Saturday, January 19, 2013

2013 NHL Season Predictions

I'm sure this will go well, eh? It always does.

My division winners, Stanley Cup pick, and awards picks posted on SB Nation Friday. Here are the rest of my guesses on a season that is sure to be exciting to watch. As much as the shortened season was a win for the NBA last season, I believe firmly that the NHL can win here, if it plays its cards right.

And, yes, that's a big "if."

Anyway, here are full division and conference predictions, so it's all on the record for when I'm wrong.

Atlantic Division
1. Pittsburgh
2. NY Rangers
3. Philadelphia
4. New Jersey
5. NY Islanders

This is very much contingent on Sid being healthy, as well as Marc-Andre Fleury regaining some semblance of confidence after it looked like Philly shattered most of it in last year's playoff series. I like this Rangers team, but I don't trust this Rangers team. As Barry Melrose said on ESPN Friday, there are no excuses now. They have everything they've asked for there. The Flyers need goaltending to be a serious contender. The Devils have to replace a lot of goals lost, and didn't sign anyone to do it, while the Islanders ... um, yeah. They have John Tavares.

Northeast Division
1. Boston
2. Buffalo
3. Ottawa
4. Toronto
5. Montreal

The Bruins look made for a short season, provided Tuukka Rask can take over capably for Tim Thomas in goal. Thomas' departure also makes Boston a much more likable team. The Sabres will ride Ryan Miller to the playoffs, while I think the Senators have a real chance to sneak in. Ottawa does better if Craig Anderson does it again. I just don't know that the Sens have enough to make a run again this year. The Maple Leafs and Canadiens look positively wretched.

Southeast Division
1. Washington
2. Florida
3. Carolina
4. Winnipeg
5. Tampa Bay

First-year coach Adam Oates looks to reinvigorate Alex Ovechkin, who admitted he didn't exactly enjoy himself last season. It'll be an interesting battle with the defending division champion Panthers, along with Carolina and Winnipeg, both of which should be improved. The Hurricanes added Jordan Staal, while the Jets didn't make a lot of moves but will instead be improved. Don't count Tampa Bay out, either, but I don't think the Lightning are strong enough defensively.

Central Division
1. St. Louis
2. Chicago
3. Nashville
4. Detroit
5. Columbus

There are potential issues with the Blues. For starters, they won a lot of low-scoring games. They also won a ton against the East, a conference they don't play a single game against in a shortened season. But Ken Hitchcock has skill, toughness, and grit up front, along with great defense and tandem goaltending. Chicago contends if Corey Crawford holds up, but that's not a given. I think the loss of Ryan Suter will do more damage to Nashville than losing Shea Weber would have. But that could just be an overly-optimistic Wild fan talking. Detroit better score tons of goals. Columbus, ah, yeah.

Northwest Division
1. Minnesota
2. Vancouver
3. Edmonton
4. Colorado
5. Calgary

Call me crazy, but the Wild made some really good moves, not even including signing Suter and Zach Parise. Suter is huge because of the impact he'll make on the blue line. Don't forget the signings of Zenon Konopka and Torrey Mitchell, or the addition of stud center Mikael Granlund. No knock on Vancouver, because this should be a hell of a division race. Cory Schneider makes an impact as the No. 1 goalie. The young guns in Edmonton will be ready to go after a half-season of seasoning in the AHL. Look for a fast start there. The Avalanche will continue to improve, while I think the Flames will drop off a bit this year. Change could be coming to that roster.

Pacific Division
1. San Jose
2. Los Angeles
3. Dallas
4. Phoenix
5. Anaheim

LA is the hot pick here, but I'm taking the Sharks, who have scoring depth, defense, and a determined goalie in Antti Niemi. The Kings will nip at their heels if they don't beat them out. Dallas will surge ahead if Jamie Benn signs quickly, which he should. Who will score for Phoenix? It's a question that sounds familiar, but at some point we will run out of answers. The Ducks are a mess in many phases, but there is star power here, and if their heads are right, the team should improve.

1. Boston
2. Washington
3. Pittsburgh
4. NY Rangers
5. Buffalo
6. Philadelphia
7. Florida
8. Carolina
9. New Jersey
10. Winnipeg
11. Ottawa
12. Tampa Bay
13. Toronto
14. NY Islanders
15. Montreal

1. St. Louis
2. San Jose
3. Minnesota
4. Los Angeles
5. Vancouver
6. Chicago
7. Dallas
8. Edmonton
9. Nashville
10. Detroit
11. Colorado
12. Phoenix
13. Anaheim
14. Calgary
15. Columbus

St. Louis

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