1. Colorado Avalanche - The two best lines in the league with a killer top 3 D. Aebisher is the only question, but he has been underrated the past couple of years. Only question is if they can get it done in the playoffs.
2. Dallas Stars - Good 3 forward lines, solid D and a very good goalie. Hatcher's absence will hurt.
3. Detroit RedWings - Best top 4 D in league and 2 high level goalies, forwards not as strong, but still get the job done.
4. Vancouver Canucks - Once again, the Naslund and Bertuzzi show. D is pretty solid, still not sure of goaltending.
5. Edmonton Oilers - Good young group of players, Izzy and Hemsky look ready to break out. Salo looks to be in top form, but D is a little weak.
6. Anaheim Mighty Ducks - Gained more than they lost in the offseason, don't think the D is that great.
7. St. Louis Blues - Now have all the stars, but not the depth. Pronger for a full season will be a big boost.
8. Los Angeles - Assuming Allison and Deadmarsh shake off their injuries, if not they'll fall.
On the bubble: San Jose
1. Ottawa Senators - Great set of forwards and D with a very good goalie.
2. New Jersey Devils- Same old team, stingy D gets it done.
3. Carolina Hurricanes - Complete reversal of last year, avoid injuries and they'll get it done.
4. Philadelphia Flyers - Only if Hackett stays healthy. Very solid.
5. New York Islanders - Top 4 just behind Detroit. May have some trouble scoring and DiPietro has to step up.
6. New York Rangers - All the talent. Maybe they learn the "team" concept?
7. Boston Bruins - Thornton and Murray lead the way. Have a solid D but questions in goal.
8. Washington Capitals - Jagr turns it around and dominates. Gonchar and Kolzig and good once again.
On the bubble: Toronto, Atlanta (would be in for Wash. if Heatley was in the lineup.)
As far as the Oilers go,
I see Hemsky leading the team with 85 points. (25-60-85)
Smyth should score 35-45-80
Izzy with 30-20-50
Dvorak at 30-30-60
I'm sure that I am overly optimistic with the Oilers spot in the conference and offensive totals. If Comrie signs soon, he could put up around 60-70 points. Hemsky is going to be the focus this year.
I am not holding out hope for the Oilers to be great this year. It will be a fight like every other year, unless the guys can pull together better chemistry. I suppose if they gel more than in recent years, things could go better for them, but I see nothing overly special in addition to last year. Good solid team, but another 8th or 9th place finish in the west is expected by myself.
1. Detroit(Replaced a part of Federov with Whitney, got Hatcher, and Hasek is back)
2. Dallas(Well balanced team with a great goalie in Turco)
3. Colorado(The scorers but the goaltending isn't as mighty)
4. St. Louis(A lof of scorers but have average goaltending)
5. LA(Will re-enter the playoffs this year)
6. Edmonton(Looks to be the year where things bold well. Bergeron, Hemsky, and Simpson will bring the team to new heights.)
7. Van(Better depth on goaltending this year, but I think Bert and Naslund are in for a drop-off in points.
8. Anaheim(Will rely on Guiguere again)
On the bubble: Chicago(Thibault will have another great season, but the Hawks will fall just short by less than 5 pts.
Hemsky 20-35 or 15-40 either way for 55 pts.
Smyth should score 29-45-74 pts.
Comrie(signs after a week) 32-37-69pts.
Isbister 19-32-51 pts.
Dvorak at 28-33-61pts.
Here's my only bold prediction... pretty safe since there are no consequences if I am wrong.
Colorado won't be as far ahead of the rest of the pack as most seem to think. It'll be a dog fight all the way to the end, with only 15 points or so separating 2nd and 9th place in the west. And I think we make it to the dance.
I feel like being an optimist this year. I expect the Oilers to shock alot of teams this year.
1. Colorado Avalanche: lack of a stud goalie won't show up till the playoffs.
2. Detroit Red Wings: Add Dominek Hasek and Derian Hatcher plus whatever they get for Cujo. Even with the loss of Fedorov, Detroit will be good.
3. Anaheim Mighty Ducks:Two Names Sergei Fedorov and J.S Giguerre. This team will be good.
4. Edmonton Oilers: Because I'm an Oilers fan, and for once I'm actually expecting great things from this team. For some reason, I think most of the ifs will pan out. Smyth will bring out the best in Izzy, Hemsky will continue to take his game to new level, Salo will return to form. Brewer and Semenov will form at top line pairing that can compete with almost any in the league.
5. Dallas Stars: They have to meet in the first round of the playoffs, but with the loss of Derian Hatcher and all their veterans a year older, I think Dallas will be worse. However, if Niko Kapanen and Anti Miettinen develop as Stars fans are expecting, Dallas could easily leapfrog Edmonton but they won't catch Anaheim.
6. Vancouver Canucks: Unfortunately, I think the injury bug will finally catch up with the Canucks. If they lost Naslund or Bertuzzi for any stretch of time, this team will be in trouble.
7. St. Louis: For some reason, I just don't think St. Louis is that good. Pronger returning to norris form combined with Jackman and MacInnis should form the best Defense in the league. Yet, for some reason, I expect St. Louis to fall this season.
8. San Jose Sharks: San Jose's youth take a huge step forward and surge this team back into the playoff picture. Nabokov is lights out.
I don't know if I believe any of this, but here are my predictions from where things sit today...
1. Detroit - no better defense in the league IMO. Great goaltending and a deep crop of forwards.
2. Colorado - Great offence, but loss of DeVries and Marchment on d will hurt a bit and loss of Roy will hurt more - just enough not to clinch 1st in west.
3. Dallas - just 'cause no body's better in the Pacific. They might fall off a bit and even finish behind the fourth place team in points.
4. Vancouver - all of the pieces look to be falling in to place.
5. Anaheim - Fedorov, Prospal > Kariya, Oates
6. Los Angeles - Only if Allison stays healthy (otherwise they miss again) - Chechmanik is better than Potvin for regular season.
7. Edmonton - Here's hoping. I think this can be acheived with the Comrie situation solved... otherwise I don't think our centre and defense situation are strong enough to get us there (one weakness is okay, two we can't afford).
8. Phoenix - I've been ranking them lower in the past, but I've been looking at their teeam closely lately and I think they may be a surprise. Depth at all positions, but no star players... I think they may be a year or two behind the Oil, but are getting closer.
Outside looking in...
9. Calgary - better d. better coaching. It might be enough to grab 8th spot if LA or PHO falls out of the race, but probably not.
10. St. Louis - I always predict this. I can't see how they're going to make it, but I'm sure they will. The complete opposite of an Edmonton/Pheonix type team IMO... 3 or 4 star players and not much depth. Weight, Tkachuk, MacInnis, Pronger and Demitra look great, and a couple of bright young prospects, but no real depth. This could be a year they start tuning out Queneville too.
5. st. louis
6. los angeles
as far as edmonton goes, i have made most of my predictions already so im not gonna go into them again..... what i *will* say though is that the oil are gonna be hurting for scoring unless they can get comrie signed. because even if they trade comrie they will not get anywhere CLOSE to true value for him. so yeah, unless comrie signs i think we're gonna have trouble scoring goals.
Me thinks it is odd both Mikko Luoma & Marc-Andre Bergeron are still in town. Perhaps a vet d-man is injured or maybe someone is going to get some early press box point of view.
Horrible giveaway by Smith and this year MacT has got to be less of a player's coach and more of a hard-nosed team coach. Players who are making the the big bucks must produce or be replaced. Same goes for, four, fore! GM's and coaches.
OH! and my prediction is that the Oilers should finish 1st overall win the President's Trophy, knock off Dallas in the WC 1st playoff series (cause the Stars will fade to 8th), take down the Avs in the semi-finals in 6, then take out Vancouver in a thrilling 7th game, and finally defeat the Sens in the 2nd overtime of the 7th game of the Stanley Cup. I want it all the whole enchilada. I might eat a little crow later but right now all things are possible. Finishing anything but first is not an option. Not to win the Stanley Cup? Inconceivable!
It would be nice to see the Oilers bring up the younger guns frequently and have those desperados leaving opposing goalies shell-shocked and just plain confused and afraid. Our energy line must pound out hits and strike fear into the hearts of the oppostion, game in and game out. The goal scorers gotta' bury the biscuit, and we need DMEN on the backend not boys with "potential." Finally our TNT (Tommy & Ty) goaltending duo have to be DYNAMITE ... disheartening all comers with explosive saves!
Whatever lineup it takes to get results is what really matters. Anybody in Management, the GM, Coaches, Players who don't want to pay the price and believe the Copper&Blue can win it all this year, I'd like to see turfed. Get with the program or lets trade for someone who will. This is professional hockey not a little Richards invitational.
If Patrick LaForge has to, take one for the team, and do the Full Monty ... wait a minute I've gone too far! Please strike down that last image ...