Archive for the ‘gut reactions’ Category

Kontos is Late to the Standing Party

October 5, 2009

Since Joe and James have weighed in… now it’s my turn. Here are my predictions for the 2009-2010 season.

2) Chicago
3) Calgary
4) Detroit
5) Vancouver
6) St. Louis
7) Los Angeles
8) Anaheim
9) Columbus
10) Minnesota
11) Edmonton
12) Dallas
13) Nashville
14) Colorado
15) Phoenix

This picks were made before the season started, so I’m not worried about Colorado winning the Northwest and yes, even after that awful performance against the Coyotes… I still think the Kings will make the playoffs.

STANLEY CUP FINALIST: Cal-gary. (In Barry Melrose voice)

1) Philadelphia
2) Washington
3) Boston
4) Pittsburgh
5) Montreal
6) New Jersey
7) New York Rangers
8) Carolina
10) Toronto
11) Tampa Bay
12) Ottawa
13) New York Islanders
14) Atlanta
15) Florida

The Flyers are going to be a force to reckon with this season and the first two games have shown that. Ovechkin is on pace to score 406 goals, so that means a top spot for the Capitals.



2009-10 Standings Predictions

October 3, 2009

The other day, O’Brien posted his own standings predictions for the year. At his invitation, I’m posting my own, so we can see just how wrong he is.

Western Conference:
1) Calgary Flames
2) San Jose Sharks
3) Detroit Red Wings
4) Chicago Blackhawks
5) Vancouver Canucks
6) St. Louis Blues
7) Anaheim Ducks
8) Los Angeles Kings
9) Columbus Blue Jackets
10) Dallas Stars
11) Minnesota Wild
12) Edmonton Oilers
13) Nashville Predators
14) Phoenix Coyotes
15) Colorado Avalanche
Coyotes’ hiring Tippett gets them out of the basement, all the way up to… 14th. STL is going to have a strong resurgence with healthy Kariya and McDonald (I thought this before yesterday’s game too, so there). The Central is too good to allow the division winner (narrowly DET over CHI) to get higher than 3rd. SJ is sliding a bit, but the Pacific is weak enough to let them finish #2. CGY feasts on EDM/MIN/COL to get #1 in the Northwest.
In the playoffs, if DET can avoid drawing CGY and VAN, they get back to the SCF. If they meet one of them, its CGY going to the SCF.
Eastern Conference:
1) Washington Capitals
2) Pittsburgh Penguins
3) Boston Bruins
4) Philadelphia Flyers
5) New Jersey Devils
6) Carolina Hurricanes
7) Buffalo Sabres
8) New York Rangers
9) Florida Panthers
10) Toronto Maple Leafs
11) Montreal Canadiens
12) Atlanta Thrashers
13) Tampa Bay Lightning
14) New York Islanders
15) Ottawa Senators
ATL chases off Kovy. PIT wins a very tight divisional race, and PHI might have more points than BOS. BUF finally gets some luck and makes it into the post season… to get ripped up by PIT. NYR barely gets another postseason spot that they really don’t deserve. TOR is competitive, but not enough to get a high pick, and not enough to get a playoff spot. WSH rides a bad division to the #1 spot.
In the playoffs, it comes down to a PHI/PIT Eastern Conference Final. PHI should win, but PIT actually wins, because in the East the refs call the games a little different, and are less tolerant of the Western style that you need to beat Crosby/Malkin. PIT gets too many powerplays and makes it back to the SCF.
In the final, if its CGY vs PIT, CGY loses another 7 game SCF. If its DET vs PIT, DET wins because hopefully Pronger and Co actually punished Malkin and Crosby, instead of letting them breeze right through the playoffs. I hate the Eastern Conference.

Gut Reactions: Playoff Seeding and Stanley Cup Winner

October 1, 2009

The guessing gets even … guess…ier… *cough*

Eastern Conference
1. Washington Capitals
2. Philadelphia Flyers
3. Boston Bruins
4. Pittsburgh Penguins
5. New Jersey Devils
6. Montreal Canadiens
7. Carolina Hurricanes
8. Buffalo Sabres
Just missed: New York Rangers, Florida Panthers
Commentary: This is NOT necessarily how the playoffs would turn out. Generally, I think Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Boston all project to be better post-season teams but Washington will feast off of a weak division to take the #1 seed.
I feel a little uncomfortable picking Montreal and New Jersey to place that high, but after the top four I’m pretty stumped.
SCF Conference Rep: Boston Bruins
Western Conference

1. San Jose Sharks
2. Detroit Red Wings
3. Calgary Flames
4. Chicago Blackhawks
5. Vancouver Canucks
6. Anaheim Ducks
7. Columbus Blue Jackets
8. Los Angeles Kings
Just missed: St. Louis Blues, Dallas Stars
Commentary: The criticism for San Jose has gotten a bit extreme. Why not throw a little vitriol to Calgary or Vancouver as they’ve disappointed over the years in their own way? It’s fine to make some jokes about the Sharks, but you win the games you can win and worry about the playoffs when they come.
SCF Conference Rep: San Jose Sharks

Gut Reactions: The Northeast Division

October 1, 2009

OK, kids here’s the last divisional post. I’ll have other predictions later.

1. Boston Bruins
Even though the Bruins received very nice long-term value for Phil Kessel, I’ll always think of this off-season as the one in which Boston basically lost Kessel for Derek Morris. That’s just terrible, in my opinion.
Still, the Bruins might just be the most versatile and impressive team in the Eastern Conference. Marc Savard has two scoops of raisin-flavored inspiration because he’s in a contract year and he wasn’t even invited to the Team Canada camp.
Combine his motivation with a team that can play with toughness, finesse and everything in between and you have a team that could very well fight for the President’s Trophy once more.
(Editor’s note: it’s really a crapshoot after Boston)
2. Montreal Canadiens
[Insert Montreal midgets joke here]
3. Buffalo Sabres
Just about every team in the NE saw drastic sweeping changes and yet pundits consistently bag on the Sabres for doing nothing.
What’s so wrong with stability? We know that the Sabres have a good coach, a good goalie and some spirited spritely little forwards with big offensive talent. Granted, the team lacks a standout on the blueline (Jay Bouwmeester would have been a fantastic fit) so their relative ceiling is limited.
With just a little more luck, the Sabres should make it back to the playoffs.
4. Toronto Maple Leafs
It’s strange that Brian Burke mortgaged so much of the team’s future for an injury prone player like Kessel. I like Kessel – and the Leafs need offense pretty badly – but he seems to be an odd fit for Toronto in my opinion.
The moves they made to add defense and toughness bode well for the medium term but their goaltending is suspect in the least. For every import like Jonas Hiller, there have been a ton of letdowns who weren’t ready for the North American game.
This division seems to be rife with odd, expensive decisions.
5. Ottawa Senators
If you’re arguing from a chemistry/hustle/heart standpoint, the Ottawa Senators aren’t exactly exploding with character guys in Scott Gomez (Oops OMG I meant the Senators OTHER non-character guys … clearly this typo erases my credibility in one swift motion!) and Alex Kovalev.
If you’re looking for amazing goaltending, the Senators are average – at best – with Pascal Leclaire as their supposed No. 1.
If you want shutdown defense, just look away.
It could be a dark year in Ottawa.

Gut Reactions: The Pacific

October 1, 2009

My gut reactions post for the Pacific division is up on Battle of California. Check it out here.

Gut Reactions: Southeast Division

October 1, 2009

1. Washington Capitals

Washington is by far the class of the Southeast, with or without above average goaltending. Having the league’s best goal scorer (Alex O) and best goal scoring defenseman (Mike Green) makes the Caps scary … accounting for two other elite forwards in contract years (Backstrom and Semin) is simply terrifying.
2. Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes are a tough team to figure out. While the team’s hard charging style and solid array of forwards make them a fun team to watch when they’re at their best … it’s pretty difficult to maintain any kind of consistency when your best defenseman is Joni Pitkanen.
It makes sense, then, that the team’s fate rests so heavily upon Cam Ward‘s shoulders.
While I’m not a huge fan of the ‘Canes defense and think they rely too heavily on Ward and Staal, this division is still the worst in the NHL so they’ll probably place in second or third merely by not being terrible.
3. Tampa Bay Lightning
While the whirlwind of roster changes leaves the Lightning looking like a bigger mess than the script to another horrible Saw sequel, I must say that I actually found myself mildly impressed by some of the Lightning’s additions.
Alex Tanguay is an absolute steal at $2.5 million and while Ohlund‘s contract seemed excessively long, he’s still the best blue liner the Lightning currently employ. He’s their best D guy, that is, until Victor Hedman justifies the Bunyan-sque hype that followed him to the NHL.
Naturally, the Lightning also boasts the still slightly underrated Martin St. Louis and the still slightly overrated Vincent Lecavalier but the team’s offensive depth is as good as it’s been for a while. Along with newly signed Tanguay, Tampa Bay could see the benefits of Steve Stamkos‘ sophomore season as well as support guys like Ryan Malone.
Are they going to be a powerhouse? Absolutely not, but Tampa Bay could pleasantly surprise some people.
4. Florida Panthers
Well, I’m a fan of Litter Box Cats, David Booth and Tomas Vokoun. That’s about all, though.
5. Atlanta Thrashers
Apparently Atlanta thinks that adding a bunch of crappy Russians will appease Ilya Kovalchuk because adding hard working, talented players was not an option. I’m not a big fan of Pavel Kubina or Nik Antropov, to be honest. The Buffalo Sabres couldn’t even get rid of Max Afinogenov.
When you consider all of these factors – as well as the team’s dicey goaltending situation – it’s pretty difficult to provide a sunny forecast for the Thrashers.

Gut Reactions: The Central Division

September 29, 2009

Sooner or later I’m going to stop finding funny pictures …

1. Detroit Red Wings
My biggest regret with slacking on these updates is that I didn’t get to jump on the “You’re Crazy for Counting Out the Red Wings” bandwagon before a ton of people already refuted the annual “this is the year Detroit won’t make it” hoopla. Darn.
Naturally it’s not good that the Wings replaced Marian Hossa and Jiri Hudler with the likes of Todd effin’ Bertuzzi, but few teams can match the Red Wings defense (Lidstrom-Rafalski-Kronwall) and unstoppable winning tradition.
2. Chicago Blackhawks
I haven’t been shy about criticizing Chicago’s off-season moves, but those mistakes will hurt the team from a longterm perspective more than anything else. Chances are the ‘Hawks will move some personnel before next summer, but as is, the team is loaded.
Brodeur is a Fraud has a way of consistently flipping the script on my goalie assumptions and the Contrarian Goaltender did just that with his “No Respect for Huet” piece. While tCG’s powers of numerical persuasion cannot change me from anti-Huet to Cristobal-iever (hey-o!), the posts did at least make me hesitate in calling him a true problem.
With scoring depth, solid defense and their three best players entering contract years it is difficult to imagine Chicago having a total meltdown.
3. Columbus Blue Jackets
As a Faceoff dork, CBJ could have been a dream team in the circle if they kept Manny Malholtra. Still, the team is strong down the middle and has that Rick Nash guy people seem to really care about. When you combine an improving fleet of forwards and a good young goalie in Steve Mason with Ken Hitchock’s top-notch defensive system, it’s tempting to put Columbus above Chicago.
That would be hasty, though, since their ceiling falls considerably if Derick Brassard deals with more injury problems.
4. St. Louis Blues
The Central division is good enough to send four teams to the playoffs (not to say that will happen), so this isn’t meant to be a slight to the Blue-notes. The team is jam packed with young forwards and could really see a nice jump with the (hopefully healthy) return of Erik Johnson. Factor in the remote possibility of a Paul Kariya renaissance and it’s hard not to be excited about St. Louis.
In fact, the more I talk about this the less comfortable I feel with this prediction. Let’s move on.
5. Nashville Predators
Barry Trotz must be an awesome coach, right? No one ever sees much in the Predators, yet they always seem to scrap their way to competitiveness.
Unfortunately, their division isn’t “Detroit + awful + awful + awful + Nashville” any longer. You’ve gotta love Shea Weber, but it just doesn’t look like they have the horses to grind out a playoff berth any more.

Gut Reactions: The Atlantic Division

September 29, 2009

Sadly I only have time to post this edition with the text and this horrific gut. Contextual photo humor will have to wait. Sorry, hockey starved masses!

1. Philadelphia Flyers

While most of the Twitterverse mocked Philly for sending their farm system to Anaheim for Chris Pronger, I cringed for very different reasons. It was almost as if Paul Holmgren heard my claims that the Flyers were going from a bunch of meathead goons to a bunch of Downy soft forwards. Now, the Flyers are big and bad again and Pronger could not be a more fitting – almost archetypal – D guy for that team.

Pronger-Coburn-Timonen is the best defensive trio in the Eastern Conference. With Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and a handful of quality support players, the Flyers shouldn’t struggle to light up the scoreboard, either. As always, though, the Flyers had to build a beautiful house on a foundation of flimsy goaltending.

While I think Ray Emery was good enough to at least be on an NHL roster last year (and Brain Boucher is a solid backup), it is humorous that the team is once again rolling the dice in net.

They’ll get by gloriously in the regular season … but in the playoffs? I have my doubts.

2. Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins have a better chance to win the Cup than the Atlantic Division this season.

On its face, that’s a ridiculous statement but the Penguins have been slow starters since the beginning of the Crosby era and I expect that trend to continue. With Max Talbot sidelined for quite a while and a team that must be a little banged up from two straight deep playoff runs, the Penguins might sputter a bit with that big silver chalice-shaped target on their backs.

But don’t bet against them when the games start to matter.

3. New Jersey Devils

Speaking of never betting against someone, how can you doubt the Devils at this point? I’ve been stunned to read all of the Chicken Little talk about New Jersey after they lost not-so-essential players like John Madden and Brian Gionta. Look, they’re both nice players but why would those two land a death blow on a team that somehow remained contenders after losing Scott Niedermayer, Scott Stevens and Brian Rafalski since the salary cap was instituted?

Like some Raid-proof roach infestation, the Devils will continue defy expectations and make it to the playoffs again. And much like their spiritual insect brethren, it won’t be pretty … especially with Jacques Lemaire in charge.

4. New York Rangers

“Boy, if Marian Gaborik could just stay healthy the Rangers would see a huge upgrade.”

“If only Lindsay Lohan could calm down on the crank for a bit, she could be the next great starlet.”

“If only Al Gore could emulate true human emotions, he’d be a hell of a candidate.”

“It’s too bad time machines aren’t real because then Britney Spears could un-ruin her life.”

“If US banks didn’t destroy America …”

Wow, the “if game” really IS fun!

5. New York Islanders

Take solace in John Tavares.

Gut Reactions: The Northwest Division

September 29, 2009

Instead of going team-by-team, let’s stick some gut reactions into tidy divisional formats. Then at the end I’ll share wild guesses on playoff seeding and maybe a blindfolded dart throw at a Stanley Cup champion. You’re WELCOME.

1. Calgary Flames
Appetizers: Getting rid of “Mad” Mike Keenan, having three top-2 defensemen, Jarome effin’ Iginla, Olli Jokinen in a contract year, the fact that Kipper couldn’t perform much worse than he did last year.

Reach for the TUMS: Not too much beyond Iggy, have you SEEN Olli Jokinen?, Kipper could simply be on a free fall.

Weigh-in: The Flames aren’t a perfect hockey team, but they’re in the right division. Though each team brings something to the table, none of Calgary’s opponents will overload them with scoring talent.
2. Vancouver Canucks (the original gut reactions on Vancouver)
Chips and dip: They employ arguably the best goalie in the NHL, locked up the Cyborg Sedins for the mid-range future, chock full of ruggedness, still sports a splendid defense even without Ohlund.
Band-aid in the pasta: Andrew effin Raycroft, the Vancouver Olympics will make the Canucks have a crazy road schedule, the team has a general lack of monetary motivation, not a ton of high-end offense.
Verdict: As a pure team, I think Vancouver might be the best. However, the schedule is negative and their best players (Sedins + Luongo) are locked up which means they don’t have that contract year carrot dangling in front of them.

3. Minnesota Wild

Bread and butter: A nice goaltending tandem, Mikko Koivu, no longer dealing with Jacques Lemaire comb over jokes … uhhh ….
Bland, flavorless meat loaf: Do you really think they’re going to open it up? They lose Gaborik but make sure to give their trainers ample company by signing Martin Havlat.
Check: The NW Division falls off noticeably after Vancouver and Calgary (although this division always seems to revel in scrappy play).
4. Edmonton Oilers
Maple Syrup: Ales Hemsky is a diamond in the rough, young players can make a nice jump, Sheldon Souray slap shots his anger away.
Poorly digested Pecans: The Bulin Wall tends to turn into a dilapidated fence in non-contract years, Edmonton is (apparently) a godforsaken hellhole.

So…: The Oilers could scrap their way into a playoff spot, but my gut feeling is that they’ll tease for a few months and then putter their way to a golf course.

5. Colorado Avalanche
Calamari with a squeeze of lemon: Paul Stastny is quite good if arguably overpaid, they’re finally sucking it up and rebuilding after settling for mediocrity and nostalgia since the lockout, they’re not paying much for mediocre goaltending.
Rocky Mountain oysters: Their blue line is infested with crappy $3-4 million defensemen not named Kyle. The growing pains are going to hurt … can fans who’ve been spoiled since Day 1 be counted on when the team isn’t competing for a Cup for a few years?
Dessert: Keep your heads up, Avs fans. It’s time to yank that band-aid off instead of watching your skin peel back slowly.

Gut Reactions: Vancouver Canucks

September 8, 2009

Being that I’m still trying to come up with an interesting concept for our “real” season previews, I thought it would be important to start getting into game shape for the season. So on a semi-daily basis, I’ll roll out these unsolicited opinions on various NHL teams.

Keep in mind that these are assessments made without painstaking research and are not meant to be “official” predictions. Whatever that means, anyway…

The Vancouver Canucks’ hopes are hitched to three workhorses for the forseeable future. For at least the next 5 years, Vancouver goes as Roberto Luongo and the Sedins go. Whatever you may say about the crazy lifetime contracts being thrown around, there are worse players to have locked up for the remainder of their best days than Bobby Lou.

So, the good news is that the Canucks locked up their best players for fairly reasonable cap hits.

The bad news is that the 2010 Olympics are going to completely screw them over.

In last year’s BoC bubble updates, my main theory was that the main thing non-elite teams was the difficulty of their remaining schedules. Well, by that train of thought, it’s very difficult for me to justify the idea of the Canucks winning their division.

On the bright side, though, I find it hard to imagine Vancouver missing the playoffs entirely. This team is considerably stronger than Edmonton, Minnesota and Colorado even with the handicap of their fairly insane road schedule.

Photoshop by Katchop

The Canucks won’t be blowing many teams out, as even their best forwards (Sedins, Kesler, Burrows) tend to get their points by grinding other teams to dust.

Even after losing heart-and-soul D Matt Ohlund to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Canucks have one of the deepest groups of blueliners in the NHL. It doesn’t get much better than Kevin Bieska – Sami Salo – Wille Mitchell -Alex Edler – Mathieu Schneider – Christian Ehrhoff – Shane O’Brien. It wouldn’t be surprising if one of those seven ended up in a salary dump, but either way that’s a versatile bunch.

And, of course, the Canucks feature arguably the world’s greatest goaltender in Luongo. To make him look even more world class, they brought in Andrew Raycroft, a guy who inexplicably remains in the NHL while guys likeManny Fernandez wait in UFA limbo. If Luongo is injured again next season, it’s pretty hard to imagine the Canucks opting for Raycroft over their solid prospect Corey Schneider.

Overall, there’s a lot to like about the Canucks but a rough schedule will derail Vancouver’s division title hopes.

Lightly researched, impulsive prediction: #2 in the Northwest Division, #5 in the Western Conference