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Predictions made by Frank Fleming on October 6, 2014 at 11:11 pm ET.
Special Thanks to Richard Biver for our Goalie Mask Designs.
2014/15 NHL PREVIEW
Philadelphia Flyers 76 Points
The Flyers were the only team to make the playoffs with a defense ranked among the bottom third of the league. The Flyers did not exactly have a great off-season and already received terrible news when Kimmo Timonen was shut down for the season with blood clots. Without Timonen the Flyers could turn into one of the worst defensive teams in the league. It is hard to imagine without a top flight goalie the Flyers will come anywhere close to the playoffs this season.
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS:
Tampa Bay Lightning over New Jersey Devils
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS:
Chicago Blackhawks over Los Angeles Kings
STANLEY CUP FINALS:
Chicago Blackhawks over Tampa Bay Lightning
Vancouver Cauncks 94 Points
The John Tortorella error is over in Vancouver and though it lasted just one season, he did significant damage to the Canucks. An unhappy Ryan Kesler was traded; they lost both Corey Schneider and Roberto Luongo and ended the season with everyone on the team feeling the misery. The Canucks have upgraded at goalie, signing Ryan Miller. The Sedin Twins should beneift most from Tortorella's departure and should regain the scoring touch as the Canucks return to the playoffs.
Tampa Bay Lightning 108 Points
This is a team ready to take off. Steven Stamkos already one of the best young stars in the NHL should get a boost with the addition of Brian Boyle and Brenden Morrow. They have an improved defense with addition of Anton Stralman and Jason Garrison who should help Goalie Ben Bishop have an even better season in 2015. The Lightning lost Stamkos for three months last season and managed 100 points. This season if the Lightning stay healthy the Lightning could make a serious run at the President's Trophy and could make a long playoff run in the spring.
Boston Bruins 110 Points
The Bruins were the top team in the regular season last year, but fell in the second round to an old nemesis. The window may be about to close for this Bruins group as Zdeno Chara is 37, but Tuukka Rask last season established himself as one of the top goalies in the NHL. The Bruins once again should be one of the hardest teams to score on and in the postseason it could make them a threat to go all the way. However, unless they can pick up an extra goal scorer chances are they will fall short in the pursuit of the cup during the playoffs.
Ottawa Senators 72 Points
It's time that the Senators start using the R word, Rebuild. The trade of Jason Spezza leaves the Senators without a proven goal scorer as David Legwand will do nothing to fill the void. The Senators defense stumbled last season as Erik Karlsson struggled in his return from an Achilles tear. If he can not return to form, the Senators will be a disaster. Last season the Senators allowed 35 shots per game, and Goalie Craig Anderson was overwhelmed. If that trend continues the only option for Ottawa is to start from scratch.
Florida Panthers 84 Points
There are sunny days ahead for the Panthers, as number one pick Aaron Ekblad could in a few short years become a contender for the Norris Trophy. The Panthers are throwing the young defenseman into the fire and it will certainly help his development as he learns against the best. Helping Ekblad is Goalie Roberto Luongo who should get some appreciation from the fans in South Florida. The Panther however, do not have enough offense to make a run at the playoffs. However, they will be significantly better.
Winnipeg Jets 68 Points
On the ice if you are not moving forward you are moving backwards. The Jets came nowhere close to the playoffs last, and did nothing to improve the team. They are in perhaps the toughest division up and down in the NHL and they have several unhappy players. They may have moved to a hockey mad city but this team is still the Atlanta Thrashers with no idea how to run a hockey team. Players like Evander Kane are already expressing their displeasure and could be soon leaving Winnipeg on a Jet plane to a contender.
New York Islanders 96 Points
It's the final season that the Islanders will be playing in the decrepit Nassau Coliseum. When they move west to Brooklyn next season they will be going with a team on the verge of becoming a contender. The Islanders had a great offseason, picking up Jarsolav Halak to solve their goaltending woes. The addition of Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin should give them a deeper scoring attack and boost the numbers of John Tavares, while, they improved the blue line with the preseason pickups of Johnny Bouchuck and Nick Leddy. The Islanders are ready to compete.
Montreal Canadiens* 96 Points
The Canadiens had a terrific season last year reaching the Eastern Conference Finals. However, losing Carey Price in Game 1 against the Rangers all but erased their hopes of ending a 21 year Stanley Cup drought. This Habs team is not quite as good as last year's additions as the departure of Captain Brian Gionta and Daniel Briere could leave the short in the scoring department. The Canadiens should be a solid defensive team with P.K. Subban and Goalie Carey Price leading the way and could be a solid playoff team if they can get hot.
Pittsburgh Penguins 106 Points
The Penguins are exciting and thrilling, on a night to night basis during the season they could have a big night with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin lighting up the scoreboard. However, that is over an 82 game season where they will easily secure the top spot in the Metropolitan Division. However, come April when the games tighten up so does Crosby and Malkin. They also have yet to address their issues at goaltending as Marc-Andre Fleury remains the starter and remains a liability when the postseason begins.
Washington Capitals* 93 Points
The Capitals have made some significant improvements in the off-season starting right at the bench with the hiring of Coach Barry Trotz. The biggest moves come on the blue line, where the Capitals added Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik. There is no doubt the Capitals will get scoring from Alex Ovechkin, and if they can get better defensive play they will certainly make the playoff. However, until Ovechkin learns how to play when the money is on the line it will just be a cameo appearance.
Toronto Maple Leafs 78 Points
Land big name players; hire a big name coach, have a big name General Manager; watch the Toronto Maple Leafs wilt on ice; repeat. It's an endless cycle of hopes rising and crashing and disappointment reigning in Toronto. The latest GM to restore the glory is Brendan Shanahan who as he watches his team fall will certainly change coaches make big trades and watch the Leafs hopes rise than fall before he himself is replaced in a few years by the next GM tasked with returning the Leafs to glory.
Buffalo Sabres 60 Points
The Sabres were the worst team in the NHL last season and will be the worst team in the NHL this season. The Sabres clearly have been in rebuild mode the last few years as they have traded virtually their entire roster. Players like Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek. The Sabres will continue to tear things down as the big hope is they can land the top pick in next year's draft which would mean drafting Connor McDavid who could become the foundation the Sabres desperately need to start building around.
New Jersey Devils 100 Points
The Martin Brodeur era is over and it's now time for Cory Schneider to become a star in the NHL. Last year seeing a bulk of the time in the net for the Devils, Schneider had a 1.97 GAA. He should be even better this season without the worry of looking over his shoulder and seeing a legend on the bench. The only question for the Devils is can they get enough scoring? The addition of Mike Cammalleri and Martin Havlat should help. The Devils barely missed the playoffs last season due to terrible play in shootouts, they can't possibly be that bad again, and with solid goaltending can make some noise in the playoffs.
New York Rangers 86 Points
Despite their run to the Stanley Cup Finals last season, the Rangers were a fringe playoff team last season. They just happened to get hot at the right time. However, the team that made that run is not the same team that will take the ice this season. The Rangers were pinched by the salary cap and unable to make improvements and lost Brad Richards, Benoit Pouliot, Anton Stralman, Brian Boyle and Derek Dorsett. They will also be without Derek Stepan for the first month, it has the sense of a team about to slip and miss the playoffs in New York.
Anaheim Ducks 110 Points
The Ducks are looking to make changes on the fly, as John Gibson who impressed in the playoffs will share the net with Frederik Andersen as Jonah Hiller departed for Calgary. Meanwhile Teemu Sleanne retired and to help fill his void the Ducks acquired Ryan Kesler. Kesler is a great two way forward who should see his career re-energized in Anaheim. The Ducks despite the departure of Selanne should still be among the top scoring teams and could be a real contender for the cup if they can get passed the team up the freeway.
Nashville Predators 90 Points
The Predators made wholesale changes last year after the departure of their original Coach Barry Trotz. Hoping to add more offense the Predators acquired James Neal from the Penguins, while signing Olli Jokinen, Derek Roy and Mike Ribeiro. However, the key will be the health of Goalie Pekka Rinne who missed 51 games last season after hip surgery. The Predators could make a run at a Wild Card spot, but there are too many teams that are better than them in the Central Division to get in securely.
Calgary Flames 80 Points
The Flames are now committed to the future, and the rebuilding process has begun. While, they are far from being a playoff contender the Flames should certainly be better this season. The addition of Jonas Hiller in goal should keep them in games, while the offense should be much better with the addition of Mason Raymond and Devin Setoguchi. One player who Flames fans should look towards is Johnny Gaudreau who will be one of the top rookies in the NHL this season providing the spark for the future Flames to burn their way to the top in the West.
San Jose Sharks 86 Points
Last year's Sharks team was their last best chance to win the Stanley Cup, as they raced out to a 3-0 series lead and were dominating the Kings in the first round. The Kings won the next four and went on to win the Stanley Cup, as the Sharks looked hard at breaking the team up. They shopped Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton but could not find a satisfactory deal. The hangover from the disastrous collapse and a messy off-season foreshadows a team about to crumble. At least this season there will be no playoff collapse in San Jose as the Sharks won't even get in.
Edmonton Oilers 84 Points
The Oilers have to start showing signs of improvement; they have been down too long and have gotten too many top picks to remain the NHL's doormat. They have made improvement to their blue line by picking up Nikita Nikitin and Mark Fayne. They just need somebody to emerge as reliable goalie between Ben Scriven and Victor Fasth. The talent should start to come together and the Oilers should be much more competitive, but the playoffs are still out of reach.
Detroit Red Wings 98 Points
For a quarter of a century the Detroit Red Wings have been certain as the ice beneath them to reach the playoffs. While they may not be a team that makes a long playoff run these days, they will at least get in the tournament. Not much has changed from last year's team, and their age is still an issue. However, by not having to worry about an Olympic tournament that seemed to seriously deplete the Wings as Stephen Weiss, Johan Franzen, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk all missed significant time last year down the stretch of the season.
Columbus Blue Jackets 91 Points
The Blue Jackets made the playoffs for just the second time in franchise history and actually won their first postseason games. The addition of Scott Hartnell should help the Blue Jackets be even better this season, but as the season begins they have serious questions to key players. Nathan Horton is starting the season with a sore back and leading scorer Ryan Johansen a restricted free agent is unsigned. In a tight race for the final playoff spots in the East building too deep of hole, could be what keeps Columbus from returning to the playoffs this season.
Chicago Blackhawks 114 Points
Last year the Blackhawks lost a heartbreaking seventh game to the Kings in the Western Conference Finals. Had they won that game it is quite possible the Hawks would be seeking a three peat. The last three years the Kings and Blackhawks have traded the Stanley Cup back and forth and there is no reason to believe that trend will not continue. The Blackhawks added some extra punch to their offense by picking up Brad Richards. With Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane coming into their prime years, there is no question that the road to Lord Stanley goes through the Windy City.
Minnesota Wild 104 Points
The Wild are a team that can go either way, they can gel and become a Stanley Cup contender or they could unravel and end up shuffling the deck for the season is over. The addition of Thomas Vanek should certainly help boost the sometimes sluggish offense. They will however, need Zach Parise to step up. Goaltending is also a worry as the Wild continue to struggle to find someone healthy enough to stay in the nets, perhaps a call to Martin Brodeur can still happen if Darcy Kuemper struggles early.
Arizona Coyotes 66 Points
The Phoenix Coyotes have become the Arizona Coyotes, but the team will still wander the desert with tumbleweeds rolling down the aisles of empty seats as the few hockey fans in Glendale build a statue of Gary Bettman for his obsession of keeping the team in a failing situation as hockey starved fans in Quebec sigh with sadness. The Coyotes have loss several key players and did not do much to replace them. It is hard not to imagine the Coyotes making more sell offs as they finish with worst record in the West.
Los Angeles Kings 106 Points
The Kings are not quite built for the regular season, but their defense, goaltending and tough clutch play makes them a team that only needs to get in to make a run at the Stanley Cup. Dethroning the Kings will be tough and having Marian Gaborik for a full season may even make them better in the regular season where they can even have home ice in some key series. The Kings will battle the Ducks all season for Pacific superiority and while the Ducks may quack their way to the top in 82 games, come May it will be the Kings with the last laugh as they return to the Conference Finals for another showdown with Chicago.
Colorado Avalanche* 92 points
The Avalanche overachieved last season and went from one of the worst teams in the West to winning the Central Division. However, they would make a quick exit in the playoffs. The Avalanche have lost some key pieces with the departure of Paul Stastny and PA Parenteau. They will also need a repeat performance from Semyon Varlamov, if they are to get anywhere close to last season's win total. However, Nathan MacKinnon is on the verge of becoming a superstar and the talent is there to keep them in the playoff race all season.
Dallas Stars* 96 Points
The Stars are a team on the rise in the West, as they made the playoffs last season and have made some significant upgrades in the off-season adding Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky. The Stars should continue to benefit from a Tyler Seguin who is starting to blossom into a star. The only question in Dallas is if the goaltending and defense can hold up. Either way the Stars should make a return to the postseason with one of the top scoring teams in the West.
St. Louis Blues 98 Points
With Jaroslav Halak gone and Ryan Miller unsigned, Brian Elliott now has the nets all to himself in St. Louis. If Elliott can carry the full weight, the Blues could be a serious Stanley Cup contender. If not, there could be a serious letdown in the Gateway City. The addition of Paul Satstny should give a much needed boost to the Blues offense and they do have one of the top defensive teams led by Kevin Shattenkirk. However, as long as the Blackhawks are in the way it will be hard for the Blues to go very far.
Carolina Hurricanes 80 Points
The Hurricanes who struggled to find scoring last season, already have suffered a big loss with Jordan Staal breaking his leg in the pre-season. Their defense is also suspect and Cam Ward who won the Conn Smythe Trophy in his rookie season has never lived up to the potential he showed during that run in 2008. It is hard to imagine the Hurricanes could make a run at the playoffs, and may need to start thinking about how to restructure for the future to avoid staying in the mediocre zone they been stuck in.
ART ROSS: Sidney Crosby Penguins
RICHARD: Steve Stamkos Lightning
ADAMS: Jack Capuano Islanders
CALDER: John Gibson Ducks
SELKE: Jonathan Toews Blackhawks
VEZINA: Jonathan Quick Kings
NORRIS: Duncan Keith Blackhawks
HART: Steve Stamkos Lightning
SMYTHE: Patrick Kane Blackhawks
Coaches Who Will be Fired
Randy Carlyle-Maple Leafs
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ATLANTIC DIVISION FINALS:
Tampa Bay Lightning over Boston Bruins
METROPOLITAN DIVISION FINALS:
New Jersey Devils over Montreal Canadiens
CENTRAL DIVISION FINALS:
Chicago Blackhawks over St. Louis Blues
PACIFIC DIVISION FINALS:
Los Angeles Kings over Anaheim Ducks