David's 2008-09 NHL Predictions

I believe we are in for some serious surprises in both conferences as I don’t think there are many teams that are sure bets to make the playoffs and in both conferences, particularly the west, there are several younger teams ready to make a push for a playoff spot. All that means that some teams expecting to make the playoffs won’t.

Eastern Conference

1. New Jersey Devils
2. Montreal Canadiens
3. Washington Capitals
4. New York Rangers
5. Pittsburgh Penguins
6. Buffalo Sabres
7. Ottawa Senators
8. Boston Bruins
9. Philadelphia Flyers
10. Tampa Bay Lightning
11. Carolina Hurricanes
12. Florida Panthers
13. Toronto Maple Leafs
14. Atlanta Thrashers
15. New York Islanders

I think the Devils may have made the best off season acquisition by bringing in Brian Rolston from the Minnesota Wild. Rolston is a perfect fit for the Devils and will bring them some much needed offensive balance which I believe will push them into top spot in the eastern conference.

The Montreal Canadiens had a breakout season last year and will once again challenge for top spot in the eastern conference but I don’t believe Kovalev will have as good of a season and that will drop the Canadiens back a spot or two.

The Washington Capitals are the class of the southeast division and should get the third seed and I believe the Rangers and Penguins are good enough for fourth and fifth seeds. The Penguins would easily be ranked higher if it weren’t for the two long term injuries to Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney.

This is where things get interesting. If the Ottawa Senators found a way to add a top 4 defenseman to the mix and get consistent solid goaltending they would easily compete for the top several spots in the eastern conference. But as it stands now I think the Senators will once again struggle for consistency in goal and I don’t like any team that has an aging Jason Smith as their #4 defenseman and Lee and Picard as the third defense pair with a combined 98 games experience. If one of Phillips, Volchenkov or Kuba gets injured for a lengthy period of time this team could miss the playoffs.

I believe the Buffalo Sabres will be a surprise team this year. They have an excellent young set of forwards that learned a lot last year having to take over leadership roles with the losses of Briere and Drury. They are now ready to step up their games and take the Sabres to the playoffs once again.

The Bruins, Flyers, Lightning and maybe the Hurricanes will all struggle at times this year and any of them could miss the playoffs. I am just not sold on any of those teams having the defense and goaltending to really be a top team in the NHL. Some of you may be surprised that I include the Flyers in this group but I am still not sold on Biron being a top level goalie and I think they could use some help on defense as well with the loss of Derien Hatcher. Problem is, they don’t have much cap space to add such a defenseman. The surprise in the east could be the Flyers missing the playoffs.

The final four probably won’t get many disputes. The Panthers, having traded Jokinen, probably don’t have the offense to compete though their defense and goaltending is more than solid. Toronto could probably end up a bit higher in the standings, but I don’t think that is a goal of theirs and are likely to continue trading away players and playing youngsters over veterans, even if the veterans are better right now. The Thrashers and Islanders are just plain bad with little or no signs of life this year or in the future.

Western Conference

1. Detroit Red Wings
2. Anaheim Ducks
3. Minnesota Wild
4. San Jose Sharks
5. Dallas Stars
6. Edmonton Oilers
7. Calgary Flames
8. Chicago Blackhawks
9. Phoenix Coyotes
10. Vancouver Canucks
11. Colorado Avalanche
12. Nashville Predators
13. Columbus Blue Jackets
14. St. Louis Blues
15. Los Angeles Kings

No surprises at the top of this list as the Detroit Red Wings are the class of the league. They only question is whether they will suffer the Stanley Cup hangover that so many teams do. Being a veteran team who have gone through this before I don’t think they will and should easily be the best team in the western conference and the league.

Next up are the pacific division trio of Anaheim, San Jose and Dallas. All look to be very solid teams but I think Anaheim’s defense should allow them to take top spot followed closely by San Jose and Dallas not too far behind.

The Northwest division is real tough to predict because they all seem to have holes in their lineups. The Wild have lost Demitra and Rolston and I am not convinced bringing in Brunette and Nolan is enough to offset that loss. Calgary looks solid but only if Kiprusoff rebounds from an off season. In fact, Kuprusoff’s career is in a downward trend as his save percentages have dropped 4 seasons in a row from .933 to .923 to .917 to .906 last year. If he drops any more, the Flames could drop out of the playoffs. The Vancouver Canucks seem to be in a bit of a holding pattern as well not looking any better than last year. The Colorado Avalanche didn’t do much to excite me this off season and I am not at all sold on a goaltending tandem of Budaj and Raycroft, which has the potential to be among the worst in the league. The aging avalanche are also injury prone and that combination will likely see them drop out of the playoffs. The only team definitively on the rise are the Edmonton Oilers who look to make a jump to the playoffs.

The other two young teams looking to make their jumps into the playoffs are the Phoenix Coyotes and Chicago Blackhawks. Both will challenge for a playoff spot but probably only one will get in. I am putting the Blackhawks in because I believe the Coyotes need another year or two to develop their young players and they Phoenix is in a much tougher division.

In the playoffs, I am predicting San Jose will face New Jersey in the finals with New Jersey winning the cup. Regular Season MVP will be Alex Ovechkin, Norris Trophy will go to Dion Phaneuf, Vezina will go to Martin Brodeur and coach of the year will be Brent Sutter of the Devils. The top rookie will be Derick Brassard of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

This article has 4 Comments

  1. New Jersey David? Really? Okay…

    The Atlantic division is by far the toughest in the East (New Jersey, Pittsburg, Philadelphia, New York Rangers.) These 4 teams will take too many points away from each other and I highly doubt that any 1 team will be able to run the table as far as their division record goes. They play each other 6 times, that’s 18 tough games for each team.
    Because of this, this is why I favor Montreal to finish first instead of an Atlantic division team.

  2. Four of the top 5 point getting teams in the eastern conference last season came from the Atlantic division and the Penguins were only 2 points behind Montreal. It could easily happen again.

    But you also need to consider that without Malone, Gonchar and Whitney for much of the season the Penguins won’t be as good of a team. Also factor in that I believe the Flyers will drop in the standings and it is more than possible that New Jersey can finish first.

  3. Completly disagree with your East. I think the Rangers are going to be a team that struggles. Too many new faces, they did this in the mid-90’s and it got them a 7-year playoff drought. Also, how do you have Boston and Buffalo making the playoffs, and not the Flyers? This team defied all odds last year. First, no one said they would hang on to a playoff spot. Second, Ovechkin and the Caps will beat them. Third, the Flyers stand no chance against the Habs. I’m not saying the Flyers are the best team in the East, but their definetly top 8, I’d say at least six. They have the best depth in the NHL, and most of their elite scorers are 26 or younger. Flyers, once again, no respect

  4. Take last years Flyers team and take away R.J. Umberger, Jason Smith and Derien Hatcher and you get where they are starting from. Prospal and Modry are gone as well and they haven’t brought in anyone if significance. Now factor in that Ryan Parent and Randy Jones are injured for a month or two if not longer. If Gagne is healthy that will offset some of the losses but I still don’t like their defense. But the most important factor is I am not sold on Biron. He had a good year last year but he is not an elite level goalie. I just think they could find themselves falling back a bit this season.

    The Rangers made a lot of changes but they are still anchored by one of the best goalies in the NHL and their defense is still solid. They are likely to score more goals this season because it would be hard for them to score fewer as they were near the bottom of the league.

    As for Buffalo, they have a better set of young forwards than the Flyers. Vanek-Roy-Pominville have the potential to be one of the top 3 offensive lines in the league and a second line of Kotalik-Hecht-Afinogenov isn’t shy of talent either. And if Connolly can stay healthy he might be as good as any of them and Paille is probably a 20-30 goal scorer himself (he had 19 last year). They probably have the best depth of 25 and under talent in the NHL and they are ready to become stars.

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