So we're back in the temporary hockey doldrums between the end of the preseason and the beginning of the regular season. We could sit around, put back a few beers, and debate on why "slash" is the hot buzzword in the NHL's dungeon of justice (whether it be simply a motion across a neck or the act of a Napoleonic madman), but once you've made the internet jokes and the necessary comment about the guitarist from Guns N' Roses, the topic gets old. What never does get old though is competition among friends.
Since we're all but contractually obliged to make some sort of preseason predictions, we thought we'd spice it up a bit by talking copious amounts of smack about one another's goofier ideas. Also, since this is the internet, where nothing is ever truly forgotten, we've decided that we'll definitely be revisiting this post after the season is over. The game is simple: 10 predictions apiece, a point for a right prediction, nothing for getting it wrong. Winner gets to write the gloating piece about how smart he is while wearing the Fedora of the Foreseer (design pending).
I predict you'll join us after the jump to read. Also, we want you to sound off with your own BOLD predictions in the comments. We might even have a prize for the boldest prediction to come true.
Johan Franzen will score 45 goals
[Graham: Whoa there Tiger. I'm just hoping he plays in 45 games. To me, that will make it a successful season.]
[J.J.: 50 if you count the ones Bertuzzi has called back for goaltender interference]
Jimmy Howard will be a Vezina Finalist
[Graham: Wow. I won't lie, this would be huge. However, league rules dictate that every Red Wing goalie shall never be nominated for a Vezina because the team in front of him is so good.]
[J.J.: The Wings will have to have a bad season for this to happen. Vezina finalists don't come from offensive powerhouses anymore]
Chicago will finish 3rd in the division
[Graham: Behind who? Nashville? I'd love it, but I think the core on the Hawks is enough to keep them ahead of the rest of the division (minus the Wings)]
[J.J.: Nashville fans will claim moral victory as their team exits the first round again]
Stamkos will win the Hart Trophy
[Graham: Gary Bettman laughs at this. But I think he'll be nominated.]
[J.J.: The people of Florida will respond with a hearty "Who? The guy from Full House won what now?"]
Boston won't make the playoffs
[Graham: I agree with this. I don't get the Bruins love this season. I don't see how they have improved significantly over last year's 6th place team, and there's questions about Rask and whether he can perform over a whole season. Remember, he only played half of last year.]
The Sharks won't win the division
[Graham: This may be the best thing that happens to them. I think they need to have less expectations going into the playoffs rather than the weight of the world on their shoulders. Although if they're a 4th or 5th seed, when they lose in the second round it won't be such a disaster.]
[J.J.: Sharks fans will plead with the Maple Leafs to give them back Ron Wilson]
Buffalo will make it to the Conference Finals
[Graham: At that point, Ryan Miller's back will be destroyed from carrying them there.]
[J.J.: *slow clap for Graham*]
Jonathan Ericsson will be traded
[Graham: I'd love to know who would be willing to take on this guy. The sad part is I can see him having a Leino-like resurgence away from the Wings. How much would that suck?]
[J.J.: Bag of pucks will go on to be a calming influence in the locker room and will help Drew Miller come to accept going gray early. Everybody will appreciate him more than Ericsson]
Valtteri Filppula will score 70 points
[Graham: This will all depend on whether his linemates stay a) consistent and b) healthy. If he remains with the Franzen and Bertuzzi, I can see this happening.]
[J.J.: If he doesn't, am I allowed to call this season a disappointment for him?]
Edmonton WON'T be the worst team in the league.
[Graham: Hell, I don't think they'll be the worst team in the conference (hey there Columbus. But I think that the Islanders are going to be awful this year.]
[J.J.: Chris Pronger's wife disagrees]
Derek Meech will be a regular on an NHL team by the end of the season
[Casey: If he gets claimed, yeah probably so. He's our 8th best defenseman which means he'll be the 5th best on another team.]
[J.J.: In the Eastern Conference, he'll be a god]
The Western Conference will win the Stanley Cup
[Casey: Yup. I don't see any team in the East that could beat the top 5 teams in West or that would have an easy time beating any expected 3 lower seeds.]
[J.J.: High tide will continue to remain mysteriously tied to the presence of the moon.]
The Coyotes will not make the playoffs
[Casey: I actually could see this happening. I dont know if it will but I wouldn't be surprised by both a.) a drop off in the Coyotes record and b.) a surge in the rest of the Western Conference]
[J.J.: Rubber snake surplus and excess free time in mid-April will lead to an increase in divorce rates among Coyotes fans.]
Phil Kessel will score 40 goals for the Leafs this year
[Casey: I could easily seeing that happen. He's their best scoring talent and there's no reason for him to not score at that pace.]
[J.J.: He should have done it last year, but had the misfortune of playing in front of Vesa Toskala instead of against him.]
Pavel Datsyuk will finish in the top 5 in the NHL in scoring this year
[Casey: If he stays with Zetterberg, most definitely. I don't even know if I need to provide an argument.]
[J.J.: I think that's reasonable.]
There will be 3 new division winners this year
[Casey: New in the sense that they didn't do it last year? Definitely and I think LA could be one of them.]
[J.J.: Central, Atlantic, Northwest?]
Carey Price will finish with a better GAA and SV% than Jaroslav Halak
[Casey: I think Halak will definitely have a tough go of it in the Central Division and I think this is pretty likely.]
[J.J.: In the minors, after he's run out of Montreal on rails.]
The Central Division will send 4 teams to the playoffs
[Casey: I'll go with only 3. I think a certain team to the west may struggle to even get there]
[J.J.: No problems though, #1 seeds love facing Jaroslav Halak in the first round.]
The Thrashers will make the playoffs
[Casey: I am going to go with no on this one just because I think the Lightning will take that spot before them.]
[J.J.: Disagree. We'll see the first ever Stanley Cup hangover by a team that hasn't been to the postseason in years.]
There will be 3 coaches fired during the regular season
[Casey: I'll agree and say that this will happen in the first half of the season.]
[J.J.: and for a change, they won't all three be from Tampa Bay.]
Toronto will finish ahead of Montreal in the standings.
[Graham: While everyone in Toronto may be happy about this, it won't mean anything since they both will miss the playoffs.]
[Casey: I think it's possible even though Toronto is pretty bad. If Price happens to falter in net for Montreal then it could be ugly.]
Vancouver will win the Presidents' Trophy.
[Graham: And still lose in the second round.]
[Casey: Definitely possible with the amount of players they have returning but I don't see how the Caps can't win it again with that division.]
Tampa Bay will make the playoffs.
[Graham: My religion forbids me to say anything negative about a team that Steve Yzerman is associated with. Plus, they play in a garbage decision, so this is entirely possible.]
[Casey: Agreed. They took big steps last year to getting towards the playoffs. Yzerman's brought in some good talent.]
Antti Niemi will win more games than Marty Turco with a better save %
[Graham: I'm not sure. Niemi is going to split time with Nittymaki, so this will cut into his potential wins. I can see him having better stats, but I think Turco (just because he'll play more) will win more games.]
[Casey: Better save % yes but wins I'm not sure with Niittymaki being in San Jose as well to split time with Niemi.]
Pavel Datsyuk will play better defensively this year, but not win the Selke.
[Graham: I can't believe Datsyuk won last year. I think Kesler will threaten the voters with having to draft Luongo in their playoff pools if he doesn't win.]
[Casey: Yes. He's going to be the best defensive forward but Ryan Kesler will win it to break the trend.]
Colorado and Minnesota will be within five points of one another in the standings for third place in the Northwest.
[Graham: I go back to what I said about Toronto-Montreal; it won't matter because neither team will make the playoffs. But I think Minny finishes ahead of the Avs.]
[Casey: Possibly. I think Minnesota will be improved but I think Colorado will too. It'll come down to Craig Anderson.]
Darren Helm will score 5 shorthanded goals.
[Graham: I agree; however, none will be on a breakaway, and I can guarantee that if he does miss an easy chance, 35 fans will rush to his defense with excuses (I kid - I love Helm)]
[Casey: I think this is definitely possible. He's shown he can jump plays in the defensive zone and turn it the other way for scoring chances.]
The new head shot rule will result in ZERO suspensions this season.
[Graham: Are you saying the NHL will be inconsistent in supplemental discipline? Shame on you. I think my wife should be in charge of this; every time I do something wrong, I get "suspended" for at least 2 weeks. No one will do anything wrong in the NHL again.]
[Casey: Knowing the NHL's Wheel of Justice, Colin Campbell will suspend someone for a minor hit to the head but overlook the egregious one from a star.]
Ville Leino will end up on waivers before the end of the season.
[Graham: Leino will then be claimed by the #6 seed in the West, have a great playoff run, and be considered a key figure in that teams' future plans. This will be known as "The Leino Phenomenon"]
[Casey: I'm going to go with no. I think he'll actually continue to be semi-successful in Philly.]
Derek Boogaard will score more goals than Brett Lebda
[Graham: Maybe, but Lebda will destroy him at Beer Pong.]
[Casey: Lebda will score 50 goals...okay maybe not. This one's close.]
There you have it; might as well chisel these in stone because right there are 30 things guaranteed to happen this season on the NHL. Let us know what you predict for the season.