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Predictions made by Frank Fleming on October 1, 2009 at 2:00 am EST.
2009/10 NHL PREVIEW
ART ROSS: Evegni Malkin Penguins
RICHARD: Alex Ovechkin Capitals
ADAMS: Terry Murray Kings
CALDER: Victor Hedman Lightning
SELKE: Pavel Datsyuk Red Wings
VEZINA: Evegni Nabokov Sharks
NORRIS: Niklas Lidstrom Red Wings
HART: Alex Ovechkin Capitals
SMYTHE: Dany Heatley Sharks
Philadelphia Flyers 106 points
The addition of Chris Pronger has Flyers fans feeling good about their chances, as ge gas the experience needed to take a team far in the playoffs. However, the Flyers present too many questions between the pipes as both Brian Boucher and Ray Emery have a history of struggling in the playoffs, and with the snipers in the East the Flyers will go only as far as their goalies play.
Washington Capitals over Pittsburgh Penguins
San Jose Sharks over Chicgao Blackhawks
STANLEY CUP FINALS:
San Jose Sharks over Washington Capitals
Vancouver Canucks 96 points
Olympic fever fills Vancouver as the city gets set to host the Winter Olympics. One key player will be Canucks Goalie Roberto Luongo, who will certainly be the hometown favorite. However, will it hurt the Canucks come playoff time? Last year Luongo carried the team down the stretch, and if he expends too much energy in the Olympics it could hurt the Canucks.
Tampa Bay Lightning 87 points
The Lightning after hitting rock bottom are not starting the long climb back to respectability. They don't have the talent that could get them into the playoffs, but they could be a nightmare for teams trying to get there, as they will be one of those pesky teams that are hard to beat on some nights, as their young players begin to figure out how to win in the NHL.
Boston Bruins 108 points
The Bruins all season last year were the top team in the Eastern Conference. However, once in the playoffs some of their weaknesses were exposed as they did not make it past the second round. If the Bruins are able to get past some of their playoff failures they could reach the Cup Finals, as their defense is among the best in the NHL.
Ottawa Senators 80 points
It's a mess in Ottawa, as the Senators were forced to trade Dany Heatley in the off-season. Don't be shocked if there are more Senators leaving town, as Ottawa is faced with the rebuilding. With players like Jason Spezza and Jontahan Cheechoo on the roster there is a chance that the Senators could be the biggest sellers at the trade deadline.
Florida Panthers 85 points
Its one step forward and two steps back for the Panthers, as the team that narrowly missed the playoffs last season, are now back at square one after losing several key players in the off season including Jay Boumeester. With the Lightning improving, and a number of solid teams in the Eastern Conference, the Panthers will be hard pressed to come close this year to the postseason.
Atlanta Thrashers 70 points
Ilya Kovalchuk is the loneliest man in the NHL, he is one of the best forwards in the league, but on a team with almost no discernable talent and little fan support its hard to notice. Look for another bad season in Atlanta, as Kovalchuk's glory comes in Vancouver leading Russia to a Gold Medal in the Olympics.
New York Islanders 74 points
The Islanders ultimate destination could be Kansas City, especially if they are unable to get funding for a new arena on Long Island. However, the future is John Taveras who will at least give their long suffering fans something to cheer about this year, as the number one draft pick will quickly become a star in the NHL.
Montreal Canadiens 90 points
Celebrating their centennial last season, the Canadiens were one of the most disappointing teams in the NHL, as they barely made the playoffs last season a year after posting the best record in the NHL. An off-season shake up has seen many changes in Montreal, as GM Bob Gainey sits firmly on the hottest seat in the NHL, especially if they continue to struggle this year.
Pittsburgh Penguins 112 points
Often he, who carries the cup, carries the greatest weight on their back, and for the Penguins that is going to be the case this year. However, with Sidney Crosby and Evegni Malkin the Penguins are more then capable of repeating. Look for them to not suffer and an early season let down this season as the Eastern Conference comes down to a battle beween the Capitals and Penguins.
Washington Capitals 114 points
Alex Ovechkin is the true superstar of the NHL with two straight Hart Trophies and a flashiness that transcends hockey. Around him the Capitals have started to put together all the pieces that are needed to become a true Stanley Cup contender. Look for the continued emergence of Goalie Semyon Varlamov, and other scoring title for Ovechkin as the Capitals and Penguins become the must watch rivalry in the Eastern Conference.
Toronto Maple Leafs 88 points
Rome was not built in a day, and the Maple Leafs won't be a Stanley Cup contender over night. However, the pieces are starting to come together as General Manager Brian Burke is starting to lay the foundation for a team that could be a serious factor with in a few years. They may be even able to sneak into the playoffs this year as the addition of Phil Kessel will certainly make them more competitive.
Buffalo Sabres 94 points
The Sabres narrowly missed the playoffs last season. Look for them to get over the hump this season as they have been able to avoid some of the big offseason losses that have dogged them in the past. Ryan Miller in goal and Lindy Ruff behind the bench should be enough to bring the postseason back to upstate New York. However, it won't be a long stay as they will be an easy foil to one of the big two in the first round.
Carolina Hurricanes 100 points
The Hurricanes are an enigmatic team at times, as they missed the playoffs two straight seasons after winning the cup, but made it to the Eastern Conference Finals last year with two stunning upsets of the Devils and Bruins. If the postseason Canes take the ice, they could be a dark horse in the East, as Cam Ward is one of the best big money goalies in the NHL.
New Jersey Devils 98 points
One of these years, the Devils are not going to be able to overcome the losses of key players. The departures of John Madden and Brian Gionta might just be the tipping point, especially with Martin Brodeur approaching his twilight years. However, as long as Marty is between the pipes the Devils should be able to win enough games to slip into the playoffs.
New York Rangers 97 points
Money can't buy love, and it can't buy Stanley Cups either. Once again the Rangers spent the off-season by breaking the bank, signing Marian Gaborik to a five year $37.5 million deal. However, like Jaromir Jagr, Eric Lindros, and the other big names that have come and gone, the Rangers just don't have the full team to be a serious Cup contender as they will battle just to make the playoffs.
Anaheim Ducks 100 Points
The Ducks barely made the playoffs last season, but provided plenty of noise once they got in as they upended the Sharks, and gave the Red Wings a seven game scare. Despite the loss of Chris Pronger the Ducks, should be much stronger this year as they were able to add some key help on offense. Look for them to be a solid team in the West all season and perhaps a dark horse to get to the Conference Finals.
Nashville Predators 80 points
In Nashville the Predators still have trouble getting fans to embrace hockey, though the threat of a move appears to be low, the future of hockey in Nashville depends on the fans who must begin to support their team in order for them to keep key players and to contend for the playoffs rather then enter a season like this year, where they don't have a realistic chance.
Calgary Flames 102 points
Always a dark horse the Flames could be Canada's only hope of winning the Stanley Cup this season. A strong defense, and an offense led by Jarome Ignila the Flames are a team you don't want to sleep on, and with Brian Sutter taking over for Mike Keenan some of the tightness that has got in their way in recent years should be gone, as the Flames will give any one a tough battle come playoff time..
San Jose Sharks 116 points
San Jose this is it. It's now or never. To an already loaded team they have added Dany Heatley. Last season they won the President's Trophy but suffered a first round exit at the hands of the Ducks, any thing less then a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals is a failure for a team with strong goaltending and some for the best scoring lines in the NHL. Look for Heatley to be the final piece as Lord Stanley learns the way to San Jose.
Edmonton Oilers 87 points
Oil and water does not mix, but the Edmonton Oilers continue to thread water. In the offseason they attempted to land Danny Heatley but did not have the players to send Ottawa in return. Nor do they have the players to be a serious playoff contender. Look for them to be on the fringe of making the final eight but once again they will finish 11th overall.
Detroit Red Wings 110 points
Coming with in one game of a second straight Stanley Cup Championship, the Red Wings should never be taken for granted, as their ability to retool on the fly has helped them remain the most successful franchise in the NHL over the last 20 years. However, some of their core players' age could start showing as long playoff drives add extra wear to the tires, which could be key when facing teams on the rise like the Blackhawks.
Columbus Blue Jackets 90 points
Last year was a break through for the Blue Jackets as they finally reached the postseason, after years of trying. The big reason for their rise was Goalie Steve Mason who had 10 shutouts on the way to winning the Calder Trophy. Mason may have a hard act to follow, as several teams have improved meaning it will be a tough task for the Jackets to get back to the playoffs this season.
OUT OF THE PLAYOFFS
Chicago Blackhawks 114 points
Last year the Blackhawks returned to prominence led by the 1-2 punch of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Now they enter the season with Stanley Cup dreams after making the Western Conference Finals. Not so fast Chicago, the Blackhawks are good and have the talent to win now, but it is not quite their turn yet. They should be able to get past the Red Wings and take over the Central Division, but getting to the Finals requires just a little more playoff seasoning.
Minnesota Wild 74 points
The three men of have been the foundation of the Wild since day one, Coach Jacques LeMaire, Forward Marian Gaborik and GM Doug Risebrough are all gone, and the Wild are back at square one. In a conference where there is a wide gap between the have and have nots, the Wild will be among the worst teams vying for the top pick in the draft.
Phoenix Coyotes 64 points
The Coyotes are in bankruptcy court, and the future is hazy. Will the NHL finally allow Canadian Billionaire Jim Balsille who wants to move them to Hamilton? Or will they continue to languish in the desert? Either way it means bad news for the Coyotes in 2010. Don't be shocked if a fire sale makes the team resemble the Cleveland Indians from Major League, only this time Rick Vaughn and Willie Mays Hayes cant skate.
Los Angeles Kings 92 points
Last year the Kings showed flashes before a late season slump saw them finish in last place again. However, the pieces are in place and the Kings are on the verge of returning to the playoffs. Look for them with the leadership of new acquisition Ryan Smith to get over the hump and into the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
Colorado Avalanche 72 points
The bottom fell out of the Avalanche last season as they finished with the worst record in the Western Conference. With the retirement of long time Captain Joe Sakic don't expect things to get better any time soon, as the Avalanche must focus on the future and getting back to respectability, with little to build around on the current roster.
Dallas Stars 89 points
Under new Coach Marc Crawford it could be a year of transition in Dallas, as the Stars after missing the playoffs last season. Need to reassess their situation. Can their current core group still contend, or is it time to rebuild. Another season without the playoffs will bring the cold reality that it is time to brining in the heavy equipment and start focusing on the future.
St. Louis Blues 94 points
A remarkable 20-7-4 run down the stretch got the Blues into the playoffs for the first time in five years. All of this was done without their best player Erik Johnson who missed the entire season with a knee injury. Johnson is back this year, and the Blues should be too as the winning pattern the established at the end of the year will carry over and make the Blues a tough out come the postseason.
Coaches Who Will be Fired
John Anderson-Atlanta Thrashers
Peter DeBoer-Florida Panthers
Dave Tippett-Phoenix Coyotes
Barry Trotz-Nashville Predators