It’s the start of a new year… and as always the most intriguing question is… well… who is going to win? Let’s see what our Grindliners staff thinks will happen this upcoming season. Up first, the Pacific Division.
1. Division winner: Vancouver Canucks: Now that Cory Schnieder is in New Jersey, Roberto Luongo will finally be able to breathe easy and just play hockey. This will be a bounce back year for Vancouver, but especially Luongo.
2. Division runner up: San Jose Sharks: This could be the final season that the “core” in San Jose will be together. They’ve underachieved for years, and while I see that happening in the playoffs, I don’t see it happening in the regular season. Joe Thornton will once again lead this team in points, and pull the rest of the team up to his talent level.
3. – 5. Middle of the pack: Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes, Edmonton Oilers: The Kings are a team that should be better, but that seems to be their M.O. I see Phoenix bouncing back into the playoff picture with the addition of Mike Ribero and I see Edmonton finally making a true push for the playoffs.
6. – 7. Bottom feeders: Anahiem Ducks: The loss of Bobby Ryan will sting harder than anyone will be able to predict, and while it was a move that everyone knew was going to happen it should not have; at least yet.
Calgary Flames: They are going to be a mess this year as they look to rebuild.
Joe Thornton: He’s been a point per game player his entire career and I see him doing better then that one more time as he lifts San Jose on his back for one last run at the Stanley Cup.
Anze Kopitar: One of the most underrated two way players in the game will have his work cut out for him with a team that likes to under perform. But, he’s talented and entering the prime of his career, you should feel confident in seeing a point per game out of him.
Teemu Selanne: At the age of 42 we start to see his numbers dip to true role player levels. I do think he will have flashes of the old younger player he used to be, but in the end it won’t be enough to get him over 40 points for the season.
1. 1. Division Winner: Los Angeles Kings: I see a bounce back year out of the Kings. Their offense is due to re-ignite. Kopitar is in his prime. Quick had a mediocre season last year, but had a strong postseason, and he’ll be focused early with the starting job for Team USA in the Olympics up for grabs.
2. 2. Runner Up: Vancouver Canucks: John Tortorella will be a good kind of distraction for this team, unlike with the Rangers. He’ll be able to distract from the goaltending fiasco and also get his gritty style working with the bottom few lines, leading to a deeper team that will take the focus off of Kesler and the Sedin twins.
3. 3. -5. Middle of the Pack: San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks, Edmonton Oilers: It’s an important year for the Sharks with some contracts coming up this summer, but it’s still a team with two very good scoring lines. I think last year’s strong start was a bit of a fluke for the Ducks. I think they are a decent team, but their usual inconsistency will put them on the playoff bubble in a top heavy Pacific Division. The Kings, Sharks, Canucks, and Ducks have all proven themselves with strong regular seasons and postseasons in recent years. I haven’t seen much evidence that Edmonton is ready to push one of the teams ranked above it out of the playoff picture.
6. 6. – 7. Bottom Feeders: Phoenix Coyotes: They were on the outside looking in last year, and all they landed this offseason was Mike Ribeiro. They will be a decent team, but in this division, I just don’t see them making the playoffs.
7. Calgary Flames: Odds on favorite to finish at the bottom of the division, and it’s a pretty safe bet.
Anze Kopitar: He had an off playoffs, but should be entering the season in his prime. I fully expect a ppg campaign out of him. The only potential downside is how often he is used defensively. He does a lot of the good stuff that doesn’t show up on the scoresheet, but he’s still a good pick in any league.
Teemu Selanne: This is hard to write, because I think Teemu is the man. But a 42 year old powerplay specialist? Take him with caution.
Mike Ribeiro: He was a stud on the powerplay with Ovechkin and co. last year. But, he was fighting for a 4 year contract (he wanted to finish his career in one place) and again, he had Ovechkin to pass to. Someone will likely take him higher than he should be taken in a fantasy league.