2014-15 Regular Season & Playoff Predictions

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Just one week away from today will be opening night of the new 2014-15 regular season, which means it’s that time of the year for me to make some predictions (and by the way, I absolutely hate making predictions, but I feel obligated to anyway).

End of 2014-15 Regular Season

Pacific Division Champions: Anaheim Ducks

The Anaheim Ducks will once again finish as Pacific Division champions. Although they gave up Nick Bonino and Luca Sbisa in the Ryan Kesler trade with Vancouver and Ducks legend Teemu Selanne retired right after the L.A. Kings eliminated them in the 2nd round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, I believe they still have a chance at claiming the Pacific Division crown again.

The defending Stanley Cup Champion L.A. Kings will finish 2nd. San Jose (my team) will have problems throughout the season and try their hardest to battle back, only to finish 3rd, which still isn’t bad but not what the fans want obviously. This is the first time I’ve felt that way about my own team considering all the off-season drama that they’ve had to go through since blowing that 3-0 series lead against the Kings in the first round of the playoffs.

Central Division Champions: St. Louis Blues

Last season, Patrick Roy turned the Colorado Avalanche’s season around from being horrible to Central Division Champs. This season, however, I think that honor will go to the St. Louis Blues. Over the off-season, the Blues made a huge signing in Paul Stastny, now a former Avalanche. Statsny had 25 goals and 35 assists, combining for a total of 60 points with the Avs. He finished with a +/- of 9. Not too bad.  Alexander Steen will continue his offensive goal scoring ways to lead the charge like he did last season.

Colorado will finish second. They signed Jarome Iginla, who was tied with Patrice Bergeron in scoring for the Bruins last season with 30 goals. They also got former Sharks Defenseman Brad Stuart, who came over via trade. His impact on the team remains to be seen. Chicago will finish 3rd again.

Metropolitan Division Champions: Pittsburgh Penguins

Is there any question about it? I mean, really, is there any question about it? Sure, they won’t make it all the way again in the playoffs, but let’s face it. These guys are crazy good in the regular season. They’ve got the best hockey player in the world in Sidney Crosby alongside with Evgeni Malkin. That alone should be enough to win the team the Division championship. Of course, it’s still a team effort. The penguins have gone through quite a few off-season changes, such as Ray Shero being fired as GM, Jim Rutherford being hired into GM position, Dan Bylsma being fired, Mike Johnston hired as head coach, and James Neal being traded to the Nashville Predators for Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling. Sure, the guys will have to adjust to Mike Johnston’s system but they shouldn’t have a problem with it.

The Washington Capitals will finish second. They missed the playoffs last season for the first time since the ’06-’07 season. As a result, they fired their former head coach Adam Oates and brought in Barry Trotz from Nashville. Though they lost Mikhail Grabovski to the New York Islanders, they had a few key signings that included Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen, both coming over from Pittsburgh. They also signed former Carolina Hurricanes back-up Justin Peters to back up Braden Holtby.

The New York Rangers will finish third. They lost a few key guys from their line-up. Brad Richards’ contract was inevitably bought out. Anton Stralman and Brian Boyle decided to leave for Tampa Bay via Free Agency. Although they brought in former Sharks Defenseman Dan Boyle, who came over in Free Agency, I don’t think it’s going to be enough for them to go any higher in the standings.

Atlantic Division Champions: Boston Bruins

The Boston Bruins lost their leading goal scorer, Jarome Iginla. So, obviously, someone’s going to have to take his place as leading scorer. I’m thinking either Gregory Campbell or Louie Eriksson could take his place. Eriksson had to battle through injuries last season, but if he stays healthy this season his offense could easily pick back up again. They also lost Shawn Thornton, who left for the Florida Panthers via Free Agency. Back-up Chad Johnson has gone to the New York Islanders, which means Niklas Svedberg could be backing up Tuukka Rask. That leaves more holes to fill, which means a few rookies are going to have to step up as well. Ryan Spooner could be one of them. Though he only played 23 games last season and didn’t tally any goals, he notched 11 assists. Carl Soderberg’s another option. In 73 games played, he scored 16 goals and tallied 32 assists for a total of 48 points. He finished last season with a +/- of 4.

Second and third place will be like last season; Tampa Bay Lightning in second, the Habs in third.

Western Conference Champions: Anaheim Ducks

The Anaheim Ducks will also win the Western Conference again. The St. Louis Blues will trail in behind them. The Avs will be in third.

Eastern Conference Champions: Pittsburgh Penguins

This season, the Penguins claim the Eastern Conference. The Bruins won’t be too far behind, though.

Stanley Cup Playoff Contenders:

In the West, the Ducks, Sharks, Kings, Hawks, Blues, Avs, Wild, and Stars are my post-season contenders. In the East, it’s the Bruins, Lightning, Caps, Pens, Blue Jackets, Habs, Rangers, and Red Wings.

Last but not least…

2015 Stanley Cup Champions: Chicago Blackhawks

Although as much as I hate to say it, L.A. is also capable of repeating as champions, I’m going for the Chicago Blackhawks. Yes, they lost Brandon Bollig in a trade with the Calgary Flames. Yes, they might have to trade a few more players because of cap issues this year. But you look at where they ended up last playoffs against the Kings in the Western Conference Final; they took them to a Game 7 and unfortunately lost.

So, this year they’re going to have plenty of drive to get into the playoffs and get back into the Stanley Cup Final to win it again. Thus, in my opinion, they still have pretty much everything they need to get it done.

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