I've consulted with the tea leaves and gazed into the future. I now know how the 2011-12 NHL hockey season will pan out. If you're a fan of mysteries, please stop reading now. If you'd like to know the answers to all your questions, read on. First, lets get the big question out of the way…
This could play out a number of ways, but I'm seeing California over Pennsylvania in the Finals. I'm ruling out the Ducks (though they should make a run of it). That leaves LA/San Jose versus Pittsburgh/Philly. Any combination of these teams would make for a great series and would come as little surprise. In the end, I see the San Jose Sharks finally getting it done against the Flyers.
MVP / Art Ross / Rocket Richard
So who will reign supreme on Trophy night? He was poised to take the hardware through most of last season. In his 3rd time out, I see Steven Stamkos claiming all three trophies next Spring.
This is one trophy that Stamkos can't win, so who will be this year's top goaltender? Certainly Thomas could repeat, but I see him splitting time evenly with Rask this time around. The winner will definitely come from the Atlantic Division, meaning it's down to Lundqvist, Fleury, or Bryzgalov. All three will shine this season, but the winner will ultimately be Ilya Bryzgalov.
The finalist for the Norris tend to stay the same year after year. The club will add a brand new member next Spring when Shea Weber runs away with the voting.
It won't mean a thing come playoff time, but I see the Washington Capitals winning a ton of regular season contests and finishing with the most points.
Let's turn our attention now to the Final Standings.
Starting in the East:
1. Washington *
2. Philadelphia *
3. Buffalo *
4. NY Islanders
7. Tampa Bay
12. NY Rangers
14. New Jersey
As you can see, I'm going way off the board picking the Islanders to finish with home ice advantage. This team will put up goals in huge bunches this year. They showed last season that if one goalie goes down, they can find four more to take his place. The other side of the Big Apple won't fare so well. Look for Sather and Torts to be following Avery out of town by the All-Star break.
1. Vancouver *
2. Los Angeles *
3. Chicago *
4. San Jose
9. St. Louis
13. Quebec (I mean, Phoenix)
Look for the state of California to get a great deal of attention from the hockey world this year, with all 3 teams vying for top spot in the Pacific Division, while feasting on the Coyotes and Stars. The Oilers will make some progress and challenge for a playoff spot.
10 More Bold Predictions for the new year:
1. The Islanders will score more than 250 goals this season, putting them in the top 5 in the NHL in that category.
2. Claude Giroux will challenge for the scoring title, but will settle for 3rd by the end of the season.
3. Ray Emery will be the goalie of choice in Chicago come playoff time
4. Lou Lamoriello will coach at least 10 games for the Devils this season.
5. This will be the last season that Glen Sather is employed as a GM in the NHL.
6. Eventually, Evgeni Nabokov will get his shot to play for the Wings, just a year later than planned.
7. Ottawa and Calgary will battle all season long for that first overall draft pick in 2012.
8. Jaromir Jagr will put up 15 goals before Christmas, but will slow down considerably in the second half.
9. Despite missing the first 14 games of the season, Sidney Crosby will lead the Penguins in scoring and finish in the top 10.
10. Iginla, Parise, and Spezza will all be wearing new sweaters by the trade deadline.
And in the interest of accountability, here are my 10 bold predictions from last season, obviously with mixed results:
1. The Sutters will be out in Calgary by Christmas
2. John Tavares will lead the Islanders in scoring by no less than 40 points.
3. Nathan Horton scores 40 goals. No other Bruin tops 25.
4. Michael Neuvirth and Jonathan Bernier finish the season with 30+ wins each.
5. The Senators will make a deal for a new starting goalie in time for the playoffs. Let's say… Kiprusoff or Vokoun.
6. After being relegated to the press box in December, Mike Modano retires during the Winter Classic.
7. No player over the age of 30 will finish in the top 10 of scorers this season.
8. Kari Lehtonen has a healthy season and plays 60 games.
9. Corey Crawford earns the starting job in Chicago heading into the playoffs.
10. NHL announces in February that the Florida Panthers will be moving to Quebec.