With the NHL season just around the corner, I am going to make a few BOLD predictions. I am going to stray outside the lines and impart some of what I think may happen this year in the NHL. If you agree or disagree feel free to leave a comment below with your own thoughts!
- A Canadian team will win the Stanley Cup this year. I feel that Montreal is poised to make a run deep into the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. Their young guns Galenchyuk and Gallagher can really step up this year and make this an elite team. Pacioretty does not take the role and responsibility of being the Captain lightly and leads by example having a career year. Out in the West you have the Canucks and Flames who both faced off in the first round of last years playoffs. Perhaps Ryan Miller reverts to old form and leads the charge in Vancouver? Perhaps Monahan and Gadreau produce as is expected and Calgary sneaks through the playoffs similar to the Flames of 2004? Who happened to lose to Tampa Bay in 7 games……..
- Jonathan Drouin more than doubles his point total from last season and finishes with more than 70 points. It sounds like Drouin came to training camp in much better shape than he did last year when he missed camp due to a broken thumb. He is a pass first player and has been paired with Stamkos in the preseason. If this pair stays together and remains healthy, I think they become more lethal than the Ovie/Backstrom pair in Washington. If these guys both stay healthy then Stamkos breaks 60 goals and leads the NHL in goals this season. Considering the depth and offensive firepower of this Lighting team, these statements are not farfetched. Teams are going to have a difficult time defending against their top 6 as was evident in last seasons playoffs.
- The Art Ross trophy is awarded to a player who scores more than 100 points this season. Since 1968 there have been five instances where the Art Ross was awarded to someone who scored less than 100 points. In each year following the Art Ross was awarded to someone who scored over 100 points. The winner this year will be John Tavares. He is poised and primed to make this year a career year. He averaged the highest time on ice of any forward last year and was in the top 5 in power play points. Not to mention he was only one point shy of winning the Art Ross last year. Look for #91 to live up to all the hype and finally deliver what we all know he is capable of doing.
- The Nashville Predators will win the President’s trophy. With a healthy Shea Weber, a defensive core that includes young phenom’s in Seth Jones, Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi, this team is built from the net out. Not to mention that this team gained valuable experience in the playoffs last season. Rinne, Weber and Josi are all household names, but veterans like Mike Riberio and James Neal appear to have found their second wind in Nashville. The team still has a young core centered on Filip Forsberg who could be a top ten point producer in the NHL this season.
- Mike Babcock truly becomes a legendary coach and takes the Toronto Maple Leafs to the playoffs for the first time since the 2003-2004 season (last full season they made the playoffs). Babcock has only missed the playoffs one time in his career and that was following the year he took Anaheim to the Stanley Cup Final and lost in 7 games. Though I agree it was time for him to move on in Detroit, I think a lot of people questioned his decision to pick one of the worst teams in the league. It will be a challenge for him, but if there is any coach out there that can turn Toronto around its Mike Babcock. While he gets Toronto to the playoffs, his successor finds just that in Detroit and is a front-runner, with Babcock for the Jack Adams award.