2013 NHL Season Preview

As the nation has gotten caught up in the beginning of football season and the dramatic conclusion of the regular season in baseball, sports is back in a big way. But all of a sudden, people wake up today and BOOM, it’s October, yes that means playoff baseball but it also means that the NHL drops the puck on their regular season tonight… what? yep, that’s right it’s hockey season already. Perhaps a bit sooner than normal, gotta find a way to squeeze some extra games in with the Olympics this year, but alas the zambonis are movin’, sticks are taped, and clean sheets of ice await 30 teams across North America. It’s hockey season!

Let’s get right to it, lots of new faces in new places, but the real story here is division realignment. Detroit’s no longer in the West, Columbus too, and somehow Boston and Montreal find themselves new local rivals in… FLORIDA? yes, it will take some getting used to, but new rivalries will take shape, and we’ll all get used to Washington and Carolina being in the same division as the Atlantic teams from PA, NY and NJ. Enough already, let’s jump into some pre-season picks:

METROPOLITAN
1. Penguins*
2. Rangers*
3. Capitals*
4. Devils*
5. Flyers*
6. Islanders
7. Blue Jackets
8. Hurricanes
* indicates playoff team
This division combines some intrastate rivalries with some new blood. The Ovechkin v Crosby thing will get new life, but my sense is that the newcomers will be a bit surprised at how competitive things are in this division. Teams like Pittsburgh, New York and Philly are all used to grinding out games late in the season against division rivals. The Caps have simply coasted through the Southeast in recent years. Perhaps Adam Oates and pick up where he left off and get that offense back to prominence.

ATLANTIC
1. Canadiens*
2. Bruins*
3. Senators*
4. Red Wings
5. Maple Leafs
6. Lightning
7. Sabres
8. Panthers
Yes it seems like a mish-mosh of teams but the original 5 from the Northeast simply get an O-6 team in Detroit, plus two from the Southleast. The Tim Thomas tending the net across the team he won a Cup with is the most tantalizing storyline for me, but Alfredsson v Ottawa is another juicy one. This looks like it could be a really physical division night in and night out.

CENTRAL
1. Blackhawks*
2. Blues*
3. Predators*
4. Stars*
5. Wild
6. Jets
7. Avalanche
This seems like an easy division to call, but after the Hawks, we don’t really know what to expect from a lot of these teams. Many pundits are high on St. Louis, but they also were last year and that season saw more than a few highs and lows. Nashville and Dallas look like revamped clubs to me. Deeper lines make for better hockey teams and I think both are ready to compete in 2013-14.

PACIFIC
1. Kings*
2. Ducks*
3. Sharks*
4. Canucks*
5. Oilers
6. Coyotes
7. Flames
This could be the most difficult division in hockey to predict. The Kings and Ducks SHOULD be good, and the Sharks are a sleeper pick for many (as always), but in the end there are so many question marks surrounding Vancouver, Edmonton, and the rest of the bunch.

After that we come to the post-season. In the East, the Penguins are a popular pick to make is back to the conference finals, while the Capitals would be a team I think could get over the hump this year. While the Hawks are a really solid team, it’s just going to be really hard for these guys to do it again. This time around I like the Sharks defeating the rival Kings in the Western Finals. I really think Pittsburgh will be punching through teams to battle to the Cup this year especially after the embarrassment of getting swept in the Conference Finals last season, so I’ll take the Pens over the Sharks in the Cup Finals

Finally, instead of making boring prognostications like “Stamkos will win the Rocket Richard” or “Jose Theodore will win the Vezina” (it happened folks), I am going to do something a little different this year:

10 BOLD PREDICTIONS FOR THE 2013-14 NHL SEASON
- No Penguin player will lead the NHL in scoring
- Brad Richards finds new life on the wing and returns to scoring ways
- Martin Brodeur retires at the season’s end
- Blues go into the season as a potential Cup contender, but lose in the 1st round of the playoffs
- The Sharks squeeze into the playoffs, and then make a deep run
- Alex Ovechkin makes another run at 60 goals (with more than half coming on the PP)
- Maple Leafs start a new streak of season’s without a playoff appearance
- Marc Andre Fleury leads the league in wins
- Luongo will be in Vezina talk at season’s end
- Peter Laviolette is the first NHL coach fired, but the Flyers still make the playoffs

1 NOT SO BOLD PREDICTION
- The NHL has ice problems at the outdoor game between the Ducks and Kings

Well, that about wraps it up folks. I hope everyone enjoys the season, and that the Olympics are a welcome addition to the hockey calendar as always.

Time to Play a Little NFL Over/Under

So each year I’m looking for different stuff to bet on. A few years back, one of my friends convinced me to bet the coin toss at the Super Bowl, while we got a little carried away, Heads prevailed but I still felt silly for gambling on such a meaningless thing. So let’s look at something more meaningful… Team wins and losses! Below I’ve listed Vegas’ lines for total team wins applicable to the 2013 Regular Season. Here goes nothing:

Arizona Cardinals – Over 5½
While Carson Palmer isn’t striking fear into the hearts of many opponents, the Cards’ defense is good

Atlanta Falcons – Under 10
I’m going out on a limb here, but the Falcons looked shaky in the pre-season and play a tough schedule

Baltimore Ravens – Under 8½
Super Bowl hangover, not to mention all the weapons they lost

Buffalo Bills – Under 6½ 
EJ Manuel could be the next rookie sensation, but he’s already banged up

Carolina Panthers – Under 7
I have a feeling this is the year it all blows up for Cam Newton.

Chicago Bears – Under 8½
Speaking of it all blowing up, how long is Cutler going to last with that O-line?

Cincinnati Bengals – Over 8½
This would be my lock of the century, Cinnci could be playing for a first round bye this year

Cleveland Browns – Under 6
While 6 is a reasonable expectation, they still have to play the Ravens, Steelers and Bengals for 6 games

Dallas Cowboys – Over 8½
This is my sleeper team of the year. Revamped defense and a Romo looking to disprove the nay-sayers

Denver Broncos – Under 11½
13 wins was impressive last term, tougher schedule this year, but 11 wins still wins the division with ease

Detroit Lions – Over 8
The addition of Reggie Bush was clutch, remove some bad breaks last year and this is a playoff team

Green Bay Packers – Under 10½
10 wins is likely, great offense but injuries and a questionable Defense keep them from a better record

Houston Texans – Under 10½
Texans have some really great players but I’m concerned about Arian Foster’s health, and he’s their bread & butter

Indianapolis Colts – Over 8½
Some people are sleeping on this team, I wouldn’t, not with Luck on their side (sorry bad pun, apologies)

Jacksonville Jaguars – Under 5
Will struggle to get to 3 wins,even with a healthy MJD

Kansas City Chiefs – Over 7½
My sleeper pick in the AFC. There’s a ton of question marks here but the combo of Andy Reid and Alex Smith could surprise some people

Miami Dolphins – Push 8
I’m not as keen as some others, Tannehill is too inconsistent, they’re the second best team in the AFC East though.

Minnesota Vikings – Under 7½
Last year was a fluke, plain and simple. Teams that limit Peterson even just a little will confound the Vikes’ offense

New England Patriots – Over 11
Brady will be Brady, no matter who he’s throwing to.

New Orleans Saints – Over 9
Sean Payton and co. will be back for revenge, Expect the Saints to contend for a division title

New York Giants – Under 9
Injuries already a concern, and Eli was less than effective late in the year last season.

New York Jets – Under 6½
This could be the worst team in football. I’ll refrain from commenting on the stories already beaten to death

Oakland Raiders – Under 5½
Rebuilding years rarely produce more than 5 wins. Terrel Pryor is not the answer

Philadelphia Eagles – Over 7½
I think Chip Kelly could catch some teams off guard and rattle off a few early season victories

Pittsburgh Steelers – Under 9
This looks to be the poorest Steelers team in recent memory. Coaching staff will face major questions throughout the season

San Diego Chargers – Under 7½
A confusing team to peg down, but with an increasingly shaky Rivers at the helm it’s more likely to go south.

San Francisco 49ers – Under 11
I think 11 wins sounds just about right, but also think Kaepernick could face a few growing pains along the way

Seattle Seahawks – Over 10½
While I think Seattle is being a bit over-hyped, I still like them to finish the year with a solid record. Can almost bank on 8 home wins off the bat

St. Louis Rams – Under 7½
While I really like the Rams’ chances of being a sleeper team, there are just too many areas of weakness on offense. This could also be the most competitive NFL division

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Under 7½
I think Freeman loses his job at some point this year. Revis can only guard one guy at a time on defense

Tennessee Titans – Under 6½
Jake Locker looked like a QB with potential a few years back, now I can only envision him holding  a clipboard

Washington Redskins – Under 8½
I can see this team winning 10 games this year, but in their division and with the health of RGIII in question odds favor a slight drop, 8-8 is more realistic

BONUS
The week 1 match-up between the Falcons and Saints looks to be a shootout, take the over (54 pts)
So that’s that. We’ll check back at season’s end to see how we did.

2013/14 Premier League Kits – the Best and the Worst

Best

#5 WEST BROM – BOTH: Adidas didn’t do too much to mess this one up. Colors on both strips look nice, and the finished product pops on both (unlike Stoke’s offense)

#4- CRYSTAL PALACE – BOTH: Fans are happy about the return of the two-toned half and half look, while the sash on the away strip is equally popular

#3- CHELSEA – HOME: while other top clubs like Man United and Arsenal have had some very lackluster kit variations in recent years, Chelsea has retained a classy yet modern look year after year

#2- MAN CITY – AWAY: while Nike has muddled with overly simple (bland) designs as of late, this one is a stylish yet imposing look.

#1- ARSENAL – AWAY: I’m not an Arsenal fan, and often don’t like their kits, especially since moving to Nike, but this one is what Gunners fans have been waiting for. An ode to the days of glory, with an overall sharp presentation featuring the old-school alternate color scheme.

 

WORST

#5- ASTON VILLA – AWAY: while some like the look, most people are not fans. Luckily, not the worst geometric second kit on the list…

#4 CARDIFF- HOME: this misstep is all in the non-matching shorts. Management finally caved and moved to black shorts after this ruby-red with brick-red turned into a minor uprising.

#3 HULL CITY- AWAY: Yep, this is Hull City, the Tigers famously wearing their black and oran…. wait, huh?

#2 SWANSEA – AWAY: After such a success with both home and away kits last year, they pulled a near 180 for 2013/14. Home strip isn’t terrible, but many people are questioning their thinking with the gold and purple change kit.

#1 LIVERPOOL – BOTH ALTERNATES : the Reds’ second kit was instantly panned, especially after Jose Enrique’s less than excited pose with the new design…

their third kit maybe isn’t as bad because it doesn’t look like the players are in need of a Rolaids or Pepcid. Regardless, this kit looks like the Villa kit (see #5) and went all Picasso on it.

April… Opening Day Highlights an Underrated Sports Month

Every year, February rolls around and the sports world lets out a big collective sigh. The NFL season wraps up, the NHL and NBA are both still a month away from the stretch run, not much to talk about in the way of golf, tennis, etc. But then March rolls around… College Basketball kicks into high gear, playoff hunts start to tighten up in basketball and hockey, and most importantly, Spring Training arrives. As long as the baseball season might be, the off-season absence of America’s pastime seems even longer. Hot-stove chatter and free agency is enjoyable, but nothing beats the ability to go out and watch a game, and breathe in the sport so many of us love… baseball.

For millions of people across our fair nation, baseball is the end-all-be-all of sports. While the NFL grabs the highest TV ratings, snags the big sponsorships, and rakes in the most money, there’s still something about our beloved baseball that Roger Goodell and company can’t touch. Nostalgic, historic, poetic and timeless… words that are deeply ensconced in the game. As a kid, baseball signified not only that spring was here, but also that summer was just around the corner. Baseball is also a game in which things like father-son relationships are built on (in America at least). I’d be willing to bet my next paycheck that if you asked 100 random men on the street, more than 75 have been to a baseball game with either their dad, their son, or both. Baseball has survived multiple wars; World War 1 & 2, the War on Terror, and the war on steroids. In the end, Baseball stands the test of time. Where else would you rather be on a warm April afternoon than in a foldout seat at your local ballpark with a hot dog in one hand, a cold beverage in the other, and a bag of peanuts/crackerjacks on deck?

These are just some of the reasons why the arrival of April signifies so much… not only will the weather be warming up, so will sports. The NCAA Final Four wraps up, the Masters takes place, and both NBA & NHL teams will push for the playoffs.

To me, Opening Day is not only the start of it all, but also the icing on the cake. It’s day that signifies so much, including the hope that this could be the year… you know what I’m talking about Red Sox fans… Play ball!

Read more on Whitsport’s take on what to expect for the upcoming 2013 MLB Season

Premier League Outlook: Final Third

OFFICIAL 2/3rd PREMIER LEAGUE PREVIEW

Now that the Premier League season is about 2/3rds of the way through, the picture is beginning to clear up. Upon the season’s kickoff, most pundits figured it would be a Manchester battle for the title, and that’s exactly where we stand again today. Man City, the defending champions, have enjoyed a spell of successful football in December and January, but still trail the pace-setters Man United by 7 points. While the January transfer window comes to a close, there are only a few moves that will drastically shape the final layout of the league table. So we can really begin to assess what each team can do in their last 14 games

At this point in the season, clubs have different goals: to win the Premier League, qualify for a European spot, make the top half of the table, or to just stay afloat. Each result is crucial, and to some, holding on for draws is good enough, while for others, it could be the different between holding a trophy and coming home empty handed. Here’s how I see things playing out the rest of the way.

Prediction: Final Standings

Place Club Points
1 Manchester United 88
2 Manchester City 83
3 Tottenham 67
4 Chelsea 66
5 Everton 62
6 Arsenal 57
7 Liverpool 56
8 Sunderland 52
9 Swansea 51
10 Stoke City 45
11 West Brom 43
12 West Ham 42
13 Fulham 41
14 Norwich 38
15 Newcastle 36
16 Southampton 33
17 Reading 32
18 Aston Villa 30
19 Wigan 29
20 QPR 24

Quick Assessment:

Top 4: Man United have been improving defensively since Nemanja Vidic’s return, which could be the thing that gets them over the mountain. City’s recent form (5 straight victories) has them keeping pace with their cross-town rivals, and could really put pressure on the Red Devils with continued success leading up to the Manchester derby on April 6. Tottenham Hotspur started the season a bit slow, but AVB now has them hitting their stride. With Chelsea seemingly unable to make their minds up about who they can beat on a given day, Spurs could surprise a few people and pip Chelsea for the 3rd automatic Champions League spot.

Europa League: Everton should be hailed for a marvelous performance; to make the top 4 would be a dream, but even a top 5 finish is impressive for David Moyes. I just don’t see Arsenal clawing back up into the top 4 this season, they’re W1-D2-L4 against teams ahead of them in the table this season and aren’t picking up points with enough consistency. Liverpool should consider things a success as well. Although Brendon Rodgers has had a tumultuous first year at Anfield, their offensive performances are improving, and Luis Suarez has enjoyed his best PL campaign to date.

Mid-Table: Swansea have had a magical run, and deserve praise for what will likely be a top half finish. Perhaps even more praise could go to Martin O’Neill who may be in the process of saving his job and his club. Sunderland was just 2 points above the drop zone last month, but the crafty gaffer has finally turned the tides. West Brom spent a good portion of the year in the top 4, but are now sinking fast. They’re likely safe from the drop though. Stoke City’s once heralded defense has been leaking like a sieve. Can Tony Pulis get them back to their stingy ways?

Relegation Zone: Aston Villa are sitting in the drop zone for the first time this season, but it’s fitting considering they boast the worst Goal Differential in the League. I’m amazed this hasn’t yet cost Paul Lambert his job. My pick for drop zone survivalists is Reading. They’ve lost just one of their last 6 matches, and seem to be repeating their late season run of good form. Wigan and QPR, to me, are both finished, as they continually get outplayed by teams in similar positions, and haven’t shown much grit in the last month or two. Newcastle and Southampton both look to have enough quality to stay afloat.

Redknapp signed on for the impossible job. As you can tell… he’s super excited

10 Bold Predictions for the 2013 NHL Season

As the puck drops on the NHL season we prepare for a 48 game sprint like no other (well, aside from the 48 game season back in 1995). In honor of the start to a brand new NHL campaign, I;ve compiled a list of 10 bold predictions I’ve made for the season ahead. Ok, so these are a few days late, but I swear I made them the day before the season started. Regardless, here are a few things that you might be surprised to see this year…

10. The Lightning will win the South East division. With the top scoring cast returning and a few other key additions, this looks like a team ready to take the next step. Washington and Florida both took steps back in the off-season (in terms of personnel), while Carolina’s moves really just paper over a myriad of other issues. Winnipeg is an interesting team, but still maybe a year away from contending. I predict the Bolts key forwards (Stamkos, St. Louis, and Lecavalier) all see boosts in scoring and power the team into the playoffs.

9. Roberto Luongo does not get traded… sure this one is a shot in the dark, but the fact that Bobby Lou is still on the team makes me wonder. The guy has a ton of experience and has played in both Stanley Cup finals and Olympic Gold medal games. Why would the Canucks dump him? Ok, there are a number of reasons, but I think the media and fans may have made this a foregone conclusion long before Vancouver management.

8. The Blackhawks will be major contenders. Goaltending issues aside, the Hawks have a ton of talent across the ice, and a deep bench to boot. Did we forget so soon that this team won a cup just a few seasons back? With Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, and Patrick Kane all healthy, this could be a dangerous team. Even though they play in a tough division, Chicago could suffice with a lower seed in the Conference, and then make a deep playoff run.

7. Tuukka Rask will be a Vezina Trophy finalist. After playing understudy to Tim Thomas in Boston, the Finn is ready for prime time. He performed well when given starts over the last few years, and with a solid defense in front of him, Rask could post huge numbers. I expect the Bruins to be among the Eastern Conference leaders in the Win column too, which does wonders for a goalie’s confidence.

6. Neither Crosby nor Malkin will win the scoring title. Sure I think both guys will be in the top 5. Heck, I even think the Pens could win the President’s Trophy. But there’s a deep pool of point-getters right behind them, including guys like Giroux, Sedin (either one), Stamkos, and even Toews.

5. Dallas makes the playoffs, and gets big help from Jagr. When I looked at the Stars depth chart the other day, my eyes opened wide. Jagr, Benn, Eriksson, Whitney, Roy, Ryder, Morrow, Goligoski, Robidas. Sure they’ve got some issues, but this just smells like a team that could surprise some people. Plus, they were in great position to make the postseason last year before a late season slump dropped them from the top-8.

4. Stamkos will score 40 goals… Ovechkin will score less than 20. As you can see I really like the Lightning this year, and think that Steven Stamkos is poised for a stellar scoring campaign. As for the Caps top scorer, Ovie’s scoring has dried up in the last few years and it’s evident that he has been unable to adjust his game since defenders have adapted and started stopping him. With the weight of a franchise on his shoulders, the Great-8 is already feeling the pressure.

3. The Ducks contend for a division title. After Bruce Boudreau took over last year, the Ducks started to come to life. Almost like Emilio Estevez joining forces with Disney’s Mighty Ducks. Regardless, there’s a lot of talent in Anaheim, and Boudreau has a knack for getting the most out of his offensive players. If Getzlaf and Perry start cranking on all cylinders, the Ducks could be flying high in May.

2. The Minnesota Wild will miss the playoffs. Signing Parise and Suter in the offeason were great moves for the Wild, but two players do not win games alone. Sure Parise will spark an offense and maybe get some more out of Heatley and others, but Minnesota scored far fewer goals than anyone else in the league last year, and they’ll likely need a few more additions before a cohesive offensive threat can materialize.

1. The Kings will miss the playoffs. Some people are picking LA as their feel-good repeat Western Conference Champs; most people at least have them as division champs and at the very least a playoff team. I see things differently. A lack in scoring and reliance on a Goaltender with a bad back smells like trouble. Darryl Sutter’s system will win LA some games, don’t get me wrong, but we also need to keep in mind that this is a team that squeaked into the postseason last go around, and hasn’t done much to bolster their squad since then.

In the end, several (possibly many) of these might flop entirely, but it’s fun to look back at the end of the year and say, “wow, going into the season I never imagined things playing out this way.” I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see what things are in store for us this year. Enjoy!

2013 NHL Preview

Ok, we’ve all gotten the lock-out bitterness out of our systems right? ok, well if you’re still angry, please read elsewhere because WhitSport is moving forward! I’m proud to present a quick look at what to expect for the 48 game season that the NHL will conduct in the coming months.

The last time the NHL salvaged a strike-shortened season (1995) there were also 48 games played, with the Devils taking home the Stanley Cup in the end. Many teams think their teams can get hot and make a run at the playoffs this year, despite disappointing results in 2012. Back in ’95 this was not the case, as only 3 teams who made the playoffs in ’94 failed to do so after the lockout. This does not bode well for teams like the Maple Leafs, Oilers, and Islanders who are looking to end long playoff droughts. Last year saw tons of drama with more upsets than ever before in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The LA Kings took home Lord Stanley’s trophy, and in the process, became the first 8th seed to win the Cup.

With the amount of craziness that continues to go on display once the Playoffs roll around, it becomes nearly impossible to predict who will be vying for the Cup in June. Nevertheless, let’s have a go!

EASTERN CONFERENCE

1. Penguins- with Crosby healthy, and Malkin already warmed up after playing in Russia, the Pens, who finished just 1 point behind the Rangers for the top spot in the East last year, look to avenge their early post-season departure with a deep run this season
2. Bruins- the B’s are a fairly young team and showed some consistency last year after winning their division for the 2nd straight season. Plus, with Tim Thomas on sabbatical, it’s Tuuka time!!
3. Capitals- with new coach Adam Oates around, the culture should improve in Washington. Ovechkin seems to be returning to normal, and may be given a longer leash than he had under Dale Hunter.
4. Rangers- John Tortorella certainly won’t let his foot off the pedal now. The Rangers have the personnel to make a great run, only questions surround whether Rick Nash, Marian Gaborik, and company can all live up to their billing.
5. Devils- it’d be hard to put the reigning Conference Champs any lower, with Brodeur back and rested, this young team could prove why last spring was no fluke. Watch out for emerging young stars like Henrique and Larsson.
6. Sabres- Nice additions in the offseason. If Ryan Miller steps back up to the level we know he can play, Buffalo has a shot to make some waves.
7. Flyers- with the goaltending situation at a crossroads, there could be bumps along the road. A solid scoring department may barely save them
8. Lightning- I’m expecting a big year from Stamkos. If the defense can improve, even just slightly, they’ll be in the mix.
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9. Panthers- they’re just one of those teams who played well last year, but a shortened season could prove fatal, only saving grace is their division
10. Jets- I like what they’re doing here. Their young consortium of talent is progressing nicely, but might be a goaltender away from the playoffs
11. Senators- I just don’t see enough here to warrant another playoff run, especially since the odds of Eric Karlsson putting up similar #’s to last year are slim
12. Canadiens- slight improvement over last year, but seriously need some scorers to contend for the playoffs again.
13. Islanders- this high? really? I think Tavares has his break out season, but a hefty schedule against the rest of the Atlantic keep the Isles humbled.
14. Hurricanes- the decline has been quick, and shows no signs of turning around this year. Contracts like Jordan Staal and Alex Semin have bad news written all over them.
15. Maple Leafs- goaltending is too flaky, and scoring is too thin behind Kessel. Bottom of the barrel here.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

1. Blues- Ken Hitchcock was St. Louis’ savior a year ago, and they aren’t about to turn back now. Expect the Blues to continue stifling defensive play throughout the year.
2. Canucks- Roberto Luongo is as good as gone, but Schneider is more than capable, and all of the offensive weapons are back. They should contend for the President’s Trophy again
3. Coyotes- this team continues to impress despite a major lack of star power. I like Mike Smith to have another great year in net.
4. Blackhawks- I think the Blackhawks, now healthy, should put together a nice season. Patrick Kane is poised for a bounce-back campaign.
5. Ducks- yep this is my sleeper pick. Bruce Boudreau had this squad playing back up to their potential last year, but ran out time to snag a playoff berth. Look for bounce back years for Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf
6. Red Wings- losing Nik Lidstrom might take more of a toll than some people think. I like their young talent a lot, but it’d be crazy to put them too much higher.
7. Predators- With Rinne back, they’re pretty much a lock for a playoff spot. Some worries about loss of Suter, but signing Hal Gill and re-signing others will help.
8. Stars- could repeat last year and get off to a red-hot start, but this time, a shortened schedule means they make the cut in April.
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9. Kings- what?! how could I leave the defending champs out of the playoffs? First off, they sneaked in as an 8-seed, and secondly, they’ve still got some major questions on offense
10. Sharks- we saw the decline begin last year, they have some good young players, but not enough depth.
11. Wild- two huge signings, but you need 4 full lines to make a decent NHL team. They could make things interesting if net-minder Niklas Backstrom stays healthy.
12. Avalanche- lots of good young talent, but really just too young for a playoff sprint (their Captain is only 20 years old!).
13. Oilers- just too much talent to finish any lower. Looking forward to seeing Yakupov and his new friends in action, even if the wins aren’t plentiful.
14. Flames- last year they did their normal routine and limped out of contention as the months dragged on. With an aging squad I don’t see much improvement on the horizon
15. Blue Jackets- just nothing here to think they’ll finish above bottom. With Nash gone they can begin to rebuild

In terms of pre-season Cup picks, I have never even been close to correct, but I’ll made some silly picks anyway…

Rangers fans hope to light em up with King Henry this summer

Stanley Cup: Rangers over Blues
Conn Smythe (Playoff MVP): Henrik Lundqvist
Hart (Reg Season MVP): Claude Giroux
Art Ross (Most Points): Claude Giroux
Rocket Richard (Most Goals): Steven Stamkos
Vezina (Best Goalie): Mike Smith
Norris (Best Defenseman): Kris Letang
Calder (Best Rookie): Nail Yakupov
Jack Adams (Best Coach): Adam Oates

Any comments, disagreements, praise, questions, quips, queries, and quandaries are all welcomed here. Looking forward to the puck finally dropping!

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