Friday, August 19, 2005

 

Predictions with Conviction (sort of...)

James Mirtle, professional editor, writer, and blogger eye candy (for the woman out there *ahem*) is hosting this weekend’s Hockey Weblog Carnival.

He also asked us bloggers to submit some of our predictions for the upcoming season.

While it seems too early to be making predictions, I’m always game to make myself look stupid with some somewhat-well-thought-out predictions. This year will be especially hard to predict, given the incredible roster turn over and the aging of players (young and old). My Pythagorean Standings won’t be as powerful and useful with so much roster turnover.

The most interesting aspect of this year’s schedule is the greater amount of games against division opponents. The Vancouver Canucks play in a rather strong division and teams within that division could have their playoff chances hurt while weaker teams in other divisions could always sneak in thanks to playing the Washington Capitals or Chicago Blackhawks every other week.

Here are my current predictions for the Top 8 in each conference. I selected the rankings based on an overall finish, rather than the current setup of ‘Division Winners go 1-3’.

Western Conference

1. Calgary Flames
2. Detroit Red Wings
3. San Jose Sharks
4. Vancouver Canucks
5. Nashville Predators
6. Colorado Avalanche
7. Dallas Stars
8. Phoenix Coyotes

Eastern Conference

1. Boston Bruins
2. Tampa Bay Lightning
3. Philadelphia Flyers
4. Ottawa Senators
5. New Jersey Devils
6. Montreal Canadiens
7. New York Islanders
8. Pittsburgh Penguins

Now, some comments on teams I didn’t pick to make the playoffs

i. Edmonton Oilers – I know getting rid of Tommy Salo and putting in the ghost of Kari Takko is an improvement, but Ty Conklin and Jussi Markkanen are simply decent backups until they prove otherwise. The competitive division will likely hurt the Oilers and the team has crap down the middle. For all of the ‘improvements’ that the Oilers made, I still think their roster isn’t very impressive overall. If Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky can have breakout NHL seasons, they might sneak in.

ii. Toronto Maple Leafs – Way too many question marks with the health of their team: Owen Nolan, Ed Belfour, Jason Allison, and Eric Lindros. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the Leafs finish 5th in the conference and displace the Islanders (they could easily suck eggs this year) out of a playoff spot.

iii. Atlanta Thrashers – This up-and-coming team, even with the addition of Jaroslav Modry, still has a very weak looking defence corps. Their goaltending hopes rely on the unproven, but highly touted, Kari Lehtonen. Taking advantage of a weak division is their best hope.

iv. Carolina Hurricanes – I like the additions they’ve made to their roster, but the defence is still pretty weak (and lacks an offensive driver) and too many “What if” players like Radim Vrbata and Pavel Brendl. Goalie Martin Gerber has a good track record, and he'll have be to be damn good for this team to compete for a playoff spot.

v. Los Angeles Kings – I’d love for them to prove me wrong, but they finished in 11th in 03/04 and I don’t think they’ll improve for that. The additions of Pavol Demitra and Jeremy Roenick are offset largely by the loss of Zigmund Palffy and Jaroslav Modry
.
vi. Minnesota Wild – Pundits hope that the NEW NHL will help hurt teams like the Wild, who rely solely on defence to win games. Really, the lack of talent on the roster is going to hurt them. Why didn’t this team go out and get ANYONE this year?


vii. Anaheim Mighty Ducks – Even with the addition of Scott Niedermayer, the Ducks have a defence that could collapse beneath them (Ozolinsh is Ozolinsh, Carney is pretty old, Marshall can’t skate, Vishnevski is stuck in neutral..), J-S Giguere could really be hurt with the new equipment restrictions, and they are already at $34mil in salary with a few more holes to plug. GM Brian Burke inherited a team with some high salaries and will be hamstrung for awhile. Of course, giving huge dollars to both Niedermayer brothers doesn’t seem all that smart.

viii. New York RangersKevin Weekes? HAHAHAHA. Seriously, the Rangers roster looks weak... the common theme I notice among teams I didn’t pick for the playoffs if their weak defence corps. Up front, the Rangers have more questions (Straka, Rucinsky, Prucha(!), Ward) and not enough answers. If they bring back Mark Messier and his gigantic ego, they might as well kiss any playoff hopes good-bye.
(at least they'd get free Lays potato chips)

I’m not putting any money on these predictions, but I’m fairly comfortable with them so far. There is still lots of time left in the off-season for teams to drastically improve or deprove (yes, I can make up my own words) themselves.

Comments:
some1 hit the nhl with a magic stick from what i keep hearing. this is the NEW wide open lots of scoring nhl. I'm not sure how that is going to happen, seeing as the only real change is to bolt marty to his net in nj, but ASSUMING it does magically happen....

does a weak d-man crew really doom any team?

if i was going to bet, AND assume that scoring would be up 1.5+ goals a game via buttman's natural force of will, I'd not look at the defensive ability of any corps, what I'd do, to pick a top eight, would be figure out how much ice time a game a team would put out a great passing d-man (like ooooh pronger) and do almost a straight count down from most passing on d minutes a game to least.

don't forget that many brutal opponent nhl d-men suck in international rules competitions (hey hatcher stop playing for team usa!). As the nhl moves towards that game (which it will fail to achieve without ice size/surface/condition changes) rating d-squads on their previous 10 years of nhl usability becomes close to pointless

now once again. this is based on some assumption that i don't even agree with. some marketing gloss claims a move closer to a game fans will start to like again, like in the old days when doug crossman and lee norwood could be paired up and noone looked twice at it.

this is NOT the new nhl, or a return to an old nhl. but i wonder if jes or anyone else doing the rating has based criteria mostly on old school or are they expecting a true new school of on ice play to show up and ranked on that?
 
I'm not at all confident of Boston finishing anywhere near 1st in the Conference.

I'm also guessing Vancouver will drop a bit from what you've listed, tough divisional competition and a weak defence.

I figure Calgary more around 3rd. A very nice defence and some smart UFA signings, but I still find their seconary scoring to be decidedly lacking after their top line.

You mentioned Nolan under the Leafs but their GM (John Ferguson has pretty much confirmed that won't be the case).
JFJ stated a few week ago that the Leafs filed his buyout papers with the NHL.
The only question to be answered is whether a buyout is necessary at 1 or 2yrs worth of his contract, or if no buyout is necessary and he's an UFA.
That won't be answered till' he filed a grievance with the NHLPA.

With respect to their chances... I haven't a clue, their the definition of a boom or bust team.
Precious little offence on the wings will hurt them badly I'm guessing.
 
I'm a Ranger fan and I agree the Rangers are going to suck, but can someone please explain to me why Kevin Weekes is considered bad? With the friggin Carolina Hurricanes in front of him, he's put up a 2.55 and 2.33 GAA the last two seasons (the 2.33 being last season) with a SV% of .912. For comparison, Dan Cloutier only had a GAA 0.06 better than Weekes last year, and a SV% only .002 better, and thats behind the Canucks. Over a 60 game period, that's only 3 more goals let up. So if someone could explain why Weekes is so bad, that would be helpful.
 
I agree with Phil. As a Canes fan, and I've watched him mind the net masterfully with a really soft defense in front of him. Granted, I've seen him give up some really horrible goals, but I think he's pretty solid.
He also didn't get any goal support to speak of. We were the worst team in the league in terms of Goals For, which means Shady 80 played his ass off only to lose the game 2-1 way too many times.
I think he's just fine, and the Rangers are gonna like him.
 
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