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Predictions made by Frank Fleming on September 30, 2013 at 2:55 pm ET.
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2013/14 NHL PREVIEW
Philadelphia Flyers 88 Points
To a team that has a terrible defense and problems keeping the puck out of the net, the Flyers thought long and hard and added another goal scorer in Vincent Lecavalier. Problem is Lecavalier is well past his prime and I don't see him wearing goalie pads. With Ilya Bryzgalov leaving town on a rail, the Flyers have brought back Ray Emery who did well as a back up in Chicago and Steve Mason who after winning the Calder could not keep a beach ball out of the net. Emery is not capable of carrying a team and will lead to just more frustration in Philly.
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS:
New York Rangers over Boston Bruins
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS:
San Jose Sharks over St. Louis Blues
STANLEY CUP FINALS:
San Jose Sharks over New York Rangers
Vancouver Cauncks 86 Points
If John Tororella undergoes a personality transplant the new coach could work wonders in Vancouver who fired Alain Vinagult after three straight playoff collapses. The most surprising move is keeping the fragile Roberto Luongo over Corey Schneider. Fans have blamed Luongo for the playoff failures and if he struggles, Tortorella will only make things worse. With the Rangers Tortorella has held back his offensive stars by forcing them into defensive roles they are uncomfortable with and then trade them to shake things up. He will do this to the Sedin twins and trade one leading to a full collapse in Vancouver. To see what Tortorella will do to the Canucks look at baseball and what Bobby Valentine did his season in Boston.
Tampa Bay Lightning 83 Points
The bottom of the Atlantic Division is much like the ocean itself if soft and squishy. The Lightning have some good young talent and can light up the scoreboard led by Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos can light up the scoreboard. However, there defense is much like snow in Tampa, its nowhere to be found. Making matter worse Goalies Ben Bishop and Anders Lindback are hardly better than AHL talent. Unless this team is in the race come March, the best option would be to deal St. Louis at the deadline to bring in some defensive talent and a goalie that can play NHL hockey.
Boston Bruins 105 Points
After coming close to a second sip from Lord Stanley in three years, the Bruins suffered some key losses in the offseason. Gone are Nathan Horton, Rich Peverley, Tyler Seguin and Andrew Ference. The Bruins hope veteran Jarome Iginla can add some scoring depth to a tough defensive team. The Bruins are also a very old team as Zdeno Chara is now 37. However, if they can make it through an 82 game season healthy there is no doubt the Bruins would be among the top contenders for the Cup again.
Ottawa Senators 101 Points
The loss of Daniel Alfredsson was a punch to the gut of longtime Senators fans, but it other than Alfie's leadership there is nothing they will miss. A team that was ravaged by injuries last year had some big contributions from their young talent, and now they have added Bobby Ryan's scoring abilities to a tough defense led by 2012 Norris Erik Karlsson and Goalie Craig Anderson both of whom battled injuries last year. If they can stay healthy, not only will the Senators fight for first place they could go on a run for the Cup.
Florida Panthers 80 Points
Sunny South Florida a retirement destinations for millions of Canadian and American northerners sick of snow ice apparently is now where old hockey players come to fade away. Entering the Panthers this year are Scott Gomez and Tim Thomas, who is coming off a year in which he sat out the entire season. However, the core of the Panthers is a young team and the hope is the veterans are able to show them the ropes to enable to build a contender. That may happen, but the only thing the Panthers will have this year is plenty of time on the golf courses of Florida.
Winnipeg Jets* 95 Points
After two seasons of an exhaustive travel schedule playing in the Southeast Division, the Winnipeg Jets are finally in the Western Conference. Especially last season in a condensed 48 game season that long flights from Winnipeg to Florida took their toll on the Jets. This team is now ready to take a step forward and make its playoff debut as Evander Kane will have a strong season and join the league elite stars. The Jets have also secured several key players with long term deals that will help the Jets develop some stability as the future is certainly bright in Winnipeg.
New York Islanders 86 Points
Last season John Tavares emerged as one of the best young players in the NHL as he was a Hart Trophy finalist and carried the Islanders into the playoffs. Getting back in the playoffs will be hard for the Islanders as Tavares needs a second scorer to help make the Islanders a true contender. That will likely not come until the Islanders settle into Brooklyn in a few seasons. Meanwhile, the big problem is in goal, as Evgeni Nabokov is not a long term solution. Unless Torres has a year for the ages the Islanders will take a step back.
Montreal Canadiens 98 Points
No team was a bigger surprise last season than the Montreal Canadiens, who battled all season for the best record in the Eastern Conference. Defense was a big driving factor in the Habs success as Goalie Carey Price had a great season, while P.K. Subban captured his first Norris Trophy. Repeating that success may be hard in a full season, as Subban does not present the size of some of the better defenseman. Still Subban has show plenty of heart and Les Canadiens with some good young talent developing can see the foundation coming together.
Pittsburgh Penguins 115 Points
There is no doubt about the Pittsburgh Penguins will be holding a trophy over their heads, only problem is that trophy will be the President's Trophy. Last year the Blackhawks avoided the dreaded regular season champ kiss of death and won the Stanley Cup, can the Pens do the same this year? Winning in the regular season and playoffs are two different things and the dynamic Penguins offense led by Sidney Crosby can carry them in 82 games, but unless Marc-Andre Fleury or another goalie can win in the postseason in will be more disappointment in Western Pennsylvania.
Washington Capitals 100 Points
Even before they were in the same division, Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby had a intense rivalry. Now that both the Capitals and Penguins occupy the Metropolitan Division it will turn into one of the game's best. The key for the Capitals is Ovechkin who had a slow start last season, but had a strong finish and guided the Caps to a division title. A slow start this year, simply cannot happen as this division is much tougher than the old Southeast. One thing that will help is Braden Holtby becoming a contender for the Vezina.
Toronto Maple Leafs 92 Points
The Maple Leafs stunning collapse in Game 7 last year had to fell even worse after the Bruins whom they had all but buried nearly won the Stanley Cup. The early key for the Leafs will be to make sure there is no hangover from the heartbreaking loss. The Leafs may have finally found a reliable Goalie as James Reimer was strong in the short season, if not Jonathan Bernier is on hand. If either well in can play well, the Leafs should make the playoffs again. However, if they are to be a threat in the playoffs they will need some more goal scoring.
Buffalo Sabres 77 Points
Goalie Ryan Miller should have a for sale sign on his back because when the season begins he will not be playing to help the Sabres make the playoffs. He will be playing to show he is back in Vezina form and can be the final piece for a playoff team that needs a prove goalie. The Sabres are a genuine mess and the only solution is to take the mumps, tear it down and start from scratch and trading Miller would be the biggest step as he can bring a cache of young talent sorely needed in Buffalo.
New Jersey Devils* 96 Points
It has been popular to write off the New Jersey Devils after the con job pulled by Ilya "I am afraid of real hockey" Kovalchuk. This is likely going to be Martin Brodeur's swan song and it will be nice to see him getting a proper send off. Winning the Stanley Cup may be stretch, but the Devils will certainly be a playoff contender. Corey Schneider will show he is a good replacement for Brodeur as Adam Henrique will have a breakout season, and will prove Kovy's loss is more of an addition by subtraction than a franchise breaking loss.
New York Rangers 103 Points
The one concern in New York is, can Henrik Ludqvist a free agent at the end of the season remain one of the best goalies in the NHL without John Tortorella's defense first system. If he can the Rangers could make a big run this season. Coach Alain Vigneault will help the team relax more and this in turn will help the team's offense as Rick Nash and Brad Richards both have bounce back seasons. There is a lot of talent in this Garden and if things break right it can blossom into another Stanley Cup.
Anaheim Ducks 98 Points
No team is more streaky than the Anaheim Ducks; a good start had them among the best teams in the West last year. The year before a bad start had them buried in the West, and it can go either way this season. The Ducks have a team full of veterans that are well past their prime including Teemu Selanne who is returning for one more season for the third year in a row. The Ducks should be good enough to make the playoffs, but unless they hit the season streaking they will be out quickly once again.
Nashville Predators 92 Points
Seth Jones has the talent to become a defensive star the NHL has not seen since Ray Bourque. He is strong and a good skater who once he develops could become one of the league's premier stars. The Predators were the clear beneficiary when Jones slipped to the fourth draft pick and it won't take long for teams that passed on him to start kicking themselves. Seth Jones will help fill the hole left behind by Ryan Suter and teaming up with Shea Weber will help him become a force on the blue line right away as the Predators get back in playoff contention.
Calgary Flames 66 Points
There is only one word needed to define the 2013/14 season and that is disaster. During the summer the city of Calgary was hit by some devastating flooding that damaged the Saddledome, the team is trying to use the repairs to define their season. Unfortunately for them the team is in up to its neck in water and the rain has not stopped yet. This team is starting from square one as Goalie Mikka Kipprusoff became the latest long time star to depart with his retirement. The only good news is fans in Calgary understand what rebuilding takes and patience will be the most important asset this year as the Flames are clearly the worst team in the NHL.
San Jose Sharks 107 Points
How much longer can the Sharks window stay open? The Sharks have teased their fans for more than decade with a talented team that can win the Stanley Cup, yet they have not even made it to the Stanley Cup Finals. One problem is they have largely been built for the regular season, and again they are a strong team for the regular season as they will battle the Kings all season in the Pacific. To get over their playoff struggles the Sharks added Tyler Kennedy, if they can get past the Kings and Blackhawks, Lord Stanley may be signing Do You Know the Way to San Jose.
Edmonton Oilers* 93 Points
The Oilers had three straight number one overall picks, eventually all that young talent has got to come together and make the Oiler a playoff team again. New Coach Dallas Eakins is good at developing young talent and getting them to reach their full potential. This is just what Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle have been waiting for to reach the next level. I like all three of the Oilers young stars to have a big season as the Oilers grab one of two Wild card spots in the West.
Detroit Red Wings 90 Points
The Red Wings after thriving in the Western Conference move to the East, as part of the NHL's latest realignment. They have made the playoffs every season since 1990, going through two different playoff formats. Now with the wild cards they are in their third different postseason format and most see the Wings being there come April. This why they will not, age; this is a very old team that now plays in a more physical conference. In addition Goalie Jimmy Howard is very inconsistent; this is the year that catches up with Hockeytown as they hit the golf course early this year.
Columbus Blue Jackets* 94 Points
Last season Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky had a breakout season, and nearly took the Blue Jackets who most predicted would be the worst team in the NHL into the playoffs. Now things will be even harder for Columbus as they make the move to the Eastern Conference and into the unforgiving Metropolitan Division. If Bobrovsky can have another Vezina type season, the Jackets could actually make some noise in the playoffs. One thing that will help the Jackets cause is a big season from Marian Gaborik, who will be helped by the addition of Nathan Horton.
Chicago Blackhawks 110 Points
The Blackhawks are coming off their second Stanley Cup Championship in four years. The last time they won in 2010, the Blackhawks defended the cup with a team that lost several key players due to the salary cap; this time around that is not a problem as the Blackhawks have largely the same team intact. There is no doubt the Blackhawks are the team to beat in the Western Conference and though rising to the same level they played at last year will be tough as they will play the entire season with a target on their back, but once again the road to the Cup goes through Chicago.
Minnesota Wild 102 Points
Last year the Wild entered the season with renewed excitement in the State of Hockey with the addition of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise. However, after the lockout the Wild were hurt as the two new additions had trouble fitting in Minnesota. The Wild would finish the season strong and did slip into the playoffs. This year they should be a more formidable team as Parise and Suter have had a season and a full training camp to find their place and that should be able to make the Wild one of the best teams in the West.
Phoenix Coyotes 88 Points
The Coyotes may be on the road to stability as they have a renewed a lease with the City of Glendale who have made them Professional Sports official Welfare rat. The hope is that the Coyotes can reward the City council and make Glendale a hockey oasis. However, years of financial restraints have made it hard for the Coyotes to compete. Last year showed there is too many holes to overcome, unless Goalie Mike Smith stands on his head. The division and the Western Conference have many more talented teams and the Coyotes will get lost in the shuffle.
Los Angeles Kings 102 Points
The Kings are not a regular season team, they lack scoring depth and their rough style cannot endure an 82 game season. However, they are the perfect team for the playoffs as Jonathan Quick has proven to be a great big game goalie, as their lockdown defense is reminiscent of the trap which brought three Stanley Cups to New Jersey. Winning divisions is not what the Kings do, just getting in strong playoff position will be enough as the Kings will once again be a cup contender come April. Look for Quick to be the star, winning the Gold Medal in Sochi and taking the Vezina during the season.
Colorado Avalanche 78 points
The Avalanche are starting to piece together a solid young nucleus, which will make them one of the teams to beat for years to come in the West. However, they have too many holes to overcome to be considered a serious playoff contender this year. Hoping to fill some of the holes the Avs signed P.A. Parenteau, but this was is a longshot gamble at best. Fans in Denver should enjoy the continued development of Gabriel Landeskog, who should olnly get better after winning the Calder Trophy last season.
Dallas Stars 86 Points
The Stars made wholesale changes in the off-season, even changing their logo and uniforms. A new coach Lindy Ruff, and the addition of Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley, Sergei Gonchar and Shawn Horncoff should make the Stars more interesting. However, unless Seguin begins to play to the level that made him a second overall pick it will be more disappointment in Dallas. The Stars still don't have a strong goalie and have many holes and in the end will be out of the race at the end of the season.
St. Louis Blues 105 Points
Perhaps the biggest challenge for the Blackhawks will be from St. Louis as the Blues defense already among the best in the league now has Jay Boumeester for a full season. Scoring is the one issue the Blues have, but on a team that allows the fewest goals in the league it is not a crippling issue. The Blues have two solid goalies in Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott both can carry a team in the playoffs. The Blues need just one player to emerge as a goal scorer and they can take the Stanley Cup as this team is a near mirror image of the Los Angeles Kings.
Carolina Hurricanes 80 Points
Before the Hurricanes even play a game this season, they have suffered a huge loss as Defenseman Joni Pitkanen will likely miss the entire season recovering from a broken heel he suffered at the end of last season. To a team without defensive depth and an average goalie in Cam Ward who has never been able to regain the form from his 2006 Conn Smythe playoff run, this is a death blow. The Metropolitan Division is the deepest division in hockey and the Hurricanes will quickly be established as it's punching bag.
ART ROSS: Sidney Crosby Penguins
RICHARD: John Tavares Islanders
ADAMS: Dallas Eakins Oilers
CALDER: Seth Jones Predators
SELKE: Patrice Bergeron Bruins
VEZINA: Jonathan Quick Kings
NORRIS: Ryan Suter Wild
HART: Sidney Crosby Penguins
SMYTHE: Brent Burns Sharks
Coaches Who Will be Fired
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ATLANTIC DIVISION FINALS:
Boston Bruins over Ottawa Senators
METROPOLITAN DIVISION FINALS:
New York Rangers over Pittsburgh Penguins
CENTRAL DIVISION FINALS:
St. Louis Blues over Chicago Blackhawks
PACIFIC DIVISION FINALS:
San Jose Sharks over Los Angeles Kings