2006-2007 NHL Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 10/03/2006
The NHL season kicks off this week. While most bettors are concerned more about the NFL and college football right now, here at Doc's we are gearing up for a big season in the NHL. To start off the season, we will offer some 2006-2007 NHL predictions to start off the season.
The Big Three
Buffalo Sabres - The Sabres are probably the best team in the East, and they have never had that distinction before. They are built exactly for this new NHL. They are incredibly fast and they are very balanced so opponents can't shut down the team by focusing on the best players. Their defense is solid and their goaltending is a strength. A hockey season has a way of exposing the faults in a team, but at this point it is hard to find one.
New York Rangers - If the Rangers don't take a step back from where they were last year then they could be very dangerous. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist was spectacular as a rookie last season, but he'll have to prove that he isn't a flash in the pan. Jaromir Jagr was back to his best last year and he will be joined by another solid veteran in Brendan Shanahan. They surprised the world, and themselves, with their performance last year. This year they expect to be good, and that should help them hold it together down the stretch.
Ottawa Senators - This is the last chance the Senators have to finally win the Cup, so they had better get it done. Offensively they are as good as anyone in the league, with the top line of Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza being probably the best combination in the league. New goaltender Martin Gerber is a bit of a question mark - he lost his starting job in Carolina last year. They haven't been quite good enough for the last several years, and they haven't improved this year, but they may finally have the heart to avoid fading in the playoffs.
The Defending Champs
Carolina Hurricanes - The Canes peaked at the right time last year. They return essentially the same team, without the veteran presence of Mark Recchi or Doug Weight. They aren't the best team in the East, but with another good run in the postseason they could certainly defend.
Pittsburgh Penguins - It's probably a year or two too early, but the Pens are soon going to be very good. Sidney Crosby is a total freak, rookie Evgeni Malkin is almost as good, though he is injured to start the year. Rookie Jordan Staal will be very good, too, and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury may finally mature into his ability. They will get better with time, so they could be dangerous if they can make the playoffs.
Anaheim Ducks - A steal of a trade for Chris Pronger has made a pretty good team absolutely amazing. Pronger and Scott Niedermayer are arguably the two best defensemen in the league, and now they share the same blueline. Add that to solid goaltending and impressive if not overwhelming offense and you have the best team in the West.
Calgary Flames - The Flames were among the best teams in the conference last year and they have improved dramatically in the offseason. The addition of Alex Tanguay finally gives them an offensive player to match up with Jarome Iginla to allow him to reach his offensive potential. Last year this team was the best defensive team in the league and their goaltending was as good as you can get. The cast is the same behind the blue line, so the addition of some offensive power can take this team to the next level.
One to Watch
San Jose Sharks - The Sharks should have beat Edmonton and gone to the Stanley Cup finals last year, but they folded. This year they have added talented left winger Mark Bell, who has been buried in Chicago his whole career, to complement the incredible Joe Thornton, who could easily defend his MVP title, and Jordan Cheechoo. If the notoriously slow starting Sharks can get it going early they could be hard to catch.
The Eastern Conference has much more depth than the West this year with four or five serious threats. Despite that, I think that this is the year that the West finally wins the Cup back after three straight Eastern champs. Defense is king in the playoffs and no team has better defensive might than Anaheim. The Ducks will waddle away with the Stanley Cup.