Thursday, October 6, 2011

If I Were A Gambling Man, and I Am

So the popular thing to do these days is predict what is going to happen this season based on minimal information and experience, speculation as to what the hell coaches are actually talking about, and guessing who will or will not be injured. So let me look at my own tea leaves and tell you what to expect come June with the Capitals and around the league.

I think I got old seaweed by accident...

Caps-Centric Predictions
  • Ovechkin returns to form with something to prove. He will finally emerge as the team leader both in example on the ice and with words off the ice. 54 goals, 48 assists, 102 points in 80 games played. 
  • At least two of the following will be gone by the trade deadline: Chimera, King, Schultz, and Knuble. My money is on the first two. King has barely played and could be moved for a late-round pick. Chimera just signed a two year contract extension at a palatable price with slightly decreasing cap hits, and is one of the best skaters in the league. However, I think it is unlikely he sees success with the team this year, as he really has not found chemistry with any of the seemingly dozens of linemates he has had in Washington. Schultz and Knuble are both players that other teams could use, and that the Capitals could stand to lose given the team's depth and likely returns in a trade.
  • Backstrom gets a nomination for the Selke after leading the team in +/-, seeing significant time on the PP and PK, and finishing in the top 10 for points in the league.
  • Semin and Green return to their peak forms as well. By all accounts, Semin is finally making efforts to show the basics of team play like asking the coach questions and speaking more English. Green is in good shape and has had a full summer to recover from nagging injuries. Time with Hamrlik as his defensive partner will give him a good mentor.
  • Hockey suit up!
  • Perreault is kept on a short leash and Johansson is given free reign. MP85 gets no more than 50games, MJ90 will not sit aside from injury. I say this because this is just how the team operates. Some players (Perreault, Fehr, Varlamov) are judged only by the negatives despite having many more positives (playmaking and scoring, scoring, and being the 4th best goalie in the league last year). Others (Johansson, Chimera, Neuvirth) are practically assigned a positive view before their first shift, and no matter how weak their play is and for how long, it will always be excused away or blatantly ignored (weak faceoffs and inconsistency, turnovers and inability to finish, rebounds and soft goals and inconsistency).
  • The Capitals do not make it out of the second round of the playoffs yet again. Boudreau is finally fired, and in a shocking move, so is George McPhee. Leonsis finally loses his patience and interjects himself into team management when it becomes clear that McPhee is grasping at straws.
Around the League
  • Playoff misses in the East: Winnipeg, Carolina, Toronto, NYI, Montreal, Ottawa and New Jersey.
  • Playoff misses in the West: Minnesota, Edmonton, Calgary, Phoenix, St. Louis, Dallas and Nashville. The Blue Jackets make it in with strong offense and mediocre goaltending, while Nashville misses out despite excellent goaltending because of a lack of offense. Think of a lesser version of the Caps with Theodore vs. a better version of the Panthers with Vokoun.
  • Semyon Varlamov (Avalanche) again finishes in the top five in SV% and GAA, getting 50 starts and at least 25 wins in regulation. He only misses 10 games due to injury and Colorado finishes seventh in the West.
  • The Panthers make a strong run for the playoffs in the second half. Clemmensen plays into the starting job, and the team is led by Fleischmann and a resurgent Booth in points. They make it in on their second to last game, eighth in the East.
  • The Penguins win it all: Division, Conference, Lord Stanley. I really hate saying that, but barring even more soul-crushing injuries, the team and the coach are too good. Having Crosby, Malkin, and Staal back and healthy down the middle is terrifying to face. I think James Neal will break out with the team this year, and Fleury will perform as usual: good enough during the regular season, and then phenomenal in the playoffs. They'll beat the Kings in the Finals after the Canucks shockingly flame out in the first round.
  • Ovechkin wins the Richard and Hart. Crosby wins the Ted Lindsay, and Malkin wins the Art Ross. None of last year's Vezina contenders get back-to-back nominations. Shea Weber wins the Norris. 
That cup on the right doesn't seem big enough for my tastes.

Assuming anyone actually reads this and has an opinion, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. Right now I'm mostly writing these posts for my own sake, but I'd like to think someone out there agrees or disagrees with me. 

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