What We Learned: 20 bold predictions for the 2013-14 NHL season
Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
With the lockout-shortened season and all that acrimony and weirdness now well and truly behind us, the NHL resumes its 82-game schedule as planned. With it comes the promise of more normalcy.
All that stuff you heard about, "Well, if the season had been 82 games instead of 48, (insert improbable thing here) wouldn't have happened," now gets put to the test. Will the Maple Leafs be able to repeat their playoff performance? (No.) Will the Ducks ride hot goaltending to another second-in-the-West performance? (No.) Will the Devils overcome all the bad luck that seems to have plagued them the last few years? (Yes.)
Of course, during this time of year, you'll read a lot of predictions that are as safe as safe can be. The Penguins and Blackhawks and Bruins and Kings will all be good, you say? Lundqvist for Vezina? Crosby for Hart? These are all pretty solid bets, and you're probably not going to end up being wrong. But what's the fun in that?
And so, for the fifth year in a row amazingly, here are 20 Bold Predictions for the upcoming NHL season:
1. Dallas just misses the playoffs despite a real-life breakout season by Tyler Seguin.
2. Cory Schneider rather quickly and rightly usurps old man Brodeur's spot as the No. 1 in New Jersey and leads the Devils back into the playoffs.
3. The Rangers really start to wish they'd amnestied Brad Richards.
4. Ryan Suter continues to emerge as the best defenseman in the league, winning the Norris he probably should've won last year.
5. The Oilers make the playoffs behind point-a-game seasons from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall, who cements his status as the best left wing in the NHL.
6. Bobby Ryan puts up 40 goals now that he actually gets first-line minutes.
7. The Ducks trade one of their goalies, probably Jonas Hiller.
8. The Pacific will be the tightest race for division winner, but the Atlantic will have the most points of any division at the end of the season.
9. The Capitals will miss the playoffs and be bad doing it. Alex Ovechkin will revert back to non-MVP Ovechkin, who is merely "very good," and only be an NHL All-Star at one position.
10. The Sabres finish the season with at least one of Thomas Vanek or Ryan Miller still on the roster.
11. Nashville goes back into the playoffs as they actually score more than one goal all season long and Pekka Rinne has an outstanding season. Seth Jones, by the way? The real deal.
12. Whoever the Penguins get to replace Tomas Vokoun long-term will also get Marc-Andre Fleury's starting job at some point.
13. Jonathan Toews will finally break 80 points this season, but Corey Crawford will revert to being slightly above average instead of world-beating. Chicago still wins the Presidents' Trophy.
14. Calgary finishes 30th in the league, but don't win the draft lottery, because Calgary.
15. St. Louis continues to be the Sharks of the 2010s: Very good — if overhyped as championship contenders — but never able to get to the Cup Final.
16. The Islanders actually acquire a goalie at some point this season (Tim Thomas again?), and make a legitimate move toward being an Eastern Conference power.
17. The Blue Jackets will be a better team this season but their tough-as-nails division still keeps them out of the playoffs.
18. Randy Carlyle never does figure out that Nazem Kadri should be centering Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk.
19. Peter Laviolette is replaced by December.
20. Even as he's asked to play more games than ever, Jimmy Howard finds playing in the Eastern Conference to be very much to his liking, and the stats back that up.
Have fun out there, gang.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: I'm not sure how this is a goal Antti Niemi allows, but considering he gave up five on 18, I guess I'm also not surprised.
Boston Bruins: Boston fans are confounded that the Bruins sent down Nick Johnson — whom you've never heard of despite his four goals in the preseason — in favor of a former first-round pick they're probably going to give at least some kind of run-out to see if he's got what it takes to be a 13th forward. Caron, by the way, is 22 and would have had to clear waivers. Do people really not get this?
Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres will name their new captain before the first game of the season on Wednesday. Please be Ville Leino please be Ville Leino please be Ville Leino.
Calgary Flames: Interesting quote from Bob Hartley on the way AHL players think on the ice with regard to their more established teammates: "The danger … if they play with two NHL guys, they feel obligated to pass the puck to an NHL player. I've seen this before. Some AHL veterans (say), 'Yeah, but this guy's been in the NHL for eight years.' So what? You make the best play." Ben Street says it's because of how much NHLers make a big deal about wanting the puck.
Carolina Hurricanes: Relatively minor move by the Hurricanes to free up some roster flexibility: They traded Zac Dalpe and former heavily-sought college free agent Jeremy Welsh to the Canucks for a guy who played in the Central Hockey League last season and a mid-round pick.
Chicago Blackhawks: With Brandon Pirri going to the minors the Blackhawks are going to start their Cup defense with Michal Handzus as their No. 2 center. This is a funny old league.
Colorado Avalanche: Patrick Roy on Colorado's expectations: "I've been on teams that are not necessarily the best team and won the Stanley Cup. I'm not talking about winning the Stanley Cup, but if we play together we can accomplish great things." Like not making the playoffs.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Ryan Murray and Boone Jenner both made the Jackets' opening-day roster, to the surprise of no people at all.
Dallas Stars: Tyler Seguin had seven points in six preseason games. Is it too early to ask if you can do shots out of the Hart Trophy?
Detroit Red Wings: The Red Wings don't think joining the Atlantic, where every team wants to fight every other team, will bother them much. Mainly because they're going to score a lot of goals against those crap players instead. Jordin Tootoo might wanna put in for hazard pay just to be sure though.
Edmonton Oilers: The only way I could love Dallas Eakins more was if he announced the team's captain on Twitter at 8 a.m. local time on a Sunday morning and that captain had been Nail Yakupov instead of Andrew Ference. I really like Andrew Ference though.
Florida Panthers: Over the weekend, the Panthers signed both Brad Boyes and Tom Gilbert to one-year deals, which was smart enough, then traded for Krys Barch for reasons I'm not entirely sure I understand.
Los Angeles Kings: Real nice goal from Anze Kopitar on Friday night in Las Vegas, just 14 seconds into the game. That guy can play hockey if you ask me.
Minnesota Wild: Wild fans are apparently shocked that a feckless preseason out of Jason Zucker (4 GP, 0-1-1, 3 SOG) got him sent down. What say you, Mike Yeo? "As far as Zuck, it really comes down to we're not prepared to put him on the fourth line right now and we're not prepared to have him be a healthy scratch."
Montreal Canadiens: The Canadiens would really like Carey Price to be good this season. Imagine if he's not. How fast will the Zach Fucale bandwagon start filling up?
Nashville Predators, America's Favorite Hockey Team: This link relates to an important message from the Preds' Colin Wilson about how bullying is bad. Come for the issues, stay for a guest appearance by a puppet who looks suspiciously like Franklin Delano Bluth.
New Jersey Devils: Wow the Devils are sending Cam Janssen to the minors. I can't believe it. By "it" I mean that Cam Janssen is still a professional hockey player.
New York Islanders: Frans Nielsen says that for the Islanders to be better this season, they need to pick it up on the penalty kill. You mean last year's 80.3 percent ain't cutting it?
New York Rangers: Chris Kreider being sent to the AHL is so important and shocking it made BusinessWeek.
Ottawa Senators: Jason Spezza has a minor groin injury but will be good to go for the season opener. I, on the other hand, am always concerned when Jason Spezza has any injury at all, that we will never see him again. That dude is injured constantly.
Philadelphia Flyers: The Avs might be willing to take Andrej Meszaros off the Flyers' hands and give them a ton of cap room in the process.
Phoenix Coyotes: Max Domi was sent back to the OHL yesterday, which makes plenty of sense because the Coyotes only wanted to play him in the top-six and he's just 18.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Kris Letang: Out indefinitely. Their No. 1 defenseman is now Paul Martin. Have a good season.
San Jose Sharks: In the Sharks' final preseason game, they scored three power play goals on six chances so that's usually a pretty good way to win. But here's the funny part: The team's leading scorer for the game: Tommy Wingels with three assists.
St. Louis Blues: Oh boy the Blues' defense is going to be so good. Jay Bouwmeester might be the best No. 3 D-man in the league.
Tampa Bay Lightning: The Bolts sent Jonathan Drouin back to the QMJHL, where he'll score approximately six trillion points this season.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Real words from Steve Simmons: "The best reason I think the Leafs will make the playoffs: Randy Carlyle." What, because he gets fired or something?
Vancouver Canucks: Four years and $2.5 million per for Jannik Hansen is a pretty solid signing. Very nice work by Mike Gillis.
Washington Capitals: If Alex Ovechkin can get around defensesmen like he's getting around questions about his country's abysmal gay rights policies he's gonna win the Rocket Richard in a runaway this year.
Winnipeg Jets: Though they hadn't finalized their roster as of this writing, the Jets are absolutely positively and definitely going to have both Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba on the opening-day roster, which is as it should be. Trouba could win the Calder. Man is he ever good.
Play of the Weekend
Mitch Callahan, this is one hell of a stick-lift and finish.
Gold Star Award
Loved this story in the Boston Globe about the greatest hockey player of all time, and how he might be an even better person than he was on the ice. God do I love Bobby Orr.
Minus of the Weekend
One really great thing that will happen if the NHL outlaws fighting is that the cornball, overwrought paeans to fighters-as-family-men will go with them.
Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week
User "Rosie" is on top of things.
To Boston: Subban
To Montreal: Subban
To Vancouver: Subban
Hit him in his handsome groin!
Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.