With a new NHL season fast approaching, hockey fans everywhere are studying all of the off-season changes to forecast the events of next season. In many ways, this is a fruitless endeavor, as no one can foresee which players will suffer unexpected injuries, which young players will make the big step and which stars will have off years that hurt their team's chances of playoff glory. It doesn't mean, however, that it isn't a lot of fun to do.
I freely admit that I will likely look back on these predictions in several months and cringe at how little I understood what will happen this season. For those with good memories, there will be ample opportunity to look back and laugh at how wildly incorrect some of these predictions will turn out to be. My only hope is that there will also be several that I predict correctly, and can therefore use as counter-arguments to prove my validity as a sports writer. None of us can see the future, but I hope that my use of statistics, projections and sheer intuition will be enough to get most of these predictions right.
Some of these picks are fairly safe, while others are bold predictions at best and wild guesses at worst. They are not a comprehensive list of everything I think will happen this season, but I hope that each one provides a source for discussion, thoughtful consideration and perhaps even controversy.
25 The Return of the NHL All-Star Game Will Garner Little Enthusiasm
24 Only One Canadian Team Will Make the Playoffs For a Second Consecutive Year
23 Edmonton Will Continue to Flounder At or Near the Bottom of the Standings
22 Randy Carlyle Will Be Fired As Coach of the Maple Leafs Within the Next 12 Months
21 Jason Spezza (Dallas), Ryan Kesler (Anaheim), Paul Statsny (St. Louis) and Thomas Vanek (Minnesota) Will All Have Great Seasons With Their New Teams
20 John Tavares Will Finish Top Five in the League in Both Goals and Points
19 Erik Karlsson Will Not Finish as the Highest Scoring Defenceman in the NHL For the Second Consecutive Year
18 Martin Brodeur Will Not Be Signed
17 Winnipeg Will Fire GM Kevin Cheveldayoff Unless He Trades For a New Goaltender
16 The Flyers Will Miss the Playoffs and Be Replaced By the Devils
15 Patric Hornqvist Will Finish the Season With More Goals Than James Neal
14 Detroit's Playoff Streak Will Finally Come to an End
13 13. Buffalo Will Not Finish in Last Place for a Second Consecutive Year
12 Roberto Luongo Will Record a Better Save Percentage Than Cory Schneider (New Jersey) and Ryan Miller (Vancouver), But Win Fewer Games
11 Neither Stanley Cup Finalist Will Make It Back This Year
10 Colorado Will Have the Biggest Drop in Points Compared to Last Season
9 Age Will Finally Catch Up to Martin St. Louis This Season
8 Calgary Will Not Make the Playoffs, But Will Come Close and Show Vast Signs of Improvement
7 Sam Bennett (Calgary) Will Narrowly Beat Jonathan Drouin for the Calder Trophy
6 The Norris Trophy Will Go to a First-Time Winner (Either Doughty or Weber)
5 Steven Stamkos Will Win the Rocket Richard Trophy By At Least Ten Goals
4 Jarome Iginla Will Not Be a Good Fit in Colorado
3 John Gibson Will Not Only Emerge As the Ducks' Starting Goalie, But Also Finish in the Top 15 in Both GAA and Save Percentage
2 The Dallas Stars Will Win a Playoff Series
1 Barry Trotz Will Get Washington Into the Playoffs and Win the Jack Adams Trophy
If anyone can transform Ovechkin into a complete player, it's Barry Trotz. His Nashville teams were disciplined and defensively sound, and Washington possesses far more firepower than he ever had with the Predators. He can work with their goaltenders and defensemen, but it all pivots on his ability to convince Ovechkin to sacrifice offense to help the team in other ways. If Trotz can do it, he's coach of the year for sure.
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