Monday, 15 September 2014

2014-15 NHL Predictions Part 3: The Metropolitan Division

It's tough coming up with the good for many of the teams on this list because I think that the Metropolitan will be the least successful division this season. These clubs are bound to offer a lot more bad and ugly moments than good times. If one of these teams wins the Cup, I'll atone for my naysaying by writing a lengthy apology blog.

Before we begin, here are links to part 1 and part 2 in case you want to brush up. (There will be an exam after part 5.)

Carolina Hurricanes

Good: The Hurricanes' struggles will put them in contention for the first overall pick at the star-studded 2015 NHL draft. That's the only silver lining for the stormy season ahead.

Bad: Eric Staal will be a former Hurricane by the 2015 trade deadline. Since few teams can afford his $9.25 million salary, he'll likely end up with the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, or another team with deep pockets.

Ugly: Cam Ward's consistency and injury woes will continue this season. If he's still around next off-season, eExpect the team to buy him out. Failing that, the Canes will package him with a pick, prospect, and/or roster player in a disadvantageous trade designed to free the team and their beleaguered starter of this disastrous contract. 

Columbus Blue Jackets

Good: With solid goaltending and a balanced roster, the Blue Jackets will challenge the Penguins for the top spot in the division. Don't be surprised if they face the Pens in the Eastern Conference Final in the playoffs, which would lead to a legitimate Pittsburgh-Columbus rivalry.

Bad: The contract standoff with RFA Ryan Johansen will devolve into a complete debacle as the centreman sits out training camp and some regular season games. After remaining unsigned through October, the feud between player and club will rival the acrimonious relations between the Colorado Avalanche and Ryan O'Reilly.

Ugly: Expect tensions to rise whenever Scott Hartnell plays against the team that jilted him this summer. For many fans, Hartnell was the heart and soul of the Flyers. He'll avenge his abrupt banishment from Philadelphia by crushing the hearts and souls of former teammates through organ-rupturing, spirit-slaying body checks.

New Jersey Devils

Good: The team will sign grizzled veterans Scott Gomez, Tomas Kaberle, and Ruslan Fedotenko. These moves will make the Devils the oldest 2014-15 roster--and one of the oldest in the post-lockout NHL. The aging roster will benefit the cash-strapped team by enabling them to use seniors discounts when buying equipment.

Bad: Any savings from the aforementioned discounts will be spent on hiring additional trainers to keep this roster from rusting out midseason.
Ugly: Gary Bettman will have to consider if the old-age pensions collected by the majority of the team's roster should count against the club's salary cap.

*I'm sorry, but I'm baffled by how Lou Lamoriello hopes to win with this roster.*

New York Islanders

Good: The addition of Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin means that the team' fortunes no longer hinge solely on the health of John Tavares. The team has enough firepower to overcome their questionable defence, and Jaroslav Halak should protect the net sufficiently to clinch a playoff berth.

Bad: Things are going too well for the Islanders. Their roster is much too competitive, and the prospects of returning to this season is solid. That means Garth Snow is itching to do something astoundingly misguided. Expect a bizarre trade around the deadline. 

Ugly: The Islanders have a reputation for some of the worst fashion choices in NHL history. Expect them to commemorate the move to Brooklyn next summer by unveiling a new installment in their legacy of awful attire.  

New York Rangers

Good: The Rangers will not have to cancel their season after the entire roster becomes sick with the dreaded "Osaka Flu."

Bad: The blueshirts will struggle to score. Their meagre point totals will cement them among the bottom three teams in terms of goals scored per game. Lundqvist will help the club stay afloat, but even he can't steal enough games to hustle them into the playoffs.

Ugly: The Rangers will be the latest team to follow up an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final by missing the playoffs entirely. At least they'll make the Oilers feel better about 2000-07, and the Devils about 2012-13.

Philadelphia Flyers

Good: The Flyers won't have to suspend hockey operations after losing the entire team and their AHL affiliate to spontaneous combustion. 

Bad: Due to the loss of Kimmo Timonen--a steadying influence on a shaky blueline--the Flyers will rank in the top three teams in terms of goals allowed per game. 

Ugly: Venting their frustrations on their opponents' faces will result in the Flyers leading the league in fights this season. Unhappy with their inflated goals-against-average, Ray Emery and Steve Mason will both scrap at least once this year. 

Pittsburgh Penguins

Good: Sidney Crosby et al. will perform well in the regular season and playoffs, ending the team's streak of wilting in the spring. I picked the Habs as the Eastern Conference champs, but the Pens are my second choice to lose to the Western Conference in 2015.

Bad: Marc-Andre Fleury will make the most of his contract year by turning his net into a nearly-impregnable fortress. This improvement will present a difficult question to the Pens: should they bank on MAF's 2014-15 production, or should they assume that his improved performance was an aberration?

Beauty: I doubt that there will be much ugliness for the Pens this season. Instead of forecasting the worst, I'd like to predict something touching. When the Devils are out of the playoff race, fans will call on New Jersey to trade Jaromir Jagr to Pittsburgh so that he can end his long and illustrious career where it began. Rutherford and Lamoriello will work something out to give Jagr's career a fitting swanpenguin song.  

Washington Capitals

Good: The offensively-minded Caps will struggle to adopt the rigors of Barry After struggling throughout the season as the offensively-minded team tries to adapt to Barry Trotz's defensively-minded hockey. Despite these difficulties, Washington will ensure stability behind the bench by not rashly dismissing Trotz due to friction between him and the players.

Bad: The Capitals have had four different head coaches in as many years. Players who worked with all four coaches will quadruple guess every on-ice decision as they struggle to regain confidence. Players who struggle and succeed will survive, but those who fail to adapt will become an endangered species in Washington. Expect a lot of roster rearrangement to rejig the club to suit its coach's philosophy. 

Ugly: Desperate for a juicy controversy, the MSM would love nothing more than to see Alexander Ovechkin come to loggerheads with Trotz over the team's direction. As rumour mongers fuel discord between captain and coach, Ovie will seriously consider bolting for the KHL. I'm not saying that defection will happen, but the speculation will plague Caps fans for most of the season.

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