Oct. 14, 2016
The OBSTRUCTED NHL 2016-17 Preview
While my content on here has been VERY heavy with football (mostly college), I do have a love for hockey. It has admittedly waned for a few reasons however.
1. The media coverage has been very limited especially since ESPN has pretty much put it on the backburner, and especially in my area where the team closest to me was shipped off to Winnipeg.
2. Whatever media coverage it has, it is pretty much been the Sidney Crosby show.
3. And how the players move around more religiously than NFL and NBA players have thanks to the salary cap, it is hard to really identify with teams.
That said, I do love hockey and will watch it whenever a game is on and still follow it. The thing about predicting the NHL these days (thanks in part to how teams change from season to season) it is a crapshoot somewhat. You might have a few teams given the superstars and the talent you figure to be there in April & May (Penguins, Blackhawks) but really the rest is one of those things where you could expect them to go very far in the playoffs or not even make it at all. And predicting who goes home with the Stanley Cup is almost impossible. So with that in mind, my prediction even I would take it with a grain of salt.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning
1. Washington Capitals
2. Florida Panthers
2. New York Rangers
3. Boston Bruins
3. Pittsburgh Penguins
4. Detroit Red Wings*
4. New Jersey Devils*
5. Buffalo Sabres
5. New York Islanders
6. Montreal Canadiens
6. Philadelphia Flyers
7. Toronto Maple Leafs
7. Carolina Hurricanes
8. Ottawa Senators
8. Columbus Blue Jackets
I don't see the Caps or Lightning taking any major steps backward, but I do think the team to really watch is the Panthers this year, adding Yandle especially, but it just seems like they are poised to make a big run for a playoff push. One question that will affect the entire Eastern Conference is how long Sidney Crosby will be out? Like him or hate him, he changes the dynamic for the Penguins. If he is out for a lengthy time (and remember he had concussion issues in the past) this will probably drop even a talented Pittsburgh team a bit back. The Bruins will probably rebound in a big way, but the Atlantic is a dog-eat-dog division. The Devils, Red Wings, Islanders, Sabres, and Flyers will all be vying for two playoff spots. I think Toronto is still another year away as is Ottawa but will spoil somebody's season down the stretch. It might be the last game for the last two playoff spots in my eyes.
1. Chicago Blackhawks
1. Anaheim Ducks
2. Nashville Predators
2. Los Angeles Kings
3. Minnesota Wild
3. Edmonton Oilers
4. Dallas Stars*
4. Vancouver Canucks*
5. St. Louis Blues
5. San Jose Sharks
6. Winnipeg Jets
6. Arizona Coyotes
7. Colorado Avalanche
7. Calgary Flames
The West is far more unpredictable than the East in my eyes. We've seen teams be studs and go far into playoffs only for the next year not even sniff the playoffs. I think this will be San Jose for some reason. The upgrades Nashville, Edmonton, Minnesota, and Vancouver have made will bump them from the chase. Chicago will be Chicago and Anaheim will be Anaheim while the Kings will remain a solid squad. I think the Preds might be the team to really watch out with Subban there now. Is that going to be enough to get them over the hump against the Blackhawks? Will the Wild FINALLY play like a contender? I think so. Dallas is going to have enough depth to at least find themselves in a playoff spot and I think Vancouver has enough to really make a strong pusch, just squeaking by a St. Louis team that might have lost a little too much this off-season. The Jets will look better with their youthful players, but just not enough while the others, well it might be a long season.
PLAYOFFS: EASTERN CONFERENCE 1ST ROUND: Washington vs. New Jersey, New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay vs. Detroit, Boston vs. Florida. Probably the worst thing for the Caps to see might be the Devils. More pressure again on Ovechkin to win a Cup in DC and the Devils adding Hall is going to be huge. I think the Devils will stun the Capitals and maybe, just maybe have Washington consider starting from scratch. If the Penguins have Crosby in any manner (remember concussions are an unpredictable thing), they probably beat the Rangers outright in 4 or 5. The Lightning will dispose of Detroit (again) and the Panthers/Bruins could be a war going to 7 with Florida winning.
WESTERN CONFERENCE FIRST ROUND: Chicago vs. Vancouver, Anaheim vs. Dallas, Nashville vs. Minnesota, Los Angeles vs. Edmonton. Blackhawks would be just too much for the Canucks and could be an early packing for Vancouver. The Wild/Predators could be the same as the Panthers/Bruins and go 7 but I think Minnesota might be that team that nobody wants to play down the stretch, including in the playoffs. The Stars might be too much for the Ducks despite possibly being the "Wild Card" squad. Dallas might just have too much firepower for the Ducks to have. The Kings/Oilers could go 7 as well largely with the youth and speed of Edmonton against the experience of LA. I think maybe one more year for Edmonton to really make a splash.
EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMI-FINALS: Tampa Bay vs. Florida, Pittsburgh vs. New Jersey. The Lightning might be playing like a team possessed after their last few heartbreaks. I think the Panthers will give them a tough fight with their depth, but I think Stamkos & Co. are just too much for Florida as Tampa wins the Sunshine State War. As for the Pens & Devils, even without Crosby, they have a surplus of players. I think with Malkin there as well and just what those players could do, the Pens would easily handle the Devils in 4 or 5.
WESTERN CONFERENCE SEMI-FINALS: Chicago vs. Minnesota, Dallas vs. Los Angeles. With adding Staal to go along with Parise & Suter, I don't see how the Wild wouldn't overcome that Chicago hump, even if the Blackhawks have home-ice. As for the Stars & Kings, I think Dallas would roll through LA as while the Kings aren't a team to scoff at, Dallas just has that depth.
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS: Tampa Bay vs. Pittsburgh. Tampa Bay exacts a measure of revenge in this series against the Penguins. The target is on Pittsburgh's backs and I think the Lightning will be very focused and I can see the Lightning all step up in a big way against them. If Crosby is in that series, I can see the Lightning find a way to frustrate him to no end. Lightning in 6
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS: Minnesota vs. Dallas. This series doesn't happen if not for the Wild Card. The Wild and Stars would have a lot of depth and we might see a good bit of scoring in this series. I think it will be momentum and a head of steam on Minnesota that propels them over Dallas. It would be a fun, emotional series given the Stars roots in Minnesota. Wild in 7.
STANLEY CUP FINALS: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Minnesota Wild. I think Minnesota will have a similar run to what we saw 10-15 years ago with the likes of Anaheim, Calgary, and Edmonton, just getting that head of steam. But like those teams, sooner or later it runs out. I think the experience of Tampa Bay in these deep playoff runs will finally pay off with the likes of Bishop, Stamkos and others really taking charge. It should be a fun series, but I think Tampa's goaltending will be the deciding factor in a great series. Tampa Bay wins in 6.
I know that I don't have San Jose at the top as many probably think I am smoking some fun stuff, and the talent is playoff-worthy, but something I cannot put my finger on the Sharks makes me think they will be there this year. And that same something makes me think Vancouver, might. But the NHL is probably the most unpredictable league to make any predictions with. So might as well make up some bold predictions myself. I know it isn't the greatest analysis in the world, but hey, this is called the OBSTRUCTED SEATS. So I will probably be wrong on a wide margin.
-Fan in the OBSTRUCTED Seat