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The Straight Edge: The if-less predictions

The Sharks once again look to be the West's top dog. (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)

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The Sharks once again look to be the West's top dog. (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s an important time of year for pundits, bloggers and other media types. Predicting the NHL standings can put your name in lights (or at least hyperlinks), should you choose to make a bold prediction. Detroit will miss the playoffs! The Islanders will be better than the Rangers!

Rarely do these sentiments come true and half the time and I wonder if said pundits believe them themselves when they write them. With that in mind, I bring to you the Dullest Predictions in the World.

That’s right, I’m ranking all 30 teams based on Cold Dead Facts, with no “if ‘x’ happens, the team will succeed,” no hunches, no nuthin’.

This is what we know and all things being equal (i.e. injuries), this is how the 2009-10 season will shake out.

Division winners are ranked in the top three spots, as in reality.

WESTERN CONFERENCE
15. Phoenix – Kids grow in front of supportive crowds, not wounded, half-empty ones.
14. Edmonton – This team has nothing but “if” scenarios to hang its hopes on.
13. Colorado – Aging defense and a lot of young faces on offense will be in tough.
12. Los Angeles – Still don’t have a great, experienced goalie. Year 5 of me saying that.
11. Minnesota – Not enough talent to back up new offensive style.
10. Nashville – Great defense and goaltending, but more offense needed.
9. Columbus – Leaning so heavily on Steve Mason, a dicey proposition for second year.
8. Dallas – Regardless of how you feel about Marc Crawford, healthy Stars are good.
7. St. Louis – Exciting youngsters plus Paul Kariya will mean no playoff sweep again.
6. Calgary – Offensive depth Flames’ only blemish.
5. Chicago – Off-season turmoil and reliance on Huet a little worrisome, but not a lot.
4. Anaheim – They needed a second line; they went out and got one.
3. Detroit – Only third because their tough division will leech points away.
2. Vancouver – Weak division will have inverse effect; Canucks stacked, too.
1. San Jose – Because they’re still really good, playoffs be damned.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

15. Islanders – Did nothing to upgrade forwards surrounding Tavares.
14. Florida – Getting worse (except Booth and Frolik) while everyone else gets better.
13. Buffalo – See Florida, but with Vanek and Roy trumping Horton and Weiss.
12. Atlanta – Slightly better than last year, but goaltending still a big concern.
11. Ottawa – Currently have four good forwards, one of whom wants to leave.
10. Toronto – Improved ‘D’ and goaltending puts rebuild at two-thirds done.
9. Rangers – Hate to bet against Lundqvist, but guys in front of him too shaky.
8. Tampa Bay – Sick offense, rebuilt defense, good-enough goaltending.
7. Montreal – Enough pieces to get them into post-season, as short as those pieces are.
6. New Jersey – Devils players always buy into the system, even if ‘D’ corps is waning.
5. Carolina – Addressed only big shortcoming: toughness on defense.
4. Pittsburgh – Only one team can win the Atlantic and Pens have played a lot lately.
3. Boston – Carryover injuries and potential Kessel loss will slow them – but not much.
2. Washington – Varlamov and Neuvirth cover any Theodore unravelings.
1. Philadelphia – Loaded on offense and defense; Emery knows how to hold the fort.

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Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear regularly in the off-season, his column - The Straight Edge - every Friday, and his feature, The Hot List appears Tuesdays. 

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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