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NHL Predictions 2015-2016: OTF Picks Their Winners

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The entire OTF staff goes on record with their predictions of winners of the 2015-16 season.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

As has become tradition around this time, the OTF staff has gazed into the flames (or crystal balls or whatever) in order to predict the future. We've seen the winners with a clear clairvoyance, and present them to you now.

For reference, here are last year's predictions. Clearly, most of us were picking up on completely wrong auras. Check it:

Returning Predictors

Jon: TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY WRONG. Seriously, it was bad.

Dan: Correctly called Central division winner and Vezina winner.

Jeremy: Nailed Pacific and Metro winners. Big whiff on Josh Ho-Sang for Calder.

Caroline: Suh-wing and a miss.

Alex: The Blues and Alex Ovechkin thank you for your correct prediction.

Anish: Same as above, but add Anaheim to the list as well.

Zeke: Pacific division was right, everything else was wrong.

George: Picked the Avalanche to win the Cup, so it doesn't even matter that three other picks were right. Boo this man.

Dirk: Rangers and Anaheim were right, along with picking Chicago for the Cup.

So remember that when you hem and haw that we all picked Dallas to win the Central going forward. Grab a coffee, pull up a chair, and settle in. Hot takes abound. Here... we... go.

Atlantic Division Champions

Jon Tampa Bay Lightning - Last year's Eastern Conference Champs have more or less the same team that brought them to within two games of winning the Stanley Cup. The rest of the Atlantic is largely a joke, so they should have no problem locking up the division title.
Dan Tampa Bay Lightning - There is not a more well balanced team in the league than the Tampa Bay Lightning. They hold onto the puck, they score, they have a deep defense and good 1-2 goaltending punch. Not much else needs to be said.
Jeremy Montreal Canadiens - Is Carey Price going to put up another amazing year? No. But he is still elite level and the rest of Montreal's squad know they'll have to step up this year. Tampa Bay will stumble a tad and Montreal will come out with the division by a slim margin.
Caroline Tampa Bay Lightning - Not counting Montreal, everyone else is bad, and regarding Montreal, I don't see Carey Price pulling off a repeat of last year. Montreal gave up a ridiculous number of shots last year and Price was somehow able to stop a hilariously high number of them, which was the biggest reason they did so well. Repeating that performance seems very unlikely while Tampa seems like they'll be just as strong as last year, if not stronger.
Kris Tampa Bay Lightning - The more I think about the Atlantic Division, the more I think that Tampa Bay is going to be in a dogfight with Montreal for the division crown. Granted, teams like Buffalo are going to be markedly better than they were last season, but teams like Boston, Florida, Toronto, Detroit and Ottawa are going to be too busy fighting mediocrity to battle for the division.
Chris Tampa Bay Lightning - The Atlantic got worse in a lot of ways. In three years the Atlantic is probably going to be a competitive division again, but for now the only team that can challenge Tampa would be the Montreal Canadiens. Unfortunately for Montreal, Carey Price would be hard pressed to put up the ludicrous numbers from last season
Alex Montreal Canadiens - They will solve their offensive woes from last year. Which, with Price still in goal, does not bode well for the rest of the division. Outcast Alexander Semin could be a solid find. The recent draft class of Galchenyuk and Gallagher should finally put up the numbers they are expected to, relieving Pacioretty of having to do everything himself. Still being one of the best defensive teams in the league, they edge the Lighting by 3-4 points.
Anish Tampa Bay Lightning - This was a tough pick because I think it is going to be a close race with Tampa and Montreal. It essentially is going to come down to picking defense or offense. I think Tampa's offense is too high octane for Montreal to keep up with during the regular season, and they have the defense to match.
Zeke Tampa Bay Lightning - This is a team motivated in every way to prove they are a powerhouse Eastern market (not to mention a long term home for Stamkos). They essentially have the same team, and all their young stars are far more likely to grow than plateau this year. Barring Carey Price’s assertion to godhood, this should be Tampa’s by a landslide. (Of course I said this last year too so…)

George Tampa Bay Lightning - This formidable and largely intact squad should do as well or better than last year.
Dirk Tampa Bay Lightning - They should have run away with this division last season, and there's little reason to believe they'll take a step back this year.

Metropolitan Division Champions

Jon New York Islanders - The Metro is going to be a dog fight. The Isles were good last year, and they'll continue that trend this year. But don't confuse the division winner for success in the post season. It's anyone's game once the playoffs start.
Dan New York Rangers - They're still really good, everyone. I trust the Rangers could overcome their biggest injuries better than anyone else in this silly division, which is more than I could say about the Pens, Isles, CBJ's, Flyers, or Caps.
Jeremy Pittsburgh Penguins - The word of the day is... firepower. Yes, their defense can be suspect and their goaltending in the playoffs is always mediocre, but the Penguins are sporting talent levels similar to Chicago's top two lines from last season and they will dominate that division simply by scoring more than their opponent almost every night.
Caroline Pittsburgh Penguins - I almost don't even know why I'm picking them... Feels like I do every year because every single preseason they seem like the best team in the division/conference, hands down, and then every single year they seem to find a way to poop the bed in the first round of the playoffs. But this year feels different, I swear. Kessel makes a huge, scary difference. This is the year I'm right about this prediction!
Kris Columbus Blue Jackets - Yes, I know. I could easily go out on a limb and pick practically any other team in the division outside of Philly and New Jersey and it could be right, but why not make a bold choice? The thing with picking Columbus is that they would have been one of the better teams last season had it not been for their entire team looking like the final bench in Space Jam. On paper, the Blue Jackets have great young talent and some excellent veterans to lead the way. If the injury bug stays away, they'll be a dangerous team this year.
Chris Washington Capitals - I'm writing this after Jon, and I can see that he already picked the Islanders, despite knowing more about the Caps than the rest of us. I have good feelings about the Capitals though. Ovechkin is unstoppable and Orpik reached levels of okay that made him not a liability. Year 2 of the Trotz area should build on last year's 100+ success.
Alex Pittsburgh Penguins - I dont see anyone being able to keep up with the weapons that the Pens have in their arsenal. Crosby + Kessel could be the deadliest one-two punch in the league. Add Malkin, Perron, Hornqvist, Kunitz and you've got potentially the best offense in the league. Their defense has issues (and Fluery is behind them), but I don't think that will matter much. I think they win the division by 6-8 points easily.
Anish New York Rangers - This division is going to be a tough one this year. The Penguins, Islanders, and Capitals could all easily be picked to win this division as well, but the Ranger's experience on the ice and at the head coach level will be enough to get them the division crown.
Zeke Pittsburgh Penguins - The insane experiment up in Pennsylvania is just too enticing not to pick. Until it fails miserably in the playoffs Crosby and Co. have my full support. This one is going to be won in the final weeks, and don’t be surprised if any of the top teams come out of the haze on top, but I can’t see this offense not picking up more slack than there is to take.

George Pittsburgh Penguins - Goals, goals, goals. With a side of goals. Sub goals.
Dirk New York Rangers - Alain Vignault is one of the best in the biz, and the Rangers remain a versatile, effective team backed by one of the top goalies in the league. This should be an entertaining division to watch, though, as the Penguins should light up the scoreboard, the Islanders are up-and-coming, and Washington has big dreams. Until Barry Trotz actually wins something, however, I can't peg the Caps as a favorite.

Pacific Division Champions

Jon Anaheim Ducks - The Sharks and Kings have a lot to work out, and Calgary isn't there yet. It's an easy choice, but Anaheim will lock up the Pacific. What they do after that, though...
Dan Anaheim Ducks - I'm not convinced anyone else is better than them in this division over the course of an 82 game season.
Jeremy Anaheim Ducks - This is a lock. No one else in the Pacific has a strong enough shot at the title unless the L.A. Kings get a performance from Quick like Carey Price had last year.
Caroline Anaheim Ducks - None of the other teams have the same level of talent on their roster. Teams that are unbeatable on paper don't always pan out (see: Penguins, Pittsburgh), but I have a hard time believing that any of the other Pacific teams will actually be able to do anything to beat Anaheim.
Kris Anaheim Ducks - This is a team that is just head and shoulders better than every other team in their division, hands down. Anaheim was a great team last season and they've only made improvements over the summer. How in the world could you not select them as preseason favorites to win the Pacific? Calgary is about another year off from really competing for the crown. You honestly don't really know what to expect out of Vancouver. Los Angeles and San Jose could be better this season as well, especially the Kings. Who knows how the addition of McDavid will be in his first season with Anaheim. And Arizona? Sorry, not even close. Pick the Ducks. They're the safe choice.
Chris Anaheim Ducks - They were my Pacific favorite last season, and they are this season as well because they've only gotten better over the summer. They needed depth and organization has spent the summer adding it.
Alex Calgary Flames - This team only got better as the 2014-15 year progressed, and that trend continued with this past offseason. Adding Dougie Hamilton on the blue line will only make that defense better... who made much of their run without captain Mark Giordano last year. The Flames have more explosive forwards than anyone else in the division, though maybe not the same depth that the Ducks and Kings boast. In a tight race, the Flames edge out the Ducks by 2 points.
Anish Anaheim Ducks - Let's be real here, they are the class of this division. The Flames will challenge them early in the season but end up falling off. The Kings will do just enough to get into the playoffs (which is what they usually do). And the Sharks, Canucks, and Coyotes don't have enough to compete, in my opinion.
Zeke Anaheim Ducks - Someone please give me a rational reason I can use to not pick them, I’m desperate. This is a complete team. If not for the clockwork efficiency of the Hawks last year we’d be talking a Cup repeat.

George Anaheim Ducks - From top to bottom this roster has the most talent of any team in the Pacific.
Dirk Anaheim Ducks - Bruce Boudreau wins divisions out of habit, and the Ducks remain the most talented team in that division.

Central Division Champions

Jon Nashville Predators - I wrestled between the Preds and the Blues for days. My choice was made not because I think St. Louis is going to falter (they may, in fact, win the division). Rather, I think the Second Year of Lavy is going to smooth out a lot of kinks last season had, especially with less roster turnover. The team is deep and talented. If all goes as it could, Nashville will finally be able to raise a banner up into the rafters.
Dan St. Louis Blues - I hope I'm wrong. But I trust them to score more than I do Nashville, and I trust their center depth more than Nashville or Chicago. Brian Elliott and Jake Allen may sound like two guys on a bro-country tour, but they're good enough to win plenty of games. And I trust them to not be ran into the ground, since both will see plenty of playing time.
Jeremy Chicago Blackhawks - Nothing pains me more than typing this but they still are the most formidable. Kane will be back playing with them because Blackhawks/NHL/absurd stupidity, and the additions of Dano and Anisimov will pay dividends even with the loss of Saad. Grumble..grumble.
Caroline Nashville Predators - Chicago lost a lot of players this year, and while they obviously gained a few in return, they also barely beat us last year. I feel cautiously skeptical about how consistent St. Louis' goaltending will be this year (just gut feeling, and I'm not quite sure why, but apparently I'm literally the only one who feels this way). Minnesota soared on crazy lucky goaltending last year. Dallas will suffer in goal and Benn and Seguin won't be able to make up for it. Colorado... LOL. Nashville hasn't changed much since last year (though a 1C would have been nice... ಠ_ಠ) and I think we can more or less repeat last year's performance, especially if Hutton can play more games and not be leaky during those games.
Kris Nashville Predators - Before you yell "homer pick", allow me to explain. Nashville was great for 60 games last season before floundering to finish the season and lose in the first round. They were great. They were dominant. They were deadly. Fast-forward to now. The team ejected any and all dead-weight on the roster and has injected new and fresh talent to provide a level of depth the Predators haven't had in the past. Every player that I've spoken to in the last week still remain a tad disappointed in how last season ended, especially Filip Forsberg, and he's a player who is only going to improve off his 63 point season last year. The Central Division is THE TOUGHEST division in all of hockey and teams like Chicago, Dallas, Minnesota and St. Louis are going to all be clawing for the banner. Yet, when the dust clears -- and as long as Nashville doesn't have another complete face plant during the final quarter of the season -- the Predators will take home their first division crown.
Chris St. Louis Blues - Not that it matters because they won't win the Cup this season or in any season, ever. Several teams in the central got marginally better, while the Blackhawks got both marginally worse (on the ice) and sickeningly worse (off the ice). Besides, Chicago doesn't care about Division championships even a little. I don't see an improved Dallas or an improving Winnipeg as legitimate threats. The division is the Blues' to lose, with the Predators being the biggest threat.
Alex Nashville Predators - This is the year, folks. Virtually the same lineup as last year, only now with more depth on both ends of the ice. Plus, a full year (hopefully) of Mike Fisher, no Olli Jokinen to swallow up ice time for younger guys who are better, and a year of experience for everyone in Lavy's system. Add to that the savvy signings of Jackman and Hodgson, who both have something to prove. Plenty of players are poised for breakout seasons. As long as everyone stays healthy, you can count on some #BANNERS.
Anish St. Louis Blues - The Central Division is easily the toughest division in the NHL. Over the last two seasons, the division has sent five teams to the playoffs each year. I wouldn't expect anything less this year. The Blackhawks will challenge the Blues all year for the division lead, and the Predators will be in the thick of things as well. I just think the depth and their veteran experience is too much to over come. Plus, the Blues are the kings of winning division titles only to have them not equate to anything in the playoffs.
Zeke Nashville Predators - Does it really matter? This is a five playoff team division again this year. Whoever wins it won’t be terribly better than the other two, but I have to pick so I’ll take Nashville because I believe in this team being more motivated than any other to win the division crown. The Preds return a more seasoned team from last year which will have undeniably better depth scoring and overall forward play. Rinne doesn’t have to be a monster all year, this team is better than him for the first time in a long time.

George Nashville Predators - As the perennially down-on-his-team voice at OTF, nothing pleases me more than to say the Preds will be more dominant this year during the regular season than last year. Chicago didn't quite have the fire sale of 2010 this offseason, but they parted with some key depth players. St. Louis has the kind of 1/1A situation in goal you don't want (the kind where the coach is begging for one of them to step up and be reliable). Are there other teams in this division?
Dirk St. Louis Blues - They've got talent, depth, and the veteran head coach to maintain a steady pace over 82 games. Chicago should stay right with them all along the way, but they'll be fine making sure they're prepared for the playoffs rather than spending every last bit of energy trying to win a division title. Nashville could contend as well, but the age & depth issues at center could doom them (I keep envisioning a repeat of 2008-9 when Jason Arnott & David Legwand were both hurt, pushing Cal O'Reilly onto the top line).

Supreme Winners of the League

Eastern Conference Champion Western Conference Champion Stanley Cup Champion
Jon New York Rangers Anaheim Ducks Anaheim Ducks
Dan Tampa Bay Lightning Los Angeles Kings Tampa Bay Lightning
Jeremy New York Islanders Anaheim Ducks Anaheim Ducks
Caroline Pittsburgh Penguins Nashville Predators Pittsburgh Penguins
Kris Washington Capitals Anaheim Ducks Anaheim Ducks
Chris Tampa Bay Lightning Anaheim Ducks Tampa Bay Lightning
Alex Pittsburgh Penguins Nashville Predators Pittsburgh Penguins
Anish Tampa Bay Lightning Anaheim Ducks Tampa Bay Lightning
Zeke Tampa Bay Lightning Anaheim Ducks Anaheim Ducks

George Pittsburgh Penguins Anaheim Ducks Anaheim Ducks
Dirk Tampa Bay Lightning Anaheim Ducks Anaheim Ducks

Preds!

Preds Leading Goal Scorer Preds Leading Point Scorer
Jon James Neal Filip Forsberg
Dan James Neal Filip Forsberg
Jeremy Filip Forsberg Filip Forsberg
Caroline James Neal Filip Forsberg
Kris Filip Forsberg Filip Forsberg
Chris Filip Forsberg Filip Forsberg
Alex James Neal Filip Forsberg
Anish James Neal Filip Forsberg
Zeke Craig Smith Filip Forsberg

George Filip Forsberg Filip Forsberg
Dirk Filip Forsberg Filip Forsberg

IT'S A MAJOR AWARD! (The Hard Part)

Hart Rocket Richard Art Ross Norris Vezina Jack Adams Calder Selke Lady Byng Conn Smythe
Jon John Tavares Alex Ovechkin Tyler Seguin Mark Giordano (finally) Braden Holtby Jon Cooper Connor McDavid (duh) Patrice Bergeron Filip Forsberg Corey Perry :(
Dan Steven Stamkos Steven Stamkos Steven Stamkos Shea Weber Henrik Lundqvist Darryl Sutter Connor McDavid Anze Kopitar Shawn Thornton Steven Stamkos
Jeremy Sidney Crosby Steven Stamkos Sidney Crosby P.K. Subban Ben Bishop Todd McLellan Jack Eichel Jonathan Toews Anze Kopitar Ryan Getzlaf
Caroline Sidney Crosby Phil Kessel Sidney Crosby This is your year, Roman!!! Braden Holtby Dan Bylsma Connor McDavid Patrice Bergeron Pavel Datsyuk Phil Kessel
Kris John Tavares Alex Ovechkin Jaimie Benn Roman Josi Carey Price Dan Bylsma Jack Eichel Patrice Bergeron Pavel Datsyuk Corey Perry
Chris John Tavares Alex Ovechkin Vladamir Tarasenko Mark Giordano (because he's actually got a defensive crops around him now) Carey Price Dave Hakstol (Because I think the Flyers have a dumb luck season, and that's how you win a trophy) Steve Mo... Connor McDavid Patrice Bergeron Carter Hutton Victor Hedman
Alex Sidney Crosby Alex Ovechkin Sidney Crosby Shea Weber (Trades? We don't need no stinking trades) Carey Price Peter Laviolette Connor McDavid Patrice Bergeron Pavel Datsyuk Phil Kessel (hahahahahahah Leafs)
Anish Steven Stamkos Alex Ovechkin Jamie Benn Roman Josi Carey Price Peter Laviolette Jack Eichel Anze Kopitar Pavel Datsyuk Steven Stamkos
Zeke Sidney Crosby Steven Stamkos ROMAN JOSI Ben Bishop (this year for real) Dan Bylsma Sam Reinhart Jonathan Toews Pavel Datsyuk Whoever happens to be in goal for the Ducks by then

George Ryan Getzlaf Alex Ovechkin Sidney Crosby Shea Weber Carey Price Bruce Boudreau Jack Eichel Jonathan Toews Filip Forsberg Corey Perry
Dirk Sidney Crosby Phil Kessel Sidney Crosby Drew Doughty Henrik Lundqvist Dan Bylsma Jack Eichel Jonathan Toews Pavel Datsyuk Corey Perry

Considering last year, what would constitute a successful season for Nashville in 2015-2016?

Jon The only way this season is considered a success is if the Preds win more than two rounds in the playoffs. Gone are the days that just qualifying was status quo. The players, the ownership and the fanbase are hungry for more. Prepare for either elation or depression: it's Conference Finals or Bust.
Dan Winning the division and/or making it to the Conference Finals. Nashville has to do something to show that they're in the conversation in the west, and the only way to do that is by actually winning a playoff series against the SOB's you really hate.
Jeremy Winning a Division Banner would go a long way to something special, but the real success would be to make the Conference Finals. Enough with the "just good enough to make the playoffs"...the fans expect results.
Caroline Winning the division. At this point I'll be pretty disappointed with anything else - especially considering I fully expected to make it at LEAST that far last year until March happened (ugh). We need to actually do something noteworthy of a banner.

Kris

Heading out in the first round would be an absolute abysmal way for the 2015-16 season to end, so logically the only way for it to truly be deemed a success is to advance further than that. In my opinion, that would be the Western Conference Finals. They need sustained success in the playoffs and they have to break past that Conference Semifinals mark to get there. Which, as everyone knows, they've never done. Three rounds or bust for success.
Chris The Predators need to make it to the Western Conference Final this season. They can't be of a mindset to only take steps forward once every decade. I will also consider it successful if Poile is able to refrain from trading away a bunch of decent assets for players the team doesn't have room for. (AKA Cody Franson).
Alex Taking home the Central division and making it at least to the Western Conference Finals. As I said above, this team has the makeup it takes to be a winning team and anything less than a deep run in the playoffs would be a disappointment.
Anish Going to the Western Conference Finals would be a success. Just like most everyone pointed out, it is no longer okay to just make the playoffs. It's time for the Predators to start making deep runs to really push them into that next tier of elite teams.
Zeke This is still an inherently flawed team. The biggest success to me is proving last year wasn't a fluke. The Preds need to win the division, and make it to the second round of the playoffs. Seeing more production from the younger players, and playing consistently quality hockey is what this team needs. While I can see them going all the way if they catch fire at the right time, this is a year of establishing themselves as a perennial powerhouse on the rise.

George Proving me wrong and winning the West.
Dirk A division title or a conference final, basically pushing the team into new territory. Just making the playoffs and getting bounced out again shouldn't satisfy the team or fans.

Do they do it?

Jon No. The Predators will win their first round series, but their lack of center depth gets exposed in the semi finals. A 2nd round win isn't out of the question, but if the roster doesn't change, expect an exit in early May.
Dan Yep. The dirty little secret that no one dares to talk about is that Pekka Rinne has been outplayed in the playoffs by the likes of Mike Smith, Corey Crawford, and Scott Darling. That's not something I would want on my career's headstone either. I bet on Pekka doing something about it this year, and the coaching staff making sure he has enough gas left in the tank to do so. Plus, this team should be pretty good.
Jeremy Not this year. The Predators get to a Game 7 in the second round that goes to 2 overtimes and they lose a heartbreaker on a flukey goal on the road to end the season. The window is just opening on the Preds youth movement so hopefully in the future this prediction will come true in 2016-17.
Caroline I'm cautiously optimistic. Like, really cautiously. But I'm still optimistic.
Kris Doubtful. The biggest issue with Nashville has always been their center crop and it's the same issue this season as well. The two Mike's are on up in age and, even though they'll be able to produce, aren't exactly elite centers at the top of their game. Cody Hodgson and Paul Gaustad aren't either. No one on this squad is considered an elite center and that's going to continually prevent them from reaching and obtaining the Stanley Cup. They may get out of the first round, but unless they get all the bounces the Predators will be out in the second.
Chris Nope. Unless one of the organization's young ceners suddenly emerges as a number one guy. A pair of 35 year-olds aren't getting it done, especially because one of them is a complete asshole. I'm ready for the anticipation of the Predators' new beginning to be replaced to the jaded malaise of unwarranted high expectations.
Alex Yes.They build on last year's success and boldly go where no Preds have gone before: the Stanley Cup Final. They key to their success this year will be an absence of any major holes. Dangerous forward lines at the top, solid lines at the bottom. Three excellent defensive pairings. Rinne, with enough rest early on, should be a mainstay in goal, allowing the team to compete against anything the league can throw at them.
Anish Is it possible? Yes. Are they going to do it this year? I don't think so. A lot will hinge on how Pekka Rinne performs during the season and into the playoffs. He could single handedly take the Preds to the promised land if he is on point. Another factor is the fact that Nashville could not hold on to a lead to save their lives last year in the playoffs. There are only so many times you can blow a multi-goal lead before it wears down on a team from a morality stand point. It seems like a long shot that they will make the conference finals this year, but I think they could push for it next year.
Zeke Yes and no. I think there will be struggles. This team isn’t going to come shooting out of the gate like last year, and they’re going to struggle at times. I can see them making the second round, but past that their weaknesses at center and their overall inexperience is going to show, and show badly. If they leave without a series win again this year then I won’t be all that shocked. I think we will be frustrated by them just as often as we’re wowed.

George Hold on, let me flip a coin... Jokes aside, probably not. Pekka Rinne may be a Jedi Knight, but questions about his durability are mounting. The Preds have no true 1C--nobody who can feed James Neal for a 40+ goal season. That said, Poile could get aggressive at the deadline and add some pieces to go deep.
Dirk No. I'm baffled that the team basically stood pat after last season, and locked up their aging centers (Ribeiro and Fisher) on 2-year contracts. While there are some young players on the rise, there are just as many key players who are past the midpoint of their careers, including Shea Weber & Pekka Rinne. The window for a Weber/Rinne-led team to contend is open for a little while longer, but the planning around the center position threatens to undermine the whole thing.

So. Do you agree or disagree? Who is right and who is wrong? Who would you put in instead?