With the 2013-14 NHL season now just a month away from beginning, I thought I’d offer up my predictions as to how the regular season will play out. With the new divisions and playoff format coming into play this year, it should be interesting to see which teams benefit and which teams do not.
Here are my Western Conference division predictions.
The Kings have enough talent and skill to be one of the best teams in hockey. The past 2 seasons they have really disappointed in the regular season, so maybe this will be their year.
I had a tough time trying to decide where I should place the Ducks. The loss of Bobby Ryan will hurt, but their acquisition of Dustin Penner will help. Also, they have Selanne back for one more year. Personally, I think this team will go as its goaltending goes.
The Sharks got off to a hot start last season, and then faded off a bit until the playoffs came around. In the postseason they got hot again and were one win from the WCF. This team is getting old with guys like Thornton and Marleau, but they still have some elite talent.
I think we’re going to see the Canucks fade a little bit this season. There is just too much uncertainty with them right now. How will John Tortorella do in his first year there? Will Luongo have a “bounce-back” season? They have a ton of skill, but I don’t know that they’ll put it all together.
This is a team that could finish higher than I have them placed here. Edmonton has been stockpiling high draft picks for quite a while now, and I think this could be the year that they finally turn the corner and put together a winning season. The acquisitions of Andrew Ference, David Perron, and Boyd Gordon should help a lot.
I think it may be a while before we see the Coyotes back in the postseason. They had their run if you ask me. However, anytime you have Mike Smith as your starting goalie, you have a chance to win.
The Flames are in a definite rebuilding phase right now. Don’t expect much from them for a few years.
The defending champs will return this season with pretty much the same roster that they won the Cup with last season. Losing Bolland and Frolik will force new guys to step up on the PK, but I don’t think they’ll have a problem with that. Brandon Pirri could be a very key piece to this team’s success, and Corey Crawford’s play will once again determine just how good this team can be.
Many people have the Blues winning it all this season. I don’t. They’ll be a very good team, but I still don’t think that they have the offensive firepower that is needed to overtake the Blackhawks in this division or win the Cup.
The Wild were a big disappointment last season for most people. To me, they did just what I thought they’d do. Prior to getting Parise and Suter, they were a mediocre team. With those two, they were a bit better than the year before. This season, they’ve added Keith Ballard to the blue line (a big acquisition in my opinion), and they signed Matt Cooke to be replace Cal Clutterbuck. They’ll also have Jason Pominville for the entire season, barring injury. If Backstrom and Harding stay healthy in goal, the Wild could be a good team.
I feel like the Stars are being underrated by most NHL analysts. Most experts are predicting a bad year for Dallas, but I think this team could be a possible playoff contender. They lost Loui Eriksson via trade, but they added Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley in the same deal. Peverley is a good faceoff center, and Seguin has a ton of potential upside to his game. Not to mention they signed Shawn Horcoff, whose past leadership role in Edmonton should help with this team. Their biggest weakness is their defense.
This will be the Jets’ first year in the Western Conference, and I’m still unsure as to whether or not that’s a good or bad thing for them (on the ice). They made a push for the playoffs last season, but came up short over the last few weeks. Their team this season is much better than last year’s with their acquisitions over the summer, but I am not ready to put a whole lot of confidence in the Jets just yet. They are somewhat of a mystery team to me at this point.
Here’s another case of a team with a lot of young talent that under-performed last season. I don’t think they’ll be a playoff team, but they should be better than they were a year ago. I’m excited to see how Nathan Mackinnon does in his first NHL season.
Every year the Predators seem to be underrated by everyone. And every year Pekka Rinne almost single-handedly gets this team into the playoff race. This year will be different. I don’t see Nashville having a whole lot of success in the improved Western Conference this season.
1. Kings 2. Ducks 3. Sharks
1. Blackhawks 2. Blues 3. Wild
Wild Card teams:
1. Canucks 2. Oilers
I’ll have my Eastern Conference predictions posted sometime in the next few days.