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January 17, 2019
by Michael Menser Dell, Editor-in-Chief
With the 2008-09 campaign fast approaching, I reckon I should muster some sort of “season preview.” Yeah, I hate it too, but tradition and mindless superstitions are all that separate us from the animals, so let’s keep the good times rolling.
Here’s how I see things shaking out. These aren’t predictions; they’re simply truth that hasn’t happened yet. There’s really no need to even play the season.
The Wales is wide open. Pittsburgh was the clear favorite until injuries to Ryan Whitney and Sergei Gonchar crippled the blue line. While I remain wicked confident on the top seven clubs, their exact order is open to debate.
The eighth seed is anyone’s guess. Keep in mind, six clubs were bunched between 95 and 90 points last season, with four of them making the playoffs. I’d expect similar shenanigans this year.
1. Montreal Canadiens: The Habs are a solid squad, but Carey Price will still have growing pains, and I doubt Alexei Kovalev will be able to repeat last season’s heroics, so they’re hardly a lock to take the conference crown.
2. New Jersey Devils: El Diablo will once again torment the righteous, boring hockey fans to death one unwatchable game at a time. Unless, of course, Martin Brodeur gets hurt, because then they’re screwed.
3. Tampa Bay Lightning: Barry Melrose, who I once saw purchase a hotdog on the streets of Hartford, will whip the Bolts into playoff contenders, claiming the Southeast by the narrowest of mullets.
4. Ottawa Senators: Much to my chagrin, the Sens should rebound now that their road company of “Medellin” has been shut down. Pablo Escobar can’t backcheck. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them finish atop the Wales, but the goaltending is still dreadful.
5. Philadelphia Flyers: A healthy Simon Gagne could push the Flyers to an Atlantic title. A lot of talent up front and plenty of puck-movers on the back line, but the defense is softer than marshmallow Charmin.
6. Pittsburgh Penguins: No doubt, losing Whitney and Gonchar is devastating to the transition game, but Kid Crosby and Geno Malkin will be more than enough to keep the Birds in the playoff mix. And Ray Shero ain’t no joke. He’ll make the necessary moves to bolster the Birds for another Cup run.
7. Boston Bruins: The B’s are primed, assuming, of course, Patrice Bergeron doesn’t break his head, Phil Kessel emerges as a game-breaker, and Milan Lucic doesn’t kill a man just to watch him die. Fear Lucic!
8. Buffalo Donald Trumps: Lindy Ruff will work his magic, getting spectacular goaltending from Ryan Miller and enough scoring from Thomas Vanek to slip into the eighth seed. The Donald will be so proud.
9. Carolina Hurricanes: The candy Canes have missed the playoffs two straight years, and I don’t see how swapping Erik Cole for Joni Pitkanen will help matters.
10. Washington Capitals: Jose Theodore is so bad, he’s terrible. Worst signing ever. And the NHL is banking on Ovechkin and the young Caps to make a playoff run, so naturally the team will completely collapse. The NHL is lucky like that.
11. New York Rangers: The Rangers sucked before Jagr got there, and they’ll suck even worse now that he’s gone. But don’t worry; I’m sure Markus Naslund and Nikolai Zherdev will excel in the Big Apple. They’re such clutch performers and respond so well to pressure. Egad.
12. Florida Panthers: If the Cats can get any offense at all, they could actually be a sneaky pick. They’ve got a real solid blue line, and Vokoun is as good as it gets. That’s why it’s such a shame they won’t get any offense at all. They couldn’t score at a monkey whore house with a sack of bananas.
13. Toronto Maple Leafs: Remember when the Maple Leafs were relevant? Yeah, me neither.
14. New York Islanders: Winners are built from the top down. Same goes for losers.
15. Atlanta Thrashers: Atlanta still has a team?
After the top five seeds, the rest of the conference is completely up for grabs. Anybody could be in those final three playoff spots. Not so fast, L.A.
1. Detroit Red Wings: (Sunshine) Detroit.
2. Dallas Stars: Brenden Morrow is the man.
3. Calgary Flames: Mike Keenan’s rabid insanity will lead El Scorcho to the Northwest title… or a bloody revolt.
4. San Jose Sharks: The Fish could easily take the Pacific, but I find it hard to believe a team with Joe Thornton and Jeremy Roenick can win anything.
5. Anaheim Ducks: Of the top five Campbell clubs, the Ducks are the one most likely to slide.
6. Chicago Blackhawks: I thought the Hawks were still one year away, but then I saw the competition. Who canceled?
7. Edmonton Oilers: The Bubbling Crude rises again, and we can only hope for an Edmonton-Anaheim playoff series. Give ‘em hell, Kevin Lowe!
8. Phoenix Coyotes: The addition of Olli Jokinen, the arrival of Kyle Turris, and a full year of Ilya Bryzgalov will be enough for the Desert Dogs to snag the last playoff spot. Well, it probably won’t be since the Pacific is so stacked, but imaginations are fun.
9. St. Louis Blues: I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Blue Note weasel into the eighth seed. Keep an eye on that David Perron kid. He’s crafty. He’s got more moves than a Congressional hooker.
10. Nashville Predators: Anne Sullivan’s got nothing on Barry Trotz, but his dogged pursuit of Moose and Squirrel could mean the Preds fall from the top eight.
11. Columbus Blue Jackets: There’s actually potential here for the Jackets to make a playoff run. But I won’t believe it until I see it.
12. Minnesota Wild: People are vastly underrating the importance of Brian Rolston. Marian Gaborik’s contract situation will only get worse before it gets better, and by better I mean he’ll get traded to Pittsburgh.
13. Colorado Avalanche: Tony Granato? I’ve seen that fish before. No thank you. Granato’s just keeping the seat warm for Patrick Roy. Aw, that will be glorious.
14. Vancouver Canucks: At least Alex Burrows is entertaining.
15. Los Angeles Kings: Have faith, Royalty fans. Your time will come.
CAMPBELL CONFERENCE FINALS
STANLEY CUP FINALS
Just like the great 66, Kid Crosby gets his first Cup at the expense of the Stars. Take that, Mike Modano.
ART ROSS TROPHY