Over the last few weeks I have gotten some emails from readers who wanted my input on some NHL related questions. I figured it would be a good idea to do a blog piece on the rest of my NHL predictions tied in with the anonymous reader questions so everyone can get a taste, so here it is.
NHL Prediction: Stanley Cup Final & Winner: Sharks vs Flyers (Sharks in 7)
Off the bat you’re thinking why I did not choose Detroit. This prediction is not so much about a Detroit Collapse but more about a rise of San Jose. With the additions San Jose made this offseason on the blueline of two veteran, skilled Stanley Cup winners in Rob Blake and Dan Boyle, they clearly filled a major void in part of what was hampering the team to taking that next step. Think about this, if San Jose was as good as they were last year when Cheechoo, Marleau, Clowe, Michalek and Vlasic were invisible or injured, where could San Jose be with a healthy squad in a bounce back year, as well as with two key additions on the back end to boot?
On the flip side, Philly is the most well rounded team in the East in my opinion. The offensive depth goes on for ages, they have a solid defense and a goaltender proven he could get the job done in a big spot, and through the course of a season/series. With the experience most of the Flyers players got from last years playoffs, you have to think there is nowhere to go but up for this team, and to me they look like the team that can go the distance.
If this happens to be the Stanley Cup final, it will be so close that either team is deserving, but I have to give the nod to San Jose because of home ice. San Jose is my choice to win the Cup in 09.
NHL Prediction: First NHL coach to get fired: Peter Laviolette
If you read my NHL standings predictions you will have seen I predicted Carolina to win the Southeast, and if that happens, Peter Laviolette will obviously still be coach. However, if Carolina happens to perform real poorly the first half of the season, or do not make the playoffs overall(like his last couple of seasons), you can guarantee Peter Laviolette will see the door, and Carolina will most likely follow the recent trend in the NHL and poach a coach from the minor leagues.
I honestly don’t see any other coaches possibly getting fired this year because lots of teams have low expectations and are in rebuild mode with new coaches, or other coaches are signed to long deals on other teams and so on.
This choice is more of a long shot, not so much a reality.
Reader Question: Who do you think can challenge for the Art Ross trophy outside of the obvious 3?
I’m taking this reader means the obvious 3 in Crosby, Ovechkin and Thornton or maybe Malkin. Either way, my choice is Jason Spezza. If you’ve been paying attention this offseason with NHL related articles, you know Jason Spezza has stated he is primed and ready for a career year. He also said he is switching from wood to composite hockey sticks this year (if you want to put stock into that). Besides all that, take a look at Spezza’s numbers over the last 3 seasons where his point per game average is 3rd best in the league next to Sidney Crosby and Joe Thornton, and if he stayed healthy all 3 seasons you can pretty much guarantee 100 or more point seasons in all of those seasons. The key with Spezza is he needs to stay healthy, that’s it.
Reader Question: What is a good strategy you use for drafting in fantasy hockey?
This question really all depends on your league settings and total roster positions, and really how the draft falls in your hands. I’ll speak from a generic standpoint in a head to head league since that seems the most popular amongst hockey fans.
Try to go for the most reliable players (health and performance wise). You have to use your judgment in the draft, but if you have a chance to take a player ranked 9-10 spots lower but you know he is reliable over a player ranked higher but averages 65 games a year, take a good look at it even if the fantasy categories are not as appealing overall, but slightly close. Teams that win fantasy leagues are always filled with reliable players. You don’t need a roster full of the best looking/top ranked players in a head to head playoff league, you need a reliable roster more than anything, especially in the playoffs.
Reader Question: You don’t seem to have any sleeper teams on your predictions to make the playoffs. Do you see any team that everyone always writes off making it to the dance?
I’m not sure how many people are/will be picking Carolina and Vancouver to win their division as well as Phoenix making it in, so I look at those three as my sleepers. But if you’re asking about a team that can come out of nowhere and truly surprise everyone, I’ll say Columbus. Why? Well, I like Ken Hitchcock, and I like how Columbus now has a team identity. I also like the youngsters Jakub Voracek and Derek Brassard coming up for Columbus. Their defense is still shaky, but if Leclaire can stand on his head again and Columbus can get some secondary scoring outside of Nash, Umberger, Huselius and Vyborny they may make a push for it. The West is just so tough, though, and Columbus will have to play above themselves on many nights for this to happen.
Reader Question: Do you see any player coming out of the blue to be a big goal scorer? Exactly how Jason Blake was two years ago and Brad Boyes was last year? Thank you!
This one really made me think, thanks. I’m going to go out on a limb here and pick Steve Bernier of the Vancouver Canucks. Steve has great hands, and he should be playing with two great playmakers in the Sedins. Everyone knows how the Sedins can turn 15-20 goal scorers into 30 goal scorers, but I believe deep down Steve has the tools to reach 40 goals. He has to stay healthy, including his linemates, and the Canucks as a team will have to be competitive all year. This isn’t something I’d put stock into for a true fantasy sleeper right now if that’s what you’re thinking, but take that chance when it looks good to you.