The NHL season hasn’t started yet and so much has gone on in the offseason leaving many shocked fans (Subban-Weber trade, anyone?). The predictions for this year’s playoffs can be made from many different changes to various teams with regards to trades, free agency, or other management signings. The playoffs from last season were very unpredictable, as both teams were not considered Stanley Cup contenders but the Pens won it all just the same, with the Sharks losing in a respectable effort. The best way to predict certain teams is how they play together during the training camps; with the camps not even in session yet, all we have to go by is word of mouth.
There will be criticism all throughout the year when it comes to the play of certain teams as well as events that may swerve a lot of fans, like a huge blockbuster trade that could happen out of nowhere. There will be hockey experts whom will say the best and worst of teams in the offseason but when you see the teams playing together you cannot determine whether or not they will succeed or if they need something else to enhance their season. This list will probably shock, swerve, and anger some fans but these predictions are based on how the teams performed last season and what they have done in the offseason.
18 WESTERN CONFERENCE
17 Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks are no longer "mighty" -both name wise and team wise- as they have fallen on hard times with no one being able to figure out why. The disastrous start to their 2015-2016 season had the hockey world abuzz as to thinking if the team was finished and needed to rebuild, however they came back and made it to the playoffs but fell short. The Ducks' comeback last season was a spark that lead to them being one of the best teams in the league again for the second half of the season.
The one thing that is weighing them down for this year will be the absence of Frederik Andersson; John Gibson has shown that he can become the number one goaltender for them and can carry them, but he can be streaky. The Ducks will fall short of winning the cup this year. The biggest thing that will knock the Ducks out of the post season won't be their star power up front, but their questions and uncertainty in goal.
16 Nashville Predators
The Nashville Predators pulled off the biggest trade of the summer and will now be a huge contender for the cup this year. The acquisition of P.K. Subban will prove to be the best thing for the team as they will go far in the playoffs but they will unfortunately fall short in the 3rd round. The best is yet to come for this relatively young team; its core players can become a contender year after year with a cup win in their near future. The not so surprising rise of Filip Forsberg will prove to be one of the best trades that Nashville has ever made; he has not disappointed so far as he is quickly becoming a superstar and will lead the Preds to a cup win in the near future.
15 St. Louis Blues
The St. Louis Blues have been a pretty dangerous team to play against in the regular season as they have a very talented lineup that can score from anywhere. The worst part about their game has always been the pressure of the playoffs; with no cups in their history, something has to break at some point. This year will be no different as they will have another strong season with a potential Maurice Richard trophy-winner in their star player Vladimir Tarasenko. However, it will probably not be enough as they will come up short once again. The loss of Brian Elliot will prove to be one of the worst things for the Blues this year as the goaltending duties will fall on Jake Allen’s shoulders once again; however Allen has proven to everyone that he is a very dependable goaltender, just not enough to carry them through to the finals (or even the second round).
14 Winnipeg Jets
The Winnipeg Jets finally made their return to the playoffs 2 seasons ago and was met with a lot of fan support, the very support that brought them back to the NHL in the first place. The Jets have been a mix bag of good and bad, but always find a way to make the fans happy. This season will be different for them as they will win their first round of playoff hockey this year in what will most likely be an upset that will shock the entire hockey world. The magic won’t last for long as they will be eliminated in the second round but not without leaving a lasting memory with fans for the years to come. The signing of big defenceman Dustin Byfuglien to an extension will prove to be the best deal the Jets can have, with a Stanley Cup winning defenceman on the back end doing what he does best.
13 San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks finally made it over the bump and made it to the finals last year, even though many experts slated them as being eliminated in the first round last season. This year will be no different for the Sharks, as they will most likely fall in the first round after excelling in the regular season. Don't be surprised to see either Patrick Marleau or Joe Thornton being traded to another team, which will affect the Sharks enough to be knocked out early. The early elimination however will not deter the team in the coming seasons as there is very much potential to win a cup in the coming years, with Big Joe having some good years ahead of him playing alongside some of the best young kids in the game, especially with Logan Couture coming into his own as a dangerous forward to play against.
12 Los Angeles Kings
The Kings have had their fair share of success over the past decade, with 2 cups to their name it only furthers that they are a dynasty in the making. The Kings are just like the Blackhawks when it comes to success; they had a few bumps in the past few seasons with some of their core going elsewhere and the stripping of the ‘C’ from Dustin Brown. The current captain in Anze Kopitar is a very capable and talented player in his own right; it will be up to the rest of the team plus Jonathan Quick to pick up the slack to make another successful season in LA. The capability of Anze Kopitar as captain will be a good long term decision that will showcase how good he can be. This season will see some big trades, with the likes of Jeff Carter being involved perhaps.
11 Dallas Stars
The Dallas Stars have added quite a bit of offence over the past few seasons, with the adding of Jason Spezza and Tyler Seguin along with the most underrated captain in Jamie Benn. The Stars have enough power on the front end to take them to the playoffs year after year. The one thing that will be their Achilles' heel this year will be their goaltending, as Kari Lehtonen is an average goaltender who hasn’t proven enough to be that shut down goalie that the Stars need to take them all the way to their 2nd cup in history. This season in particular will see the best coming out in all ends for the Stars from their top players. Jason Spezza will finally prove his critics wrong and become the player he was in Ottawa, where he had a few seasons of over 100 points.
10 Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks have had a good team for almost a decade now and will have a good team until the core becomes old and grey. With the drafting of those crucial players along with various other key components, they have had no problem being a successful team with 3 cups in 6 years and many more to come. This coming year they will fall short, making it to the final round but will be a contender for seasons to come. Toews and Kane are entering their prime now and are like a well-oiled machine, with some of their best years still ahead of them they can prove to be the best duo in the league. The biggest debate in the NHL among fans as well as hockey experts has been "Who is better? Toews or Crosby?" This debate rages on year after year, where many have said that Toews has surpassed Sid to being the best player in the world, this season will prove that fact once again.
9 EASTERN CONFRENCE
8 Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers of the 2010 are long gone and its rebuild time in the city of brotherly love, with the core of their underdog team from 2010 gone and their coaches changed its to wonder what good can come out of the Flyers. The best thing going in Philly town is their perseverance that runs through from the legendary broad street bullies club, the toughness still being an asset for the Flyers can be harmful at the same time. The play of Calder Trophy finalist Shayne Gostisbehere lifted the Flyers above the expectations of all the critics. This coming season will be a great year for Flyer fans as they will have another winning season to celebrate about as the Flyers will finish just barely in a playoff spot, but however will be hard pressed against the Caps and will be knocked out quickly. The resurgence of the Flyers this season will show that they are nowhere near the bottom and that they have a very bright future ahead of them with Claude Giroux leading the charge.
7 Montreal Canadiens
The Montreal Canadiens have the most history of any NHL team in history, winning 24 cups, and countless hall of fame players in their archives it’s only fitting they would continue their success into this season. Last season was a disaster however with the injury to Carey Price and the less than Steller play of almost every other player it was hard to believe that a team that went so far the season before could fall so hard and so fast. This year will be a different year though, this year the Habs will make the playoffs and have some players having career years, but to be eliminated in the first round but the future looks bright. The Habs will have a disappointing post season while having an excellent regular season, however anything can be better than their disaster of a season last season. Captain Pacioretty will lead the team in points once again with having a career year himself all the while helping his team out of the criticism of the 2015-2016 season.
6 Florida Panthers
The biggest shocker from last season was the resurgence of Jaromir Jagr and the Florida Panthers with their best record since their cup run in 1996. The team that has had the worst attendance of any NHL team made it to the playoffs with the help of their young guys, veterans like Jagr, and a great season by Roberto Luongo. This year will be no different than last year as they will have around the same year as last year but losing in the first round once again and will prove that their isn’t only one team in the sunshine state than can have a winning season. The Panthers have a new look this coming season with their new jerseys and among new faces coming to play, you’ll see them upsetting a lot of teams in the regular season with playing the role of spoiler throughout the year with Roberto Luongo stealing most of the games.
5 Tampa Bay Lighting
The Bolts have been on the cusp of their second cup in their young history on many occasions but just missing out twice in the last three seasons has to bug them. The team they have this year will be the best team the franchise has ever seen, with the huge signings of Stamkos and Hedman along with what will prove to be Ben Bishop's career and Vezina trophy winning year. The Lightning will be the best team in the league this year and will finish within the top 3 of all teams overall. One has to think that this team may be the best in the league this year and many arguments can be said for and against them especially when Steven Stamkos fresh off his contract signing will win the Art Ross trophy along with being the playoff MVP. The Bolts will be an unstoppable force of nature this coming season as most of their main stars are in their prime and will prove to the world just how good they can be.
4 Ottawa Senators
The Ottawa Senators made history just 2 seasons ago when they came back in the last half of the season to make the playoffs, even though they lost in the first round that year it made history. This year has already been a topsy turvy off season with acquiring Brassard from the Rangers in exchange for Mika Zibanejad, signing Mike Hoffman to a multi-year deal and another multi-year deal in the works for big defenceman Cody Ceci the future looks bright. This season will be a bit better than last year with a very dependable coaching staff being them along with the new face and returning faces the core of the team is set to make their own personal bests in scoring this season. The numbers that the Sens forwards along with Captain Erik Karlsson will prove to be the difference maker in making the playoffs, along with the always stellar goaltending from Craig Anderson. The Sens however won’t have the tools needed to make it all the way this year as they will fall to the eventual cup winners in the second round this year.
3 New York Rangers
The Rangers have had a shaky couple seasons with being good then being so bad that no one wants to be seen playing for them, but for the most part they have been a good solid team. The play of Lunquist will be as solid as ever as he will put in another stellar year is very impressive numbers yet again proving King Henrik will not be outdone by any goaltender in the NHL. Rick Nash has been an iffy player since he came to the Rangers from Columbus with so much hype behind him but not being able to deliver as promised. The addition of the young gun Mika Zibanejad will prove to be a good deal as he will put up some great numbers with his new team, along with some of the best defence in the eastern conference you will see the Rangers do well but they will fall early in the playoffs. The early exit this year will be the proving ground of a possible change of coaches or maybe a trade that will send Rick Nash out of New York.
2 Pittsburgh Penguins
The champs are here, then they will be gone, the Pens for better terms were not expected to be anywhere close to the cup last year and surprised a lot of critics when they won it all. This year will be an average year for the Pens as Sid the kid will be on par with points for his career, however don’t be surprised if you see a big trade in the works in seeing Evgeni Malkin being sent elsewhere to shake up the team. The Pens are good right through the team and are full of up and comers that will eventually usurp the throne of Crosby to become the new Pittsburgh penguins. The problems that will plague the Pens this year will be goaltending and shoddy defence, the miraculous play of Murray in the playoffs was history in the making but as the same as in Ottawa with the Hamburgler you’ll see Murray be a flash in the pan and all the while wondering if Marc-Andre Fleury is as good as he says he still is.
1 Washington Capitals
The Capitals are a good team; they have been for the past several seasons since drafting their franchise player Alex Ovechkin along with other talents that have been working hard year after year. The one down part to this team is that they are overachievers and haven’t been able to win the cup with only one finals appearance and that was 18 years ago. This year will be the same as the past few seasons where they will have another great regular season with Ovie possibly breaking his personal best point total this year along with Braden Holtby having another strong year in goal. The biggest reason for their failure this year to make it passed the second round will be their defence not being up to the task of the eventual cup winners the Tampa Bay Lightning. There will be a cup in the future for the Caps but they will win in in a few seasons, if they don’t then they may never win one.
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