Welcome back for another season with Isles Talk everyone! As customary I always begin the year with a different look than other traditional predictions. I will include what I think the teams potential could be, but I also try to give an idea as to where the teams are as organizations on a whole, especially with their depth. I haven’t used advanced stats for predictions over the past 13 years of doing this because if there is a certain team that drops, it’s usually the case that everyone else got it wrong as well. I do believe the Eastern Conference will be influenced by the Atlantic Division and you’ll see that as my theme this year. As I have done in years past I don’t go 1-15, but I’ll classify each team into four different categories: Lottery, Sophomores, Bubble and Core teams. So without further delay let’s get started!!
LOTTERY TEAM: Not a guarantee that this team will be last in the NHL, but they’re the least likeliest team to make the playoffs. There are two in the east.
Ottawa Senators (62-67 points): Let the rebuild begin. The only way the Sens move up is if some other team is injured and they don’t have enough talent/depth to keep them afloat. I don’t think Ottawa is going to be this bad, but when you have a potential 5, maybe even 6 teams vying for a playoff spot……..
Detroit Red Wings (70-75 points): Steve Yzerman will take his time and evaluate what he has on the ice and go from there. The Wings are in the same spot as the Sens: Too tough of a division to go up and the Wings just don’t have enough talent to compete all season. Should see Yzerman busy at the trade deadline.
SOPHOMORE TEAM: Just like in high school, they’re just here and I have no idea where to put them because no one knows what they are just yet. I would like to note that usually there’s around one team in this group that does make the playoffs.
Columbus Blue Jackets (72-77 points): I’m rooting for the Jackets this year, but with a lack of offensive numbers and a severe lack of knowledge of what their goalies can do over a full season, I just can’t put them any higher right now. Could they be better? Sure. I say this with the upmost respect: Prove me and everyone else wrong.
Buffalo Sabres (77-82 points): I’ll say this now, if the Sabres can’t win with Jack Eichel this year, they should look into trading him and move on. Ryan O’Rielly asked to get traded and he wins the Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup. Robin Lehner isn’t brought back and he’s a vezina finalist. This team could be so much better than people are giving right now, but it’s on Eichel to lead the way. If he can’t dominate, get what you can for him because the Sabres will be no better than the Wings and Sens.
New York Rangers (80-85 points): The Rangers remind me of the Leafs a few years back: A lot of new faces, rookies, questionable goaltending and they’re in a big hockey market with enough positive hype to blur out the defects. The Leafs also had Mike Babcock to guide them through. David Quinn is no Babcock, and like the Leafs the Rangers are now in a win-now mode because they got lucky at the draft and free agency.
New Jersey Devils (82-87 points): The Devils kind of remind me of the mid to late 80’s Islanders: couple of really good players, some still in the tail end of their prime, younger players have moved in to await the torch being passed to them, and you just don’t know how good they could be. Like the 80’s Islanders, health is of the upmost importance. Can the older players stay healthy and keep up with he kids? Can the goalie tandem stick around for a full season? The healthier they are, the more points they’ll rack up. If I had to pick anyone out of this group to make the playoffs, I’m running with the Devils.
BUBBLE TEAMS: These teams should be good to make the playoffs but are on the fringe. Could definitely see some of these teams active in the trade front and can also be major factors or favorites to go deep in the playoffs.
Montreal Canadiens (82-87 points): I feel like they’re now the Columbus Blue Jackets of a few years ago. Just like the Jackets relied on Bob to get them to the big dance, Montreal will go as far as Carey Price. I feel they did not do enough over the summer to get over Florida, Boston, Tampa and Toronto, however they’re not bad enough to put them any lower in the standings because of who’s below them. They’ll need to keep pace all season long and see if another team slips.
Philadelphia Flyers (92-97 points): This team has the Carolina Hurricanes written all over them in the fact that I don’t trust them. Alain Vigneault alone should have a structure in place that the Flyers are a 90 point team. If the Flyers find any kind of controlled consistency, they’ll be a threat all season. Watch them closely.
Florida Panthers (92-97 points): The team looks like a Florida version to the Boston Bruins. Just like Tampa is the envy of Toronto, Florida is to the Bruins. Goaltending should not be an issue anymore and there’s just too many two-way heavy players on this team, not to mention a hall of fame coach in Quenneville. They could go as high as 2nd, but let’s see if numbers really lie.
Pittsburgh Penguins (95-100 points): If the Florida Panthers were in the Metro, the Penguins would not be in this spot right now. This is simply out of respect for Crosby, Malkin, Letang and the other young kids. I’ve seen a dynasty fall and Pittsburgh will make their case to stay alive. Unfortunately for them, their time has come and gone.
THE CORE TEAMS: These are the teams that even with injuries, there’s enough talent/depth that these six teams should make the playoffs in some capacity.
Carolina Hurricanes (97-102 points): There’s enough organizational talent/depth to keep them going and make the playoffs once again, which is usually a rare case for them. Will losing Faulk and for now, Justin Williams, two core guys hamper any success? We’ll see, but we need to see who the new face of the Carolina Hurricanes is going to be.
Boston Bruins (97-102 points): Tougher divsion and Stanley Cup hangover will be the only demises of the Bruins. I’m expecting the B’s to pace themselves again and be fresh for another long playoff run.
New York Islanders (100-105 points): The Isles brought everyone back, save for Filppula and Lehner, who were replaced by Derick Brassard and Semyon Varlamov. I’ll dig deeper into the Isles on another piece, but the system works and ALL of the players have bought into it. Another difference? They’re all on the same page to start the season.
Toronto Maple Leafs (105-110 points): There hasn’t been a team that have two players averaging 10 million dollars or more make the playoffs, and the Leafs have three players averaging over 11 on a 95 million dollar budget? They’ll be the first if they can pull it off, or it’ll be an epic collapse. All that money still won’t get them past the Bruins and you can now include Florida in that mix. Sorry (Not really).
Washington Capitals (102-107 points): They’re the divisional champs until they’re dethroned. Cap issues had this team restructure the players a bit, so some of the core Cup players were either traded or have moved on to other teams. Again like Pittsburgh last year, I’m putting the Capitals in first out of respect…..Tick Tock…..Tick Tock….That’s the sound of Father time creeping up on the Caps….
Tampa Bay Lightning (110-115 points): Your regular season no longer counts. Show us what you can do in the playoffs.
Leave your comments below and tell what you think. You can follow me on twitter @P_Kreischer