Through Friday night, all 30 NHL teams have at least one game in the books. It’s too early to draw conclusions, but everyone at least makes some long-term projections about who will make the playoffs, who will miss out, and who will take home some hardware. I’m no different, so here are the official NHL predictions of Griggsy.
All predictions guaranteed or your money back.
(Playoff teams in italics)
Western Conference – Pacific Division
1. Los Angeles Kings
2. San Jose Sharks
3. Anaheim Ducks
4. Edmonton Oilers
5. Vancouver Canucks
6. Arizona Coyotes
7. Calgary Flames
The Kings never worry about winning the division, but this year, I think it happens organically. They are the most talented squad in the division, so I would be stunned if they didn’t win it. The Sharks will get in the playoffs again, but much like the local team here, it doesn’t mean a thing until they actually succeed in the playoffs. The Ducks have great forwards, and a very talented group of defensemen. Their goaltending will decide how far they go. The Oilers take strides this year, but not enough to make the playoffs. The Canucks will not score consistently to do anything this season. The Coyotes really could use to bottom out to get a top draft pick. Problem is, the Flames will be worse, even with better goaltending.
Western Conference – Central Division
1. Chicago Blackhawks
2. Saint Louis Blues
3. Colorado Avalanche
4. Minnesota Wild
5. Dallas Stars
6. Nashville Predators
7. Winnipeg Jets
Easily the best division of the four. Chicago will make one last run this season with their current incarnation, because next season, the Toews and Kane contracts go on the books. That means a lot of contracts will have to go off the books. Saint Louis is the Central’s version of the Sharks, getting it done in the regular season but no consistency in the playoffs. The Avalanche are expected to backslide due to a correction in fancy stats, but they still have plenty of skill and they will get good to great play from Semyon Varlamov. The Wild still have Parise, Koivu, Suter, and Pominville, and they added Thomas Vanek to their roster. That will get them plenty of goals. Will someone play well enough between the pipes to keep them in the playoffs? I think so, even if I am sad that they didn’t keep Bryz. Dallas has the best players that not everyone has heard of yet, and the talent in Big D will help them sneak into the playoffs. The Preds will look different with Peter Laviolette at the helm. Shea Weber, Pekka Rinne, and James Neal are great players. But they don’t have enough down the middle to get to the playoffs. Winnipeg still lacks a little offensively, a little defensively, and a lot in goal. Maybe they can get McDavid?
Eastern Conference – Atlantic Division
1. Boston Bruins
2. Montreal Canadiens
3. Tampa Bay Lightning
4. Toronto Maple Leafs
5. Detroit Red Wings
6. Florida Panthers
7. Ottawa Senators
8. Buffalo Sabres
Boston still has Tuukka Rask, and ridiculous depth on their roster. The salary cap is starting to catch up with them, though. The Habs have a ton of lesser-known guys up front that pump in goals, they have great defense, and a goaltender that continues to get better. They could easily topple the Bruins at the top of the standings. Tampa has the best goal scorer in the league, and enough depth to get them in the dance. Their goaltending will decide how far they go in that dance. Toronto is still lacking something to get them over the hump, but they will challenge for a Wild Card. Detroit will challenge as well, but they will falter down the stretch, greasing the skids for Mike Babcock’s exit in the offseason. Florida will be better than you think, but they aren’t playoffs good. Not yet, at least. Ottawa feels like they aren’t close to being competitive right now, and that Bobby Ryan contract will be a haunting one. Buffalo is going to be one of the worst teams in the league, but they are doing things the right way. A rebuild was needed, and that is what they are starting to do.
Eastern Conference – Metropolitan Division
1. Pittsburgh Penguins
2. New York Rangers
3. Columbus Blue Jackets
4. New York Islanders
5. Washington Capitals
6. New Jersey Devils
7. Philadelphia Flyers
8. Carolina Hurricanes
It’s early (let’s not start sucking each other’s cocks, please), but the Penguins look like a very good squad. The Rangers are being hit by injuries early, but they will slightly rise above the next four teams, due to skill and goaltending. Columbus and the Isles are very similar, with young talent that could carry them quite far this season. The key for each team is how well the defense and goaltenders play throughout the year. The Blue Jackets have solid D and Sergei
Boobtitsky Bobrovsky backstopping them. The Isles added Boychuk and Leddy right before the season, and they really hope Jaroslav Halak can recapture the magic of his Montreal days. But that was five years ago now (holy shit, five fucking years already). Let’s just say I feel more secure about Columbus than about the Isles. The Caps won a coin flip over the Devils to grab my last playoff spot. I hated their signings of the former Pens’ defensemen, but they have just enough of everything to sneak past the Devils. Ovechkin will put up goals. He always does. He’ll also play no defense. He always does that, too. As for the Devils, they are rolling the dice on tons of old forwards and Corey Schneider. It wouldn’t shock me if they finished third in the division. But I have them just out. Meanwhile, in Hockey Hell, the Flyers are going to fall apart with bad defense, less depth than you think up front, and Steve Mason in the pipes. Welcome to the Draft Lottery, Philly. As for Carolina, forwards are hurt, defensemen stink, and Cam Ward still exists. Even if Anton Khudobin takes over, they will battle for the worst record in the league.
Hart Trophy – Sidney Crosby, C, Pittsburgh
He’s going to win the Art Ross Trophy as well. And with a new regime in Pittsburgh, if Crosby leads the team in scoring and takes the team to a high playoff seed, then this is a no-brainer, even with the predilection of voters to choose someone new each season.
Vezina Trophy – Tuukka Rask, G, Boston
Rask is going to put up tremendous numbers again, and will win his second straight Vezina.
Norris Trophy – Kris Letang, D, Pittsburgh
I predicted this one earlier this week, and I refuse to back off that. Ehrhoff and Letang will have a great rapport, Letang will stay healthy, and will thrive in the new structure. If not Letang, though, Alex Pietrangelo feels like he could win the hardware.
Jack Adams Award – Michel Therrien, Coach, Montreal
Therrien will keep the Habs neck-and-neck with Boston all season. I feel like this will be the season that he gets recognized for it. Love the guy.
Selke Trophy – Anze Kopitar, C, Los Angeles
It is criminal how little love that Anze Kopitar gets in the hockey world. Hopefully after two Stanley Cups, that will change. The Selke would certainly help that cause. His now-local rival, Ryan Kesler, has the best chance to steal it away from him.
Calder Trophy – Johnny Gaudreau, LW, Calgary
If Gaudreau plays all season in Calgary, he is going to get a lot of chances. His size makes this a risky call, and if he gets hurt, John Gibson and Evgeny Kuznetsov will duel for this award. But if he stays healthy, Gaudreau will put up some surprisingly good numbers for an unsurprisingly bad team.
Lady Byng Trophy – Ryan O’Reilly, C, Colorado
He never takes penalties. And let’s face it, that will often be all the voters here care about. If not him, then Martin St. Louis.
Chicago d. Dallas (5), Saint Louis d. Colorado (7); Los Angeles d. Minnesota (6), San Jose d. Anaheim (7); Boston d. Washington (5), Montreal d. Tampa Bay (7); Pittsburgh d. NY Islanders (6), Columbus d. NY Rangers (6)
Chicago d. Saint Louis (7); Los Angeles d. San Jose (6); Montreal d. Boston (6); Pittsburgh d. Columbus (7)
Chicago d. Los Angeles (7); Montreal d. Pittsburgh (6)
Stanley Cup Finals
Chicago d. Montreal (7)
Conn Smythe Winner – Jonathan Toews, C, Chicago
So, there you have it. Therrien gets his revenge on the Pens. The Kings and Hawks get to the West Finals again. And Chicago wins again, before having to reinvent themselves again. That’s how I see it, at least…