Bold NHL Predictions for 2013-14
by Trevor Whenham - 10/3/2013
The offseason is over, and the NHL season is underway. It’s about freaking time. As we get ready for a long winter of excitement, here are six bold predictions about what is going to happen and how the season, and the postseason, will turn out:
The Lightning will be much improved
Let’s start things out with the boldest of my predictions. Not only will this be a dramatically better team than the one that finished second last in the East last year — it is going to win the new Atlantic Division. The talent is strong, including the best pure goal scorer on the planet in Steven Stamkos. The goaltending has been dramatically improved. They don’t have a clear No. 1, but teams have fared well with two solid 1A options. Most significantly, a coaching change has made a much-needed attitude improvement, and the buyout of Vincent Lecavalier’s contract reinforces that a new era has arrived. The division is tough, but I believe in these guys, and the Bruins are the most overrated team in the league right now.
The Oilers will make the playoffs
It has been a very long haul for the Oilers in this seemingly endless rebuilding process. They still aren’t at the point of being a real contender, but this is finally the year in which their playoff drought ends. The young talent is maturing, and Dallas Eakins is finally the right coach for this group. Most significantly, though, I love the choice of Andrew Ference as captain. It’s certainly surprising since the defenseman just arrived from the Bruins in the offseason. He is a real leader, though, and he has a Cup ring on his finger. It’s an excellent pick, and I especially like that they went that way instead of going with washed up Ryan Smyth or rushing along Taylor Hall or Jordan Eberle. The young players have enough to worry about right now without having to try to be a captain as well.
The Kings will cruise in the Pacific
Anaheim could be decent, and San Jose and Vancouver need to act before their windows close. In my eyes, though, there is no team in that division that is even remotely in the class of the LA. Kings. They have the best goalie in the league, depth, experience, and hunger after a frustrating year last season. It is a cliché to say, but at this point it appears that the only team that can beat the Kings in this division is the Kings.
Dallas will be an upstart
No team has been any more aggressive in their offseason overhaul than the Stars. They changed up their front office and brought in Lindy Ruff to coach the team — great moves all around. They stole Tyler Seguin from the Bruins, and they are generally a more talented, younger team than they have been. There are gambles for sure with what they have done, but those gambles will pay off handsomely. They are not a legitimate Cup contender yet, but there is a real chance that this team will host a playoff series in the opening round. For a team that was at the bottom of their division last year, that would be a remarkable step forward.
The Blackhawks will win the West
There is always the risk of a hangover after a Stanley Cup win. In fact, it is really the norm. I’m far less concerned about that here than with other teams recently, though. The biggest reason is that the Blackhawks suffered the biggest of hangovers after their last Cup win. The core of this team is basically the same as that one, though, so they know what went wrong and how to avoid the frustration and disappointment of their last win. As they proved last year, they are a wildly-talented team that is the class of their conference. They are well-coached, deep, and ready. They will beat the Kings in a Western Final for the ages.
Pittsburgh wins the Metropolitan. And the East. And the Cup.
The title pretty much says it all here. This is the team to beat, and I don’t see anyone beating them. They were on a roll last year, but then a combination of factors — some chemistry experiments that failed at the trade deadline, the Crosby injury, and a profound failure in net in the playoffs — conspired to lead to disappointment. This year they are healthy, they have a better thought-out roster, and they are very hungry after the embarrassment of their exit last year. Fleury will be improved in net as well. This is the year the Penguins put it all together again, and the year that Sidney Crosby finally has another healthy, all-World season.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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