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Oct. 4th, 2005

THE NHL SEASON STARTS TOMORROW!!! >:O!!!

Naturally, I've taken it upon myself, as an expert in all things hockey, to give my unbiased look at the NHL this year, a ROUGH year to handicap.

It's hard to believe that I can be unbiased, if you're judging by the comments that I've left in some journals (at least the ones that you can STILL SEE BECAUSE FUCKING LIZ DIDN'T FUCKING DELETE THEM). Still, I am sure I have a solid grasp on the NHL this year, so far, and henceforth, my picks. Conference totals are based on total record (not counting divisions), from last to first. I'll go all the way to the Finals. I'll also give my picks for MAJOR awards (because no one gives a shit about tripe like the Masterson and the NHLPA trophy)

This just might be the most painful season preview in history for me.



EASTERN CONFERENCE

15. Washington Capitals - It's nice to see that some teams can suck in both the old AND new NHL! Thankfully, for comic relief, we have three such teams in the East. Ovechkin is a spectacular talent, but some scouts are starting to sour on his work ethic. Add to that the fact that the Capitals have a VERY young team around him, and you spell disaster, especially with Olaf Kolzig basically being available to the highest bidder at this point. In three years, this team might be too used to losing to be any good.

14. Carolina Hurricanes - Man, that trip to the Finals seems more and more like a lifetime away, doesn't it? Here's a hint for anyone that wants one: when you have Eric Staal centering your top line, you're not scoring, and in this New NHL™, that's not going to cut it, especially in front of a who's who of no-name goaltenders (the #1 is Martin Gerber). Unlike Washington, I don't see these guys going anywhere in the future at all. Someone hasn't shot Peter Karmanos yet?

13. New York Rangers - This season is like a root canal on Broadway: it hurts like hell, but you need to get it done. The kids have to get grow up a couple years, and someone needs to give Glen Sather a blanket party, before this team gets good again. But on MSG, you can catch replays of every game of the 94 Playoffs, just about!

12. Toronto Maple Leafs - I'd hate to be a Maple Leafs fan right about now. Your Team President made his Hall of Fame career on the Montreal Canadians (Dryden). Your GM's father made HIS on the Canadians (John Fergueson). So you already hate your leadership. So what do they do? They sit tight on thier aging roster, and their two big additions are Eric Lindros and Jason Allison... two of the most fragile players in history! Their weak on the wings (Darcy Tucker is a first liner), and their starting goalie - Belfour - is 41.

11. Buffalo Sabres - This is a no name roster that could make me look stupid. However, I'm just not sold on the goaltending; too much competition between weak-willed goalies (Biron, Noronen); by the time the season's over, it could be Ryan Miller's job. In the old NHL, I could see that not being an issue, but in the New NHL™, it could be their downfall. The bottom of the East is going to be tight, but Buffalo's not going to the playoffs, I don't think.

10. Florida Panthers - I'm going to say it right here: the Roberto Luongo situation will cost Florida a playoff spot. He's not happy with Keenan, Keenan isn't happy with him after arbitration, and when you're on Mike Keenan's bad side... That said, in two years, this team is going to be DANGEROUS. Just not THIS year.

9. Atlanta Thrashers - This posiiton changes to a Playoff spot if they sign Kovalchuk.

8. Pittsburgh Penguins - This is a VERY top-heavy roster. The first two lines look incredible (as long as Lemieux stays healthy, a big question mark), but they also look old; Leclair, for example, hasn't been the same for awhile. The big hype will be around Crosby, but don't expect him to be too incredible yet. My questions revolve around the defense (old and slow) and the forward depth (BIG dropoff after the top two lines). That said, the goaltending is sound, so they'll make the playoffs.

7. New York Islanders - This team could either battle for the Atlantic title, or could finish worse than the Rangers. The goaltending is exceptional; DiPietro and Snow are solid 1-2 goalies, and Wade Dubielwicz is a solid minor leaguer that could net something in a trade. That said, DiPietro can have brainfarts, and the defense in front of him won't help, and with Yashin more than likely the new Captain, I'm sorry, I see a lack of solid leadership. They're one key injury away from the draft lottery.

6. Montreal Canadians - Another playoff year, another early exit. Montreal is going to score a lot of goals, and their goaltending is solid to spectacular, but just like the Isles, one key injury, and it's over. And relying on someone as flaky as Alexei Kovalev is always something disasterous.

5. New Jersey Devils - Talent wise, this team isn't this good. To top it off, they lost their two top defensemen (Scott Stevens retired, Scott Neidermeyer is in Anaheim). Their replacements aren't good enough to replace those names. That said, New Jersey has the one great equalizer in goal: Martin Brodeur, who might be the best goaltender EVER. He'll be good enough for New Jersey to fight for first round home-ice.

4. Tampa Bay Lightning - Losing Khabibulin is going to cost Tampa big-time this year. It was a perfect situation for both in 2004, and Khabibulin taking a job in Chicago will cost both parties, as the job in Tampa will be split between Sean Burke - who's not young enough - and John Grahme, who's not talented enough. They have the names, and they have the scoring, but too many questions in goal for me to pick them to have a year like last year. They're almost capped out, too; they'd better not get injured.

3. Boston Bruins - My friend Tyrell and I argue these guys until we're blue in the face; I think Joe Thornton is going to take the leap to Superstardom this year, he thinks he's a gigantic, blubering vagina and is going to crawl into a turtle shell again. I'm seeing three solid lines and two very solid defensive pairings (depending on how Leetch plays), and that's really all you need in the New NHL™, along with a strong goaltender in Raycroft. I'm very high on the Bruins this year.

2. Ottawa Senators - This team is LOADED up front, and has just enough defense to be at the top of the East. So why aren't they there? Two question marks: Dominik Hasek and Dany Heatley. Heatley's obviously still hindered by the crash that killed Dan Snyder, and Hasek is old, brittle, and a cancer in his own locker room. They'll score a lot of goals, and could challenge for the President's Trophy in the weaker East, but those two questions will cost them, especially since Heatley cost them Hossa.

1. Philidelphia Flyers - This team is BUILT for the Regular Season. Even if Forsberg goes down - a likely occurance - the rest of the lineup is loaded, and they're deep everywhere. The questions are weather Derien Hatcher can stay out of the Penalty Box, and if Robert Esche can keep up the progress he made in 2004, and with Team USA.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

15. Minnesota Wild - This team won't score any goals, won't keep shots from going to their goalies, and is really only loaded in one area - goal - and someone's going to have to go there, most likely Manny Fernandez. In a couple years, this team will be very deep, but right now, in the brutal West, they're going to likely finish with the worst record in the NHL.

14. St. Louis Blues - The sad thing is that this would likely be a playoff team in the East. They lost too much - Pronger and Demitra are gone - and are going with ANOTHER #1 goalie (though Patrick Lalime is a definate step up). Their problem will be scoring; Tkachuk's problems with his waist line are well known, but the rest of the team can't really score, either (two of their three better scorers will be defensemen), and Heaven bless Eric Boguniecki (who's brother is a good friend of mine, and even gave me my last concussion), but if he's your #1 right wing... Still, 25 straight seasons in the playoffs is a hell of a mark, worthy of applause.

13. Los Angeles Kings - This team is flat-out bad, and I don't see a lot of hope on the horizon, Frolov notwithstanding. They're big stars are basically getting by on name only at this point, and their goaltenders are a little too inexperienced to make an impact yet (Matthieu Garon and AHL record holder Jason LaBarbera). I'll be surprised if Jeremy Roenick plays 40 games this year.

12. Columbus Blue Jackets - This team could well be the Tampa Bay Devil Rays of the NHL; a team that shouldn't have been made, shouldn't exist, and isn't going anywhere. The good news is that they made some splashes by picking up Adam Foote. The bad news is that they go as far as he and Rick Nash bring them; after that, it's a long way down...

11. Phoenix Coyotes - This team is old, overrated and soft, but who cares? GRETZKY'S BACK!!! <333 ~_^ ^_~ Yep, that's basically the whole story here... I'm sure he'll sell a lot of video games in the Phoenix area.

10. Chicago Blackhawks - They're getting there, but aren't there yet. They're steady in goal with Khabibulin, but I wonder how well his temperment will hold out as he loses countless 2-1 games for this bad offensive club. Their one big scorer is very young (Tuomo Rutuu), and I wonder if he can do it again. They still have cap room, despite overpaying BIG TIME for the vastly overrated Martin Lapointe. No one deserves a winner like Blackhawks fans, who have been abused by the Wirtz family for generations.

9. Dallas Stars - This is where things get tricky. Signing Modano for as long as they did will become a mistake; the only advantage is that he's the last remaining North Star, and will retire with one team. The rest of this team is old... too old for Marty Turco to recover from. Dallas will not make the playoffs.

8. Anaheim Mighty Ducks - Win or lose, this team will be fun to watch, that's for sure; Brian Burke was a wonderful GM in Vancouver, and he's looking like he's off to a good start in Anaheim. My question is Guiguere; is he going to be the Jiggy of 2003 that brought Anaheim to within a goal of a Stanley Cup, or the one of 2004 that fell flat on his face? Until I know for sure, I'm playing it safe, and putting them at the bottom of the playoffs. But either way, they're going to the playoffs.

7. Edmonton Oilers - The Battle of Alberta looks to be hot this year once again, as Edmonton is vastly improved with the addition of a top tier defenseman (Chris Pronger) and a character leader who can also score (Michael Peca). But for all the goals Edmonton will score, they'll give up just as many; their defense is VERY thing from #3 on, and the goaltending has question marks (Conklin? Markkanen? Bueller?). Still, they'll be fun to watch.

6. Colorado Avalanche - They're still a good team - in the East, they'd damn near dominate - but their best days are behind them. They lost too much talent-wise, they're not getting younger, and they're nearly capped out. Time to see just how smart Lacouix really is. On the bright side, Abeschier looks to be the real deal in net.

5. Detroit Red Wings - Enjoy the ride, Detroit fans, because after this, it's a long way down to mediocrity. They're OLD; with Yzerman, Lidstrom, Shanahan, Draper and Osgood back, it's like 1997 all over again! They have some good kids coming up, but let's face it: they're settling for Osgood in goal - someone they didn't like when he WON THEM A CUP - and they don't have enough kids to replace the old men that are ready to retire.

4. Nashville Predators - Here's a shock to the uninitiated: Nashville will win the Central Division. I thought I was so smart going over their roster and saying this, but apparently, other experts are beating me to it. The top two lines have the names - led by Paul Kariya - but the defense is solid, even if you don't know who they are. Expect Thomas Vokoun to make a name for himself, picking up where he left off in the Detroit series.

3. San Jose Sharks - These guys prove that NHL Hockey can succede in warm weather climates, with a solid fan base and - more importantly - a winning franchise. They're solid from lines 1 through 4, good on defense for the first two pairings, and Nabokov is the equilizer in goal. One omre depth defenseman couldn't hurt, though.

2. Vancouver Canucks - The 'Nucks are so loaded, it's scary. Yes, Bertuzzi will be a distraction to anyone outside of Vancouver for a long time, but the rules changes cater to his style of play, and playing on a line with Naslund and Morrison, he's going to explode; he could challenge for the Ross this year. Their entire forward line is scary, from the top line to the fourth (if you want a sleeper to score some goals, check out little Brendan Reid). The defense is going to be the difference; after Jovanovski, Ohlund and Salo, there's a big drop off. If Bryan Allen could stay out of the box (NHL PIM leader in 2004), they'd be steadier. The other question is weather Dan Cloutier has the mental and physical toughness to make the leap to being a top-flight NHL star. Just like 2004, if he goes down, so do the Canucks. The only thing keeping them from the Division, Conference and NHL title is...

1. Calgary Flames - Here's a hint, ladies and gentlemen: 2004 wasn't a fluke. They're not as deep in terms of goal scorers as some teams, but when you have Jarome Iginla, the best player in the game, that really doesn't matter. The rest of their forwards are steady, quiet guys who you won't hear of until you notice they're approaching 30 goals, like Steve Reinprecht, Shean Donovan, Damond Langkow, and the overachieving Chris Simon (where did HE come from?!?). The defense is what's going to win for Calgary; it's the best 6 in the NHL, and expect to hear the name Robyn Regher sneaking up on you a lot. I expect Kiprusoff to keep up his ascent to the top of the goaltender heap, and he'd better; Phillipe Sauve is a huge step down. The only thing keeping them from the President's Trophy is playing in a division with Vancouver, Colorado and Edmonton.

AWARDS

Hart Memorial (MVP) - Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames
Art Ross (Points) - Markus Naslund, Vancouver Canucks
Rocket Richard (Goals) - Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames
James Norris (Defenseman) - Robyn Regher, Calgary Flames
Vezina Trophy (Goaltender) - Tomas Vokoun, Nashville Predators
Calder Trophy (Rookie) - Sidney Crosby (by default) - Pittsburgh Penguins
President's Trophy (Best record) - Philidelphia Flyers

PLAYOFFS

In the East, Pittsburgh's going to have that nice, warm, "HOLY SHIT! THE PLAYOFFS!" glow about them, which will be nice for the four games they stick around; Philly sweeps them, as Peter Forsberg, who's playing with one arm and no legs, scores 7 goals in the series. The Senators will be UPSET by the New York Islanders in seven games, as DiPietro and Trent Hunter get hot, their goaltender goes cold (I predict they'll trade Hasek), and John Muckler is hung in the City Centre. Tampa Bay will defeat Montreal in five games as Kovalev goes back into Rangers Choke Mode, and Boston will finish off the Devils in six, as Brodeur's ritualistic sacrifice to the statue of Scott Stevens goes for naught. Conference Semis, Philly finishes off the Islanders in five games, due to six goals by Peter Forsberg, who is now out there with no limbs, like the Black Knight in Holy Grail. Boston defeats Tampa Bay in five games, as Tampa is let down by their home attendance of 4,311. In the Conference Finals, Boston defeats Philly in seven, despite a Herculean nine goals from the corpse of Peter Forsberg, who dies the day before Game 1 due to his spleen falling out. After the 4-2 loss, Bobby Clarke has a flashback to the '72 Summit Series, and breaks Robert Esche's ankle.

In the Western Conference, Calgary finishes off the Mighty Ducks uneventfully in five games, as Ducks fans remark "wait a minute, this isn't the Angels game?". San Jose takes out the Oilers in six games, as Chris Pronger - who never fully adjusted to the rules changes - takes 230 PIM - all on minors - in the six games. Nashville's kids show promise, but ultimately fall to the more experienced Avalanche, as Tony Granato is put off the hot seat in Colorado for another 96 hours. Finally, Vancouver, upset at being the fourth seed despite only losing the Western Conference's best record by two points, destroys Detroit in a sweep, as Todd Bertuzzi and Dan Cloutier celebrate by playing Ping Pong in the dressing room with the head of Henrik Zetterberg. In the Conference Semis, Colorado's spirited run ends in six games, as they fall to the Flames. Tony Granato is fired two minutes into the third period of the fianl game. Jarome Iginla celebrates his 19 point performance by having intercourse with 23 screaming puck bunnies. Vancouver continues their romp by finishing off San Jose in five games, as Ed Jovanovski sets a record for Most Plexiglass Panels Broken by Bodychecking Other Players (new record: 11). Finally, in the best series in years, Calgary defeats Vancouver in seven games, in a series marred by Todd Bertuzzi prison-raping Chuck Kobasew in the neutral zone just before the fianl horn of the 3-2 final.

FINALS

The Calgary Flames finish off the Boston Bruins in a surprising six game final that seems anti-climatic compared to the Western Finals. The ceremony is marred by the onrush of groupies onto the ice as Jarome Iginla accepts the Conn Smythe Trophy. Meanwhile, all across Canada, there is celebration as the Cup returns to Canada in every province except Quebec, where they are planning another non-hostile takeover of their own province, and Newfondland, where they don't have electricity.

Comments

kyuusei
Oct. 5th, 2005 03:44 am (UTC)
Oops, I mixed up celebrations. :')