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NHL predictions 2014-2015: OTF Picks Their Winners

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The entire OTF staff goes on record with their predictions of winners (and a loser) of the 2014-2015 season.

USA TODAY Sports

The NHL season kicks off tonight with a handful of games involving teams we don't care one bit about. But that doesn't mean we still can't think about the bigger picture and try to predict who is going to walk away with all the hardware when it's all said and done. The staff has chosen.

The Atlantic Division

Jon Boston - Tampa Bay has gotten so much better, but they still aren't ready to tackle the mighty Bruins.
Jason Tampa Bay - BEHOLD! Witness the power of the Palm Tree!
George Montreal - Milan Lucic may be beyond good right now, but the Habs have clawed their way out of the Great White North's basement in recent years. I think they're going to surprise a lot of people this year, and adding P.A. Parenteau up front will make their top line one of the most dynamic in the Eastern Conference.
Jeremy Boston - Even without the bias from them being my original team to cheer for, they are simply built to excel. Rask is a brick wall. Chara, even though time is soon to catch up to him, still plays heavy all-situation minutes and they are good and young. Tampa will be here very soon but not this year
Caroline Boston - I'm probably slightly biased because of my move and my boyfriend's influence, but I do feel like they're the strongest team... Especially if they can get rid of Chris Kelly and his ridiculous $3M NMC contract to make room for someone else at the deadline.
Dan Tampa Bay - Stamkos is still there, and everything around him improved. Ben Bishop now has a serviceable backup, the defense is deep, and let's not forget about their rookies coming in that can make an impact. It'll be a dogfight with Boston for the division, but Tampa's style lends itself more to division play.
Braden Tampa Bay - They improved with every move they made in the offseason aside from the ridiculous Callahan signing. They have the forward depth and goaltending talent to compete, while adding Anton Stralman greatly improves their defense.
Anish Boston - They have been the staple of success in the Eastern Conference for years now. I expect nothing less from them this year.
Nick Tampa Bay - Their youngsters showed they can handle their own in the NHL without Stamkos. Now they are a year older, Stamkos and Bishop are healthy, Drouin's rookie season, and a strong fourth line make up a legitimate contender while Boston looks for offense.
Ian Boston - Have the experience along with the best defenseman and goalie in the Division
Zeke Tampa Bay - I truly believe this is their year (not to mention they need to win to keep Stamkos there). Boston is going to take a step back, Montreal will be, as usual, inconsistent; this is Tampa's to lose.
Alex Boston - Even without Iginla, this Eastern Conference powerhouse will battle back from the early exit last year and win the President’s Trophy again.
Dirk Boston - A stifling defense and enough offensive talent to cruise past most opponents. You have to wonder when Chara will head into decline, however.

The Metropolitan Division

Jon Pittsburgh - They picked up some good pieces over the summer, and still have Malkin and Crosby to carry the load. A few Metro teams might challenge them, but ultimately they take the division again. Boo.
Jason Pittsburgh- They have the best players. Pretty simple, no? Also, prediction #2...the Caps miss the playoffs.
George New York Rangers - This team has incredible depth, especially on the back end. Henrik Lundqvist will again be in Vezina conversations all year long.
Jeremy NY Rangers - They might have lost some of their talent from their Stanley Cup run but they are still a contender with one of the best backstops in all of hockey with a capable backup in Talbot. It'll be gritty but they can do it.
Caroline Washington - This isn't going to be an easy division, but the excitement/boost of a new coach, stronger defense, and the continued (maybe) power from Ovechkin & Co. will help them a lot this year. It's a gamble of an answer. My second guess is Pittsburgh.
Dan Pittsburgh - This doesn't mean I like them past April. But I do like the whole "They have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin" thing they still have going on. Their bottom six got better. But why Pittsburgh? They're the toughest team to outscore.
Braden Pittsburgh - The Metropolitan looks brutal with the exception of the Penguins. I assume the Blue Jackets and Islanders will also improve (adding Leddy will be huge), but Pittsburgh's additions this offseason, especially Erhoff, put them miles ahead of anyone in the division.
Anish Washington - They got better on defense and pretty much kept the offensive core together. Plus, I like Trotz, and the Caps were already a good team before the additions.
Nick Pittsburgh - I feel cheap typing this because the Pens are such an easy choice. My gut says to gamble with Columbus or the Islanders but depth additions like Ehrhoff, Horqvist, and Spaling are hard to ignore.
Ian NY Rangers - Gained valuable experience in last year's playoff run and have bought in to Vigneault's system.
Zeke Pittsburg - hands down the best team in their division, I believe they finally have the right coach, if they can stay at all healthy, to run away with this and even make it deep into the playoffs.
Alex Pittsburgh - Quality, versatility, and consistency on nearly every line and defensive pairing, which is more than enough to overcome their obvious goaltender deficiency.
Dirk NY Rangers - This may be the most competitive division in the league but Alain Vignault will carry the day.

The Central Division

Jon Dallas - All the wheeling and dealing over the summer will pay dividends for Jim Nill. Seguin should earn elite player status and, while Jamie Benn isn't on that level, he's still quite good. Expect them and the Ottawa Connection to score all the goals, making up for the Stars' lack of competent defense and goaltending.
Jason Dallas- They might've improved the most, and they are going to score a TON. Hoping to be able to reasonably type "Nashville" in this space in the near future.
George Colorado - What a fun team to watch last year, and Patrick Roy is every bit the head coach that he was a goaltender. This also incredibly deep team just added Danny Briere, Jarome Iginla, and Brad Stuart to provide leadership to the young core of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene, Ryan O'Reilly, Tyson Barrie, and Erik Johnson. This squad will be a Cup contender for sure.
Jeremy Dallas - They made huge strides last year and they will take that momentum to the Central title. Jim Nill is a mad genius, much like Lombardi in L.A. and this team is very deep with offensive talent.
Caroline Dallas - Man did they blow everyone away in the post-season with their acquisitions! They are going to be a scary team this year, and while I would love for us to win the Central, we prpobably won't so I'll settle for anyone other than Chicago.
Dan St. Louis - You may not like this pick, but what hole does St. Louis have in the regular season? Brian Elliot and Jake Allen will split time, and make a run at the Jennings trophy. It's a scary thought that either Stastny or David Backes is now the second line center. Again, offer not valid past April.
Braden Chicago - They may be the deepest team in the league again this year. Losing Handzus, Bollig, and Brookbank instantly makes them better. Adding Cumiskey and Carcillo is beyond perplexing but the rest of the roster is still elite.
Anish St. Louis - Everyone in the Central beefed up in the off season. I like the Statsny move a little more than all the others that happened, as much as it pains me to say.
Nick Dallas - While Chicago and Brad Richards get comfortable with each other, the new mix in Dallas will have instant chemistry and earn them a Ducks-esque lead in the standings only to regress a little in the end.
Ian Chicago - The perennial Western Conference powerhouse will re-gain the division crown assuming they can get consistent goaltending from Crawford. Toews and Kane lead dominant forwards.
Zeke Chicago - Dallas will score a ton of goals, St. Louis won't allow any, Colorado won't be as good, look for the most experienced and motivated team to win this one by a slim margin.
Alex St. Louis - A great team last year, now with 100% more Stastny. Incredible young talent at forward and defense lead by the best coach in the game results in a division title.
Dirk Chicago - Elite talent, consistent veterans and a steady head coach make them the favorite.

The Pacific Division

Jon Los Angeles - Though the Kings usually save all their heroics for the playoffs, the other two California teams have some question marks. LA's roster is almost completely unchanged from last year's run, and that will show up in the standings.
Jason San Jose- Because literally nobody believes in them,  this will be the year they dominate wire to wire.
George San Jose - This really is a pick 'em between any of the three California teams. But Logan Couture has made this team his, and if he's tired enough of being pushed around by the Kings, this Sharks team could do really special things this year.
Jeremy Anaheim - It pains me to type this but Anaheim is still pretty damn good. Getzlaf and Perry are a great tandem and the have decent defense in front of adequate goaltending. There are here because the rest of the Pacific division is still either floundering or L.A. and the Kings just need to make the playoffs to win the Stanley Cup instead of winning division titles.
Caroline Los Angeles - I never seem to think they're going to go anywhere, and then they just quietly come out of nowhere and do really well. Plus, San Jose is in the middle of a mid-life crisis, and while Anaheim is the strongest competition, I just don't think they have the kind of goalie that Quick can be.
Dan San Jose - It's the regular season. The Sharks are in their element.
Braden Los Angeles - San Jose has had a mess of an offseason and Anaheim will regress slightly but still end up in 2nd or 3rd. A full year of Gaborik and Kopitar on the top line should scare the rest of the league.
Anish Anaheim - San Jose is going to drop off a bit, and the Kings are a team built for the playoffs (meaning they just do enough to make the playoffs and then turn it on from there). the Ducks win by default.
Nick Anaheim - The Ducks will take a page out of the Shark's book and go all in the first 41 games while LA will do what works: dog it' for 82 games then win the Cup.
Ian Anaheim - Pretty nice set of forwards. Young defense and goaltending will have to be good but they are talented with Fowler and Gibson
Zeke Anaheim -They are LOADED.
Alex Los Angeles - A playoff lightning rod team if there ever was one will contend for the top spot in the West with five potential 30 goal scorers in Kopitar, Brown, Williams, Carter, and Gaborik.
Dirk Anaheim - They're loaded up for a hell of a run.

Major Awards

Stanley Cup Winner Hart Trophy Norris Trophy Vezina Trophy Calder Trophy Rocket Richard Art Ross
Jon Tampa Bay Lightning John Tavares P.K. Subban Tuukka Rask Evgeny Kuznetzov Steven Stamkos Tyler Seguin
Jason San Jose Tyler Seguin Shea Weber Pekka Rinne Jonathan Drouin Steven Stamkos Sidney Crosby
George Colorado Avalanche Sidney Crosby Shea Weber Pekka Rinne Jonathan Drouin Alexander Ovechkin Sidney Crosby
Jeremy Boston Bruins Claude Giroux Duncan Keith Tuukka Rask Josh Ho-Sang Corey Perry Claude Giroux
Caroline Boston Bruins Sidney Crosby Shea Weber (THIS IS HIS YEAR! ....RIGHT?) Tuukka Rask Jonathan Drouin Steven Stamkos Sidney Crosby
Dan Tampa Bay Lightning Patrice Bergeron Shea Weber Carey Price Filip Forsberg Steven Stamkos Sidney Crosby
Braden Chicago Blackhawks John Tavares Mark Giordano Ben Bishop Jonathan Drouin Steven Stamkos Sidney Crosby
Anish Los Angeles Kings Alexander Ovechkin Shea Weber Jonathan Quick Jonathan Drouin Alexander Ovechkin Sidney Crosby
Alex Boston Bruins Sidney Crosby Shea Weber Henrik Lundqvist Jonathan Drouin Alexander Ovechkin Sidney Crosby
Nick Chicago Blackhawks Tyler Seguin Shea Weber Carey Price Jonathan Drouin Steven Stamkos Tyler Seguin
Ian Chicago Blackhawks Jonathan Toews P.K. Subban Henrik Lundqvist John Gibson Corey Perry Evgeni Malkin
Zeke Tampa Bay Lightning John Tavares SHEA WEBER Ben Bishop John Gibson Sidney Crosby
Dirk Chicago Blackhawks Sidney Crosby P.K. Subban Tuukka Rask Calle Jarnkrok Corey Perry Ryan Getzlaf

Are Poile's gambles good enough to send the Predators back to the playoffs?

Jon Yes. It'll look ugly at first, but the Central will send five teams to the playoffs again, and the Predators will be one of the Wild Cards. With a healthy Pekka, steady D-corps, the play of Neal, Smith, Wilson (!) and the players behind them, Nashville can (and will) surprise any team in the league.
Jason Yes. The Central is DEEP, but every team has their questions. Preds finish 3rd in the division and make it to the second round.
George No. Completely new coaching staff, a roster comprised of a bulk of players drafted or acquired with a different type of system in mind, and really only one significant offensive upgrade (James Neal) does not a playoff formula make. Maybe next year.
Jeremy Yes. Low risk high reward scenario but with a new voice in the locker room and a new system in place, expect the Predators to look like the 2006-2007 squad.
Caroline Yes. If we barely missed the playoffs with the crap-show that we had last year, we can make it this year. Everyone else in the central improved too, but we improved in the one area that we have traditionally had problems with, even though we've managed moderate success while struggling with offense. So with that, plus a healthy Pekka (yay!), we should be grand.
Dan Yes. The Predators did the one thing in the Central that Minnesota, Colorado, and Winnipeg failed to do: address their most glaring need. Plus, Pekka is back. Defense will improve, and goals will be scored.
Braden Yes? I expect Rinne to bounce back to form and the defense is one of the better groups in the league. The forward depth is finally there, although missing some higher-level talent. The Central is going to be tough, but a wild card spot isn't too crazy to think about.
Anish Yes, I think they have enough to sneak into that last spot of the playoffs. It all depends if Rinne can stay healthy though. Let's hope he can return to a Vezina level goalie next year.
Alex Yes, with Laviolette being the most important addition. With Rinne healthy and more experienced youth, they will win one of the wild card spots.
Nick Yes. Many say the NHL is a copy cat league and much of what Poile has done makes me believe he has taken a page out of Columbus and Tampa's book. Of course, Rinne's yucky hip has a lot to say about the Preds success too.
Ian Yes, but I would expect them to be fighting for one of the last spots. They are going to need some of the younger players to step up and Rinne play like his old self again.
Zeke This time yes, I think he can get one more appearance out of this bunch, but they won't work for him in the long run, it’s time for him to stop playing small ball. For every time it works there are three times like last year where he looks silly if not incompetent and backwards.
Dirk Yes, they'll probably eke out one of the final playoff positions thanks to greater forward depth and another year of the blueliners working off their baby fat.

Who will be the surprise team? (This year's Colorado)

Jon Columbus - I think everyone expects them to take a step back this year, especially with all the injuries to start. It may not be a sexy pick, but the Blue Jackets are going to keep on doing what they did last year, and make it to the playoffs for a second consecutive year. They might even win a round, depending on who they draw.
Jason Nashville- Duh? All the preseason rankings have us finishing with one of the worst records in the league. The experts are all idiots.
George Calgary - I'll be keeping my eye on how many games Jonas Hiller steals for the Flames.
Jeremy Islanders - Hate to jump on the bandwagon with some of the others but the Islanders have the potential to be scary good. Better goaltending...check. Solid scoring...double check. Impact in free agency and draft...yep. Just a little more defense and they could contend for the division.
Caroline Islanders - They finally don't feel like a ridiculous team anymore and I think their changes (including goaltending and adding Boychuk on D, among other things), will make a big difference.
Dan Islanders - The Isles finally have competent goaltending and mobile defense. It's a shame that Tavares keeps losing his friends in trades, but hopefully the kids they've drafted replenish the ranks.
Braden Islanders - They finally brought in actual NHL-caliber goaltenders this year and have one of the better forward groups in the Metropolitan. Adding Leddy greatly improves their defense.
Anish Edmonton - The talent is there and I believe this is the year they put it together and make a run at a playoff spot.
Alex Carolina - Skinner, Semin, and the Staals lead a unique and dangerous Hurricanes team that should compete for a 3 spot in the Metropolitan division.
Nick Islanders - Not only will Tavares n' Friends make a dramatic leap this year but many will be stunned they are actually good.
Ian Columbus - A team down the stretch last year that surprised me and looked like they were playing pretty well. Maybe some of those earlier, painful years will start to pay off.
Zeke Tampa Bay- I know they are already on people’s radar so they aren’t quite like Colorado, but they are going to be much, much better than their competition in the East. They will run away with the conference and that’s going to get this young and hungry bunch the same notoriety as the Kings have gotten with their recent success from just causal sports fans.
Dirk Islanders - that's going to be a fun team to keep an eye on this year. They've got an uphill climb in the Metro, but I'd wager they'll make the playoffs thanks in part to Toronto castoffs Grabovski & Kulemin.

Who will completely implode? (This year's Vancouver)

Jon Detroit - Zetterberg is playing some of the best hockey of his career, but has been marred by injuries recently. Their stars are getting older, and their younger guys may not quite be ready to take their place. If ever there was a year for their remarkable playoff streak to end, this is it.
Jason St. Louis - It couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of folks. 
George Boston - This team is one or two injuries away from cellar dweller. They have no depth, and they're still almost $1 million over the salary cap.
Jeremy St. Louis - Yeah, they brought in Stastny but they also muffed in the playoffs and despite their considerable skill, they could go on a skid if something happens to Oshie or Pietrangelo. Also, Alex Steen will most centainly come back down to earth.
Caroline San Jose (or maybe Toronto) - They didn't really do anything productive this offseason and man do they seem to be having some internal problems, plus I feel like they're still a really old team (might be wrong, I don't keep close tabs), all of which just seems to be skipping down the road to implosion. As for Toronto, they just can't seem to get it together. I don't know if they can implode worse than they did a few years ago, but they might...
Dan Philadelphia - I don't like their odds to get back into the playoffs, and that's before addressing the fact that Steve Mason is starting to look like Steve Mason again. They could be the first to fire their coach, again. It's Philly- the most "fire the coach" town in the States.
Braden Colorado - They will probably be fun to watch, but they will also give up about 1,000 shots per game. Aging veterans, a lackluster defensive squad, and a regression from Varlamov could all lead to a not-so-surprising implosion. Be ready for some fun Roy moments.
Anish San Jose - They did nothing to get better, while everyone around them did. The scar from last year's playoff loss will haunt them all season.
Alex Philadelphia – You don’t trade Hartnell and not suffer the consequences (just ask the Predators). The defense didn't improve enough to protect against the offensive weapons in the Eastern Conference.
Nick San Jose - LA did to San Jose what the Sharks did to Vancouver the year before: reduced them to little boys who cry and pee themselves.
Ian Minnesota - I'm not sure about totally imploding, but I consider them a candidate for a team that last year made the playoffs but won't this year. Colorado is the other more obvious label for that too.
Zeke Dallas- Egos will clash, the defense will be bad...ok I can't rationalize this, I just want it to happen.
Dirk Colorado - The big question is whether Patrick Roy will spontaneously combust as his squad drops a number of exciting 5-4 games.

There you have it. Who is right and who is wrong? What say you?