NHL 2014-15 Season Predictions: Hockey has Begun

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How’s your Friday going so far? Hopefully, you’re thrilled that hockey is back in full force. As a former regular commenter on Metalsucks, most of you should be familiar with me. I’ve been absent these summer months, but I’m finally back with this post. You’re Droppin’ the Gloves with Chris Simopoulos.

For the debut piece, I’m posting a preview piece that I wrote months ago; the season came quicker than I expected and I had no time to write anything else. This piece is lengthy and very opinionated. I promise that it won’t be like that for future pieces. If you have any suggestions, comments, criticisms, thoughts, or any of that good stuff, leave a comment and I’ll be happy to read it. Until next time, keep your head up out there.

Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks came off a dominant season in the always challenging Western Conference. I mean, they clinched the fucking conference. Even yours truly predicted them to reach the Stanley Cup finals, but with a disappointing series against actual Cup winners LA Kings, their chances fell short. Also, losing Teemu Selenne could be troublesome (depending on who you talk to). While yes, he is one of the greatest players to have played in the 21st century, the last few years had shown signs of him aging. With up and coming wingers stepping up like Devante Smith-Pelly and Kyle (Frankie) Palmeri, filling in his place shouldn’t be so hard. John Gibson will probably be the new starter with Jonas Hiller making his way to Calgary. And let’s not forget the big signings of superstars Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. 2nd place in Pacific

Arizona Coyotes: First of all, I hate how they changed their name to Arizona from Phoenix. Am I knit picking? Who cares. Phoenix has always been a team that does well, but not good enough. Yeah, they made it to the Conference Finals in 2012, but if they want to be that team again, they need the likes of Lauri Korpikoski, Shane Doan, and Antoine Vermette to step up. Recent signee Sam Gagner is expected to be their 3rd centreman and I see a big 70-point season (if he stays healthy). They’re a tough team in a tougher conference that is capable of doing great things by utilizing their key players. 4th in Pacific*

Boston Bruins: Imma be straight up here. I’m a diehard Bruins fan, so making this unbiased will be difficult. Losing Jarome Iginla to Colorado isn’t what they wanted at all, but it’ll give veteran Loui Erickson an opportunity to be the 1st line winger he once was in Dallas. They were Presidents Trophy winners last year and from that moment on, the hockey world knew they wouldn’t win the Cup (me included). With an atrocious series against Montreal (they played like beer leaguers), they are coming into this season with a vengeance (watch your head Dale Weise). With Dennis Seidenberg returning from injury, they can finally have their top D-line back with Zdeno Chara and a young core behind them consisting of Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug, Kevin Miller, and Matt Bartkowski, the Bruins arguably have the best defence in the league. 1st place in Atlantic. **

Buffalo Sabres: We’ll keep this short, just like the Sabres season. You can’t even fathom how bad Buffalo is going to be. At least last year, they still had professional hockey players. This year? I’ll be surprised if they get more than 50 points. But if you want to look at the glass half full, they’re in complete rebuilding mode and the only way up from here is up (unless recently drafted Sam Reinhart gets injured). Fucking dead last

Calgary Flames: Flames were where Buffalo is a few years ago, but at least they’ve made progress in their rebuilding process. They finally solved their goaltending problem with the signing of Jonas Hiller. Getting Mason Raymond isn’t going to hurt either as he had a red hot October last year with the Maple Leafs and can be a good element on the PP. Sean Monohan is one of the hottest kids out there and I’m feeling now that now he knows what it takes to compete in the NHL, this year will be the year where he breaks out. The Flames are getting one step closer to becoming that playoff team they were years ago, but they aren’t quite there yet. 5th place in Pacific

Carolina Hurricanes: The Hurricanes are a team that was always just…there. I have no feeling for the ‘Canes. Yeah, we were all routing for them when they won the Cup in 2006, but now that legends Ron Francis and Rod Brind’Amour are long gone, they’ve had others pick up the pace. They have the offence with the Stall brothers, Alexander Semin, Nathan Gerbe, and Jeff Skinner, but they are in desperate need of defense. They managed to get rid of Tim Gleason for John-Michael Liles, just to pick up Gleason again in the offseason, but that’s not going to do much. And Cam Ward, who was once a stellar goalie, has turned into your average mediocre ‘tender, but maybe that’s because of the lack of defense. 8th in Metropolitan

Chicago Blackhawks: I’ll say this right off the bat: I hate Patrick Kane. With a passion. He’s hands down the most obnoxious player in the league, always looking for the OT spotlight (no, it’s not “being clutch”). But with that previous statement, I put emphasis on “hands” as even though he’s scum, he easily has the best hands behind Pavel Datsyuk. And he, along with captain Jonathan Toews, will be staying in Chi town for a long time, both signing matching 8-year, $84-million contracts. That could have put management in trouble, but didn’t as they picked up one of the biggest free agents Brad Richards. He’ll just add experience to this already star-studded team. 2nd place in Central

Colorado Avalanche: No team this year will be as good as last year’s Av’s team. With their youthful and talented forwards that included Nathan Mackinnon, Gabriel Ladeskog, Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly and a matured group that lead the charge with Paul Stastny and P.A. Parenteau. However, both of the latter are gone with them going to St. Louis and Montreal, respectively. Although they got ripped off for Parenteau by losing him and a draft pick for 36-year old Daniel Briere, who only has a few years left in him, they managed to pick Jarome Iginla which will play well for him as he’s a seasoned vet that still has game left in him. Don’t let one overtime goal that eliminated them from the playoffs set your thoughts on the Av’s in stone. This is a team that will win the Cup in the coming years. Maybe even this year. 3rd place in Central

Columbus Blue Jackets: For years, the Blue Jackets were a laughing stock in the NHL. Teams would send players to Columbus if ever they pissed off the management. But now it’s 2014, and the Blue Jackets are coming off a strong season and a series against the Pittsburgh Penguins that saw the franchise’s first ever playoff victory. The one player to watch out for is Boone Jenner. He was their easily their best player in the playoffs. He’s in the same boat as Monohan gaining experience from last year. Also, gaining power forward Scott Hartnell should help solidify their PP unit as he’s a guy who grinds it out, gets timely big hits, and can pocket a few when needed. Things are looking up for the Jackets. 3rd place in Metro

Dallas Stars: The Stars are coming off one of their best years. Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn were probably the only pair that could match up to and compete with Perry and Getzlaf when they played in Anaheim. Losing Rich Peverley was hard on the team, their fans, and the entire hickey community. He was a key player in there penalty kill and we all can only hope for a speedy recovery. Picking up Ales Hemsky and Jason Spezza will only benefit their powerful offense. Their defense is OK going into next season, but they’re just that. OK. Alex Goligoski is the only D-man who really stands out, but even a mediocre defense shouldn’t stop the Stars success that could lead to another playoff run this year . 5th place in Central

Detroit Red Wings: 23 years in a row they’ve made the playoffs. 15 years ago, the Wings were what the Blackhawks are now: the powerhouse team. But over the years, players have retired and others are getting there. Last year was brutal with all the injury trouble, but with a sturdy farm system, they managed to call up players that got the job done. They’ve developed a good group of younger players who can carry this team to a 24th year into the playoffs with Justin Abdelkader, Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, and Danny Dekeyser. However, Jimmy Howard played one of his worst years last year with only 21 wins and a 2.66 GAA. Even while injury ridden for a while, that’s no excuse for those numbers from a goalie like Howard. If they keep the injuries to a minimum this year, expect great things from them. 3rd place in Atlantic

Edmonton Oilers: I work with a guy who’s an Oiler fan and he has the reputation of a crazy old man who’s hopped up on meds. Is it a coincidence? I don’t know. The Edmonton Oilers are used to the woes they’ve suffered over the years and that’s a good thing (kinda) because they’re going to have to deal with them a little bit longer. It’s a shame, really, because they have the talent in Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (he should be referred to as “The Nuge”, rather than some gun-toting, washed up singer that a certain biased, New Yorker blogger jerks off to). However, their defense is a disaster. I feel like the only reason Andrew Ference is still with them is because Edmonton is his hometown. A player of his skill deserves a playoff team. And coming off a record breaking season (59-save shutout, y’all), Ben Scrivens will get the starting roll and I see big things from him. He’s played long enough to get the flow of things and with a Dyson-style defense (Dyson. Like the vacuum company. Get it? *slaps knee*), he’ll have his chance to shine. I see big things coming for him. As for the rest of the team? Not so much. 7th place in Pacific

Florida Panthers: The Panthers are coming off an abysmal season. There’s no other way I can put it. But GM Dave Tallon was one of the busier GM’s this summer. Picking up workhorses Shawn Thornton and Willie Mitchell, and got some PP help in Jussi Jokinen and Dave Bolland. Picking up elite goaltender Roberto Luongo can go either two ways: he’ll either have an absolutely stellar season or will completely crash; no in between. One could make the argument with Tim Thomas except both goalies are not what they were when they faced off in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals. Both have declined, but who declined more? Doesn’t matter, the Panthers should improve this year, but nothing to get them in the playoffs. 6th place in Atlantic

LA Kings: The difference I see from the 2014 Cup Champion LA Kings versus the 2012 Cup LA Kings is that there will be no Cup hangover this year. I don’t need to go into detail to describe the talent they have. They have arguably the best offensive core and the best defenseman in the game with Drew Doughty. I mean, there’s not much to it. I think Dustin Brown is a fucking coward who delivers cheap hits a la Matt Cooke and is a complete fucking idiot (did he choose the number 23 because that’s his IQ?), but other than that, I have nothing but high praises for LA. 1st place in Pacific

Minnesota Wild: The Minnesota Wild will win a Stanley Cup in the next 10 years. They are the definition of a rebuilt team. Making great deals and signing top stars over the years like Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Jason Pomminville, and Tomas Vanek has escalated the team into a serious playoff contender. They are also a team who has picked up a Matt Cooke that isn’t a Matt Cooke we all know and hate. This isn’t the Matt Cooke who ended Marc Savard’s career and ruined Vincent Lecavalier’s career or the same Matt Cooke who has blown out more knees than a Compton criminal. After years and years of tribulation, I believe Matt Cooke can finally play like a regular enforcer; still deliver’s big hits and grinds it out, but doesn’t cause stupid injuries. The Wild have a bright future. 4th place in Central*

Montreal Canadiens: Where do I begin? We can start with everyone’s boy P.K and his iron clad contract. Habs fans will even admit that 9 million a year is insane for almost anyone and I think we can all agree that P.K isn’t of that calibre yet (but has the potential). Picking up Parenteau will only benefit their already strong offensive core. Success should continue for Montreal but as a Bruins fan, I truly hope that shit hits the fan. May Pacioretty, Galchenyuk, and Plekanec have the worst years of their careers and may Dale Weise watch his head (déjà vu?). The Looch will be on the lookout. 4th place in Atlantic*

Nashville Predators: One point to start on is that Nashville will have a healthy Pekka Rinne better the team and their struggles from last year. During the offseason, they took one step back and two steps forward losing Patric Hornqvist and star-studded defender Michael Del Zotto and picking up James Neal, Derek Roy, Mike Ribeiro and Olli Jokinen. Another big pickup was coach Peter Laviolette and if anyone watched the 2011-12 24/7 winter classic between Philly and the Rangers, you’ll know Laviolette is a stand-up guy, great motivator, and a hell of a coach. However, the Preds are probably not going to be a serious playoff contender, but much like 2013 draft pick Seth Jones, give it some time to really blossom into something spectacular. 6th place in Central

New Jersey Devils: Devils fans, all you can really do at this point is sigh. A team that was at the top of its game for so many years that included a few Cups and a trip to the rodeo in 2012 has crumbled to this? Crumbled is a hyperbolic word; they’re not that bad, but playoff contention is basically out the window. Marty Brodeur aging is the biggest key out of all of this, but that’s only natural. The whole Kolvachuk contract situation only blew up in the organization’s face a few years in. Although, having Cory Schneider between the pipes and picking up Mike Cammalleri and Martin Havlat show that this team want to reach that success they did years ago. But that won’t happen this year. 6th place in Metro

New York Islanders: Garth Snow is hands down the worst GM in the league today, but shockingly, he isn’t the worst GM in Islanders history (*cough cough* Mike Millbury). The way he handled the deadline was abysmal, waiting last minute to trade Vanek for a bag of chips and some fresh twigs was a joke. But so are the Islanders, sort of. They have Taveras and Okposo and both of them can be as good of a pair as the likes of Seguin/Benn, Getzlaf/Perry, and Crosby/Kunitz. Draftee Josh Ho-Sang was a very interesting one because the hot-headed kid could provide that fire that the team needs. But with all that said and done, the Isles blow. 7th place in Metro

New York Rangers: OH…so close. The entire hockey world was rooting for the Rangers during the Stanley Cup final. And there many reasons to cheer for them; St. Louis losing his mother during the playoffs, the “David vs Goliath” atmosphere with a team who has always done well to beat a team who has had huge recent success. But quality over quantity was the case as the Kings picked up their 2nd cup in three years and that’ll most likely be the closest the Rangers will see a Cup. During that run though, Henrik Lundqvist proved and etched his name in stone as to why he is an elite goaltender and he’ll remain an elite goaltender for the rest of his career. Losing Brad Richards wasn’t so bad seeing how he struggled with the Rangers and picking up Dan Boyle, Matt Hunwick and Matt Lombardi, who is one of the fastest skaters in the game today, should only benefit the team. The only thing I see wrong with this team is Rick Nash being complete dust. He absolutely has to step up to the kind of player he was 5 to 10 years ago if the Rangers want to see a cup. 4th place in Metro*

Ottawa Senators: It’s funny how things can change all within a year. In 2012, Sens coach Paul McClain was considered a genius for how he changed his team. Now, he’s on the chopping block for the woes they had last season. The woes will just coming as they lost their captain Jason Spezza to Dallas for Alex Chaisson and some no-names. The goaltending was catastrophic with a struggling Craig Anderson and a shaky Robin Lehner. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out, but even with the talents of Erik Karlsson, Marc Methot, Clarke MacArthur, and Kyle Turris, don’t expect a sudden turnaround for this team. 7th place in Atlantic

Philadelphia Flyers: I probably shouldn’t admit that I really like the Flyers, but I do. You can really see the grit and determination that they show when they play rival teams like Pittsburgh and Boston. Unfortunately, the player that embodied all of those traits, Scott Hartnell, is gone. He was one of the best power forwards in the league, a key component in their PP, and an all-around fan favourite. But that shouldn’t stop the rest of the talent they have. Expect 20+ goal seasons from Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, and Brayden Schenn. Speaking of Schenn, he’ll be the likely candidate to replace Hartnell on the top line with Giroux and Voracek. Hopefully, they’ll utilize veteran Vincent Lecavalier a little more than just a 4th line centre, but watch the Flyers have an impeccable year. 2nd place in Metro

Pittsburgh Penguins: Poor Dan Blysma. He had all the tools that he needed but would continuously fall short and that lead to him being fired. That and having a cold goalie in Marc-Andre Fleury wasn’t good for the Pens as they lost a 3-1 series lead to the New York Rangers last year. It’s amazing how great of a goalie Fleury once was and how he just slipped to mediocrity. The beauty bitches in Crosby and Malkin should have stellar years like usual (sorry Pens fans, but unless you’re a Pens fan, you hate the Pens). That last statement being said, fuck the Pens and all that jazz. 1st place in Metro

San Jose Sharks: The long running joke between hockey fans has been how the San Jose Sharks are notorious for choking during the playoffs. Well, the Western conference quarterfinal series against the LA Kings was the epitome of all that. Winning 6-1 and 7-2 in games one and two, respectively, everyone thought that the LA Kings were completely down and out. That was the complete opposite as they were the fourth team in NHL history to comeback from a series down 3-0 to win 4-3. What’s the problem? Why do the Sharks keep losing these big games? Most fingers were pointed at Joe Thornton and many people opted that Thornton should lose his captaincy. Well quite frankly, Uncle Joe is one of the best assets that the Sharks have and with him being a veteran, losing the captaincy would be downright absurd. One person who does need to step up is Logan Couture. He’s the future of the Sharks franchise and even though he’s been injury ridden the last couple years, last year showed he had below average numbers only picking up 54 points. Expect the usual from the Sharks (that may include the playoff dive-bomb). 3rd place in Pacific

St. Louis Blues: For the last couple of years, the Blues were what the Sharks have been forever: really great season, shitty playoffs. For both years, they lost a 2-0 series lead with awful statistics that lead from awful play (Miller had a save percentage of .864. Disgusting). Picking up Paul Stastny will only add to their strong offensive core and getting Carl Gunnarsson should add some special teams help along the D-line. One thing to look out on is to see if Alex Steen has the same kind of campaign he had a couple years ago. Other than that, the Blues will continue their success. 1st place in Central

Tampa Bay Lightning: Don’t take the 1st round sweep as a sign that the Lightning were a one-hit wonder, that was simply a learning experience for the young team. The young core that the Bolts have is just going to get better and better with each season. They did the job last year when they lost their superstar captain Steven Stamkos for most of the season and with him back in the lineup fulltime, they’ll just do a better job. Losing Ryan Malone could harm them, but after the DUI arrest, getting rid of him was best to save their image. Lose Radko Gudas, who may be one of the worst defenders I’ve ever seen, and that’s not an overstatement, and you got a pretty set team. 2nd place in Atlantic

Toronto Maple Leafs: “Get off your knees, you’re blowing the season” said my angry father as the Leafs lost their 7th straight game in the month of March; the month that makes or breaks your playoff hopes and dreams. The Leafs, who had a solid year throughout, collapsed in typical Leafs fashion, and didn’t make the playoffs. My theory is that the only reason they made the playoffs, during the 2013 season was because it was a shortened season and they didn’t have that leeway to choke. But nevertheless, with their success’ came their qualms. The Leafs have arguably the worst defense in the league lead by pylon Dion Phaneuf and they had averaged 35.9 shots a game. Resigning Jake Gardiner was a mistake as he is a big component to their flaws; he’s a turnover machine. The Leafs can keep up the pace and please fans when they compare the Leafs to how bad they were about five years ago, but that’s not enough to have them reach the success they had twelve years ago. 5th in Atlantic

Vancouver Canucks: A statement you can keep in the books: the Vancouver Canucks won’t make the playoffs for the next five years. They simply won’t. All attention last year was on the management when they hired John Torteralla as coach, and Trevor Linden as President of Hockey Operations. They are on the rebuild and picking up Ryan Miler was a great place to start as he still has plenty left in him. Picking up Radim Vrbata will definitely help on the PP and Nick Bonino is a great addition to the PK unit. Torts is gone after one year and that was a great thing to do; the Couv just didn’t fit his coaching style. We saw that when he went on a hunt for Flames coach Bob Hartley. All the dramatics from last year was distracting everyone from what was going on the ice, and that may have been a good thing. The Sedin twins are aging and we’ll never see them as they were five year ago. Real shame. 6th place in Pacific

Washington Capitals: If any team can do a complete 180° turnaround, it’s the Capitals. Last year wasn’t a horrible season, but this is a Presidents’ Trophy team, or was a Presidents’ Trophy team. They made some major improvements, picking up Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik. The Metro division is a weak one, so them being in playoff talks will be there, especially with new coach Barry Trotz. It’ll be an interesting situation for Washington. In my humblest opinion, give it about a year for this team to pick up where it left off. 5th place in Metro

Winnipeg Jets: Stick a fork in it. The Jets haven’t made the playoffs since the 2006-07 season when they were the Atlanta Thrashers and they won’t see it anytime soon. They have the worst goaltending in the league. It’s shit goaltending followed by shit everything else. They have the talent, but they can’t execute to the level that they need. They should tank the season so they can have a chance of taking Connor McDavid for next year’s draft. Blake Wheeler should have a big season though, so people might want to take them for the pool. 7th in Central

* = wild card spot. ** = Stanley Cup Champs

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