Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The 08-09 NHL Prediction Experience

It is the first of October, and that means the start of the 2008-09 NHL regular season is just a few short days away. Like any respectable hockey blogger, I need to chime in with my predictions for the season to come, so without further ado...

  • Pacific Division Champ: Dallas Stars - This is going to be a tight division as the Stars, Ducks, and Sharks are all built to win now. While I really like the Ducks' chances this season, I really like what is going on in Dallas and I think they will eek out a division title.
  • Northwest Division Champ: Calgary Flames - This division is down right now. I think the Wild and Avalanche have regressed a bit, the Oilers are still a year or two away, and the Canucks just are not that good. That leaves Jarome Iginla and the Flames to come out on top. Iginla should get serious Hart consideration again this season.
  • Central Division Champ: Detroit Red Wings - I hate picking them to win, but there is not another team in their division strong enough to challenge them this season. Maybe next year Blackhawks fans.
  • Southeast Division Champ: Carolina Hurricanes - This was a tough one to call for me at first. After giving it some thought though I think Carolina comes out on top. I think the Capitals will regress a little bit under raised expectations and there just isn't enough defense/goaltending in Tampa for me to pick them. I think the Hurricanes will take advantage of being able to fly under the radar for a bit and claim the 3 seed in the East.
  • Northeast Division Champ: Ottawa Senators - Everyone and their mother is picking the Canadiens to run wild over the rest of the Eastern Conference this season, but I just don't see it. For some reason I can not explain I think the Sens are going to make one more go of it before their Stanley Cup winning window officially closes for a couple years.
  • Atlantic Division Champ: Philadelphia Flyers - The Flyers are getting their franchise back on track and look to benefit from some addition via subtraction thanks to Derian Hatcher's injury status. I think this will be the most competitive division in hockey (again) this year, and I see the Flyers ending up on top. I think the Rangers will get off to a bit of a slow start as all of their new faces start to gel, and I think the Penguins will hit too many bumps in the road to win the division. Between the Europe trip and their injuries on defense I think the Pens will be hampered enough that they will have to settle for the fourth or fifth seed in the East.
  • Hart Trophy Winner (MVP): Sidney Crosby - You will get some argument over this, but I think Sid proved last Spring that he is the best player in the game today. I think the defeat in the Finals will drive Crosby to take his game to another level, something that I am sure is a scary thought for the rest of the NHL. I think the Penguins as a team will have their struggles this season, but I do not expect many for their captain.
  • Vezina Trophy Winner (Top Goalie): Henrik Lundqvist - I think this will be the year King Henrik breaks through and takes his first Vezina. I expect the Devils to drop off enough to deal a blow to Brodeur's chances. Then again, if Marty can get this year's Devils squad back to the post-season he may be deserving of some more hardware. Hopefully this is the year Marc-Andre Fleury gets his name into the Vezina discussion.
  • Norris Trophy Winner (Top Defender): Dion Phaneuf - Much like Lundqvist with the Vezina, I think this will be the year Phaneuf breaks Nicklas Lidstrom's hold on the Norris trophy and starts a run of his own. Phaneuf is arguably the best all-around blue liner in the game and he should be a regular Norris finalist for the next ten seasons.
  • Adams Trophy Winner (Top Coach): Dave Tippett - I already said I expect big things from the Stars and that should translate into some honors for their coach. Hopefully this award will go to a coach who gets continued excellence from his team all season long and not someone who squeaks into the playoffs with a team nobody expected a lot from.
  • Art Ross Trophy Winner (Most Points): Sidney Crosby- As long as Sid stays healthy this one is a slam dunk. When the game's most gifted offensive player is also its hardest worker you have a recipe for scoring titles.
  • Richard Trophy Winner (Most Goals): Dany Heatley - I went back and forth between Heatley and Iginla on this one, but finally settled on Heatley. I think Dany has the edge because he has better talent around him, like center Jason Spezza, and he will face more teams with bad defenses in the Eastern Conference (see Toronto and the entire Southeast Division as a reference). If Ilya Kovalchuk can stay interested for a full season in Atlanta he coule walk away with the Richard easily.
  • Stanley Cup Finals: Dallas Stars v Pittsburgh Penguins - Only Detroit stood in the way of this dream matchup (as a Penguins fan withing driving distance of Dallas) last season, but I think I might just get my wish this time around. A lot can change between now and then (especially if someone like Marian Gaborik gets moved), but for now I'm taking this Finals matchup with the Pens skating the Cup on home ice with a six game series victory.
That's all for me from now. There's not much else to do except wait for the puck to drop in Prague and for Yahoo Fantasy to put Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney on IR (more on that later). So for the time being I guess I'll just sit back and wait for all the Caps, Habs, Sharks, and whoever else fans to tell me how stupid I am in the comments section. Game on!

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