I have just posted my summaries of all six divisions (northeast, atlantic, southeast, central, northwest, pacific) so now it is time to make my predictions on where each team will finish the season in the standings. Let’s start with the western conference since I think it is a bit easier.
(Note: Rankings are based on points, not on playoff seeding which puts the three division winners in the top 3 spots)
I pondered dropping Anaheim further down the standings because of their injuries and off season losses but in the end I think Niedermayer will return at some point and that should keep them in the top few positions. In my mind there are 8 elite teams in the western conference and those six are the ones I have making the playoffs. There is a chance that Calgary and/or Dallas could drop a bit further and St. Louis or Nashville (or even Los Angeles if they get some quality goaltending from Bernier) challenge for a playoffs spot but if everything plays out as it should there once again won’t be a significant playoff race in the western conference this year.
Now, that is far from the case in the eastern conference where almost anything can happen.
Predicting the eastern conference is really tough because there are really only four sure things when it comes to playoff teams and even that may be stretching it. In my mind Pittsburgh, NY Rangers, Buffalo and Ottawa are the four top teams in the eastern conference and all should make the playoffs. But even those teams have some question marks which may cause them to fall out of the top four positions. But after those teams pretty much anything can happen and you could arguably make a case for any one of the remaining teams to make the playoffs or miss them. But, if the Leafs can get average or better goaltending and stay somewhat healthier than last year I think they are the best of the rest. If Florida can get 60+ starts from Vokoun they will be the class of the southeast and will make the playoffs and possibly take the division title. After that it is almost a crap shoot. I suspect only one of New Jersey and Philadelphia will make the playoffs and I have picked New Jersey because of better goaltending and team defense. One could even make a case for the Capitals to make a playoff push but in the end I think they are at least another year away from having their young forwards come together and dominate like they probably will some day.
So what do you all think? Agree? Disagree?