Some close, some spot on, and some way off. Probably about average! No one had foreseen Hitchcock fixing the Blues the way he did! My predictions and afterthoughts after the jump! (Ugh, I hate that phrase.).
1. Canucks: Still the strongest team in the weakest division. Will choke again in the playoffs.
3. Preds: Surprising scoring (to some) from the new youth movement plus a mid-season big trade will put the good guys on top of the division.
4. Hawks: Nipping at the Preds heels like a rabid dog. Will only be a couple points behind after re-solidifying their team. But Emery? Really?
5. Sharks: Still a good team but mostly their trades are a wash.
6. Wings: They’ll be in third, but it’ll still be close. The aging of their talent and some starting to retire will knock them down a little.
7. Avalanche: Goaltending may be suspect to start, but I’m betting one finds its rhythm. Their much-improved D will help greatly.
8. Ducks: Squeaking in with that scoring talent. Hiller helps too, but they are not that good without Selanne.
9. Blues: Trying to copy the Red Wings’ old veteran group tactic might work, but I don’t think it will. Expect them to be on the outside looking in again.
10. Jackets: Add some pieces but still a ways to go here. Expect them to still mostly get dominated by the rest of the Central.
11. Oilers: The young multiple first overall-ers will start to click and get them out of the basement.
12. Flames: I just don’t see enough here to do it. They are going to have to play more like the Preds if they want to get anything done this season.
13. Wild: Offensively better, D-men are who? And glass goalies will kill them unless they get lucky.
14. Coyotes: They don’t have much left after this summer, and totally failed vs the Wings. Ownership questions will hurt too.
15. Stars: Turmoil with the franchise, losing Richards, and not really having lines that would scare many good teams will keep them in the bottom of the barrel.
So there it is. Lets review:
1. Canucks - I was right! Just barely. Canucks won tonight to capture their second President's Trophy in a row. Will they choke? Signs still point to yes.
2. Kings (Blues) - Well, the Kings are still tough. Didn't anticipate a scoring drought, but they gave the Preds fits this year. Still wouldn't want to play them in the playoffs.
3. Preds (Coyotes) If it weren't for the Blues, we just might be here. 4th is good though and finished ahead of the Wings for the first time ever! Youth movement + trade? Did I call that or what. That was the easy part. :)
4. Hawks (Preds) - Emery still sucks. But Crawford got the job done. Injuries and a rough February road trip slowed em down, but came back in March. Still can be a dangerous team in the 6th position.
5. Sharks (Wings) - Didn't see them almost not making it! Did the weird trades mess with their chemistry? Are they tired of getting to the playoffs and losing? Just figured more of the same, but those trades look bad for both teams (Wild).
6. Wings (Hawks) - Was only a little off here. Came down to the wire, Wings could've been right here.
7. Avalanche (Sharks) - 3 or 4 key wins might have put the Avs into the playoffs. Just didn't get it done. It was closer than some thought.
8. Ducks (Kings) - Ha, Ducks fell right back to Earth. Even dumped Carlyle! If Teemu retires, this team is screwed next year. Glad to be wrong here.
9. Blues (Flames) - Blues were heading this direction until Hitchcock sacrificed a virgin or something to turn that team around. Ugh.
10. Jackets (Stars) - Well, the Jackets signed some talent and couldn't find that chemistry. Until, apparently, their season was almost over.
11. Oilers (Avs) - WTF Oilers, you get like a million #1 overall choices yet you still fail to move up more than one spot! Only because Columbus really sucked! Still found a way to beat the Preds more times that not! Grrr.
12. Flames (Wild) - Still missed the playoffs. Did start to play more cohesive and defensive but it was never consistent.
13. Wild (Ducks) - One spot off? I was right on then pretty much. Yeo somehow got this team to play defense above their heads, but then were marred by injuries galore! They called up like the entire AHL team! If they didn't sit at #1 in the league for a while, they would've been 15th!
14. Coyotes (Oilers) - Ok, nice surprise, the old guys (Doan, Whitney) got it done along with another great goaltender and good system. Didn't think there was that much there. Vrbata who? Wow.
15. Stars (Jackets) - Stars foil me again, but the Preds had the pleasure of sending them to the golf course. They can win a few games with a goalie like Lethonen. Oh, and that Ryder guy I guess was pretty good.
Except the Coyotes, Ducks, and of course the Blues - most teams made it either to the playoffs or not that I figured but placement was all over.