uh oh….Have we gone mad? If their power play is as good as it was last year, their top 9 skaters play reasonably healthy like last year, and they don’t lose 14 games in overtime/shootout again, we think the buds are a pretty good team.
2. It is impossible to understate the importance of Johnny Hockey, Carey Price and Connor McDavid to their respective teams. We have all of MTL, CGY and EDM making the playoffs, but each probably will not if any or all of these players miss significant time.
3. The expansion draft had a larger impact on the use of replacement players than we expected. As a result, there are some truly bad teams, especially out west. Fans west of the Mississippi are going to be treated to their fair share of special teams situations this year, particularly in Vegas, Colorado, and Vancouver. Buckle up, that is, if you are still watching by New Years……
4. We are not convinced that WSH or CBJ will be as good as they were last year. WSH has 3 replacement defensemen this year and there is no way Cam Atkinson performs anywhere near what he did last year.
5. The Devils are still a last place team despite adding some decent rookies.
6. The sleeper of the year is the Carolina Hurricanes. They have built a very solid club, with a lot of youthful exuberance. Most are guys you may not have heard of or seen play…..Sebastian Aho will become a household name in Raleigh, not just among Caniacs either
7. Chicago keeps getting worse on paper. However, for all the rearrangements they have made, their rate of change to the downside still allows for a descent toward mediocrity relative to the rest of the conference whose plummeting is more protracted. The signing of Cody Franson actually dropped them two places in the standings by itself…..
8. The Rangers are a middling bunch but have some exciting young talent. let’s see if it performs Jimmy Vesey style or rises to the top. At least fans don’t have Dan Girardi to kick around any more. (Editor’s note, we like Dan Girardi……we agree to disagree with Blue Shirts nation here).
9. Minnesota should run away with their division and the conference easily. In fact they could win every game. Well maybe that’s a stretch, but they are the only club in the West built for a deep cup run. However, that never seems to happen. We think it will this year. Go you Eric Staal.
10. We can’t comment on the state of the Islanders either on or off the ice so we won’t.
11. We still can’t see how Ottawa did as well as they did last year, making it tot the conference finals or how ANA ever makes the playoffs. To us they are both still playoff bubble teams. However, that means a finish as high as fifth is possible and we always get busted for taking these two lightly.
12. Colorado still stinks.
13. Detroit is officially in the valley and their defense are going to have a rough go again. Another year of Kronwall and DDK? We. Just. Can’t.
14. Dallas should be improved with the “whose the least terrible goalie problem” seemingly having been solved. Big Ben Bishop should bail the D corps out of a lot of mistakes. And of course we are always watching for any madcap antics from the patron saint of hockeyfreeforall……Tyler Seguin
15. Nashville may prove us wrong and make another cup run out of nowhere. Despite media spin to the contrary, we love their fans, the passion and good humor they exemplify. We would love nothing more than to be wrong about PK and the gang and see them finish higher than lower in the conference. A playoff team yes. Conference champ again? Not so much according to our numbers….despite our man crushes on Aberg and Arvidsson.
16. We think that having Stamkos and Callahan healthy (ha!) should really bolster the bolts. They should be on the playoff bubble in the east, and play in the relatively weaker division. Not a stretch to see them in the top three there.
17. The Penguins are probably going to the finals again. Sigh. Philadelphia is not. Hooray. Will the real Shane Gostisbehere please stand up?
18. We love Brent Burns, except his -100(!) turnover plus minus. San Jose looks OK to us too, particularly out west. Do you think we can get Burnsy to get a haircut if he turn the puck over triple digits like that again?
19. Oh wait, we forgot to mention the importance of Vladimir Tarasenko to the Blues. STL has a solid club again, however less so if Vlad misses any time.
20. Las Vegas could have been a contender, but botched the draft in our opinion. This may have been deliberate; why be OK for now when you can be truly awful and get rewarded with high draft picks for years to come. Heck, even EDM finally got the draft right. So too will Vegas. Watch for the mighty Knights to be a force in 202x.