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Screen Shots: The final picks

Adam Proteau
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The Hockey News
News

Screen Shots: The final picks

Adam Proteau
By:

With my NHL division previews and predictions now archived for all to laugh at and lampoon over the coming decades (see them HERE), the only start-of-season task that remains is posting my overall conference picks.

Before we get to them, a couple notes: First, the effect of the league's preposterous, unbalanced schedule definitely was a key factor in my choices. It explains, among other picks, why Detroit gets the nod for first in the West, why Ottawa wins out over Pittsburgh in the East, why Nashville and Toronto make the playoffs and Minnesota and New Jersey do not.

Second: as an added twist – and as an acknowledgement to the ever-increasing unpredictability of any team's performance from year to year – I'm going to outline a range of potential final conference standings for every team. Hopefully, this will greatly cut down the volume of bitchage and whinery that comes my way.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

1. Detroit:
Class of Central still has what it takes – i.e., Lidstrom, Hasek and ZetterSyuk – to romp through regular season.

Best possible conference finish: 1st in West
Worst Case Scenario: 7th in West

2. Anaheim:
No Selanne? No Niedermayer? No sweat for deep Ducks.

Best possible conference finish: 1st in West
Worst Case Scenario: 6th in West

3. Calgary:
Keenan experiment pays major dividends, especially for Iginla, Phaneuf.

Best possible conference finish: 2nd in West
Worst Case Scenario: 8th in West

4. San Jose:
Youngsters won't be leaned on nearly so heavily once in-season trades put Sharks over the top.

Best possible conference finish: 1st in West
Worst Case Scenario: 5th in West

5. Vancouver:
League's stingiest back end needs help from questionable forward unit.

Best possible conference finish: 3rd in West
Worst Case Scenario: 10th in West

6. St. Louis:
Underrated defense corps, development of young players helps Blues bounce back to post-season.

Best possible conference finish: 5th in West
Worst Case Scenario: 10th in West

7. Colorado:
Late-season addition of Forsberg gives Avs extra push into playoffs.

Best possible conference finish: 5th in West
Worst Case Scenario: 9th in West

8. Nashville:
Coaching, Weber help stop Preds from falling completely out of playoff picture. But not by much.

Best possible conference finish: 6th in West
Worst Case Scenario: 11th in West

9. Minnesota:
Ultra-tough Northwest division wears down, squeezes out talented-but-timid Wild.

Best possible conference finish: 4th in West
Worst Case Scenario: 10th in West

10. Los Angeles:
Output from youngsters, not newly added free agents, will dictate how far Kings propel up conference chart.

Best possible conference finish: 7th in West
Worst Case Scenario: 11th in West

11. Dallas:
Divisional, conference opponents have improved; aging Stars squad hasn't.

Best possible conference finish: 7th in West
Worst Case Scenario: 12th in West

12. Chicago:
Tons of young talent, but team toughness, durability are major question marks.

Best possible conference finish: 8th in West
Worst Case Scenario: 13th in West

13. Edmonton:
Finding stability after late-season tailspin will be tough enough for a young group still seeking out its identity.

Best possible conference finish: 8th in West
Worst Case Scenario: 14th in West

14. Columbus:
Blue Jackets need career years from Nash, Zherdev and Leclaire for a playoff berth. One or two of those performances is possible, but three? Me no think so.

Best possible conference finish: 10th in West
Worst Case Scenario: 15th in West

15. Phoenix:
‘Yotes woefully low on proven NHL talent; how much is one hockey legend expected to take before snapping and/or quitting?

Best possible conference finish: 11th in West
Worst Case Scenario: 15th in West

EASTERN CONFERENCE

1. Ottawa:
Little has changed for speedy, slick Sens; Redden and Meszaros must create more offense if Cup hopes are to be realized.

Best possible conference finish: 1st in East
Worst Case Scenario: 4th in East

2. Pittsburgh:
Fleury, defensemen under the gun to produce, but it could be coach Michel Therrien who pays price if Pens falter early.

Best possible conference finish: 1st in East
Worst Case Scenario: 7th in East

3. Washington:
Few think the Caps can be this good this quick. But that's what they said about Pittsburgh last season.

Best possible conference finish: 3rd in East
Worst Case Scenario: 10th in East

4. New York Rangers:
Blueshirts the bees' knees on offense. Somewhat suspect defense corps the ultimate decider of their fate.

Best possible conference finish: 1st in East
Worst Case Scenario: 6th in East

5. Buffalo:
Key personnel losses may slow down Sabres' juggernaut, but team depth ensures more post-season play. Once there, underdog status should help them.

Best possible conference finish: 2nd in East
Worst Case Scenario: 7th in East

6. Atlanta:
Pivot-poor team also needs help on blueline. A prolonged slump by Hossa, Lehtonen or Kovalchuk could result in Thrashers missing playoffs.

Best possible conference finish: 3rd in East
Worst Case Scenario: 9th in East

7. Philadelphia:
New-look Flyers will be a handful every night; If Biron falters, Niittymaki not exactly a reassuring backup.

Best possible conference finish: 4th in East
Worst Case Scenario: 9th in East

8. Toronto:
Erratic Leafs again will be life-and-death for playoffs. Early home stretch determines GM Ferguson's future.

Best possible conference finish: 6th in East
Worst Case Scenario: 12th in East

9. New Jersey:
Departure of Rafalski hurts Lou's Crew more than the departure of Gomez; Brodeur's odometer starting to become an issue.

Best possible conference finish: 5th in East
Worst Case Scenario: 10th in East

10. Florida:
It's the post-season or bust for this group – or, at least, for Olli Jokinen, who's rapidly closing in on Panthers' assistant coach Guy Charron's record for most regular-season NHL games played without a playoff appearance.

Best possible conference finish: 3rd in East
Worst Case Scenario: 12th in East

11. Carolina:
If any team needed good health, it's this one. Ward's dominance in net – which led them to a Cup in 2006, but was notably absent last year – is crucial to their post-season hopes.

Best possible conference finish: 3rd in East
Worst Case Scenario: 12th in East

12. New York Islanders:
Isles fans hoping bench boss extraordinaire Ted Nolan can pull off another miracle with patchwork collection of prospects, mid-tier veterans.

Best possible conference finish: 8th in East
Worst Case Scenario: 14th in East

13. Tampa Bay:
Boyle injury just one of numerous and significant hurdles Bolts must clear to avoid breaking up elite trio of star forwards.

Best possible conference finish: 7th in East
Worst Case Scenario: 14th in East

14. Boston:
Even with new coach Julien, Bruins still lacking sense of direction. Stopping the practice of giving up on young players would help.

Best possible conference finish: 8th in East
Worst Case Scenario: 15th in East

15. Montreal:
Habs have talent, but sorely lack size, grit possessed by genuine Cup contenders.

Best possible conference finish: 8th in East
Worst Case Scenario: 15th in East

Adam Proteau's Screen Shots appears every Thursday only on thehockeynews.com. Want to take a shot at Adam Proteau? You can reach him at aproteau@thehockeynews.com or through our Ask Adam feature. And be sure to check out Proteau's Blog for daily insight on the world of hockey.

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Screen Shots: The final picks