Before it is too late I'll drop my Eastern Conference predictions for the 06/07 season. This is a tough conference to make any predictions on, I must say.
1. Senators. I'm not so sure it will be so decisive. The Sens improved their D by adding Tom Preissing and Joe Corvo. The real question will be the play of Martin Gerber. Can he handle a whole season as a #1 goalie?
2. Hurricanes. They still pack alot of punch, but how will they cope with the losses of Recchi, Weight, Ward and Cullen? I say they have an easier ride in their division than the next team...
3. Flyers. Robert Esche can be a hazard. But I think Niittymaki is pretty good, if his hip issue subsides. We could see a Carter-Richards-Calder 2nd line evolve into something great this year. The Atlantic Division is slowly becoming more competitive on the whole.
4. Rangers. Lunqvist is the real deal, IMO. The additions of Shanahan, Cullen, and Ward bring grit and character. They still need a point-producing defenseman though, if Ozolinsh doesn't step up quick.
5. Devils. I always predict them to finish lower, and then they go and suprise by winning 46 games. This year, the teams in their division, especially the Rangers and Flyers, have improved their teams dramatically, while the Devils have not. So I predict a drop from the Devils again.
6. Sabres. This is rating them lower than most people would, but I just don't think they are as strong as the above teams, on paper anyway. I see them going into the playoffs under the radar.
7. Bruins. Oh yeah, I said it. I love this team. They lost the most one-goal games last year, and have addressed all of the issues that caused that. Bruins are on the rise, baby!
8. Panthers. Yeah, yeah, my crackhead prediction. As long as Bertuzzi puts out like a hooker on Granville. Auld and Allen will also prove their worth. The Panthers improved their team play towards the end of last season and made a big push for the playoffs. I see something good brewing here.
9. Canadiens. I guess that leaves the Habs as the unexpected team left out. See? A tough Conference. I will blame the obvious injury factor here. But I should catch flack for having the Panthers in 8th and not the Habs. Stranger things have happened.
10. Lightning. They just haven't recovered from their Cup hangover. St. Louis might re-emerge, but the defence (Sydor, Kubina) was depleted and guys like Filip Kuba and Luke Richardson were brought in. I am saying that Marc Denis will not save this team.
11. Leafs. Well I am not biased anyway. The Northeast Division is the toughest, and the Leafs are going to be in tough on most nights because of it. The Raycroft experiment will probably fail, is my guess.
12. Islanders. Wangnut added some great leaders like Mike Sillinger and Chris Simon, but I still think this team is going to get the snot beat out of it on most nights.
13. Thrashers. Losing Marc Savard, who clicked so well on the top line, will hurt. The question is whether or not Niko Kapanen can efectively take his place. I am not sold on their defence either. Steve McCarthy is their best D?
14. Penguins. A few years away yet.
15. Capitals. Can they please give Ovechkin a decent center for fu*k's sake? C'mon!
And just to be a smartass........
Hart Trophy- Ovechkin
Art Ross- Thornton
Jack Adams- Randy Carlyle