2013/14 Season Predictions – Eastern Conference
Bid your friends farewell, make peace with your family and put the beers on ice – the new NHL season is upon us!
After a summer free of collective bargaining agreements, fears of a lockout and podiums becoming false idols, tonight the puck drops in ernest for the start of 2013/14 campaign.
And what new season would be complete without the time honoured tradition of the ‘Season Prediction’ blog post?
And so One Puck Short humbly submits its thoughts on the coming season, starting in the East.
1. Pittsburgh Penguins
The Pens are the team to beat in the Metropolitan Division (still a stupid name by the way). Boasting arguably the two best forwards in the world and bringing Rob Scuderi back all but ensures another shot at the Cup. Goalie Marc Andre Fleury may be the key to it all though. With Vokoun sidelined, Pittsburgh need the mercurial puck stopper to rebound after a disappointing year.
2. Washington Capitals
After a woeful start to the shortened 2012/13 season, things eventually came good under Head Coach Adam Oates; with the Caps powerplay being particularly potent. Oates systems should now be firmly ingrained in to his troops, giving Washington all the tools to succeed.
3. New York Rangers
Coming in behind the Caps largely for the same reason Washington struggled early last season – a coaching change. I don’t doubt that Alain Vigneault will ‘come good’ as Rangers coach, but it’ll take a little time for the roster to adapt to his more ‘open’ style compared to former supremo John Tortorella.
4. Columbus Blue Jackets (Wild Card)
There is a new found energy in Ohio that seems to be propelling the franchise to new heights. Adding Nathan Horton over the summer should help boost their offence (assuming he stays healthy), and if Bobrovsky is even half as good as he was last season, the Jackets should grab one of the wild card spots.
5. New York Islanders
A small step back before (hopefully) some big strides forward for the Isles. They lost a big piece of Mark Streit, but a huge crop of talented younger players mean the future is bright fir the club. Goaltending remains their biggest question mark.
6. New Jersey Devils
Despite having potentially the best goaltending tandem in the entire league, and a solid defence, the loss of Ilya Kovalchuk does leave me wondering where the goals will come from.
7. Philadelphia Flyers
Much like their Pennsylvania rivals, a huge amount rests on the goaltending. Perhaps the most high profile shift between the pipes of any franchise; moving from one high paid stopper to two low paid ones, vying for the starting job. It’s a risky strategy given their sluggish defence.
8. Carolina Hurricanes
A healthy Cam Ward will go a long way to improving the Canes fortunes, but even with a decent crop of forwards its hard to see Carolina challenging for a play-off spot this season.
1. Boston Bruins
Swapping the enigmatic Tyler Seguin for tried and tested Loui Eriksson, as well as adding veteran superstar Jarome Iginla, means the Bruin’s restore some focus whilst remaining serious contenders. When everyone is healthy there are the most physically formidable outfit in the East; perhaps event the entire NHL.
2. Detroit Red Wings
Despite leaving it late last season, the Wings maintained their post season streak. Now with a much ‘friendlier’ travel schedule, it’s hard to imagine Detroit won’t find themselves back at the top come April.
3. Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto has improved steadily year on year, and came within five mad minutes of toppling Boston in the play-offs last year. A strong goaltending tandem underpins a solid defensive unit and a capable set of forwards ensure steady offensive output. Dare I say it, Toronto might have the best shot at a Cup run of any of the Canadian teams this season?
4. Montreal Canadiens (Wild Card)
Having a Norris Trophy winning defenceman and an all star goaltender don’t exactly hurt your chances – and both Montreal and rivals Ottawa have that. But a better supporting cast around Subban and Price sees the Habs pip the Sens and nab the second Wild Card spot.
5. Ottawa Senators
Bobby Ryan is a strong addition to the Sens lineup; but when owners start talking about budgets (and specifically being ‘over budget’), good things rarely follow. Ottawa will be close, but off ice issues might just derail things.
6. Florida Panthers
Bringing in strong veterans like Brad Boyes and Tim Thomas to compliment one of the NHLs best groups of prospects is a smart move by Dale Tallon. Sasha Barkov could be a strong contender for the Calder as the Panthers appear to be on the right path again.
7. Buffalo Sabres
Buffalo’s roster still feels lacking in ‘sizzle’. Thomas Vanek is normally good for at least one scoring streak per season, but the Sabres ‘saving grace’ may be Ryan Miller in an Olympic year. It is hard to imagine the Miller won’t be doing all he can to be Team USA #1 in Sochi, potentially to Sabres gain.
8. Tampa Bay Lightning
Whilst Tampa has some strong performers ‘up top’, their depth chart is unconvincing and both defence and goaltending still feel like a work in progress.