The NHL Season is underway. Excitement is in the air. Every team believes they can make the playoffs and win the Stanley Cup. So many questions surround each of the 31 teams in the league. Here are some prognostications for 2017-2018 National Hockey League Season.
Metro Division – Pittsburgh Penguins. To quote Ric Flair, “To be the man, you have to beat the man.” Penguins are the champs. Another team has to knock them. Do not seeing it happening. Core is too deep. They have a winners’ mindset.
Atlantic Division – Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa Bay is healthy again. Steven Stamkos is back in their lineup. This team is hungry for the playoffs. The Lightning were a MASH unit last season. Tampa just missed out on the playoffs last season. They are the team to beat. Tampa Bay has a great group of young players led by Nikita Kucherov.
Central Division – Chicago Blackhawks. This is the boring and easy answer. Chicago seems to find players in their system to fill voids. This year will be no different. None of the other teams in the division have proven they can knock them off yet. They are due for bounce back season. They still have Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Duncan Keith. Three difference makers on one team is hard to compete with.
Pacific Division – Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers needed to learn to lose before they could win. Edmonton will take the next step and win their division this year. Led by Connor McDavid, the Oilers boast a talented roster. The players are a little bit older and little bit wiser. The ending to last season left a bad taste in the mouths of the Oilers players. They will be motivated to finish the job this year.
Metro – Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, Columbus Blue Jackets. These teams are the best of the best in the Metro Division. It will be hard for other teams to compete with them night in and night out.
Atlantic – Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators. Tampa Bay is the best team in the division. The young Maple Leafs could be vying for a division title late in the year. Real question for both teams is health. Do not forget about Ottawa. They are as the “Pesky Sens” for a reason.
Wild Card Teams – New York Rangers(Metro) and Boston Bruins (Atlantic). Both the Rangers and Bruins know what it takes to get to the playoffs. Each team will be in a dog fight to make the playoffs. The experience of each team will propel them into the playoffs.
Central – Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators. There is no reason to think these teams won’t be battling it out for the top spot come end of the season. Nashville proved they can hang with the big boys. Can Nashville do it again this season? Absolutely, motivation will play a role for each of these teams.
Pacific – Edmonton Oilers, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks. Three of the best teams in the NHL reside in the Pacific Division. None of these teams have any flaws to them. The cream of the crop will be atop the division all year long.
Wild Card Teams – Winnipeg Jets(Central) and Calgary Flames (Pacific). Both Winnipeg and Calgary will make the playoffs during the final week of the regular season. Winnipeg edges out Dallas. Calgary edges out Los Angeles.
Conference Champions – Edmonton Oilers and Tampa Bay Lightning. Edmonton will defeat the Chicago in the Western Conference Final. Tampa Bay will end Pittsburgh’s bid for a three-peat in the Eastern Conference Final.
Stanley Cup Champion: Edmonton Oilers. Yes, Canada will have its first Stanley Cup Champion since 1993. Edmonton will defeat Tampa Bay in an exciting seven game series. The City of Champions will have its first Stanley Cup Champion since 1990.
Regular Season Awards
Hart Trophy: Connor McDavid (Edmonton)
Vezina Trophy: John Gibson (Anaheim)
Norris Trophy: Brent Burns (San Jose)
Calder Trophy: Nico Hischier (New Jersey)
Rocket Richard Trophy: Patrik Laine (Winnipeg)
Lady Byng Trophy: Vladimir Tarasenko (St. Louis)
Jack Adams Trophy: Mike Babcock (Toronto)