Some highlights from last year's predictions:
- Said that Maxim Afinogenov would have a bounce back year (6-14-20 in 48 games).
- Said the Bruins would "sneak" into the playoffs (#1 seed in the East).
- Said the Stars would finish 2nd in the West.
- Said the Sabres would make the conference finals.
- Said the Blackhawks would miss the playoffs.
- Said the Coyotes would make the playoffs.
I know that Coyotes thing probably made you stop reading already, but in 2010 I'm all money, baby. I swear on it. You can take this shit to the bank, or better yet your seedy Russian bookie because I'm basically going to spoil the future for you. (*Note: The Triple Deke is not responsible for the loss of your life savings, home, wife/husband/children and/or any personal possessions; all picks below are made with roughly 3% confidence, are loosely based on factual evidence and incorporate a large amount of "gut feeling", which right now is being severely affected by that chicken gordita ranch thing from Taco Bell.)
Today we have the predictions for the East, tomorrow we'll have the West.
#15 ~ NEW YORK ISLANDERS
The Islanders have 17 goalies on their roster. I looked it up. Unless the league allows them to use two in the net at once, they'll be competing for the #1 pick next year once again. Any hopes of John Tavares having a storybook rookie season that elevates the Isles toward playoff contention were ruined when he ended up on my fantasy team.
#14 ~ TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
With Phil Kessel they have a guy who is first-line-caliber talent, and also rumored to be a huge douche bag. Brian Burke is also a douche bag, and assembles teams that fit his douche baggy image. But Kessel is a different kind of douche bag in that he's apparently a prima donna who doesn't work as hard as he should, while Burke's teams are a goon type of douchey that, while still douchey, are gritty and tough and don't douche well with Kessel's douchiness. I picture this ending like a lousy cartoon where the two dim-witted bad guys end up turning on each other while the good guys escape and save the day. I don't know exactly what I'm referring to but it sounded at least marginally familiar so I'm sticking with it.
#13 ~ OTTAWA SENATORS
Pascal Leclaire has had one good season and is coming off major ankle surgery, so I don't picture him being the savior of anything, at least not this year. They could also struggle to find a consistent offense this year if the additions of Kovalev and Cheechoo are too streaky and fail to support the Spezza/Alfredsson tandem -- a tandem in which one guy is 37 and declining, and the other sounds like this.
#12 ~ TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
Nowhere to go but up after last year's depressing, mullet-y season, although they won't stray too far from the bottom of the pack. I actually kind of like what they did over the summer and really wouldn't be surprised if they pose as playoff contenders for some part of the season, but ultimately they won't score enough outside of their top 4 or 5 guys.
#11 ~ ATLANTA THRASHERS
This isn't an overly horrible team, despite the name "Atlanta Thrashers" weighing on the entire franchise. Defensively they could be righting the ship with Pavel Kubina joining Zack Bogosnian and Tobias Enstrom on the blueline. A full year of a healthy Kari Lehtonen in goal would obviously be huge. Offensively they won't have much of a problem as Ilya Kovalchuk -- probably my favorite non-Red Wing, although this might be something I have to look into -- will score about 120 goals as this is his contract year.
# 10 ~ NEW YORK RANGERS
I'm really not sure. I think they could finish as high as 3rd or as low as 11th. While it's hard to bank on Marian Gaborik playing even 65-70 games, they've got enough talent to make things interesting when his inevitable absence occurs. I guess the bottom line is that I thought the sound of "Gaborik to the Rangers" was so hilariously ironic that I'm not confident enough to say they'll make the playoffs.
#9 ~ CAROLINA HURRICANES
They're coming off a deep playoff run, so according to their history the Canes are due to miss the playoffs in 2010. That's just math, really.
#8 ~ BUFFALO SABRES
My inexplicable crush on the Sabres permits me to overlook their defensive flaws, think MSU alum Ryan Miller will be healthier and better than he actually is, and leads me to believe they won't miss the playoffs for the 3rd straight season. They don't have the same caliber of top-level talent on their scoring lines that other teams do, but the first two or three lines are better than many. To actually make the playoffs though they're going to need for a lot of things to go right, like having Miller and their blue line hold up for the duration of the year.
#7 ~ FLORIDA PANTHERS
Is it such a bold prediction that the Panthers will jump only two spots ahead of where they finished last year, with a good goalie duo, a new coach who they seem to be excited about (grasping for straws here), some promising young talent (really grasping), you have a bias toward former Spartan David Booth (not relevant), and you think Jay Bouwmeester is a bit overrated (100% hunch)? I won't insult you by backing this up with an argument, but I just have this feeling that after they trade their star defenseman and have all this talk about the team getting sold that they're going to surprise all 28 of their remaining un-alienable fans and push for their first playoff appearance in 10 years.
#6 ~ PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
Chris Pronger. Ian Laperierre. Ray Emery. Scott Hartnell. Danny Brierre's salary. Even Flyers fans don't like the Philadelphia Flyers.
#5 ~ NEW JERSEY DEVILS
Aside from the awesome Zach Parise -- another non-Wing favorite -- there isn't a ton of offense to be excited about. The good news is that their defensive corps, which going into last season was suppose to be a weakness, is actually a pretty solid group who helped allow the 4th fewest goals in '08-09. By bringing back Jacques Lemaire the Devils not only guarantee that they'll be a tough out in the East but they also have me feeling a bit nostalgic. Despite the '95 Devils being one of my least favorite teams ever, I have to concede that anything that reminds me of the mid 90's nowadays makes me happy in comparison to my growing fear of adult life in the 2010's. Dear God somebody please turn on Darkwing Duck and help me find my pogs.
#4 ~ MONTREAL CANADIENS
Deep defense and a blind hunch are the reasons for having the Habs so high. But will the ridiculous roster turnover be too much of an adjustment? This summer their front office looked like somebody playing a video game and seeing how many deals they could pull off. "Dude, I just traded Chris Higgins and three people I don't know to the Rangers for Scott Gomez."
"I don't know. Maybe because I can. That's why. Now if you'll excuse me I'm going to sign Brian Gionta and Mike Cammalleri so that I have a first line that totals 11 feet in height."
#3 ~ BOSTON BRUINS
Something about this team is just screaming "let down" to me, but I can't really back that up with anything, nor summon the balls to say that Montreal will win this division. They shed Phil Kessel's douchiness but also his team-leading 36 goals, which has to hurt. I guess I think that they just had so many things fall into the right place last year, and duplicating that would be tough. I'd put them lower but they're .... well, they have a lot of good players. Guess that would contradict or something. Oh and I change my mind, Tim Thomas is my favorite non-Wing.
#2 ~ PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
The easy thing for an emotionally crippled Red Wings fan to say is that this team will experience the Cup hangover, struggle through the first few months and then make a joke about them moving to Kansas City after a four game losing streak, which then of course brings up the "empty seats at the Joe" thing, which then leads to the "who's fans suck more" slap fight that occurs every other day and turns the Internet into a terrible, horrifying black hole from which you can never escape. So let's not go there. The more difficult thing to admit is that they're actually a really good team that should challenge for the Cup again this season. Anything less than a return trip to the Finals would be a disappointment to them.
#1 ~ WASHINGTON CAPITALS
I struggled to settle on a #1 seed in this conference. What I'm ultimately thinking is that Ovechkin is so pissed about losing a Game 7 at home to the Penguins (hey now) that he's going to be playing this season on fire. Like literally in flames. Anything he does wouldn't surprise me -- posting 70 goals; kicking the goalie's head off like Shawn Michaels every time he scores; eating his own feces during one of those bizarre Russian interviews; having sex at center ice with Evgeni Malkin's parents... anything could happen. But aside from Ovie's accomplishments, this should be a slightly better team as the great young talent gets even better, and Mike Knuble brings them some of that late 90's Red Wing mojo.
Capitals over Sabres
Penguins over Panthers
Bruins over Flyers
Devils over Canadiens
Capitals over Devils
Bruins over Penguins
Bruins over Capitals