It’s time for our annual predictions!
We enjoy putting this together every year, even though we rarely get it right. Take a look at last year’s predictions to see how wrong we usually are. Shout out to Michael, Hayley and Bobby, who accurately predicted the Predators’ march to a Western Conference championship.
First up, here’s how we see the division winners, conference winners, and Stanley Cup champions shaking out.
- Half of us think the Predators will take the next step and actually win the Cup next year. Half of us also think the Predators won’t make it as far as the Cup Final next year.
- However, only six folks picked the Predators to win the Central. The Stars are the most popular pick for that achievement.
- The most popular non-Preds predictions for winning the Cup this year are the Lightning and Oilers.
- The vast majority of us have the Oilers taking the Pacific.
- No one picked the Penguins to three-peat! Yay!
Now on to the player awards.
- Anyone who said Alex DeBrincat won’t win the Calder is wrong. Sorry.
- Connor McDavid is the runaway winner of the Art Ross this year. And next year. And the next five years.
- Really interesting choices for Norris. Both P.K. Subban and Roman Josi getting votes, but also some love for guys like Victor Hedman and Mark Giordano.
- I don’t see Sergei Bobrovsky going back-to-back... not considering the competition. Too tough.
Next up, we asked our panel to give their hot takes on some questions going into the new season. Here you go!
What's one trend you think might surface this year in the NHL?
Marya: Teams will briefly attempt the Pittsburgh Penguins 2017 playoff model, before reverting to more defensively-minded hockey.
George: The catfish will become a common motif at Preds road games among fans looking to lampoon (or outright make fun of) the Preds tradition.
Nick: Thanks to the new slashing rule, slower, older teams will rack up more penalty minutes and be forced to have a strong penalty kill in order to succeed.
Carson: A southeastern outdoors game will be announced. Fresh off taking the world by storm last summer, Nashville will be granted an outdoor game at Nissan Stadium against the tailgating Carolina Hurricanes.
Brooks: Scoring will rise dramatically after new updates to the penalty system of slashing and an overall desire for more goals from the NHL. Expect to see more power plays and more goals.
Alex E: Elite defensemen playing more and more minutes. I'd expect 7-10 d-men to average over 27 minutes a game. They're just too good to keep off the ice.
Chris: Coaches' challenges drop with the threat of delay of game penalties. Also, Vegas comes closer to a playoff spot than most will predict, falling out of contention in the final week of the season.
Hayley: The need for speed will see the last of the enforcers faded out. Bottom liners and blue-liners league wide will be expected to be fast instead of tough. The faster NHL will also cause a dramatic increase in the age-average league wide.
Which of these rookies from last year has the worst encore performance: Matthews, Laine, Werenski, or Marner?
Marya: Werenski is going to be "exposed" as not the best defenseman on his team. He'll still be perfectly adequate, but c'mon.
Laura: I'm going to say Werenski because he is no longer a surprise to other teams.
Nick: Patrik Laine. He'll score 50 points rather than 64, and that won't be enough to carry the dumpster fire that is Winnipeg to the playoffs. Hell, he could score 100 points and they would probably only end up with a wild card spot.
Eric: Marner. I think Laine will get better...Matthews and Werenski probably stay the course. Marner will settle in to 50-55 points a year with a few less goals
Rachel: Laine will score some incredible goals, but the pieces are just not there in Winnipeg. The Matthews-Marner duo will be unstoppable.
Tucker: Laine. He'll only score 26 goals this year instead of 36.... What a bum.
Bobby: Werenski, not because he will perform worse than last season, but because people rate him too high. Without "rookie hype", everyone will come back to Earth and recognize that Seth Jones is the best defenseman on the Blue Jackets.
Corey: Marner. I see Laine and Werenski continuing to take steps forward, and when choosing one of the two Maple Leaf phenoms, I'll take the player who sees fewer ice time. Marner could still push for 60 points again and have a solid season, but will still be less-impressive than his 61-point rookie year.
How does the 2017-18 season play out for the Preds?
Alex D: The Preds overcome early season injuries to finish 3rd in the Central. After beating the Blackhawks again in the 1st round (yep!), they demolish the Stars in five games, making the Conference Final for the second straight year. However, this year the Ducks avenge last year's result with a seven-game series win.
Marya: The Predators flirt with the top spot in the division, but eventually make the playoffs in the two spot. They beat the Blackhawks in the second round and dispose of the Oilers in the conference final before eventually falling to Tampa in the Cup Final.
Carson: Nashville once again makes people question if they are even a playoff team early, but in 2018 the offense ignites and the Predators finish 2nd in the Central. Knocking out Chicago in round 1, the Predators cruise through a couple of five game series wins over Dallas and the Oilers. Now in the finals, the city of Nashville once again gets rockin', and the Preds top Washington in five games.
Eric: After another slow start, the Preds finish at the top of the division. They take out the Blues in Round 1, beat the Stars in Round 2 in seven games, take out the Oilers in 5 games in the Western Conference Final, and beat the Lightning in six to capture the franchise's first Stanley Cup.
Brooks: Predators come out fast and hungry after coming so close to glory last season and finish in the top two in the Central. But Pekka Rinne is unable to repeat his postseason dominance of last season and the Predators fall victim in Round 2 to the Stars.
Tucker: The Preds start fast and confident in 2017-2018, but then revert to their inconsistent ways in the 2nd half, limping into a wildcard spot. We beat the Ducks (because of course we do) in the first round, but can't keep up with Edmonton's speed and scoring in the second round.
Bobby: The season plays out similarly to last year. Ellis' injury creates a similar effect to Subban's injury last year, and the power play cannot get going. Once Ellis comes back, things start to click and the Predators barely make the playoffs. This time, they don't lose Johansen and Fiala, and they get the job done.
Chris: The Preds find themselves mid-pack at the holidays, but a considerably weaker Central division allows them to boat race the field in the second half. They knock out the Jets in round 1, St. Louis in round 2, hold off Edmonton in the WCF and do the same to Tampa in the Cup Final.
BONUS: Pick a player on the Preds who you think will be traded this season. When does this happen? Where does he go? What's the return?
Marya: Freddy Gaudreau will be traded at the mid point of the season to Montreal along with a pick in exchange for Alex Galchenyuk.
Laura: Carrier. Before the deadline. In a package for Duchene or Galchenyuk.
George: Craig Smith. He's on a decent contract as a middle six forward, but a little rich for us if he doesn't improve. Also, if we trade for a Galchenyuk or Duchene, he could be a piece in the package we give up.
Nick: Yannick Weber. The Predators have loads of defensemen, and they will use Yber to get more depth at center.
Carson: Alexei Emelin has been expected to be traded since he got to the Music City. Now we know that it was probably because of Ellis' injury, but once he gets back, I could definitely see a scenario when Emelin plays great... and then gets sent off for a 2C.
Eric: Colton Sissons. He'll soon be expendable provided we acquire a center in return. He could be part of a deal to Tampa Bay to acquire Tyler Johnson.
Brooks: When trading, its best to trade surplus for need, and when looking at the roster the Predators have a slew of 3rd to 4th line centers in Sissons, Jarnkrok, and Gaudreau who could be dealt, which could also allow room for a Kamenev to finally get his chance.
Rachel: Frederic Allard or a combo of Tony Bitetto/Matt Erwin/Yannick Weber for a top 6 scoring forward. Yber has a friendly contract that would interest many teams looking for dependable third-pair D men.
Alex E: Yannick Weber. He is going to play well in Ellis' absence (5+ goals before Christmas). We'll parlay that into a middle six forward who will help fill in for injuries.
Tucker: Cody McLeod... Oh wait, I thought this was who we *wanted* to be traded.
Bobby: Alexei Emelin will get traded once Ellis returns. After playing with Roman Josi for three months, Emelin will never have better numbers. With his high stock, the Predators will sell before he plays with Weber on the third pairing.
Corey: Tucker has the best answer here, for real. But if we're being realistic, it's gotta be Smith or Emelin.
Chris: Alexei Emelin and Craig Smith perform well enough to boost their stock, and both get dealt in a package deal for a No. 2 center two weeks before the deadline. Poile won't wait.
Hayley: Some weird package deal with a combination of either Smith, Emelin, Weber, or Carrier around the time of Ellis's return from injury for either Galchenyuk or Duchene assuming Duchene hasn't been shipped out of Colorado for a lesser deal.