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
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.
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.