NHL | Happy Hockey Season, everyone
FELDY: Since the NFL season is over, Phersy and I couldn't be happier that the NHL begins its for-real games tonight. And, even though Phersy said he was done with college hockey after the breakup of the current WCHA was announced, I think he's pumped that the college season begins this weekend. I'll be in NoDak watching the Sioux (yes, I can still call them that ... for now) play in the Ice Breaker against Michigan State, B.C. and Air Force (with Austin's Tim Kirby). We'll try to get our WCHA predictions up later today, but I thought I'd start with my NHL predictions for the season and Phersy can add his if he can get his lazy butt around to it.
The good news is, by next June, most of you, as well as me and Phersy, will forget about these. So, if you want to know which teams not put money on, read on:
15. Florida: Can Theodore handle being the No. 1 goalie for 82 games?
14. Ottawa: Sens were second-to-last in scoring in NHL last season.
13. N.Y. Islanders: Questions in goal: Can Al Montoya continue to play like he did late last year? Will Rick DiPietro fulfill the expectations of his lengthy contract?
12. Winnipeg: The team's re-location from Atlanta doesn't change the fact that, for years, they traded or allowed many of their star players to leave as free agents.
11. Toronto: James Reimer could be a franchise goalie. J-M Liles a nice addition, still need help at center.
10. Carolina: Need more than just Eric Staal and Cam Ward. Can Jeff Skinner elevate his game even more?
9. New Jersey: Best second-half team in NHL last year. A better start to this season could make Devils a playoff contender.
8. N.Y. Rangers: Have an elite goalie (Lundqvist), an up-and-coming blue line and added a dynamic center (Brad Richards).
7. Montreal: Canadiens keep finding ways to make playoffs without a ton of star power.
6. Philadelphia: I only have Flyers this low because of offseason losses (Mike Richards, Jeff Carter). Will be fun to see how Jaromir Jagr does in his return to NHL.
5. Tampa Bay: Stamkos, St. Louis and Lecavalier are nice players to build around, but how long will 42-year-old Dwayne Roloson hold up?
4. Buffalo: When you have Ryan Miller in goal, you should always be in the postseason.
3. Pittsburgh: Even with Sid the Kid out, the Penguins are extremely talented.
2. Boston: Cup champs didn't change much.
1. Washington: Caps are kings of the regular season.
15. Phoenix: Ilya Bryzgalov is gone, so are Ed Jovanovski and Scottie Upshall. This season is a big test for coach Dave Tippett.
14. Dallas: Stars didn't adequately replace Brad Richards, who bolted when free agency opened.
13. Edmonton: Some young, extremely talented players should help keep the Oilers out of the basement.
12. Columbus: Jackets made a couple of nice off-season additions, but G Steve Mason has had two consecutive sub-par years.
11. Calgary: Flames could be a playoff team if Miikka Kiprusoff exceeds expectations.
10. Colorado: Avs losses were greater than their gains in the offseason.
9. Minnesota: Wild are on the verge of something good, but the West is stacked.
8. St. Louis: Blues were hit hard by injuries last season. That can't happen again.
7. Nashville: Coach Barry Trotz always seems to get best out of his team, and G Pekka Rinne was sensational at times in the playoffs last season.
6. Anaheim: The Getzlaf-Perry-Ryan trio is one that fans of every other team should be jealous of. Or maybe I'm just saying that 'cuz I'm a Wild fan. And jealous.
5. Los Angeles: G Jonathan Quick could be a Vezina contender, and Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson are a heck of duo to build a defensive corps around.
4. Detroit: Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Lidstrom are still game-changers.
3. San Jose: Sharks are counting on Havlat being the dynamic player he was in Chicago, not the player he was in Minnesota.
2. Chicago: How's this for a core group of five: Toews, Kane, Sharp, Keith, Seabrook. G Corey Crawford will be the key to Blackhawks success/failure.
1. Vancouver: Despite the loss in the Stanley Cup finals, Canucks still have too much fire power for the rest of the West. Battle between Luongo and Schneider in goal will be one to watch.
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS: Boston over Tampa Bay.
WESTERN CONFERENCEFINALS: Chicago over Vancouver.
STANLEY CUP FINALS: Chicago over Boston.