It’s never easy predicting anything in life. If we were all experts at looking into the future everybody would be retired by now after picking the winning lottery numbers. When it comes to predicting what’s going to take place in the NHL in 2015 we’ll start with the second half of the current season and the playoffs. We can try to guess which players will succeed as trophy winners and how the teams will fare in the postseason and can also take a quick look at the coaching situation, possible trades and the league in general.
There are always new expectations when a new year rolls around as NHL teams are looking at different ways to improve as well as achieve their goals. Most teams aim high, but with Connor McDavid being available in this summer’s draft some clubs will actually be aiming in the other direction. There are numerous franchises and individual players who are happy with the status quo, but others are hoping to make changes. With the year 2015 upon us it’s an ideal time to make a few bold predictions for the NHL.
Some of them may come true and it’s also possible that none of them do, but it’s always fun gazing into the crystal ball and trying to predict the future. The first prediction was actually for Randy Carlyle to be fired and that rang true before the ink had even dried on this article. But now that he’s out of a job, we’ll predict that he won’t be offered a new one until next year at the earliest. Below are the top 10 bold predictions for the NHL in 2015.
10 Randy Carlyle Remains Unemployed
Thousands of Toronto Maple Leafs fans are wondering how former coach Randy Carlyle managed to escape 2014 without being fired. The majority of them believe he should have been sacked at the end of last season after the Leafs derailed down the stretch and missed the playoffs yet again. They finished 12th in the East with a record of 38-36-8 and it looked like a similar ending was in store this season before he lost his job on January 6th with a record of 21-16-3.
The team was a little better than average to kick off the 2014-15 campaign, but then another collapse reared its ugly head. Carlyle’s squad was outshot big time on a consistent basis by allowing 34.4 shots against per game and his system or lack of one saw the Leafs as one of the league’s worst club’s when it came to puck possession. If it wasn’t for goalie Jonathan Bernier the Buds might already be out of the playoff race. Look for the former Norris Trophy winner Carlyle to remain unemployed for the remainder of 2015.
9 Las Vegas Awarded NHL Franchise
There have been rumours abound regarding NHL expansion with cities such as Las Vegas, Seattle, Quebec, and Toronto being named as recipients of franchises. Yes, it’s arguable that Toronto already has one, but Canada’s largest city could find itself with a second team to cheer for in the near future. It’s possible two or all of these locations could find themselves with an expansion team by 2017, but we’ll go out on a limb and predict Las Vegas will be the first to receive confirmation and it will come in 2015.
This is because Las Vegas may not necessarily be awarded an expansion franchise, as Sin City could find itself being the new home to an existing team which could be relocated. The first clubs that come to mind are the Florida Panthers and Arizona Coyotes. Both of these teams have a hard time attracting full houses on a consistent basis and it may be time to move at least one of them, especially the Panthers.
8 Jonathan Bernier Finishes Top 3 in SV%
Since the Toronto Maple Leafs face so many shots per game, they were second worst in the league when 2015 arrived at 34.4 against per game, goaltender Jonathan Bernier will have an excellent chance at finishing in the top three for SV% this season. Bernier should achieve this for goalies who play 50 games or more in the 2014-15 campaign. He entered the new year with a SV% of .920 and was probably the sole reason Randy Carlyle held onto his coaching job until a few days ago. Bernier is a solid goalie who has been responsible for most of the Leafs wins this season and bad goals against him are few and far between. With a new coach taking over the team look for Bernier’s SV% to climb over the second half of the season.
7 New York Islanders win first Playoff Series in over 20 years
The New York Islanders will bid farewell to Long Island and the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in style as the club will win its first playoff series in 22 years in 2015. The Islanders, a former dynasty a few decades ago with the likes of Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy and Clark Gilles in the lineup, will be moving to Brooklyn and playing out of the new Barclays Center starting in the 2015-16 campaign.
The Islanders won 19 straight playoff series from 1980 to 1984, but haven’t won one since 1992-93. The rebuild looks like it’s finally over and the Islanders should have no problem reaching the Eastern Conference playoffs in 2014-15. Of course, it's hard to win a series when you don’t make the playoffs, which the team failed to do 14 times since 1993, but this year will be different. Look for the Islanders to go out in style with at least one postseason series victory.
6 Boston Bruins Miss the Playoffs
The Boston Bruins were sitting on the outside looking in as far as the playoffs were concerned a week into 2015 with a record of 19-16-6 after 40 games. The Bruins were sitting in ninth place in the Eastern Conference just a point behind the Toronto Maple Leafs, but even though they’ve got half a season to recover, it looks like the Bruins may miss the dance this season, which would be the first time since the 2006-07 campaign.
Having team leader and top defenceman Zdeno Chara out of the lineup for 20 games certainly didn’t help matters and goalie Tuukka Rask isn’t having any luck between the pipes. Forward David Krejci also missed 20 of the first 40 games and several other players such as Patrice Bergeron, Loui Eriksson, and Brad Marchand are struggling to put points up on the board on a regular basis. Cap restrictions also forced them to trade Johnny Boychuck, who's flourished with the Islanders. The Bruins will put in a solid effort, but fall just short of a postseason berth in 2014-15.
5 Anaheim Ducks will win the Stanley Cup
It may not be too bold to predict that the Ducks will hoist the Stanley Cup in late spring of 2015, but considering who they’re going to have to beat to get out of the West, it’s still considered to be going out on a limb. Anaheim sat atop the NHL standings a week into 2015 with 58 points from their 26-9-6 record. They’ve got good depth with a couple of stars in Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry and everybody else is chipping in on a nightly basis.
Goaltender Frederik Andersen has been a pleasant surprise as the 25-year-old native of Denmark entered the season with just 20 NHL games under his belt. At the halfway mark of the season he was second in games played for goalies as well as second in wins with just six losses. The Ducks won the Stanley Cup once before in 2007 and have lost three playoff series in seven games since then and a pair of other series in six games. They’ll get over the hump this time around and celebrate with their second cup triumph.
4 Pekka Rinne wins Vezina Trophy
Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne will be named the winner of the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goalie at the annual awards gala in the summer of 2015. The 32-year-old native of Kempele, Finland will get a run for his money from Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens, but will ultimately be awarded with the silverware. Rinnne, who was chosen with the 258th overall pick in the eighth round of the 2004 Draft, is having a season to remember. He was first in wins, third in GAA, fourth in SV% and third in shutouts at the halfway point of the season with just half a dozen losses. This is quite a turnaround from last season when he played just 24 games with a 10-10 record and had a 2.77 GAA and a .902 SV%.
3 Last Place Team Loses Connor McDavid Sweepstakes
With Erie Otters forward Connor McDavid being the top prize in this year’s NHL Draft sweepstakes, we see a few teams that aren’t really interested in winning this season. To put it bluntly…they’re more or less tanking with the hope they finish dead last in the 30-team league, resulting in the best chance of drafting the young star. The Edmonton Oilers, Carolina Hurricanes and Buffalo Sabres all fall into this category. But there’s only one McDavid and the three teams can’t share him. While these clubs continue to tank, karma will pay the last place team a visit in June. Whoever manages to finish 30th place this year in hopes of drafting McDavid will lose the draft lottery and see him go to another team. It's very much possible. We've seen teams like last year's Panthers, the 2013 Avalanche and the 2012 Oilers all land the top pick, despite finishing 29th overall.
2 Philadelphia Flyers Fire Craig Berube
Things are going from bad to worse for the Flyers this season and the playoffs appear to be nothing more than a mirage in the desert. The team is as close to the bottom of the league as it is to a postseason berth and sooner or later somebody’s going to be the fall guy. That person will be head coach Craig Berube whether the state of the team is his fault or not. The Flyers’ Jakub Voracek could win the Art Ross Trophy this season and Claude Giroux also knows how to rack up the points, but the club needs a bona fide goalie before it becomes a contender. GM Ron Hextall is to blame for the acquisition of R.J. Umberger and the goaltending situation, but it will be Berube who’s relieved of his duties.
1 Toronto Maple Leafs Trade Captain Dion Phaneuf
With yet another new era starting in Toronto under a new head coach the team will continue to play inconsistent hockey. The Leafs’ upper brass will finally figure out that no matter who coaches this squad the results aren’t going to change until the leadership core is changed first. This means captain Dion Phaneuf will finally be shipped out of town much to the delight of most Leafs fans. It’s going to be tough to find takers for the overrated defenceman due to his seven-year $49 million contract, but with a slightly higher salary cap being introduced in 2015, Phaneuf will find himself with a one-way ticket out of Toronto before 2015 is over.