Mat's NHL Base

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    Mat

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    Mat's NHL Base

    Post  Mat on Mon Sep 07, 2009 3:02 am

    I'm not sure whether it's a good idea or a bad idea to put all my ramblings about hockey here. On the one hand, it means that people who don't care don't have to read it in my blog. On the other hand, it means I'll have one less thing to talk about in my blog. Oh well, let's go for it. At least here I don't have to worry that I'm talking about hockey too much.

    I figured I'd start by running down my opinions of the various divisions and teams before the season starts. Don't be shy about chiming in with your own opinions, too.

    Today, I give you the Atlantic Division. This is one of the stronger divisions in the NHL, due in large part to the fact that there are so many bad teams in the East, mostly clustered in the other two divisions. Just being decent is good enough to earn a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and there are four decent teams in this division.

    New Jersey Devils - I think the Devils are on the decline, shedding parts and lagging behind the Penguins. But Martin Brodeur always keeps them competitive. I think they'll be on the happy side of middle-of-the-road this year, but as I said, there are so many awful teams in the East that even middle-of-the-road means a decent playoff spot. I'm thinking they'll probably be the 5 seed, maybe 4.

    New York Islanders - The best thing for this team would be to suck, which isn't exactly hard for them. They need some more great draft picks to help their on-ice product. Off the ice, their sucking might help destroy their fanbase, which in turn might help nudge them into a new city with a new arena, both of which they desperately need. So let's hope the Islanders are terrible. Of course, there are a bunch of Eastern teams who'll also be terrible, plus Phoenix and Colorado, so it'll be quite a fight for the top of the lottery.

    New York Rangers - The Rangers are, like New Jersey, a middle-of-the-road Eastern team, which means playoffs. But they're not as good as the Devils, and they don't have Brodeur, so I expect them to finish somewhere around 6 or 7.

    Philadelphia Flyers - The Flyers should be good enough for the playoffs, but they do have the potential to be an utter train wreck, too. I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and say they finish as the 4 seed. Failing that, they'll probably be 5th, but either way means meeting New Jersey in the playoffs.

    Pittsburgh Penguins - Obviously the most powerful team in the division, and one of the elite teams in the league; I consider them a top contender for the Stanley Cup. One thing they haven't done since their Crosby-fueled rebirth is win the President's Trophy, so I say they'll do it this year. Do they win the Stanley Cup again? I wouldn't put it past them, but my official preseason prediction is no.

    FINAL ANALYSIS
    z-Pittsburgh
    x-Philadelphia
    x-New Jersey
    x-New York Rangers
    New York Islanders

    Join me next time, when I'll be dissecting the Central Division.
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    Mat

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    The Central Division

    Post  Mat on Tue Sep 08, 2009 5:43 pm

    Alright now, let's discuss the Central Division. For a long time, this division was Detroit, Nashville and three also-rans. But things all changed last year, with four of the five teams making the playoffs. What's this season got in store?

    Chicago Blackhawks - The Blackhawks are on the verge of some big things; their only question mark is whether their goaltending is as good as they hope it is. I will give them the benefit of the doubt. In fact, I'll give them the 1 seed in the conference, though it certainly has the potential to collapse.

    Columbus Blue Jackets - A year ago, the idea of Columbus ever winning a Stanley Cup was laughable. But they suddenly got a real good goaltender last season, and now they actually have potential. Which is great, because Columbus is a promising hockey market. The Blue Jackets should make the playoffs again this year, I'm thinking probably at 8, though like all things in the West this year, their seed hinges on the Sharks.

    Detroit Red Wings - Like the Devils, the Red Wings are on the decline. But it's going to be a real slow decline. I think Detroit will finish with a strong 4 seed.

    Nashville Predators - The Predators are not good, but they're not terrible. They'll suffer from playing in a good division, though. They should most likely miss the playoffs in unspectacular fashion.

    St. Louis Blues - The West is not the East. In the West, there are so many good teams that being just decent might not be good enough. The Blues are one of those teams that are stuck between playoffs and not, and I think this year will be not.

    FINAL ANALYSIS
    y-Chicago
    x-Detroit
    x-Columbus
    St. Louis
    Nashville

    Coming up next, the Northeast Division.
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    Mat

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    The Northeast Division

    Post  Mat on Wed Sep 09, 2009 6:15 pm

    Now for the Northeast Division. This is a funny division, with a different team winning it every year since the lockout. That trend tells us that it's Toronto's turn this year, but... yeah.

    Boston Bruins - Last year's 1 seed in the East, and not a lot has happened to make them worse. They should stay on top of the division, but like I said, it's such a fluctuating division. I'll give them the division, but in the 3 seed overall.

    Buffalo Sabres - The Sabres are a rare creature: an Eastern team whose playoff spot or lack of one is not assured. I have absolutely nothing to back this up, and I suspect I'll be eating these words come April, but I'm going to give Buffalo the 8 seed.

    Montreal Canadiens - The Canadiens should be alright. One of those mid-level teams that makes the playoffs thanks to the overall weakness of the conference. I figure they'll be working with the Rangers for 6 or 7, probably end up 7.

    Ottawa Senators - Unlike the Devils and Red Wings, the Senators decline was fast: years of strength without accomplishing much, one Stanley Cup Final, and then straight downhill. I think it'll be another off year for the Senators as they try to figure out how to rebuild. They'll miss the playoffs by just a bit, and be in line for a middling draft pick.

    Toronto Maple Leafs - The Leafs need to be bad, but their fans won't tolerate being bad, and their management wants to cater to the fans. So they'll try to be good, fail, miss the playoffs by not enough to get a decent draft pick, and be back at square one for next year.

    FINAL ANALYSIS
    y-Boston
    x-Montreal
    x-Buffalo
    Ottawa
    Toronto

    That gives us seven Eastern playoff spots filled with one division left. Gosh, I wonder who'll win that one?

    Next up, the one I have a personal stake in: the Northwest Division.


    Last edited by Mat on Sun Sep 13, 2009 3:23 am; edited 1 time in total
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    Katby

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    Re: Mat's NHL Base

    Post  Katby on Thu Sep 10, 2009 12:02 am

    THIS BASE IS A LONELY BASE.
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    Mat

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    The Northwest Division

    Post  Mat on Thu Sep 10, 2009 10:28 pm

    Oh you best believe it's the Northwest Division.

    In recent years, the Northwest has been one of the harder divisions in hockey, with Calgary, Colorado and Minnesota always playoff caliber, and Vancouver and Edmonton often there as well. But now it's a little bit in turmoil, with four of the five teams breaking in new coaches this season.

    Calgary Flames - The Flames are one of the best and most stable teams in the division; even though they have a new coach, he's the brother of the GM and the successful former coach of the New Jersey Devils. They have fine players and an above average goaltender, and will be fighting with Vancouver for the division title all season. I think they'll come up short in the end, but still make the playoffs handily, probably 6th, maybe 5th if the Sharks don't do well.

    Colorado Avalanche - Oh, what a mess they have in Denver. The highlight of their season will probably be the retirement of Joe Sakic's number before the first game, and then it's an 82-game downward spiral that will see them near the bottom of the league when it's over. At least they'll get a decent pick out of it.

    Edmonton Oilers - The Oilers should be okay, but probably another casualty of the logjam of good teams in the West. I think they'll finish just outside the playoffs, but they'll come close.

    Minnesota Wild - For the first time in their existence, the Wild seem to be falling apart. I think they'll be a pretty clear playoff miss, with the potential to be just awful.

    Vancouver Canucks - Though I'm a little biased because they're my team, the Canucks do seem to be the legitimate best team in the division, losing little from last season and gaining quite a bit, and being the only team in the division without a new coach. They should win said division, and have the potential to finish as high as the 2 seed depending on how Chicago and Anaheim fare.

    FINAL ANALYSIS
    y-Vancouver
    x-Calgary
    Edmonton
    Minnesota
    Colorado

    Next time, perhaps the most influential division in at least the Western Conference, the Pacific Division.


    Last edited by Mat on Sun Sep 13, 2009 3:23 am; edited 1 time in total
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    Mat

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    The Pacific Division

    Post  Mat on Sat Sep 12, 2009 3:25 am

    The Pacific Division is an interesting one because, in my view, it contains some of the Western Conference's biggest wild cards. A lot of what the playoff picture looks like depends on just a few teams from this division.

    Anaheim Ducks - Though the Sharks have a ton of potential, I suspect they might be a bit unstable after last year. That's where the Ducks come in. They're always a strong team, and I think they'll take advantage of the Sharks instability to win the division. They'll probably make the 2 seed, but might be 3 if Vancouver is really good, or 1 if I've overestimated Chicago's power.

    Dallas Stars - Last year was not a typical year for the Stars. I think the first half of their season sunk them, when they were being held back by injury and Avery. Consider how well they finished, and imagine what they might have done had they been a proper team for those first few months. Though they've made some changes, including getting a new coach who has accomplished nothing since winning the Cup 13 years ago, I think they'll make the playoffs this year, likely as the 7 seed, but they could rise to 6.

    Los Angeles Kings - The Kings want to be better, but for whatever reason, they just can't get there. There's no room for questions in the West, so I think LA will miss the playoffs.

    Phoenix Coyotes - The most dysfunctional team in the league right now, with questions flying about whether the team will be in Arizona, Ontario, or even in existence at all in the near future, perhaps even as soon as this season. All this uncertainty from a management perspective is not likely to reflect well on the on-ice product, which wasn't very good to begin with. I'm thinking a finish of either 14 or 15 is likely, but whatever the finishing number, playoffs are absolutely out of the question.

    San Jose Sharks - Now here's the big question: how will the Sharks respond to last season? They could do anything from win the conference to miss the playoffs this season, and I really don't know which it'll be. My official prediction is that they'll finish 5th, but honestly, who knows?

    FINAL ANALYSIS
    y-Anaheim
    x-San Jose
    x-Dallas
    Los Angeles
    Phoenix

    And so the playoff picture for the west looks like this:
    1 Chicago Blackhawks vs. 8 Columbus Blue Jackets
    2 Anaheim Ducks vs. 7 Dallas Stars
    3 Vancouver Canucks vs. 6 Calgary Flames
    4 Detroit Red Wings vs. 5 San Jose Sharks


    Tomorrow, this preseason exercise ends with the Southeast Division.
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    Mat

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    The Southeast Division

    Post  Mat on Sun Sep 13, 2009 3:45 am

    And now it all comes down to the worst division in hockey, the Southeast. I mentioned repeatedly that the Eastern Conference was weak? Well, here's your reason.

    Atlanta Thrashers - I understand the Thrashers' ownership situation is a little awkward, being spread out among as many as seven owners, and the resulting lack of a unified vision for its construction seems to have created a pretty apathetic team. At least that's the impression the Thrashers create. With Washington in the division, there's not much Atlanta can hope for.

    Carolina Hurricanes - When the Hurricanes are good, they're very good; the last three times they've made the playoffs, they've gone to the Stanley Cup Final, won the Stanley Cup, and gone to the Eastern Conference Final. But they're also pretty adept at missing the playoffs, even missing the opportunity to defend their Stanley Cup in 2007. My gut tells me they'll sneak in this year, but my official prediction is no; I gave their slot to Buffalo.

    Florida Panthers - Much like the LA Kings, the Panthers want to be better, but can't. I think they'll make a run at the playoffs, but ultimately come up short. I could see them squeaking into the 8 spot if a bunch of other teams are worse than anticipated, though.

    Tampa Bay Lightning - I picked the Lightning to make the Stanley Cup Final last year, because I failed to take into account the mess they have at a management level. I won't make that mistake again. No, this team is missing the playoffs pretty convincingly this year; the only question is whether they or Atlanta will be last in the division.

    Washington Capitals - One of the best teams in the league, let alone the division. They'll win the division without trouble, and get into the playoffs as the 2 seed.

    FINAL ANALYSIS
    x-Washington
    Carolina
    Florida
    Atlanta
    Tampa Bay

    And so that leaves us with the following playoff matches:
    1 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 8 Buffalo Sabres
    2 Washington Capitals vs. 7 Montreal Canadiens
    3 Boston Bruins vs. 6 New York Rangers
    4 Philadelphia Flyers vs. 5 New Jersey Devils
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    Mat

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    Finally...

    Post  Mat on Mon Sep 14, 2009 6:24 am

    I guess all that's left now is to give my Stanley Cup predictions.

    There are a number of good contenders this year: Pittsburgh, Detroit, Boston, Chicago, Vancouver, Anaheim, Washington, maybe San Jose...

    My prediction is that it'll come down to Washington vs. Chicago.

    My further prediction is that the 2010 Stanley Cup Champions will be the Washington Capitals.

    Thanks for joining me! And be on the lookout for periodic updates throughout the season.

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