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Predictions made by Frank Fleming on October 5, 2017 at 11:55 pm ET.
Special Thanks to Richard Biver for our Goalie Mask Designs.
2017/18 NHL PREVIEW
Philadelphia Flyers 90 Points
The Philadelphia Flyers have some great pieces on offense and defense, but too many holes in key places to make a serious run at the playoffs. They have a nice, young defense lead by Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere. Their offense lead by Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, and Jakub Voracek has been strong in flashes. However, until they can find better goaltending it will be more frustration in Philly. Brian Elliott is mediocre at best and will need a career year if the Flyers have a shot at all.
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS:
Tampa Bay Lightning 4 Pittsburgh Penguins 3
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS:
Minnesota Wild 4 Edmonton Oilers 3
STANLEY CUP FINALS:
Minnesota Wild 4 Tampa Bay Lightning 3
Vancouver Cauncks 64 Points
The Vancouver Canucks are rebuilding…sort of. As there seems to be a great deal of confusion with some of their recent moves. Their big acquisitions are Sam Gagner, Alex Burmistrov, and Michael Del Zotto, all of whom are going nowhere. The best course of action is to trade away the Sedins and start from scratch. It's time to fully commit to a rebuild. The Canucks could get a boost I Brock Boeser breaks out and Bo Horvat builds on an All-Star season, as start the youth movement now is the right decision.
Tampa Bay Lightning 99 Points
The Tampa Bay Lightning are the favorites to win in this division. However, looking at recent history. the Lightning have always struggled in the first half with injuries but had a power surge after the All-Star break to set up for a deep playoff run. Last year, it did not work as they missed the playoffs completely. The team will have to rely on a healthy Steven Stamkos in order to have a full return to the top tier in the Eastern Conference, and Nikita Kucherov and Andre Vasilevsky need to keep form after spectacular seasons.
Boston Bruins 89 Points
The Boston Bruins shed two disappointing seasons by returning to the playoffs but did not do enough to improve in the offseason. The team is going all in on Brad Marchand and Tuukka Rask while developing the future with David Pastrnak and Charlie McAvoy. The big question is Zdeno Chara. How much longer can he hold? He is nearing the end of his career, so if McAvoy, Torey Krug, and other young defensive prospects like Brandon Carlo don't make a big push, the Bruins could be in for a long season.
Ottawa Senators 101 Points
The Ottawa Senators could have easily been the Eastern Nashville Predators, pulling off a shocking run to game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals before being squashed by the Penguins on their road to repeating. The Sens are led by Erik Karlsson, who has cemented himself as one of today's great defensemen playing on a fractured foot in the playoffs. The main question here is, can Craig Anderson hold up at the age of 36 or will his age catch up to him, after a long playoff run last year. The Senators could be dangerous is they land offense at the deadline.
Florida Panthers 82 Points
Lather, rinse, repeat! That is the motto of the Florida Panthers who have once again fallen back downwards after a big 2015-16 campaign. The Panthers were a hot mess last season as injuries and front office disarray sent the promising cats back. A lot of the players who provided offensively for the Panthers such as Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, and Jaromir Jagr are gone. The best hope for the Panthers is that their young core takes the next step and avoids the injured reserve as much as possible.
Winnipeg Jets 90 Points
The Winnipeg Jets have such a talented young core of Mark Schiefele, Nikolaj Ehlers, and Patrik Laine. They also have a solid defense led by Dustin Byfuglien. They also picked up a decent goaltender in Steve Mason. While he may be inconsistent, he is at least reliable. The problem is, the Western Conference and Central Division are just too deep for them to be in the mix at the finish line.
New York Islanders 86 Points
Just as things were finally going well for the New York Islanders, they suddenly have too much on their plate to deal with to stay competitive all season. John Tavares is due to become a free agent, and will likely move on and unless he nets an extension, Joshua Ho-Sang and Matthew Barzal seem to be developing slowly. Meanwhile, their arena situation has become an utter mess in Brooklyn, and they are scrambling to get a new arena and could possibly leave New York in a few seasons if plans to build one by Belmont Park falls through.
Montreal Canadiens 94 Points
Recently, the Montreal Canadiens have made some very questionable summer transactions. Last year, they traded budding P.K. Subban for Shea Weber, who is starting the twilight of his career. This year, the Habs let Alexander Radulov, Nathan Beaulieu, and high-touted prospect Mikhail Sergachev all loose. Max Pacioretty leads a rather jumbled offense so the season's playoffs hopes have fallen completely upon goaltender Carey Price, who will need a superhuman effort to get the Canadiens back to the postseason.
Pittsburgh Penguins 107 Points
For the first time in nearly 20 years, we have a repeat Stanley Cup champion! That team is the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins are once again the toast of the NHL. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are now mentoring players like Jake Guentzel, Conor Sheary, and Brian Rust. Brian Dumoulin and Olli Maatta are starting to take the high ropes on the D-line, and Matt Murray has finally emerged from Marc-Andre Fleury's shadow. They have an excellent shot at a third straight cup, as they measure success by the playoffs and not the regular season.
Washington Capitals 103 Points
For the Washington Capitals, there is a brick wall they always seem to run into every May. That wall is named the second round of the playoffs. Last spring, the Caps went all in specifically to get over that wall, but again failed as the Penguins did them in once again. This team did little to fix this as a lot of their reliable players left DC. However, they still have many great players in John Carlsson and Braden Holtby, and as long as Alex Ovechkin holds a hot stick, the Capitals will always be a threat to win the President's Trophy, but come playoff time it will be more disappointment.
Toronto Maple Leafs 104 Points
The Toronto Maple Leafs are the most talented team in the Atlantic Division. After years upon years of rotting in mediocrity, I feel as if this team is close to becoming a true Stanley Cup contender. The Leafs are centered around a young trio of Auston Matthews, Mitchell Marner, and William Nylander. This is the age in professional sports where the kids run the show as it will definitely be seen here. The Maple Leafs could make a serious run at Stanley Cup in the next few years as they may be only one piece away.
Buffalo Sabres 92 Points
The Buffalo Sabres are starting to make some serious strides back to contention. Jack Eichel is becoming the franchise player that he was advertised as when drafted. Rasmus Ristolainen has also developed well on defense and so is Sam Reinhart. The Sabres' youth movement has gotten a big boost from Kyle Okposo with an All-Star season in 2017. Robin Lehner is also developing nicely as the team's go-to goalie. If all the cards fall in the right slots, the Sabres could possibly challenge for a wild card.
New Jersey Devils* 96 Points
If all goes right, the New Jersey the might just sneak into the playoffs as a wild card. Nico Hischier chosen first overall in the NHL Draft does not have as much hype as Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews have gotten out of their drafts, but he will need to turn heads for the Devils and bring excitement back to the Prudential Center, while Taylor Hall get the help he needs as Marcus Johansson will prove to be one of the best pickups in the off-season. Look for Goalie Corey Schneider to have a bounce-back year thanks to defensive improvements from the addition of Brian Strait and the presence of rookie Will Butcher.
New York Rangers* 98 Points
The New York Rangers enter this season having taken some huge gambles. They picked up Kevin Shattenkirk in free agency but traded away Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta while Oscar Lindberg went partying in Vegas and Dan Girardi hit the beach. The Rangers' season lies on the backs of Ryan McDonagh and Henrik Lundqvist, who clearly is not the goalie he used to be. If Lundqvist continues to fade and McDonough struggles there will be an empty Garden come playoff time.
Anaheim Ducks 104 Points
It is year two of the Randy Carlyle renaissance in Anaheim, and the Anaheim Ducks need to make their move fast if they want to secure another Stanley Cup just. Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf are not getting any younger and could start to decline. That means Rickard Rakell and Ondrej Kase need to take the next step, and so does Hampus Lindholm. Meanwhile, John Gibson needs to be their rock in the crease, with Ryan Miller is now a backup at his best.
Nashville Predators* 100 Points
The Nashville Predators shocked the hockey world making a spectacular run to the Stanley Cup Final and turning Music City into a true hockey city. Look for the Predators to remain competitive this year, thanks to their stacked defense and young, powerful offense. The only thing Nashville needs to worry about is getting past their annual first half struggles. If the Predators can play it safe until Ryan Ellis gets back, this team could go on another long magical run.
Calgary Flames 101 Points
There may seem to be a boomerang effect with the Calgary Flames. They came and went from the Stanley Cup playoffs the last few years, and it is possible they may be out again if Mike Smith does not keep All-Star form. I still think they'll get in though on the backs of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Keith Tkachuk, plus the addition of wily veteran Jaromir Jagr. Their defense also got a buffer in Travis Hamonic. The big question lies in the future with the Flames at ends about getting a new arena which is a must to stay in Calgary.
San Jose Sharks* 99 Points
The San Jose Sharks are trying to beat the father time in their quest to win the Stanley Cup for the Bay. Patrick Marleau is gone, and Joe Thornton is beyond his prime, so it is up to Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl to come full circle and help Joe Pavelski carry the offense. They have an amazing defense led by Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Martin Jones has fully developed to one of the top goalies in the NHL after escaping Jonathan Quick's shadow in Los Angeles.
Edmonton Oilers 110 Points
Connor McDavid is doing what Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent- Hopkins, and Nail Yakupov were never able to do and that is carry the Edmonton Oilers out of the gutters and make them Stanley Cup contenders. McDavid is the best player the Oilers had since Wayne Gretzky, and Leon Draisaitl is coming hot off a breakout season scoring 29 goals. If Cam Talbot or another goalie picked up at the deadline can perform up to last year’s standard established in the playoffs the Oilers may win not only the Pacific Division, but also the Western Conference, and maybe the Stanley Cup.
Detroit Red Wings 78 Points
We all knew it was coming. The 25-year playoff streak for the Detroit Red Wings just had to end at some point. Now the streak is over, and it is an uphill battle from here on out. Henrik Zetterberg, Jimmy Howard, and Niklas Kronwall are old and not who they once were. If the Red Wings play their cards right they should trade their former stars and begin the process of rebuilding in earnest. With a little patience, the Red Wings can start making memories at their new, state-of-the-art Little Caesar's Arena in downtown Detroit in a few seasons.
Columbus Blue Jackets 112 Points
Last season, the Columbus Blue Jackets turned heads of many hockey fans as they had a 16-game winning streak in route to their best season ever. The true test is this year. Seth Jones and Zack Werenski can continue to improve. Sergei Bobrovsky should remain in Vezina mode. The question is can Cam Atkinson team up with Artemi Panarin and provide more punch on offense. If all the pieces come together the Blue Jackets can become a real Stanley Cup contender.
Chicago Blackhawks 104 Points
The Chicago Blackhawks were embarrassed by being the first top-seeded team swept out of the first round. The offseason did not show much for the Blackhawks, as an attempted family reunion highlights their moves. While Brandon Saad is capable of at least 20 goals again, Patrick Sharp has been battered by a rough year in Dallas. Their defense corps also took some punches. However, as long as Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are driving the ship, expect the Hawks to remain a threat to take home Lord Stanley.
Minnesota Wild 107 Points
Last season the Minnesota Wild had their greatest season in franchise history buoyed by a long winning streak. It is no question that this team is a contender and could win the Stanley Cup. They have a strong defense led by Ryan Suter, and Goalie Devan Dubnyk is still an All-Star. Their biggest question is on offense. Tyler Ennis was brought in this season, but his production sagged as a result of concussions. If he can bounce back and Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter, and Jason Zucker keep up, this team could go on a long run in the spring.
Arizona Coyotes 88 Points
On one end, the Arizona Coyotes are on the verge of total collapse as they still cannot sort out an arena deal as they wander around aimlessly in the desert. On the other, the Coyotes are one of the league's most promising teams after a fix this offseason. While waiting for promising prospects to take the NHL ice, they picked up Derek Stepan and Nicklas Hjalmarsson in the offseason. They also added a young, decent goalie in Antti Raanta, but the playoffs are still likely a few years away.
Los Angeles Kings 92 Points
After years of Stanley Cup glory in Hollywood, the Los Angeles Kings are taking new directions. The front office cleaned house in the offseason with a new president and GM in Luc Robitaille and Rob Blake respectively. Both are Kings legends, but can they do well in the organizational realm? The Kings did not do much in the offseason player acquisition relating, so Drew Doughty must carry the aging Kings on his back if they are to have any chance at all making the playoffs.
Colorado Avalanche 68 points
The only place for the Colorado Avalanche to go is up after an embarrassing 48-point effort last season. The problem is as long as Matt Duchene is unhappy the Avalanche can't begin to move on and start the process of getting into contention. Once again, they will be one of the worst teams in the NHL and will be at or near the bottom of the NHL standings.
Dallas Stars 103 Points
The Dallas Stars suffered a major letdown last season after finishing first in the Western Conference the in 2016. Hoping to rocket back to the top, they rolled the dice in the offseason bringing in Alexander Radulov and Martin Hanzal. They add to the already powerful scoring duo of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Their defense and goaltending also got upgrades in Marc Methot and Ben Bishop. If Ken Hitchcock can flash back to his 1999 Cup-winning self, the Stars will be a dangerous team once again.
St. Louis Blues 98 Points
The window of opportunity for the St. Louis Blues is closing. They remain a very talented team, but the best they have accomplished with it is two wins in the conference final in 2016. Vladimir Tarasenko has clearly become the face of the franchise. The defense is solid lead by Colton Parayko and Alex Pietrangelo. In order to make the playoffs again in a competitive Western Conference, these players must carry a lot of the load, and Jake Allen must build on his playoff run.
Carolina Hurricanes 93 Points
Remember the last time the Carolina Hurricanes tried to stack their roster? They're trying again this season adding Justin Williams, Trevor Van Riemsdyk, and Scott Darling. The Canes are hoping that Van Riemsdyk and Darling have breakout years, especially with the latter taking over as the go-to in the crease. Williams, who won the Cup in 2006 with Carolina, should mentor Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, and Elias Lindholm. A lot of things will have to go right for Carolina if they are to make a run at the playoffs.
ART ROSS: Connor McDavid Oilers
ROCKET RICHARD: Connor McDavid Oilers
ADAMS: John Hynes Devils
CALDER: Nico Hischier Devils
SELKE: Logan Couture Sharks
VEZINA: Sergei Bobrovsky Blue Jackets
NORRIS: Erik Karlsson Senators
HART: Connor McDavid Oilers
SMYTHE: Devan Dubnyk Wild
Coaches Who Will be Fired
Jeff Blashill-Red Wings
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ATLANTIC DIVISION FINALS:
Tampa Bay Lightning 4 Toronto Maple Leafs 2
METROPOLITAN DIVISION FINALS:
Pittsburgh Penguins 4 Columbus Blue Jackets 1
CENTRAL DIVISION FINALS:
Minnesota Wild 4 Chicago Blackhawks 2
PACIFIC DIVISION FINALS:
Edmonton Oilers 4 Anaheim Ducks 3
STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONS:
Vegas Golden Knights 69 Points
The Vegas Golden Knights are an expansion team, so they will be bad by default. However, they will not be pushovers and should be competitive on most nights. The Knights used the expansion draft as an attempt to build a fanbase early. They picked up some solid well-known players in Marc-Andre Fleury, James Neal, and Jonathan Marchessault. Provided all of them keep up their quality, I think T-Mobile Arena should be treated to some entertaining hockey enough to fill the building on most nights.
METROPOLITAN DIVISION 1st ROUND:
Columbus Blue Jackets 4 New Jersey Devils 2
Pittsburgh Penguins 4 Washington Capitals 1
ATLANTIC DIVISION 1st ROUND:
Toronto Maple Leafs 4 New York Rangers 3
Tampa Bay Lightning 4 Ottawa Senators 2
CENTRAL DIVISION 1st ROUND:
Minnesota Wild 4 Nashville Predators 3
Chicago Blackhawks 4 Dallas Stars 2
PACIFIC DIVISION 1st ROUND:
Edmonton Oilers 4 San Jose Sharks 1
Anaheim Ducks 4 Calgary Flames 1
Special Thanks to
K.J. Lemoine who was a great help in getting this preview completed