Predictions already?

Howard Berger, who writes for that Eklund guys website, has decided that it is already time to make predictions on the 2006-07 season. While I still think it is early to make predictions because I feel a few teams still have some moves to make (particularly Buffalo and New Jersey) lets take a gander at what he thinks.

4)New York Rangers
7)Tampa Bay
11)New Jersey
15)New York Islanders

Pretty safe picks really although there are a few surprises in there for me. First, I really don’t see Tampa making the playoffs this season. They barely made it last year they have lost their #2 defenseman in Pavel Kubina and 31 goal scorer Fredrik Modin. They also traded vetern defenseman Daryl Sydor. They replaced the two defensemen with Filip Kuba and aging Luke Richardson. Kuba is a nice defenseman but he’s not Kubina and Richardson is no better than a #6/7 guy at this point in his career. The Lighning also picked up Marc Denis to shore up their goaltending but Denis and his 3.25 goals against average and .900 save % aren’t dramatically better than what they had last year and still probably not good enough, especially behind a weaker team in front of them.

It is also interesting that he has all northeastern division teams making the playoffs. While this is possible as all of these teams are playoff capable teams it is highly unlikely. These teams will play so many games against each other it will be difficult for all of them to gain points on teams in the other divisions. For this reason (and others) I don’t think Ottawa wins top seed in the conference.

4)San Jose
9)St. Louis
14)Los Angeles

For the most part I think Berger’s western conference predictions are on track. I think Calgary is the best team in the west but I could see them not making top spot because they play in such a tough division and will have a far tougher schedule than Anaheim. I like that he has St. Louis moving dramatically up in the standings as I do think if things come together for them they will be back in the playoff hunt. I like Phoenix as a team except in goal and for that reason I think they miss the playoffs once again though they should stick around in the playoff hunt longer than last year. I think Minnesota probably takes a playoff spot this season so give them Phoenix’s spot.

Berger is predicting Ottawa to defeat Toronto in round one of the playoffs (considering history that is a bold prediction) and Anaheim to beat Buffalo in the Stanley Cup finals. Not sure I agree with these but you’ll have to wait for my official predictions coming some time in September.

Posted in NHL

This article has 34 Comments

  1. Honestly, depending on how much more salary dumping Buffalo still has to do (if it’s just Biron) I could see them moving ahead of Ottawa in the standings.

  2. I agree that it is WAY too early to make predictions, but for the fun of it I”ll join in 🙂

    I’m just going to look at the eastern conference predictions.

    I really don’t see how he has Toronto, Montreal, Tampa and Boston all in the playoffs though and Philly and Jersey out of the playoffs.

    Yes Boston did add some players but when you look at their forwards the lack depth and leadership. I don’t see the B’s as a playoff team at this point. Expect Chara and Stuart to have an amazing season together though, and if they can add some depth, I think they’ll have a great shot at it.

    Toronto has absolutely no punch on the wing. We will need Steen and Wellwood to come up with extrodinary seasons and Oneil to bounce back. Poni should have another good campain – and when I say that I mean for Poni. Antropov is no better than a fourth line player and utility guy. Fergie did a good job with the “D” Core and Raycroft should bounce back to be at least an average NHL Goaltender. I think the leafs will Lack a five on five scoring puch and it’s going to hurt us tremendously, especially if Kubina and Gill can’t keep up with teams like Buffalo, Carolina and Ottawa. We will see.

    Montreal has a pretty solid team but they have a LOT of question marks. Can Kovalev elevate his play on a consitent basis? There is no doubt in my mind that he is one of the most elite pure goal scorers in the NHL. He takes every other night off though. Samsonov, as you said David, has not proven himself to be the talented offensive weapon that he was touted to be. He has all the tools, just need to put everything together. We will see if Gainey knows something we don’t. Ribeiro is not a second line Center in the NHL. They have good depth players though. The loss of Bulis will be felt because Johnson cannot replace the speed and energy he brought to the Habs lineup.

    I agree with David’d comments on Tampa. I don’t think they have any depth on D and unless the top two lines that they have kept together can put up huge numbers (ie 5 goals a game) then I wouldn’t expect much out of Tampa this year.

    New Jersey has Martin Brodeur. When you have him on your team, anything is possible. Yes they do lack offensive and defensive depth but they will have Elias this whole season and him and Gionta will put up some good numbers. There top two lines are decent and thier third/fourth lines are as good as any in the NHL. Not much passed there though. We will see what kind of move they make to reduce their Salary commitments and take it from there. They have a decent core of Defensmen. I like Martin, Hale, White and Rafalski all as up and coming defenders. Depth will definately be an issue here though.

    For Philly there are a lot of question marks, but if they get the right answers then they should make the playoffs. Nittymaki will take over the number one spot and shine. If Forsberg comes back early enough and plays, then he will be top ten to fifteen in league scoring, and Gange/Knuble will repeat last years. Carter Richards and Umberger allhave to have good sofmore seasons. Maybe Primeau will be back and healthy. Their D lack depth and losing Jonnson will be huge. I wouldn’t count these guys out yet though.

    The rest of the picks seem to be on par. The East will be really tight once again. I’m looking forward to it. I hope the leafs make the playoffs this year. It just wasn’t the same last year after so long with so much success.

    Signing off,

  3. Off of last years roster the Leafs have lost Allison, Lindros, Domi, and Wilm up front. Combined those guys totaled just 34 goals so it isn’t like they have lost much offense from a team which was 9th in the NHL in goals scored.

    Last year the Leafs goaltending had a .897 save %. If they can increase that to .905 that would save them ~20 goals right there. If they can decrease their shots on goal given up by 5% as well they have now made up ~32 goals or almost all of what they lost in Allison, Lindros, Domi and Wilm. And we haven’t even accounted for the goals the guys replacing Allison, Lindros, Domi and Wilm will score any additional offense from the defensemen that Kubina, White and Colaiacovo should provide.

    I understand why so many people say the Leafs don’t have any scoring wingers but they have depth. Toronto had 9 15 goal scorers last year. The Stanley Cup champion Hurricanes had 8. The runner up Edmonton Oilers had 7 (or 8 if you count Samsonov). The high flying Ottawa Senators had 10 and two of them are no longer with the team.

  4. I’m confused. With all the roster moves and the upgrading not only on offense but defense as well, why is Minnesota behind teams like Chicago, Vancouver and Colorado, who made lateral moves at best.

  5. I expect Chicago to be better (because I expect Khabibulin to have a better season), Vancouver should be about the same and Colorado should lose ground. I think Minnesota should make the playoffs next year so I am not sure what Berger was thinking either. Of last years playoff teams Colorado and Edmonton have good chances of falling out of the playoffs next year. Dallas might lose ground too but should still be a playoff team. Same for Detroit.

  6. But didn’t Vancouver lose most of their offense? Cooke is playing on the first line, they didn’t sign Carter back, they lost Ruutu, Jovo-Cop, Bertuzzi…They did gain Luongo but that’s a lateral move at best since they lost a solid defenseman and added in a solid goaltender. I expect the Canucks to slide out of the playoff spot.

  7. Vancouver lost Bertuzzi and Carter sure, but they gained more depth on there other lines meaning they should have a more balanced attack. No chance Colorado makes the playoffs – and Mineesota gets a spot – I think Berger is way off in the West.

  8. I think Berger is way off in his Western conf. prediction. How did Phoenix manage to climb 4 spots? Just because of Jovo? Jovo is a great dman but is he enough to get them into the playoffs?

    And why is Columbus last?! No way is that going to happen when Nash and Brule are healthy for the whole year and assuming Zherdev comes back. The later half of last season they were a much improved team.

  9. Many of you underestimate the impact Luongo will have on the Canucks, they didn’t loose all their offence, but they gained two-way players and depth in their forwards. Offence wins glory, defense/goaltending wins championships.

  10. The blues made about 6 or 7 offseason moves. They will definately be back in the playoffs I think, especially if Legace plays up to his potential!

  11. Atlanta will make the playoffs this year. The only reason they missed them last year is the goalie trouble they had.

    1. Nurminen. Injured over offseason.
    2. Lehtonen. Injured in first game.
    3. Dunham. Injured after poor performance.
    4. Shields. GAA: 4.29.
    5. Berkhoel. HAHAHAHAHAHA! Just bad.
    6. Garnett. Too young and inexperienced.
    7. Lehtonen got injured again, after bringing the Thrash to 1 game out of the post season.

    They lost a huge part of the team in Savard, but with scorers like Kovy & Hossa, they’ll squeak in at 7 or 8.

  12. Nashville will not top San Jose. Neither will San Jose get bested by Anaheim. Look at San Jose’s record against Anah. They worked them all last year. Can you say three Cheecoo hat tricks..

    In my estimation San Jose is nearly perfect. They made no major changes and only worked to fill holes. Who wants to play against these top two lines;
    One – Bell – Thortnon – Cheechoo
    Two – Michalek – Marleau – Bernier (hot chemistry with this one)

    Possibly the best one – two punch up the middle in hockey.

    Additions to this year: Grittyness of Mike Grier from Buffalo. Size and power of Bell from Chicago. Size of Biron from Washington.

    Plus it is looking like they aren’t going to off load a goaltender in time for the start of the season. They will simply ride which ever is Hot – Nabby or Toskola

    San Jose again is the team to lose or win the Western Conference!!


  13. Nashville will have an easier schedule than pretty much any other team in the west so that should help them in the standings. San Jose has a good offense. There is no doubt about that. Their defense and goaltending might be a bit of a problem though. Their defense consists of McLaren, Hannan, Ehrhoff, Biron, Davison, Murray and Gorges. Not exactly a scary bunch and not exactly a lot of offense coming from that group. One has to wonder if they might try to convince Brian Leetch to move to the west coast. Until they shore up that defense they can’t really be considered a top contender for the Stanley Cup.

  14. san jose’s defense is very misleading. hanaan is one of the most underrated D in the league. he can shut down almost anyone. i mean he did keep forsberg off the scoresheets a few years ago. and ovechkin said that hanaan (along with andrei markov) are the 2 hardest D to deke.

    erhoff is an up and coming D. he tore it up in the playoffs. he has a very heavy shot and is very good offensively. he was behind preissing so that kept him off the scoresheet. with preissing gone erhoff will likely QB the powerplay and rack up a fair amount of points. at least 40 if u ask me.

    and the gorges and davison and murray are all young D who are just getting better. they move the puck well and will be solid NHLers by the end of the season.

    dont forget san jose is a very well coached team so they can get away with having a little less depth or a little less skill in the bottom lines/pairings.

  15. Hannan is definitely a solid shut down guy but he has limited offensive capabilities which makes him more of a #3/4 guy. Same for McLaren. The other guys might be good up and comers but they are still mostly untested and inexperienced and teams with a young inexperienced defense generally don’t do well, especially in the playoffs. San Jose will have a good regular season but they don’t have the make up of a Stanley Cup contender.

  16. i dont get it. hanaan is a good shut down guy. meaning he plays against the other teams top players. how does that not make him a top pairing guy?? he was already chosen for team canada, and is one of the best defensive D in the league. u wouldnt say adam foote is a 2nd pairing guy. maybe now but not in his prime. same with stevens in jersey when he WASNT putting up points, he was still top 2 material.

    and dont forget about christian erhoff. he’s their new go to guy on defense. he was dynamite in the playoffs, and is only getting better. and most of their D corps got 2 rounds of playoff experience last season, so young or not theyre already getting a lot more steady than most D around the league their age. and if u draft mature players (which san jose is known for, drafting good players who make the jump to the NHL quickly), then u dont have problems with young players.

  17. Top pairing defensemen usually can chip in both offensively and defensively. Niedermyer, Pronger, Redden, Ohlund, Phaneuf, Chara, etc. Pure shutdown guys are more typically slotted on the second tandem though sometimes they will get paired up with one of the all-round guys on the top tandem depending on how the rest of the defense is. Hannan could serve as a #2 guy but is certainly not a typical #1 defenseman. Adam Foote is pretty much the same though probably a bit better offensively but not much. I just think that if Scott Hannan is your best defenseman and you are not deep in experienced defensemen you don’t have the defense to really make a run for the Stanley Cup. And Erhoff might be good but teams depending on several young defensemen also don’t win the Cup. It just doesn’t happen and I don’t see San Jose changing that this year.

  18. Its amazing how quickly teams and players fall from grace. The Vancouver Canucks, a team widely considered to be Stanley Cup contenders last season will now be lucky to make the playoffs. All this a result of missing the playoffs one season. One season in which they finished 9th place, 2 points out of 8th place. One season in which the following occured:

    – Two of the top 3 defenceman (Salo and Jovo) missed a combined 65 games, 30 of which both were concurrently injured.

    – A 3-week stretch in which all 3 of their top D were absent due to injury (Ohlund, Salo, Jovo)

    – Matt Cooke, this years #1 RW (so far) missed 38 games due to injury.

    – Dan Cloutier missed the final 70 games of the season due to injury.

    – 2/3’s of the Canucks #1 line played the season with injury, unknown at the time, but required significant offseason surgery (Naslund & Morrison). For reference

    Now, the way I look at it, you can conclude two things. You can conclude:

    1) The Canucks just weren’t quite good enough last year, the injuries weren’t that significant, and Morrison and Naslund aren’t the players they were one year removed; or

    2) The injuries were in fact significant, Naslund and Morrison were hampered by their injuries, and the team was alot better then their record indicated.

    Let’s play a game for a second. Picture any team in the league. Now imagine they lose their starting goaltender 10 games into the season for the entire season. Next imagine they lose two of their top 3 dmen for half of the season, at the same time mind you. Next imagine they lose a top 6 forward. Finally, imagine that two thirds of their top line were injured for signifcant portions of the season, unbeknownst to them, and statistically these players have significantly below par seasons. How well does this team do? Imagine Ottawa with the same events occuring to Hasek, Redden & Philips, Schaeffer, Heatley & Spezza. Or Calgary with Kiprusoff, Regehr & Phaneuf, Kobasew(?), Iginla & Langkow(?). Chances are that team is not going to be nearly as succesful. Every team faces injuries, not every team faces injuries to such important and impactful players all in one season.

    The Canucks significant offseason loss was the departure of Jovanovski. But for as much as I loved Jovo, and as impactful as he was when he was playing, he too often was and is injured. 44, 56, 67. Those are the total games played by Jovo over the last 3 seasons. Further, for all of Jovo’s offensive upside and production, he is also a huge defensive liability, sporting a career -23, this despite playing on one of the better regular season teams over the past 5 years. Jovo’s replacement? Willie Mitchell and his +44 over the past 3 seasons alone.

    Bertuzzi and Carter are also gone, but again its amazing how quickly people’s opinions turn. While the Bertuzzi remained with the Canucks, the media and critics alike all opined on how the negativity following Bertuzzi was dragging down the team. Now? How can the Canucks replace him?

    Anyways, I could go on forever, but my predictions, like everyone else are merely that that, predictions.

  19. im sorry but do u really think that this following defensive line up boasts a top pairing D?

    franktisek kaberle, wallin, hedican, ward, commodore, wesley.

    i always thought the caroline D was bad. individually they are not that good. they playw ell as a team. thats what san jose has. in fact i would say their D is better. and no where in carolinas dcorps is there a #1 defenseman, or a #2 D. kaberle is good but i consider him a #3 defencema, and maybe on a good day hes a #2. so if carolina can win a stanely cup, then y cant san joses defence at least make a cup run??

    and i agree with DB about vancouver. they were unlucky and still finished 2 points out of the playoffs. granted theyre not as deep as ottawa, who lost their top 4 D at one point, but without significant injuries vancouver could have finished 4th or 5th. and i am one of those who actually find they got better in the offseason. the sedins will pick up some slack, naslund and morrison like usaid will be healthy and play better. right there u got 2 good lines. and sure theyre not as good on D, but thats where luongo makes all the difference. before they had to cover for cloutiers weaknesses, now luongo can make that 1st save and most of the time the rebound as well. carter was a product of the sedins. they can turn many players into 30 goal scorers. bertuzzi wont be missed either. hes got problems and theyre better off without him.

    they might score less goals, but they will give up a LOT less goals. people dont realize how dominant luongo is. he was stuck on a crap team for year, a team with no desire to improve. i cant remember who, but someone from tampa, think it was lecavalier, said he was eccstatic when he found out luongo was out of their division.

  20. No, but they boast 6 defensemen who have a ton of playoff experience as all of them except Kaberle had been to the Stanley Cup finals before. You can’t say that about San Jose’s defense. San Jose has Hannan and McLaren and a bunch of rookies and second year players. You just don’t win with that in the playoffs. I am not sure Anaheim can win with that in the playoffs and they have Neidermayer and Pronger. You can get by a round or two but to win it all you need depth. Prior to last year I was expressing concern that Ottawa had too much inexperience on defense after Chara, Redden and Phillips and to some extent that inexperience played a factor in their demise.

  21. Experience is over-rated. How many Dmen or players on Edmonton had ever made it to the Cup Finals? Any? How about Calgary and Tampa Bay the year before? I dont have the numbers in front of me, but I would be very surprised to find that any of those team were ladden with so called experience, veteran players.

  22. For Edmonton last year they had a fairly veteren defense. Pronger, Spacek, Staios, Smith have all been around for years.

    In 2003-04 pretty much every player on Tampa had played 3 or more years in the NHL. No rookies, no second and no third year players. Daryl Sydor had won a Stanley Cup with Dallas. Dave Andreychuk had a ton of playoff experience. And several of their players had solid international experience as well. Again, they weren’t rookies, second or third year players. They had experience.

    Same with Carolina last year. Very few of their players were rookies or second year players. Staal, Cam Ward and Andrew Ladd were pretty much it.

    The other thing you need in the playoffs is goaltending and I am not sure San Jose has that either. San Jose had the 9th worst save percentage in the NHL last year. Nabokov had a horrible .885 save percentage and Toskala was an average .901. You have to be better than that to win, especially when playing behind a young, inexperienced defense.

  23. First you talk about playoff experience, now you are resorting to any kind of NHL experience? Common, I am not a fan of San Jose by any means, but your argument that they will not be succesful because they have no ‘experience’ is ridiculous to say the least. Every team in the league has a combination of younger and veteran players. Check out San Jose’s current payroll:

    The only guys on that team that are young players (again, I could be incorrect, as Im too lazy to actually look into it) are Milan Michalek and Steve Bernier, both of which are fairly high impact players.

    As for their goaltending, it seems as though again you are basing your prediction on one season, a rather small sample size. Nabokov has been for years consider an upper echelon goaltender, and after one poor season (was he injured?), you are now inclined to discount his actual value.

    If you want to talk about inexperience, lets look are your oh-so glorious Toronto Maple Leafs. Wellwood, Stajan, Raycroft, White, Coliacovo, Steen, Kronwall, Tellqvis, Pohl, Ondrus, etc…All of these guys at some point this season are going to see significant ice time in the NHL, and all of these guys have very limited NHL experience.

    Better yet! You want to talk about poor goaltending last year, what better place to look the Andrew Raycroft. The guy has had one good season and one terrible season, yet you oddly inclined to ignore his one terrible season and focus on his one good season, then you are for players such as Nabokov, Naslund and Morrison. I wonder why that is? Perhaps because he is now a member of your beloved Maple Leafs?

  24. Playoff experience is the best but international experience (Olympics) is good too as is NHL experience. I feel you need at least a couple of leaders with substantial playoff (winning) experience but after that any experience is worthwhile.

    Maybe we should go over San Jose’s defense again.

    Scott Hannan – 429 NHL games
    Kyle McLaren – 591 NHL games
    Christian Ehrhoff – 105 NHL games
    Doug Murray – 34 NHL games
    Rob Davison – 139 NHL games
    Josh Gorges – 49 NHL games
    Mathieu Biron – 253 NHL games (journeyman defenseman)
    Jim Fahey – 79 NHL games

    That isn’t a very experienced defense, nor a very good one. None of those young guys really project as top end talent. Most only project as 4/5/6 guys.

    Up front you also forgot about Marcel Goc, Mark Smith, Grant Stevenson, and Patrick Rissmiller. Even Cheechoo is pretty young.

    I could go and add up games of exprience on the Sharks and the Leafs but I think the Sharks will come out with less by far. Lets look at the Leafs projected defense.

    McCabe – 781 games
    Kaberle – 525 games
    Kubina – 531 games
    Gill – 626 games
    Colaiacovo – 25 games
    White – 12 games
    Kronwall – 34 games
    Wozniewski – 13 games

    There is some inexperience at the bottom 2 spots but San Jose only has experience at the top 2 spots. McCabe, Kaberle, Kubina and Gill also have extensive playoff experience. If you are talking defense, Toronto’s is better than San Jose’s bu a huge margin.

    Up front the Leafs will probably only have one or two rookies (i.e. Ondrus, Pohl), and a couple of second year players (Wellwood, Steen).

  25. u dont know anything about those defencemen. they are more than 4/5/6 guys. san jose is one of my favorite teams and i take pride in knowing the players and their development and their rookies. i have heard only good things about guys like erhoff, carle, gorges, davison, murray, and fahey. also something to note, san jose ALWAYS drafts mature players. they are reknowned for drafting players who could step into the NHL right away and not look out of place.

    also, David u fail to acknowledge the goaltending situation. with this horrible season, (.885 s%) nabakov still has a lifetime % of 911, which is pretty good, very consistent. and toskala is an up and coming goalie with lots of potential. he carried the sharks in the later parts of the season, when they were on fire. thats a lot more than u can say about raycroft. so far theres no evidence to support the fact that he will rebound from last year.

    and so far the leafs have 5 rookies or sophomores on the team, with guys like kronwall, white, harrison, wozeiwski all going to play to fill up injuries.

    your statement about playoff experience, and then experience doesnt hold. if it were true then any rookie going into the playoffs will immediately suck. thats not the case. staal did amazing in the playoffs, he had 1 NHL season under his belt, hardly enough. same goes for guys like hemsky. as long as u have mature character guys they will bring up their level of play.

  26. Alrighty, Here’s the way I see it going.

    Eastern Confrenece

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

    Western Confrence

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

  27. I agree David. May be too early to start predicting overall season standings seeing how it is only August. Still many more UFA players to yet sign with clubs and still have the exibiton season to play out to see roughly what teams will make an impact and which teams will not. Also, exibition play may not count but it is a great way to analysis teams play, and recuit young players and most certainly some players will be injured in exibition play which will have an effect on the teams regular season. I will definetely return closer to the start of the season and post my predictions (accurate or not) to the best of my ability if you post some sort of blog for that.

  28. STEPHEN: out of curiousity, how can you see Montreal, Toronto, Florida, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay finishing well in front of the NY Rangers and Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference? Very bold statement in my opinion.

  29. DB: Re the injury bug:

    I don’t know about other teams, but Ottawa went through a terrible spell where they had three or four injuries on the top two lines, and at the same time three or four of their top four D-men were injured. And, famously, Hasek was out throughout that time.

    The Sens didn’t play great during that time, but they gritted out enough victories to edge out Carolina for 1st place in the East.

    Of course, they then bombed out in the 2nd round of the playoffs. Injuries to key players aren’t fatal until the playoffs start, it seems.

    If Vancouver couldn’t make the playoffs due to key injuries, then they weren’t a Cup contender to begin with.

  30. SensFan: very true statement. I have to agree with you. Every team in any sport not just hockey and the NHL have their share of injuries throughtout a season. Injuries are no excuse to miss playoffs. Losing a key injury in the post season is more understanding. If a team cant make the post season due to “injuries” they werent a Cup contender to start with…agreed. If a team such as Vancouver missed so many players and blamed injuries on missing the post season maybe the Canucks should look towards their conditioning coaches and see what went wrong. If players are physically ready and conditioned to play, the injuries should be minimized greatly. Some injuries you cant avoid, others can be easily avoided with the correct trianing.

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