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Predictions made by Frank Fleming on October 9, 2008 at 12:30 am EST.
2008/09 NHL PREVIEW
ART ROSS: Sidney Crosby Penguins
RICHARD: Alex Ovechkin Capitals
ADAMS: Dennis Savard Blackhawks
CALDER: Steven Stamkos Lightning
SELKE: John Madden Devils
VEZINA: Martin Brodeur Devils
NORRIS: Niklas Lidstrom Red Wings
HART: Sidney Crosby Penguins
SMYTHE: Martin Brodeur Devils
Philadelphia Flyers 104 points
The Flyers went from worst to Eastern Conference Finals in just one year. While they were the benefit of a good draw in the playoffs they have the exact opposite in their division, as the Atlantic Division is the toughest division in the NHL. Look for them to again be in the running and to finish strong possibly clearing the 100 point mark.
New Jersey Devils over New York Rangers
Dallas Stars over San Jose Sharks
STANLEY CUP FINALS:
New Jersey Devils over Dallas Stars
Vancouver Canucks 78 points
When he played for the Florida Panthers, Goalie Roberto Luongo he was one of the best in the league but it was hard to notice as the Panthers could not win. Now in Vancouver he is almost in the same situation again, as things have fallen apart quickly for the Canucks who looked like a strong contender just two years ago.
Tampa Bay Lightning 85 points
Last year the Lightning fell apart as injuries, and poor play saw them finish with the worst record in the NHL. First overall pick Steven Stamkos should be able to give them a potent offense, especially with Bard Richards and Martin St. Louis. However, their defense and goaltending will be their downfall as they miss the playoffs again.
Boston Bruins 92 points
The Bruins were one of the biggest surprises last year as they made a late surge and slipped into the final playoff spot. Once in the postseason they gave the Canadiens all they could handle. This year expect more of the same as the Bruins should be able in the running at the end of the year, as they just slip in again.
Ottawa Senators 82 points
Just two years ago the Senators were playing for the Stanley Cup, now they are team that needs to rebuild as Free Agent losses have robbed them of the team of a great deal of talent. Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson are still big players, but the Senators don't have much else around them to help. Look for them to miss out on the playoffs this year, as they may look to trade one or two of their remaining stars at the deadline.
Florida Panthers 72 points
Contrary to public opinion the Florida Panthers still exist. Even though few if any people in South Florida know, as they play in an arena in Sunrise Florida. The sun has already set on their season as they have no chance of making the playoffs, and no real prospects for the near future. Look for any player that is strong to be on the trading block as the Panthers will be vying for the worst record in the league.
Atlanta Thrashers 74 points
Poor Ilya Kovalchuk he is a lone man alone on an island, in the desolate hockey outpost known as Atlanta, with not much talent around him. Look for him to make a run at the Rocket Richard award for most goals, but the Thrashers to be not playing any important games after February as they finish well back of the playoff bubble, even in the poor Southeast Division.
New York Islanders 62 points
Charles Wang he may be a great entrepreneur when it comes to making computers, however, when it comes to building a hockey team he is clueless. Firing Coach Ted Nolan, a 15-year contract for a goalie that never won a playoff series and a back up goalie who replaces a cup builder in the GM seat. Add to that a dreadful arena, a dreadful fan base and a dreadful uniform and you get the most unwatchable team in the NHL, they will lose and lose often and things won't get better any time soon.
Montreal Canadiens 104 points
Les Canadiens turned a significant corner last year as they posted the best record in the Eastern Conference last year. This is a good young team with a good young core, and a solid goalie. However, they are not quite ready to make that long run in the playoffs just yet. They still need a proven go to goal scorer and they still need to get that playoff toughness, though they should be among the top teams in the East again as they win their division easily.
Pittsburgh Penguins 110 points
Last year the Penguins arrived making it to the Stanley Cup Finals. Although they went down in six games, they are now the team to beat in the Eastern Conference. The Penguins also reached these heights with Sidney Crosby missing much of the second half with a groin injury. Look for the Pens to continue their climb as they will lead the East most of the season.
Washington Capitals 98 points
Winning a division title in hockey is a great accomplishment for most, unless of course you win the mediocre Southeast Division. Like last year the winner will be the Capitals, who are quite talented led by Alex Ovechkin. As long as Ovechkin is healthy and scoring the Capitals should be able to take the Southeast Division on talent alone. If only they had more players to surround him with they could take the next step.
Toronto Maple Leafs 70 points
The Maple Leafs are a team with a great hockey tradition 13 Stanley Cups, which in 1967 was at the time a close second to the Canadiens 14 cups. Since the Habs have won 10 more, the Leafs have just frustrated and tease their fans. This year there will be no teasing the fans, the knowledgeable fans know that they need to build from the ground up, and this year will be just get set to find that foundation as they will take their lumps all year.
Buffalo Sabres 88 points
Just two years ago the Sabres were at the top of the Eastern Conference. However, their playoffs came to a disappointing end as they were upended by the Senators in the Conference Finals. The Sabres then lost several key players as there window of opportunity slammed shut. This year as last year the Sabres will be in the running for a final playoff spot, but once again they will be on the outside looking in.
Carolina Hurricanes 96 points
The Hurricanes are just three years removed from winning the Stanley Cup. The only problem is they have had trouble saying healthy since. If they can stay healthy they can make another run, but health is one of those things that once you lose, it trends up every year that there is a big injury. The Hurricanes should make the playoffs, but they won't go very far.
New Jersey Devils 102 points
While the Devils still may lack that big scorer they improved in many other significant ways by going back to their past in bringing home Bobby Holik, who will help them with face-offs and give them the toughness needed for the playoffs. In the tough Atlantic Division it could mean the Devils struggle at times, but all they need to do is make the playoffs because they may have one more magical cup run in them, even if they are a sixth seed.
New York Rangers 108 points
The loss of Jaromir Jagr could more addition by subtraction for the Rangers as it allowed them to add Wade Redden and Marcus Naslund who could fit a more balanced system. With Chris Durury being named captain and Scott Gomez in a more central role the Rangers should be able to challenge the Penguins for the division title this year, which is saying a lot in a division with four solid teams.
Anaheim Ducks 100 Points
That noise you hear is the window of opportunity closing in Anaheim. The Ducks did win a Stanley Cup two years ago, but if they don't win another one this year, they may be forced to rebuild as they are a team loaded with free agents. While Free Agents can sometimes come together and do special things, the Ducks are in a tough spot in an improving division and still have a bit of a target on their backs.
Nashville Predators 80 points
The Predators despite losing several key players still managed to sneak into the playoffs last season. That's not going to happen this time around, as it will be hard to imagine, Goalie Dan Ellis a longtime minor leaguer putting up the same numbers. Look for the Predators to quickly get lost in the shuffle and skate in anonymity.
Calgary Flames 94 points
The Flames are a funny team, if all parts work together they could win a Stanley Cup, or if a few cogs are off they could completely fizzle and miss the playoffs. No matter what happens if they do get in the playoffs they will be a scary team, as they have risen to the Finals as an eight seed in the past. Look for them to get that last playoff spot again, and to reek havoc in the playoffs namely Detroit.
San Jose Sharks 108 points
One of these years the Sharks won't disappoint in the playoffs. They have the talent to win a cup, and they play like a cup contender in the playoffs. However, come the postseason it some how never adds up. Look for them once again to rise in the Western Conference as they will be among the top teams in the Pacific Division, but come playoff time can they be trusted?
Edmonton Oilers 92 points
With the addition of Erik Cole and Lubomir Visnovsky the Oilers are again in the playoff picture, as there strong finish last season has Ownership recommitted to winning. However, there is no guarantee of a playoff spot as there are many teams in the Western Conference as good or better then they are. In the end it will be the battle of Alberta for the last spot with the Oilers getting the shaft.
Detroit Red Wings 116 points
The rich get richer, and the defending Stanley Cup Champions who have not missed a beat since retirement of Steve Yzerman, have added Marian Hossa to an already potent team. Expect the Red Wings to dominate the Western Conference again, at least in the regular season. However, as many great playoff runs the Wings have had they have delivered duds, and don't be surprise if that happens this year.
Columbus Blue Jackets 76 points
Poor Rick Nash, he has so much talent, but the Blue Jackets management is so incompetent at finding other players to surround him. Born of expansion in 2000, the Jackets have never even got a whiff of the playoffs, never even battled into the final weeks for a playoff spot. They have a solid goalie too in Pascal Leclaire, but little else.
OUT OF THE PLAYOFFS
Chicago Blackhawks 102 points
The nightmare is over in Chicago, Bill Wertz is gone, and while fans celebrating his death seemed a bit cold, it has relieved a great burden on an original six franchise that has been suffering. Fortunately bad teams, equally high draft picks, and young talent. The Blackhawks have a great wealth in both, but now with the addition of Defenseman Brian Campbell and Goalie Cristobal Huet it seems they are committed to winning, and that will payoff with a trip to the playoffs.
Minnesota Wild 106 points
The Wild are that quiet team that if you don't watch could sneak up and surprise you. Last season they won their first division title, but fizzled in the first round. Their defense is solid, behind Coach Jacques Lemaire, and they also have some potential explosive offensive players led by Marian Gaborik. Look for them to again with the Northwest, but this time around they won't go belly up in the playoffs.
Phoenix Coyotes 96 points
Another team on the rise is the one in the desert, as the great one has focused on building a team on defense. Look for the Coyotes to be a pesky team all season as they play in a lot of low scoring games, with players like Ed Jovonaski leading the way. In the end they will win just enough to slip into the playoffs where they could pose a few problems to the conference's elite.
Los Angeles Kings 84 points
Things are getting better in Los Angeles as there is a good foundation for the Kings to build around. However, there is still a long way to go before anyone can take them seriously as a playoff contender. Unfortunately, that will mean another last place season in Los Angeles as the Kings continue to toil in the Pacific Division.
Colorado Avalanche 88 points
The Avalanche are an aging team with some young players on the horizon, but lacking in many spots. Last year they were able to overcome these holes and reach the playoffs, and advance to the second round. This time around they won't be able to do that as several Western Conference teams improved, while the Avs have at best threaded water.
Dallas Stars 112 points
The Stars could be the team to beat this year, as they finally learned how to win in the postseason last year, reaching the Conference Finals. This year with the addition of the pest Sean Avery they could go all the way to the Stanley Cup. Look for a strong year all around from Dallas, as the Stars have a solid offense and a terrific goalie and defense.
St. Louis Blues 68 points
Fore!!! The Blues season has already begun to unravel on the golf course as Defenseman Erik Johnson injured his knee on a golf cart. How does anybody get hurt riding in a golf cart is a mystery, but fortunately for the Blues they will get lots of practice on their golf swing, as they have assigned tee times at the best courses in North American already in April since the playoffs are pretty much a long shot.
Coaches Who Will be Fired
Ken Hitchcock Columbus Blue Jackets
Andy Murray St. Louis Blues
Lindy Ruff Buffalo Sabres
Barry Trotz Nashville Predators
Alain Vigneault Vancouver Canucks