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Predictions made by Frank Fleming on October 6, 2018 at 1:55 am ET.
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2018/19 NHL PREVIEW
Philadelphia Flyers 93 Points
The Philadelphia Flyers garnered a lot of internet attention as they unveiled a creepy, new mascot named after the values the organization has as it flickered between a short playoff trip and on the outside looking in. The Flyers strengthened their offense with the return of James van Riemsdyk but the anchor here is their defense and goaltending with the Flyers not doing much to improve the situation rather than wait for what's to come in Phillippe Myers and Carter Hart. Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere can only do so much.
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS:
Tampa Bay Lightning 4 New Jersey Devils 2
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS:
San Jose Sharks 4 Nashville Predators 2
STANLEY CUP FINALS:
San Jose Sharks 4 Tampa Bay Lightning 2
Vancouver Cauncks 76 Points
There will come a day where the likes of Brock Boeser, Elias Patterson, Thatcher Demko, and Quinn Hughes will return the Vancouver Canucks to their glory days of contending for the Stanley Cup, but that day is simply not this year. The Canucks are building nicely and have the goal on a team built through youth and the draft very well in-focus, but these things take time. Boeser missed a lot of time with injury last year and seems due for a sophomore slump, but don't be surprised if the Canucks are in the thick of the race by 2021.
Tampa Bay Lightning 111 Points
A stunning defeat in the Conference Final last season is only pushing more fervor into the Tampa Bay Lightning who are looking brighter than ever with J.T. Miller and Ryan McDonagh playing for a full season. Young stars such as Brayden Point, Yanni Gourde, and Mikhail Sergachev should be helpful to proven franchise faces Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and Victor Hedman. Andrei Vasilevsky is also expected to build off a Vezina finalist year as the Lightning's chances of bringing the Stanley Cup back to the Sunshine State could not be better.
Boston Bruins 104 Points
The Boston Bruins finally got back on track and won their first playoff series in four years. The youth of the team is looking brighter than ever highlighted by David Pastrnak and Charlie McAvoy and several other prospects ready to make an impact or waiting in the wings. In goal, Tuukka Rask is still going strong at 31. The main question is the ability to keep up with Tampa Bay and Toronto. Making the playoffs should be easy, but what happens in said playoffs is another story.
Ottawa Senators 44 Points
When asked about his number one reason for optimism towards the Ottawa Senators, general manager gave a long, contemplative silence before responding in an unsure tone, "we're a team." I can't find any better moment that defines the Senators this year. Everything surrounding this club is the epitome of misery from scandals to bad trades to owner Eugene Melnyk cursing the fans and threatening to move the team if they don't bow to his expensive demands. Literally, nobody is happy with the organization, and all the poor morale makes me wonder if they can reach 40 points.
Florida Panthers* 99 Points
Last season, the Florida Panthers started off predictably bad and powered through the second half of the season only to become the best team in NHL history to not make the postseason. The good news is that no major organizational changes were made in another attempt to change team identity and they took advantage of a nasty situation in Ottawa to nab Mike Hoffman. If the Panthers are to make it back to the playoffs, they need their core to keep it up as they don't have much depth and Roberto Luongo must not fall off a cliff due to age.
Winnipeg Jets 108 Points
The long, suffering fans of the Winnipeg Jets are finally getting what they have been yearning for since their beloved team returned home in 2011. This team is stacked top to bottom with players such as Patrick Laine, Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, Nikolaj Ehlers, and Kyle Connor adding a productive scoring punch with Dustin Byfuglien, Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers, and Josh Morrisey holding the fort on the blue line. Connor Hellebuyck turned heads last year as a Vezina finalist and will look to take the next step in his career as Winnipeg has their sights set on the Stanley Cup.
New York Islanders 78 Points
It seems that the world is ending for fans of the New York Islanders as they enter the post-John Tavares era. Tavares was their hamster on the wheel guiding them through several disappointing seasons on Long Island. However, his departure is not a reason to panic. The Islanders have a promising future seen in breakout years from Mat Barzal and Anthony Beavillier, and GM Lou Lamoriello and head coach Barry Trotz usher in a new era of Islanders hockey with an emphasis on improving the defense as the team flips between the Barn and Brooklyn before finally moving into a solid home in Belmont Park.
Montreal Canadiens 54 Points
Dear Marc Bergevin, you are the absolute worst General Manager in the NHL right now. Your string of bad trades and poor insight has ruined the hockey's storied franchise. Everything blew up in his face last year when the Montreal Canadiens bumbled their way to being one of the worst teams last year. With Max Pacioretty gone because of poor morale, the Canadiens are left to hope that Carey Price can recover from a tumultuous season and play for the money's worth he is being given as the highest-paid NHL goalie. Though with the team that is around him, what can he do?
Pittsburgh Penguins 105 Points
There is a sense of urgency developing in the Pittsburgh Penguins as it appears their window of competition might be beginning to slide down. The Penguins struggled during the regular season and at times looked like they could miss the playoffs with Matt Murray experiencing a slump at times last year. It showed when they were unable to defeat the Capitals in the playoffs, which was a rite of spring until last year. Now, the Penguins must squeeze all they can out of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who will sorely miss Conor Sheary.
Washington Capitals 106 Points
To say the Washington Capitals finally got off the snide this season is an understatement as the team ended 44 years of pain and misery with their first Stanley Cup as Alex Ovechkin finally cemented himself as one of the game's true greats. A repeat, however, may be a tall order as the Capitals will need a lot of things to go their way such as Tom Wilson building off a breakout season and Ovechkin to continue being the scoring threat he is at 33. It would also help for Phoenix Copley to develop to take a load off Braden Holtby.
Toronto Maple Leafs 116 Points
Legion of long-suffering Toronto Maple Leafs fans are jumping louder than ever with John Tavares coming to Toronto to play for his hometown team. Add to a young core in Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner with a deeper forward lineup and there is excitement buzzing for the Maple Leafs. However, there are still some major holes in defense as they let the Leafs down big time in the playoffs, and Frederik Anderson can only do so much. However, the Maple Leafs are in better position than ever to end their 51-year Stanley Cup drought.
Buffalo Sabres 94 Points
A promising Buffalo Sabres squad fell flat on their faces last season finishing with the worst record in the NHL. Things can only go up from there as they play in literally the weakest division in the NHL and they now have two generational talents in Rasmus Dahlin and Jack Eichel. The rest of the team's prospects look convincing, but something needs to happen before this team is to be taken seriously. Maybe if all the cards fall where they should they might pull a Colorado and make the playoffs.
New Jersey Devils 101 Points
The New Jersey Devils broke through after six years of hardship with MVP Taylor Hall guiding them to their first playoff appearance since their magical 2012 run. As a whole, the team is still capable of returning to the postseason and improving with Hall providing an encore. Meanwhile, their young talented core led by Jesper Bratt, Nico Hischier, and Will Butcher will only get. Health is also key especially in Corey Schneider who turns 33 in March and will miss at least the early part of the schedule after hip surgery. Though Keith Kinkaid is a solid backup.
New York Rangers 73 Points
The lights are officially out on Broadway as the New York Rangers have decided to back the truck up and build from within. Rangers management promised fans a full and youth-focused rebuild. So far, it seems to be going well as the team has a promising batch of stars in rehearsal with many of them looking to make an impact this year. And the team won't be completely terrible if Henrik Lundqvist can fight off his age as the Rangers try to build for a bright, new day in Manhattan.
Anaheim Ducks 95 Points
It seems all the magic is running out for the Anaheim Ducks. The team will be challenged early with Corey Perry missing a lot of time with an injury to start the season, so the Ducks' best hope for their offense is for Adam Henrique to really contribute in his first full year in Orange County and Rickard Rakell to take the next step. As far as the defense is concerned, Cam Fowler will need to return to 2017 form as his numbers fell off a little bit and John Gibson will have to prove his true Vezina potential.
Nashville Predators 112 Points
Last season, the Nashville Predators were the team the beat winning their first Central Division championship and Presidents' Trophy, but the curse of the latter caught up to them in the second round as Pekka Rinne lost his flair. Now, the heat is on in Smashville as the Predators might begin racing against time to win the Stanley Cup with the roster they have. Many players are very ripe in their primes, but there are only so many catfish to be slung onto the ice. That involves either Pekka Rinne showing last year's playoff defeat wasn't a fluke or Jusse Saros taking the next step and taking the torch from him.
Calgary Flames 98 Points
What's interesting about the Calgary Flames is that they don't seem to have much direction. They are not only in the midst of a Cold War with the city of Calgary for a new arena, but they are acquiring proven commodities when their main focus should be in the crease. Mike Smith fell to injury last year derailing the Flames and given he turns 37 in March, don't expect him to continue pulling All-Star seasons from the hat. If there is anything positive to say about the Flames it is that the acquisitions of Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm should give Matthew Tkachuk more to work with as he takes his game to the next step.
San Jose Sharks 110 Points
The San Jose Sharks are the team that won't go away. When you think they are done, their budding youth makes a considerable impact and they acquire buffers in players like Evander Kane. This year, the Sharks got a real chip on their shoulder winning the Erik Karlsson sweepstakes and getting a hideous Mikkel Boedker contract off their hands. The team is still very deep with Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Brent Burns. If there's any time to bring the Stanley Cup to the Bay Area, it's now.
Edmonton Oilers 90 Points
In what was finally looking like a return to respectability for the Edmonton Oilers, the team fell flat on their faces and once again missed the playoffs. A team with a generational talent like Connor McDavid is always intriguing, but what else have they got? The Oilers were very limited with what they could do in the offseason because of the salary cap so what is left is a weak team outside of McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Leon Draisaitl. This goes especially for a defense that is the equivalent of wet paper and an inconsistent Cam Talbot with no backup.
Detroit Red Wings 70 Points
With the end of an era comes a new beginning. The Detroit Red Wings have accepted the fact that their streak is over and is turning things over to their young players in Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, and Andreas Athanasiou. That is about as bright as things are going to get for this season. Their defense looks atrocious and Jimmy Howard is running out of steam. Their main focus is a few years down the road when prospects like Michael Rasmussen, Filip Zadina, Filip Hronek, and Joe Veleno become regulars.
Columbus Blue Jackets 89 Points
This is a make-or-break year for the Columbus Blue Jackets as Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky are set to test the waters of free agency at season's end. Only one problem: Panarin and the Jackets are already at odds. He wants out early as he requests for a trade making for brewing trouble early on in Columbus. Seth Jones missing the start of the season with a knee injury also spells bad news for the Jackets as the organizational tension may prove too much for a young for Columbus to return to the playoffs.
Chicago Blackhawks 86 Points
Last year was an indication that the end of an era is coming. The Chicago Blackhawks' playoff failure in 2017 radiated into last season with the Blackhawks falling completely apart and finishing in the basement of the division. The main cause of this was Corey Crawford's vertigo diagnosis and horrid goaltending depth. Look for this year to be a year of transition if the Blackhawks get off to an ugly start should Crawford's vertigo recur. The good news is that they started the rebuild early with many bright, young players hoping to create another generation of Blackhawks.
Minnesota Wild 88 Points
Alas, the poor Minnesota Wild. You were a team that seemed to be on the cusp of making the State of Hockey proud again after the departure of their beloved North Stars, yet you could barely make it past the first round. Now, the strings may be coming undone on the Wild as Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are on the wrong side of 30, and Devan Dubnyk can only hold form for so long. Even worse is that one of their touted prospects in Luke Kunin is coming off an ACL tear, so his development could be delayed as the Wild look to change the guard.
Arizona Coyotes 82 Points
Can somebody please tell me what in the world the Arizona Coyotes are doing? A team in the midst of economic turmoil seems to be quietly turning heads with the likes of Clayton Keller, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Christian Dvorak, Christian Fischer, Brendan Perlini, and Antti Raanta, but they always seem to disappoint every time they show promise. To assure this won't happen again, the Coyotes brought in Michael Grabner and Alex Galchenyuk to solidify the offense, but with the latter starting the season on the IR, it's looking more likely the team will be playing in Houston before anything significant happens.
Los Angeles Kings 88 Points
It seems as though the Los Angeles Kings are not up to the times. They did less of cultivating for the future than bringing in more veterans to an already aging core. Anze Kopitar is not expected to be a Hart finalist again and Jeff Carter and Dustin Brown are in the twilight of their careers. The majority of young players they do have aside from Gabe Vilardi and Kale Clague are developing alarmingly slow. The best hopes of the Kings making the playoffs is if Kopitar, Jonathan Quick, and Drew Doughty carry the team on their backs.
Colorado Avalanche 102 points
What a difference a year makes! That was the motto for the Colorado Avalanche last season as a team that looked like a four-alarm dumpster fire at the start of last year returned to the postseason thanks to the emergence of Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen. The team was also strengthened in net with the arrival of Phillipp Grubauer who seems due for a breakout. The only question is with regression as their defense could be improved as health is always a rolled dice. However, if MacKinnon and Rantanen build off strong years, the Ottawa Senators may be contacting them for advice.
Dallas Stars* 96 Points
As long as the Dallas Stars have Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, they will always be a hot pick to make the postseason. The main question is their depth situation as the two can't do all the work and Jason Spezza seems to be all but cooked. John Klingberg highlights the defense with highly-touted prospect Miro Heiskanen hoping to be the next Mikhail Sergachev and make an impact in his rookie season. Once again, goaltending is the question in Dallas as Ben Bishop needs a big season as he turns 32 in November. If Bishop is strong the Stars will return to the playoffs.
St. Louis Blues* 99 Points
It appeared that the window for the St. Louis Blues was closed after they collapsed down the stretch and missed the playoffs by a single point. However, the Blues showed they were not done yet as they acquired Ryan O'Reilly and Pat Maroon to buffer their offense that should get enhancements with the arrivals of Robert Thomas, Jordan Kyrou, and Klim Kostin. Colton Parayko is due for a breakout year and Alex Pietrangelo is in his peak. The two big questions are health and goaltending, as injuries derailed the Blues last year. If the Blues are to go far Jake Allen needs a repeat of his 2017 playoff run.
Carolina Hurricanes* 95 Points
The Carolina Hurricanes are that team that everybody seems to love as a breakout candidate, yet they can never get over the hump. They had to cut some salary last season, but I believe the Hurricanes can surprise everyone and make it back to the playoffs. It traces to new owner Tom Dundon who is using a hands-on approach to guide a team brought down by poor ownership back to respectability with the likes of Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov, Teuvo Teravainen, and Haydn Fleury leading the way. The Hurricanes could be a contender to land a goalie at the deadline.
ART ROSS: Connor McDavid Oilers
ROCKET RICHARD: Alex Ovechkin Capitals
ADAMS: Rod Brind'amour Hurricanes
CALDER: Rasmus Dahlin Sabres
SELKE: Evgeni Malin Penguins
VEZINA: Connor Hellebuyck Jets
NORRIS: Erik Karlsson Sharks
HART: Taylor Hall Devils
SMYTHE: Erik Karlsson Sharks
Coaches Who Will be Fired
Jeff Blashill Red Wings
Guy Boucher Senators
Bruce Boudreau Wild
Randy Carlyle Ducks
Dave Hakstol Flyers
Claude Julien Canadiens
Todd McLellan Oilers
Joel Quenneville Blackhawks
John Tortorella Blue Jackets
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ATLANTIC DIVISION FINALS:
Tampa Bay Lightning 4 Toronto Maple Leafs 2
METROPOLITAN DIVISION FINALS:
New Jersey Devils 4 Florida Panthers 2
CENTRAL DIVISION FINALS:
Nashville Predators 4 Colorado Avalanche 3
PACIFIC DIVISION FINALS:
San Jose Sharks 4 Vegas Golden Knights 3
STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONS:
San Jose Sharks
Vegas Golden Knights 106 Points
It was a dream season literally nobody saw coming. An expansion ice hockey team in the most unlikely of places, the Vegas Golden Knights looked to be a failure. Then came a remarkable inaugural season that took the city and sports by storm ending with a defeat in the Stanley Cup Final. The Golden Knights are trying to recapture the inaugural season magic with the additions of Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty. Even if it was all a dream and Marc-Andre Fleury regresses with age, the Knights should be a playoff team considering how week the Pacific Division is.
METROPOLITAN DIVISION 1st ROUND:
Florida Panthers 4 Washington Capitals 3
New Jersey Devils 4 Pittsburgh Penguins 2
ATLANTIC DIVISION 1st ROUND:
Toronto Maple Leafs 4 Carolina Hurricanes 1
Tampa Bay Lightning 4 Boston Bruins 2
CENTRAL DIVISION 1st ROUND:
Nashville Predators 4 Dallas Stars 2
Colorado Avalanche 4 Winnipeg Jets 2
PACIFIC DIVISION 1st ROUND:
San Jose Sharks 4 St. Louis Blues 1
Vegas Golden Knights 4 Calgary Flames 1
Special Thanks to
K.J. Lemoine who was a great help in getting this preview completed