NHL Season Predictions - who will win the Stanley Cup in 2011?

It's an obligatory rite all of us hockey writers go through at the start of an NHL season, the dreaded predictions post.

Follow after the jump for my stab at the conference standings and your 2011 Stanley Cup Champions...

For the record, these aren't hardcore statistically-driven projections, these represent my "gut" feel for the upcoming campaign:

Western Conference Eastern Conference
 Rk  Team  Comment  Rk  Team  Comment
 1 Vancouver Canucks  Solid team, crappy division.  1 Washington Capitals  The Southeast may be getting tougher, but they'll still fly.
 2 Los Angeles Kings  Willie Mitchell could be the best pickup in the West this year.  2 Pittsburgh Penguins  Replacing Gonchar with Martin & Michalek was smooth.
 3 Detroit Red Wings  Health, Hudler & Howard enough to win a tough Central.  3 Buffalo Sabres  Ryan Miller's the difference maker in an up-for-grabs division.
 4 Chicago Blackhawks  Shed mostly replaceable parts, but will miss Versteeg & Byfuglien.  4 Philadelphia Flyers  If they could ever get a top-notch goalie, look out.
 5 San Jose Sharks  Losing Nabokov won't hurt much.  5 New Jersey Devils  Kovalchuk cost them a lot, and it'll show in a lack of depth.
 6 Nashville Predators  Will Pekka live up to the hype?  6 Ottawa Senators  Their top power play unit will be fun to watch.
 7 Colorado Avalanche  How will Matt Duchene do in Year 2?  7 Atlanta Thrashers  There are some decent pieces coming together here in front of Chris Mason.
 8  Phoenix Coyotes  Tippett's crew can't count on those shootout wins but will still be tough.  8 Tampa Bay Lightning  Stevie Y's off to a good start, but Stamkos won't hit 50 again.
 9 Calgary Flames  Can Jay Bouwmeester deliver the goods?  9 Boston Bruins  Savard's injury a huge blow to a team looking for goals.
 10 St. Louis Blues  Halak-a-mania is running wild… too wild.  10 New York Rangers  I still laugh every time I think of Boogaard making $1.6 million.
 11 Edmonton Oilers  Expect lots of excitement in Edmonton as the kids learn the ropes.  11 Montreal Canadiens  The media will chew up Carey Price and undermine the team.
 12 Minnesota Wild  Todd Richards has a lot of work to do here.  12 Carolina Hurricanes  They're up, then they're down… and now they'll stay down.
 13 Anaheim Ducks  2007 seems like an age ago when you look at their blueline.  13 Toronto Maple Leafs  Modest improvement, but still a ways to go.
 14  Dallas Stars  It's tough to rebuild amid ownership turmoil.  14 Florida Panthers  The rebuild is only just getting started.
 15 Columbus Blue Jackets  Rookie coach wants to run a new system with the same old cast. Yikes.  15 New York Islanders  A mess already, then key injuries hit.

Stanley Cup Champion

I like the Detroit Red Wings to win it once again, as they still seem to have the most talented set of skaters in total, and a decent enough goalie to get the job done. And Mike Babcock's no slouch behind the bench.

So what do you think? Have I been hitting the crack pipe too hard? Not as hard as this guy, though!

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