The lockout is finally over and we can now concentrate on the love of the game, statistics, rivalries, players and whatever else floats your boat about the greatest sport in the world.
I’m going to pass on any lockout talk as I’m sure you’re just as sick of all that as I am but I will offer you a personal point of view on a shortened NHL season.
Do I like the shortened season? Not really, however, its hockey and it’ll be something to watch on TV. Will I get right into the games? Probably, how can I not get into the games? It’s a million times better than watching Honey Boo-boo or getting involved in a Twitter spat against some low life making fun of horrific world tragedies. I could delve right into my feelings on it but I will spare you the reading and do a short break down of something much better, the Chicago Blackhawks.
Bollig will be in and out of the lineup and very well could do a shuffle with Frolik, Kruger and Mayers depending on the team the Hawks are playing. Example: Hawks vs Blues expect Bollig in.
Ben Smith, Brandon Saad and Brandon Pirri will get a good look and there is an outside possibility one of those three may start the season with the big club.
As you can see there isn’t a lot of change up front for Chicago.
If Montador is healthy it could mean a game in game out type of situation with Rosie, Leddy and Monty. The real interesting issue is when the Hawks signed Sheldon Brookbank to a deal they informed Sheldon and his agent that Brookbank would be a full-time roster player. Expect some movement by the Hawks this season. Likely man out would be Hjalmarsson as he would be the most sought after especially considering Montador’s health, overpaid Oduya and an aging Rozsival.
Expect a bounce back season by Crawford after a horrific sophomore season. A lot of goalies have poor second seasons which is usually their first year as a starting goalie; the added pressure is a lot on these guys. We’ve seen Crawford’s ability in his first season so we know he has the capability to be a number one goalie. With an improved defence in front of Corey that will also help him out.
With the cap going down next season I expect Chicago to be making moves; actually, I expect a lot of teams to be making moves. The Blackhawks may look at moving Marian Hossa who has a contract until he’s 80 years of age but still he’s one of the best 2-way players in the game. Hossa will be 34 this Saturday so if the Hawks can move him this season I’m sure they will. Of course the recent concussion he had may make teams shy away which may force Chicago to look at moving other pieces.
I will take a shot at some predictions for the final standings but really it’s a crapshoot in a shortened season.
- St. Louis Blues – Hitchcock will have these guys playing their defensive game again and with their ever improving abundance of skilled forwards this team will be tough to beat.
- Los Angeles Kings – The champs will be tough again especially with stud goalie Jonathan Quick and their nice crop of forwards. Expect Doughty to be better.
- Vancouver Canucks – Without Kesler it’s going to hurt but considering the division they’re in it shouldn’t be tough for them to capture another Northwest crown.
- Chicago Blackhawks – I expect Chicago to be right there with St. Louis especially if Toews stays healthy. Toews was on pace for an MVP type year before getting hurt. Improved D will vastly improve this team and could easily flip-flop with the Blues for 1st in the Central
- Nashville Predators – The same old stingy defensive team will be there again but will they change something up so they can move to the next level?
- Detroit Redwings – An aging team with big questions on the back end. Their skilled forwards will be enough to get them into the show, again.
- Edmonton Oilers – Yep, I’m going there. I feel that a shortened season will help these young gunners and if the team can stay healthy (especially Taylor Hall) they could make some noise this year. Dubnyk is a HUGE question mark and I wouldn’t count out Khabibulin just yet.
- Minnesota Wild – The additions of Suter and Parise will help this team out immensely, however, the Wilds forwards are fairly deep but the defence is still a big question mark.
- Anaheim Ducks – Bounce back years for Getzlaf and Perry are in order but are really not too deep at the forward positions. Defence are big and slow with the exception of Fowler.
- San Jose Sharks – Perhaps I’m not giving the sharks enough credit because on paper their forward lines are pretty darn good but the old legged Sharks might need 20 games to get going and in a shortened season that’ll be too late.
- Phoenix Coyotes – This is a massive team up front, big slow behemoths and the back end is decent at best. I expect Mike Smith to be holding them in a lot of games.
- Dallas Stars – I seem to underestimate this team year after year, skilled forwards with some real tough guys but the defence is always what worries me for these guys. When Aaron Rome is fourth on your depth chart you have issues.
- Colorado Avalanche – Stastny going to show up? The additions of Downie and Parenteau will help this team quite a bit but really I only see maybe 2 and a half decent lines here with an average at best defensive core. Goaltending is questionable.
- Calgary Flames – I’m guessing these guys are going to officially try to rebuild now? Who knows with Feaster. They do have some nice prospects and Baertschi should step right in but they have a ways to go. Kiprusoff may play all 48 games.
- Columbus Blue Jackets – Their best forward is R.J. Umberger and their starting goalie is Steve Mason. Sorry but this team is in for a world of hurt for a few years to come. Brian Burke maybe?
- New York Rangers – On paper this team is pretty sick and with the best goalie in the world in Henrik Lundqvist this team would be my early Stanley Cup favorites. Will Gaborik stay healthy? Will the team gel?
- Boston Bruins – Seguin is going to have an enormous year and the rough and tough Bruins will be tough to beat. Is it Tuukka time?
- Washington Capitals – They say Ovie is a new man, funny, they said that last year, too. Nevertheless, the addition of Ribeiro and a pretty decent 4 lines should be enough to take down the Southeast division. Holtby should take the reigns as the number 1 goalie in D.C.
- Pittsburgh Penguins – They really did very little to bolster their team but if they stay healthy they’ll be a very good team through the regular season.
- Philadelphia Flyers – Claude Giroux will have another MVP type season and if Briere gets healthy this team could make some noise. No Pronger is going to hurt big time. Perhaps Bryzgalov can concentrate on playing goal rather than trying to entertain fans with his bizarre beliefs.
- Buffalo Sabres – They have a good mix of size and skill with a pretty deep defensive squad. If Ryan Miller can play like he can this team should be damn good.
- New Jersey Devils – How much does Brodeur have left in the tank? Going back to last year he’s still go it, wouldn’t you say? The Devils should be a good team this year especially if stud Henrique is healthy and Clarkson has a similar type year to last season. Solid Defensive group.
- Winnipeg Jets – It took me forever to slot someone into this final playoff spot. This hulking team should be able to pound their way through to nab the 8th spot. Travel shouldn’t be too bad for these guys this season.
- Ottawa Senators – A step back for these guys this season and is Alfredsson even playing? They need help on the back end.
- Tampa Bay Lightning – This team will score a lot of goals but keeping them out of the net is going to be their biggest problem. Stands should be full with $200 season tickets!
- Florida Panthers – Not too much change for them, Weiss may have a good half year so watch out for him. Probably a step back for the Cats this season.
- New York Islanders – I really like the forwards on this team minus Marty Reasoner and these guys should be an exciting team to watch. Defence is suspect and with Visnovsky staying overseas certainly doesn’t help.
- Toronto Maple Leafs – Firing of Brian Burke before the season starts, Toronto is already a mess and weak goaltending. Forwards are pretty decent but if they want a goalie they’re going to have to give up one of them. If their defence can play like they should these guys might have a legit shot of making the playoffs but I suspect little confidence in Reimer no matter what the players/coaches say in their interviews.
- Montreal Canadiens – They’ve added Brandon Prust and…is that it? Same team, not sure about Markov as usual, d-men are still improving. Lucky they have one of the best goalies in the league in Carey Price. I don’t see this being the year of the Habs.
- Carolina Hurricanes – Team should score some goals but you never know what you’re going to get with Semin and staying healthy will be a question mark. Pretty decent forward crop but their defence stinks.
Stanley Cup Final: Chicago Blackhawks vs New York Rangers
Well there you have it, my fearless predictions that could be a complete fail like most peoples predictions are but they’re fun to do. Agree or disagree on any or all of these? Am I way off? Let me know.
Thanks for reading,