FanPost

2012-2013 Season Predictions in Review

Each year, I like to put my predictions for the upcoming season (and eventually the postseason. . . teaser!) in a FanPost to start a discussion about the upcoming year. This year, I figured I'd dissect my own predictions to see where I got things right, and where I got things terribly, terribly wrong.

Western Conference

Usually, my analysis of the Western Conference is a bit better that that of the Eastern Conference, because it's less clouded by emotion. Sure, I'm a huge Avs fan, but I've long since accepted that the Avs are going to be pretty bad so long as they're playing second fiddle to the Nuggets in the Kroenke empire.

Overall, I think I did pretty well with the west. I overestimated Phoenix, Nashville, and to a lesser extent, Colorado and Minnesota. I underestimated Anaheim, and seriously shortchanged Columbus.

Central Division

I did my best work on the Central, only transposing the Predators and the Blue Jackets in the final standings, and honestly, who foresaw the BJs competing for the playoffs?

1. Chicago Blackhawks:
What I got right:

Chicago could put the puck in the net last year, they just couldn't keep it out very well, and that was mostly down to the mediocre goaltending provided by Corey Crawford and his backup Ray Emery. If Crawford can give the Hawks merely league-average goaltending or better, they should win the division.

What I got wrong:

If Crawford falters, I could easily see the Hawks making a deal to upgrade their goaltending prior to the playoffs.

Ultimately, Crawford and Emery gave the Hawks the kind of goaltending that Halak and Elliott gave St. Louis last year, en route to a President's Trophy. So far, so good.


2. St. Louis Blues:

What I got right:

The Blues' transformation under Ken Hitchcock was one of the great stories of 2011-2012. The Blues were a team loaded with untapped potential that Hitch's coaching savvy and attention to detail helped to blossom. Or so the story goes. While there's a degree of truth to that story, I doubt Hitchcock was directly responsible for turning Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak into the second coming(s) of Dominik Hasek. Simply put - there's no chance that the Blues get save percentages of .926 (Halak) and .940 (Elliot) out of their journeymen goaltending duo again. So, while the Blues will likely make the playoffs again, they won't be in contention for the President's Trophy.

What I got wrong:

I pretty much nailed this one.

3. Detroit Red Wings:

What I got right:

So begins year zero, AL (after Lidstrom). The Wings still have enough talent up and down the roster to make the playoffs, butBrendan Smith, Carlo Colaiacovo and Kyle Quincey are not going to make up for the loss of Nicklas Lidstrom.

What I got wrong:

Again, not much.

4. Nashville Predators:

What I got right:

The likely regression on defense and the continued lack of a game-breaking talent up front will leave them struggling to make the playoffs from a tough division.

What I got wrong:

I had this pretty spot-on, but I didn't foresee. . .

5. Columbus Blue Jackets:

What I got right:

At least the Nash trade will at least assure that half of the Blue Jackets' roster isn't filled out by AHL players...

The depth brought back by the Nash trade, along with Sergei Bobrovsky playing like . . . well, Steve Mason in 2008-2009, went a long way toward making the BJs more than a doormat.

The continued employment of Scott Howson is a minor miracle.

Howson was fired mid-season.

What I got wrong:

To paraphrase Dave Chappelle, "What can I say about Columbus that hasn't already been said about Afghanistan?"

The Blue Jackets fought valiantly and almost secured a playoff berth. When Boborovsky regresses next year, they may struggle a bit, but they finally have some depth on their roster, and the young players like Johansen finally got a taste of winning.

Northwest Division

I did pretty well with the Northwest (or should I say "Northworst"). I got most of the substance correct, despite transposing the finish of the bottom-two.

1. Vancouver Canucks:

What I got right:

The Canucks are a somewhat obvious choice, but still they are still the best team in the division. Injuries to Ryan Kesler andDavid Booth will hurt their secondary scoring to start the season.

The secondary scoring did suffer without Kesler and Booth.

What I got wrong:

Vancouver had trade chips in Roberto Luongo and Keith Ballard that could shore up their scoring and defensive depth should those injuries linger

Vancouver did trade to shore up their secondary scoring--acquiring Derek Roy at the deadline-- but they never moved Luongo or Ballard.

2. Minnesota Wild:

What I got right:

With a solid corps of goaltenders, a healthy Mikko Koivu, a cupboard stocked with prospects, and a defense with Ryan Suter as its anchor, the Wild are poised for a big season. Having Zach Parise, Dany Heatley, and Devon Setoguchi as their top-three wings will give the Wild the best scoring punch in their history.

What I got wrong:

A healthy Pierre-Marc Bouchard(as much a contradiction in terms as "healthy Rick DiPietro"?) should add to the Wild's firepower.

Bouchard stayed healthy, but he didn't play a major role in the Wild's success. The Wild also struggled to make the playoffs a bit more than I expected.

3. Edmonton Oilers:

What I got right:

I believe the Oilers will take third in the Northwest on the strength of their scoring - provided both Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins can stay healthy and Nail Yakupov can score the way he's capable of. Justin Schultz will bolster the Oilers' blue line, but talk of a Calder Trophy based on his play in the AHL may be a bit premature.

The Oilers did score enough to capture third, but they didn't score enough to make the playoffs, or to overcome their porous defense. Schultz was decent, but certainly not Calder-worthy.

What I got wrong:

More likely, however, is that the Oilers fall just short and ship out some of their older players (Horcoff) at the deadline.

While not totally wrong, the Oilers didn't ship out their veterans at the deadline (even though they probably should have).

4. Colorado Avalanche:

What I got right:

Erik Johnson hasn't worked out as the "franchise" defenseman that the Avs thought they were getting, and it's unlikely that, in hindsight, the Avs would trade Kevin Shattenkirk for Johnson straight-up. This year, the Avs are shooting themselves in the foot by low-balling Ryan O'Reilly, their leading scorer from last year and an absolute stud of a two-way centerman. If Matt Duchene can suddenly remember how to play hockey and return to being a top-two center, the loss of O'Reilly might not sting as badly. Gabriel Landeskog is a beast, and the addition of P.A. Parenteau will add some scoring depth, but the Avs desperately need Paul Stastny, Matt Duchene, and Johnson to play up to their potential if they're going to have a prayer of making the playoffs.

Duchene remembered how to play hockey, and Parenteau held up his end of the bargain, but Landeskog got hurt and regressed without O'Reilly.

What I got wrong:

Additionally, the Avs will need Semyon Varlamov to stay healthy - something at which he's not been particularly fortunate in the past.

Varly stayed healthy--he just wasn't very good, especially on the road. While I thought the Avs would be bad, I didn't expect them to be 29th-place bad.

5. Calgary Flames:

What I got right:

The Flames' big offseason signings were Dennis Wideman and Jiri Hudler. . . which prompts the question: "why does Jay Feaster hate Jarome Iginla?" If ever there were a team in need of a full tear-down and rebuild, the Flames would be it. Their two best players (Iggy and Miikka Kiprussoff) are well past their primes, and while young players like Sven Bartschi could add some scoring, the team lacks the kind of young stars that Oilers have aplenty. This might be the season that Iginla and Jay Bouwmeester finally get traded. One would hope so, at least for their sakes.

Nailed it.

What I got wrong:

...young players like Sven Bartschi could add some scoring

Bartschi really didn't do much in the NHL this year, but the Flames managed to not finish in the basement.

Pacific Division

I did alright with the Pacific, but it was harder to predict than the other divisions in the Western Conference. Much like the Atlantic in the East, there are a lot of strong teams, and even the weaker teams could have competed for the playoffs had they received a few kind bounces. In the end, I think I did pretty well. I whiffed hard on Anaheim, but after that, the order was correct.

1. Los Angeles Kings:

What I got right:

It looks as though Kopitar should miss minimal time to start the season... The lockout could be a serious blessing for the Kings, given the long grind of the playoffs and Jonathan Quick's offseason back surgery. The team could use a bit more depth on defense

The Kings did benefit from the lockout, as it allowed Kopitar and Quick to be ready for the season. The Kings did need more depth on defense, bringing in Keaton Ellerby early in the season and trading for Robyn Regehr at the deadline.

What I got wrong:

This is another extremely tough call - LA, Phoenix, and San Jose all have a legitimate shot at winning the Pacific and I went back and forth between LA and SJS, but ultimately I landed on the Kings because of the relative injury situations of the two teams... ...this may finally be the year that they decide to trade Jonathan Bernier, since he's a restricted free agent at the end of the year and the Kings are clearly committed to Quick.

LA clearly didn't win the division, and neither did Phoenix or San Jose. The Kings never traded Bernier, and it was a good thing, as Quick hasn't looked like the guy who dominated the playoffs last year. I also didn't foresee how much Quick would struggle to start the season - although his dominating performance in April suggests that maybe he just needed a few more months to recover.

2. San Jose Sharks:

What I got right:

The Sharks have some injury concerns on defense (with Burns, Demers, and Braun all questionable or out to start the season), but their depth and experience at center, combined with excellent coaching (now with 100% more Larry Robinson!) should put them into the playoffs. If Burns can get healthy quickly and the Sharks can get some scoring outside of their top-six, they could contend for the division. More likely, however, they'll end up at the upper end of the non-divisional winners.

Everything I said was more or less true.

What I got wrong:

I whiffed on how much turmoil would be required between points A and B. By the time the Sharks shipped out Douglas Murray and Ryane Clowe, neither was part of their "core" any longer, but it's still a pretty major shift in the franchise. Burns struggled with injuries, and when he returned, it was as a forward.

3. Phoenix Coyotes:

What I got right:

...it's unlikely that Mike Smithrepeats what was, in all probability, a career year in 2011-2012. The departure of Ray Whitney is going to hurt...

Smith didn't repeat his performance, and the Coyotes missed Whitney's scoring.

What I got wrong:

...but having Antoine Vermettefor a full season, along with the additions of Matt Lombardi and Steve Sullivan (if healthy) should keep the Coyotes in contention for a playoff spot.

Vermette, Lombardi, and Sullivan didn't help them contend, and Sullivan and Lombardi were dealt at the deadline. I didn't think Phoenix would win their division (obviously), but I certainly thought they'd be in the mix for a playoff spot. They contended for a while, but they were done (for all intents and purposes) by the deadline.

4. Anaheim Ducks:

What I got right:

The Ducks are an odd. . . duck. Are they the team that flamed out spectacularly early in the season, leading to the firing of Randy Carlyle and the hiring of Bruce Boudreau? Or are they the team that mounted a late-season charge before falling well short of a playoff spot? I think they're far more likely the latter rather than the former. To wit: Corey Perry,Ryan Getzlaf, and Jonas Hiller all endured "down" years in 2011-2012. All three should bounce back, and they'd better, because the Ducks are awfully thin on scoring depth...

I was right--the Ducks were more like the team that played well under Boudreau down the stretch. But they were also somewhat "lucky," sporting a team-wide shooting percentage of 10% (7th overall), and a team-wide save percentage of 91.4%, bolstered in large part by the breakout performance of the "rookie" Viktor Fasth.

...something about Souray and Cam Fowlerpotentially playing on the points together fairly screams "shorthanded goal."

The Ducks surrendered 5 shorthanded goals-against, which tied them for third-most in the league, and Fowler and Souray were both on the ice for two of them.

What I got wrong:

The Ducks could really benefit from Kyle Palmieri or Andrew Cogliano stepping up and seizing a second-line scoring role, which would allow Daniel Winnik to take his wheels and stone hands to the third line where he belongs.

Palmieri and Cogliano both improved their scoring this year, but Winnik remained a "second-line" player (at least in terms of even strength time on ice and his line mates).

On defense, Sheldon Sourayshould provide some help to the power play...

Souray may have helped bit with 5 points on the power play, but not nearly as much as the emergence of Francois Beauchemin as a #1 defenseman and power-play threat with 8 points.

Most of all, I erred in not giving more credit to Boudreau, and the ageless wonder that is Teemu Selanne. I thought the Ducks would have trouble scoring after the "big three" of Getzlaf, Perry, and Bobby Ryan, but their second and third-line forwards really stepped up, Beauchemin was a beast, and Fasth was excellent. That (plus some bad goaltending and a lack of scoring from the Kings) was enough to propel Anaheim to the division crown.

5. Dallas Stars:

What I got right:

It's almost as though the Stars can't figure out which way they'd like to go. Trading away Steve Ott, Mike Ribeiro, Nicklas Grossman, and Marc Fistric while letting Sheldon Souray leave as a free agent would seemingly suggest that the Stars were looking to rebuild around a young core of Jamie Benn, Loui Eriksson, Kari Lehtonen, and Alex Goligoski. Then they sign aging free agents like Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney while neglecting to get Jamie Benn (a restricted free agent) under contract before the start of the season. It's enough to leave on scratching one's head. Derek Roy will give the Stars more two-way play than Ribeiro provided out of the #2C slot, and hopefully for the Stars, Cody Eakin can take over the #3C slot. Still, their defense will be an adventure. If Jagr and Whitney can replicate their 2011-2012 performances, the Stars could eke into the playoffs. Somewhere between the 10th and 13th seed is far more likely, however.

Pretty much nailed this one. It seems that the Stars' ownership agreed with my assertion that the Stars' roster was a discombobulated mess of old veterans and younger players, as they relieved Joe Nieuwendyk of his responsibilities as general manager (probably about four years too late).

What I got wrong:

Derek Roy will give the Stars more two-way play than Ribeiro provided out of the #2C slot,

While not technically incorrect, I thought Roy would produce a bit more offensively, and I was mildly surprised that he was shipped out, along with Jagr and longtime captain Brenden Morrow. I sure didn't see that coming.

Eastern Conference

I usually find it more difficult to achieve analytical detachment with the Eastern Conference, because I'm so invested in the Caps, and because I see the teams so often that it can be hard to alter or challenge my own preconceptions. Even with that caveat, I think I did a decent job of predicting the outcomes of both the divisions and the conference as a whole.

I overestimated the Rangers, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Carolina, Tampa, and to a lesser extent Florida. I underestimated Pittsburgh, the Islanders, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, and Winnipeg.

Atlantic Division

If I'd had the courage to listen to my convictions (namely that the Flyers would suck and the Isles would make the playoffs), I would have done pretty well with the Atlantic. Alas. . . I was heavily influenced by my ingrained opinion of both the Flyers and Islanders organizations.

1. New York Rangers:

What I got right:

Getting a full season out ofMarc Staal and Anton Stralman will help the Rangers' defense, but if there's a weak point on their team, the pairing of Michael Del Zotto andStu Bickel is it. Look for the Rangers to shore up their defensive depth at some point in the season.

Staal's eye injury didn't help, but the Rangers' defense and goaltending was pretty stout all season. Del Zotto improved, and the Rags did shore up their defense, claiming Roman Hamrlik off waivers and trading for John Moore at the deadline.

What I got wrong:

Per usual, the Rangers made a big offseason splash, acquiring Rick Nash from the Blue Jackets in return for Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon, and a first-round pick. Such is the depth of the Rangers that the losses of Dubinsky, Anisimov, and Erixon will hardly be felt. Still the move puts pressure on young players such asDerek Stepan, Carl Hagelin, and Chris Kreider...Barring serious injuries (not inconsiderable, given the histories of Marc Staal, Marian Gaborik, and Ryan Callahan), the Rangers should be considered favorites to prevail as the regular season Eastern Conference champions.

It turns out that the Rangers really did miss that depth (much more than Columbus missed Rick Nash, oddly enough). Stepan stepped up and Hagelin performed pretty well. But Nash was disappointing to start the season, Gaborik and Brad Richards could never get started, Callahan got injured (again), and Kreider lasted all of five minutes before Tortorella lost faith in him and banished him to Connecticut. Accordingly, the Rangers' power play was atrocious. Key depth contributors from last season like Brian Boyle, Ruslan Fedotenko, Brandon Prust, and John Mitchell were all missed. Instead of challenging for the President's Trophy, the Rangers barely made the playoffs.

2. Pittsburgh Penguins:

What I got right:

The combination of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin down the middle is still the best 1-2 center punch in the league. Provided that both players can stay healthy of course.

Not really going out on a limb here. They are the best 1-2 center punch in the league, but they'll probably never both make it through an 82-game season unscathed. Not that it really matters.

The Pens likewise lack depth on defense. Kris Letang (when healthy) is an elite puck-moving defenseman, but Paul Martin has never quite performed as advertised and the departure of Zbynek Michalek leaves the Pens' defensive corps a little thin. The Pens are stocked with defensive prospects, but most of them are two to three years away from the NHL. In goal, Marc-Andre Fleury should bounce back from a sub-par year and an atrocious postseason. If he doesn't, Tomas Vokoun is a more than capable backup.

Martin had a (dead cat) bounce-back year, and Letang was his typical self (amazing when he plays, but oft-injured), but the Pens' defense was indeed thin. They tried to thicken it up by bringing in the hefty Douglas Murray, but he's hardly a difference-maker at this point. If the Pens have a weakness, it's their defense. The goaltending duo of Fleury and Vokoun was very good, as expected.

What I got wrong:

The Pens could push the Rangers for the division crown, but in all likelihood they'll have to "settle" for being either the four or five seed in the east. Brandon Sutter has the makings of a good, or possibly even a great 3C, but he lacks the offensive ability to be more than a band-aid should Malkin or Crosby see significant time in the press box. The Pens are built down the center, but they received strong play from James Neal and Chris Kunitz last year. After those two, however, there's a significant drop in scoring ability.

Obviously, the Pens didn't have to "settle" for the 4/5 seed. Despite being a team built around two exceptional centers, once Crosby and Malkin went down to their annual serious injury, the Pens' wingers carried the team. Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis had exceptional seasons, and the acquisitions of Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow made the Penguins' forward depth even more formidable. Sutter was just as I expected--an excellent defensive 3C with little offensive upside. No matter, Jussi Jokinen filled in well as a scoring center.

3. Philadelphia Flyers:

What I got right and wrong:

Here's my bold prediction: the Flyers will struggle to make the playoffs. It feels odd to type, and I'm sure that I'll catch some flak for it, but nevertheless, I think it's probable. The Flyers lost too much talent in the offseason and got career years out of too many players (Scott Hartnell, Wayne Simmonds, and Matt Read) last year. If Ilya Bryzgalov regains his form, or the Flyers can trade for a proper goaltender, perhaps they can claw their way to a 6th, 7th, or 8th seed, but in all likelihood, this is a "regrouping" year in Philadelphia. Brayden and Luke Schenn have been underwhelming thus far in their professional careers, and the Flyers are banking that Brayden can replace Jagr and/or James van Riemsdyk, while Luke offsets the loss of Chris Pronger and Matt Carle. Claude Giroux is still one of the best players in hockey, and Peter Laviolette is a hell of a coach, but the Flyers' lack of depth on defense and the losses up front (don't forget the injury to Daniel Briere) will be difficult to overcome.

I'm kicking myself so. . so hard for this prediction. I had everything right. The Flyers lacked their typical forward depth. They were putting a lot of stock in guys like Hartnell repeating career years (without the help of Jaromir Jagr). They were depending on Bryzgalov. They were putting way too much faith in the (vastly overrated) Schenn brothers. . .

I had everything right. . . except their final position in the standings. I wrote a first draft of these predictions that had Philly missing the playoffs and coming in behind the Islanders in their own division. Then I chickened out. That little voice in my head said, "c'mon. . . these are the Flyers and the Islanders we're talking about. Quit trying to be clever. You're going to look like an idiot." So, like a coward, I put the Flyers ahead of the Isles, even though a quick glance at their respective rosters showed that the Flyers were probably in for a rough year and the Isles were surprisingly deep.

4. New York Islanders:

What I got right:

Here's another "bold" prediction: the Islanders won't finish in the Atlantic basement. At some point, the Islanders' wealth of talent should result in a playoff berth. That's unlikely in 2013, but they should be closer than in years past. With John Tavares, Matt Moulson, Kyle Okposo,Frans Nielsen, Michael Grabner, and Brad Boyes up front, the Isles should be able to put the puck in the net. Mark Streit and (presumably at some point) Lubomir Visnovsky give the Isles two excellent power-play quarterbacks. Evgeni Nabokov should solidify the goaltending position. The Isles will lack depth on defense, particularly if Visnovsky remains AWOL and Hamonic can't stay healthy.

Looking back, I can feel the cognitive dissonance in my writing. I want to say that the Isles will make the playoffs. . . but these are the f*$%ing Islanders. The team of Charles Wang and Garth Snow and Mike Milbury and decades of managerial incompetence. (Remember what I said about emotion clouding my analysis?) I had the strengths (and weaknesses) of the team spot-on. They have great forward depth, with a strong top line and guys who can skate and work their ass off all the way through the roster. I don't think I expected Boyes to have quite so good a season though. The Isles' defense is still a little shaky, even with Visnovsky in the fold and the addition of Thomas Hickey.

What I got wrong:

Should one of those guys falter, the Islanders have Nino Niederreiter tearing it up in Bridgeport.

El Niño never saw the ice on Long Island. I suppose he wasn't necessary, although it does seem odd that the Isles burned a year of his entry-level contract to have him ride the pine last year, only to banish him to Bridgeport this whole season. (Remember that whole "managerial incompetence" thing?)

Ultimately, I should have stuck to my guns and put the Isles in the playoffs.

5. New Jersey Devils:

What I got right:

Wait. . . what? Weren't the Devils just in the Stanley Cup Finals? Yes, but the team is without Zach Parise and, to start the season, Adam Henrique. Sure, Travis Zajac is healthy and Ilya Kovalchukdecided to come back from Mother Russia, but this is still a team riddled with holes. Martin Brodeur will likely benefit from the time off he received during the lockout (provided he can still fit into his pads), but that won't be enough to keep the Devils competitive in an absolutely brutal division.

All of this is more-or-less accurate.

What I got wrong:

Martin Brodeur will likely benefit from the time off he received during the lockout (provided he can still fit into his pads)

Marty got injured, so perhaps the time off didn't help as much as I'd thought. As bad as the Devils were this year, things might have turned out differently with a healthy Brodeur and a healthy Kovalchuk. The team did put up a strong Fenwick Close (meaning that when the game was close, the Devils directed more shots at their opponents' net than their opponent directed at theirs), which is generally the sign of a well-coached club.

Northeast Division

1. Boston Bruins:

What I got right:

With Nathan Horton back and healthy, the Bruins will boast a strong top-six with Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic, Tyler Seguin,David Krejci, and Brad Marchand. Depth players like Rich Peverley andChris Kelly bring some scoring to the bottom lines and are capable of filling in on the top-two lines should injuries strike. In contrast to their forward lines, the B's lack depth at defense. Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg will again be a solid shutdown pairing, but the quality drops off quickly thereafter. Johnny Boychuk and Andrew Ference are out of their depth as a second pairing. The B's had better hope that Dougie Hamilton is ready for the NHL. So long as Chara and Tuukka Rask stay healthy, the B's should have a top-three seed locked up.

The Bs boasted strong offensive depth, but they lacked any "standout" performance by their skill players, as evidenced by the fact that no Bruin was close to scoring at a point-per-game rate, and Brad Marchand led the team in scoring. The Bruins' defensive depth was poor on paper, but Ference and Boychuk acquitted themselves well on the ice, Hamilton was (mostly) ready for the NHL, and the acquisition of Wade Redden added some skill and experience.

What I got wrong:

The Northeast Division, much like the Northwest, is one strong team and a whole bunch of "meh." The Bruins will again ice a Cup-contending team, but they'll really benefit from just how weak the rest of their division is.

This assessment of the Northeast (and its obverse - my rosy assessment of the Southeast) was perhaps the biggest fault in my whole prediction. I thought the Northeast would be an also-ran division dominated by the Bs. How wrong I was. . .

2. Buffalo Sabres:

What I got right:

I suppose somebody has to come in second in the Northeast. . . so why not the Sabres? I'll tell you why not: Cody Hodgson,Tyler Ennis, Steve Ott, and Jochen Hecht. Those are the Sabres' centers for 2013. It's possible that Mikhail Grigorenko sticks with the team, in which case their center depth won't be a total joke, but still.

Grigorenko didn't stick, and their center depth was atrocious. Honestly, every part of their team was atrocious, but the rot started at the center position.

What I got wrong:

I suppose somebody has to come in second in the Northeast. . . so why not the Sabres? ... The defense, on the other hand, is ludicrously deep, and the Sabres could easily turn one of their nine NHL defensemen into additional forward depth. Ultimately, I think a strong year from Ryan Miller and Tyler Myers is enough to carry the Sabres to second in the Northwest, but making the playoffs could be tight.

Uff da. Wow. Where to begin. First, I made no mention whatsoever of Thomas Vanek. I don't think there's a more "quiet" superstar in the NHL. It's not like he's a Mikko Koivu-type who is mostly known for strong two-way play. He's an offensive stud and I totally forgot about him.

Moving on to the defense. In my . . . defense. . . the Sabres' defense looked good on paper. Myers, Ehrhoff, Regehr, Leopold, Sekera, Weber, Pysyk, Sulzer, Pardy. The problem was that the foundation for the whole edifice is Myers being a strong, minute-eating #1 defenseman. He wasn't, and the whole thing fell apart. In fairness, the entire team fell apart, but the defense was abysmal.

2. Montreal Canadiens:

What I got right:

The Canadiens have a couple solid forward lines with Erik Cole, David Deharnais, Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec (if healthy), Rene Bourque, and Brian Gionta. If Alex Galchenyuk can stick with the team, the Habs should have decent scoring depth.

Replace Cole with Michael Ryder and this is still pretty much true. The Habs had eight players score ten or more goals, and Galchenyuk potted nine.

What I got wrong:

Again, I suppose someone has to come in third, so why not the Habs? Well, their top-two defensemen are P.K. Subban andAndrei Markov, one of whom is unsigned and the other has played only a handful of games in the last two years. With Subban out, the Habs are relying on Markov to stay healthy and play alongside the steady (and underrated) Josh Gorges. After that, the Habs are rolling out Alexei Emelin, Raphael Diaz, Yannick Weber, Francis Bouillon, and Tomas Kaberle. Carey Price had better be ready to see a lot of pucks.

The Habs are a case study in how coaching and systems can impact a team, and how that's reflected in their possession statistics. Montreal went from being one of the worst Fenwick Close teams in the league to being one of the best. Markov's return and Subban's emergence as a possession beast surely helped, but Michel Therrien brought some Fenwick voodoo, because the Habs suddenly started throwing a lot more rubber toward their opponent. As a result, Price didn't need to be outstanding every night, and the Habs--despite a late-season swoon--won their division and secured the second-overall seed in the Eastern Conference.

3. Ottawa Senators:

What I got right:

Erik Karlsson had a stellar season last year, but I think he's due for significant regression, particularly given that opposing teams will have no excuse not to target him this year.

This was both right and wrong. Karlsson didn't regress when he was healthy, but opponents did target him more often, and as a result he missed most of the season with a partially torn Achilles' tendon. (I happen to think the injury was accidental, but it never would have happened if Cooke hadn't had a bullseye on Karlsson.)

The Sens also benefited from a strong performance by Craig Anderson last year. Anderson will need to be even better this year if the Sens are going to have a prayer of making the playoffs.

Anderson was better, and the Sens made the playoffs. How stupid does Colorado feel for low-balling him a couple years ago? (Probably about as stupid as they feel for the Erik Johnson trade. Or the David Jones contract. Or the Varlamov trade. Or allowing O'Reilly to hold out. Or . . . pretty much anything they've done since the 04-05 lockout.)

What I got wrong:

Chris Phillips and Sergei Gonchar are serviceable, if a bit long in the tooth. After that, the Sens' defense gets uglier than Mike Ricci.

Remember that line from the section above about Michel Therrien's Fenwick voodoo? Well Paul McLean must worship at the same altars. A year after being 50/50 with Karlsson and Spezza in the lineup, this year's Sens were at 52% in Fenwick close with both guys missing significant time. McLean's system did an amazing job of covering for the shortcomings of his roster, and and his defense in particular. He managed to get passable defense out of guys like Eric Gryba and Marc Methot. Chapeau.

5. Toronto Maple Leafs:

What I got right:

the Leafs actually have a halfway-decent top six, with Phil Kessel, Mikhail Grabovski,Joffrey Lupul, James van Riemsdyk, and Nikolai Kulemin. ... and if Nazem Kadri can ever live up to his draft slot, the Leafs might actually have some forward depth. On the defensive side, the Leafs have a decent top-four with Dion Phaneuf, John-Michael Liles,Jake Gardiner, and Carl Gunnarsson. After that, however, comes the ghost of Mike Komisarek, Cody Franson and a bunch of question marks.

The Leafs do have a pretty good top-six group of forwards, and it's made stronger with Kadri finally living up to his potential. Phaneuf, Liles, Gardner, and Gunnarsson seemed like a decent top-four, but then Liles had a terrible year and Gardiner got on the wrong side of Carlyle. Suddenly those question marks (Mike Kostka? Korbinian Holzer?) got a lot of playing time.

What I got wrong:

Jay McClement is a pretty good #3C,

I feel shame. I feel really, really stupid for having written this.

Already lacking center depth, the Leafs took the bold decision to waive Tim Connolly before the season, leaving Tyler Bozak as their presumptive #2 center.

The Leafs never completely resolved their center position, which is probably at least partly responsible for their atrocious Fenwick Close rating. The emergence of Kadri helped a great deal, however, and Kadri-Bozak-Grabovski is far from the worst top-three in the league.

Other than that, Speaking of question marks, the Leafs' goaltending situation is completely up in the air. Right now, James Reimer and Ben Scrivens are between the pipes, but many have presumed that the Leafs would be a primary suitor for Roberto Luongo. Well, that trade has yet to materialize, and the Leafs' duo of AHL-caliber goalies will consign them to the basement of the Northeast.

Reimer was really good, and Scrivens was good for a backup. Inexperience aside, I'm not sure why the Leafs were so anxious to "upgrade" their goaltending with the ambling corpse that currently wears Miikka Kiprusoff's jersey. The long-rumored (well, rumoured) Luongo trade never materialized. Sad Strombone.

Southeast Division

I got number one right, then pretty much everything else wrong. Mid-season, when the Caps were lolling around the cellar, I was pretty sure that I was going to look like an idiot homer for picking them. Instead, I just look like an idiot for picking Carolina and Tampa Bay to make the playoffs.

1. Washington Capitals:

What I got right:

The 2012-2013 edition of the Caps will miss Alexander Semin's goal-scoring, but they'll likely make up for it by spreading the wealth (i.e. power-play time) to Wojtek Wolski, Eric Fehr, Mike Ribeiro, and Mathieu Perreault.

If we can forget about Wolski (Oates certainly did), and add in Troy Brouwer, this is pretty accurate.

Speaking of Ribeiro, the Caps go into the 2012-2013 season with a legitimate second-line center for the first time since 2008-2009. Once Brooks Laich is healthy (and presuming he returns to being the #3C) the Caps will have depth down the middle to match any team in the east.

Laich never returned as a center, but with Backstrom back to his All-Star form, Ribeiro producing at a point-per-game rate (even with his atrocious possession stats), and Perreault doing yeoman work as the #3C, this wasn't too far off.

Provided that the Caps can quickly learn Adam Oates' system, and that Oates' system improves the power play (and with it Alexander Ovechkin's production) the Caps should take one of the top-three seeds in the Eastern Conference.

The Caps didn't learn Oates' system quickly, but once they picked it up, they started winning in bunches. As expected, Oates improved both the power play (#1 in the league) and Ovechkin's power-play production (16 PPG and 27 Power-Play Points).

What I got wrong:

The Caps are similarly deep on defense, although the quality drops off somewhat in the last pairing while Dmitry Orlov is injured. Still, with Mike Green healthy and John Carlson busted out of his sophomore slump, the Caps have two strong puck-movers to go with defensive stalwarts Karl Alzner, Roman Hamrlik and, if he can return to the form he showed prior to 2011-2012, Jeff Schultz. The near-miraculous return of Tom Poti only adds to this depth.

This is up there with the "Jay McClement is a decent #3C" on the Derp-O-Meter. I thought that Green-Hamrlik and Alzner-Carlson would give the Caps a solid top-4, while Orlov, Erskine, Poti, and Hillen filled in the bottom pairing. On paper, that seems pretty deep. Orlov never really recovered from his concussion, Poti is. . . well, Poti, and Hamrlik's rapidly declining speed was an atrocious fit for Oates' pressure defense. Since 2010, Schultz has been more lost than Dr. Livingston, and Oates soured on him quickly. Suddenly, Big John Erskine, Tomas Kundratek and Steven Oleksy were playing big minutes for the Caps. I guess that's depth of a sort, right?

While I whiffed on a couple details, I'd like to think I got the big picture right when it comes to the Caps.

2. Carolina Hurricanes:

What I got right:

Carolina's defense is still a bit shaky. Joni Pitkanen and Tim Gleason are strong defensemen, but on a deeper team, they'd be a second-pair tandem. Carolina has some talented young defenders in Justin Faulk, Jamie McBain, and Bobby Sanguinetti, but the less said about Joe Corvo, the better.

On cue, Carolina's defense was a major weakness. Their defensemen had a hard time staying healthy, to the point where they were forced to trade for Marc-Andre Bergeron (AKA the power-play booby prize).

The addition of Jordan Staal has given the Canes a solid 1-2 punch at center, should coach Kirk Muller decide to split Jordan from his brotherEric Staal, rather than playing Eric on Jordan's wing as some have suggested.

What I got wrong:

I thought the 'Canes would make the playoffs, primarily because I didn't foresee the injuries to both Cam Ward and his backup, Dan Ellis. Had Carolina received league-average, or even replacement-level goaltending (somewhere between .905 and .910), instead of .902, they likely make the playoffs, and I don't feel so foolish.

3. Tampa Bay Lightning:

What I got right:

The Bolts, led by Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, Ryan Malone, and Teddy Purcell, showed an ability to put the puck in the net. The Lightning hope that the additions of B.J. Crombeen,Benoit Pouliot, and Cory Conacher will increase their scoring depth.

The Lightning could score, ranking #4 overall in the conference in goals-for. Stamkos challenged for the Richard Trophy, and St. Louis earned the Art Ross. Cory Conacher had a breakout performance before being traded to Ottawa.

What I got wrong:

The other end of the ice was, however, another story altogether. The Lightning's defense and goaltending both struggled, surrendering the most goals in the league (281). Lightning GM Steve Yzerman sought to address this problem in the offseason by adding free agents Sami Salo and Matt Carle, and trading for the young Keith Aulie to go along with midseason acquisition Brian Lee. Additionally, Yzerman acquired the enormous Anders Lindbackfrom Nashville. Some have worried about the "loss" of Matthias Ohlund will have a negative impact on the Bolts' defense corps, but given how poorly Ohlund has played the last two seasons, this may be an addition by subtraction. Yzerman has done an impressive job rebuilding his defense and goaltending, and it should be enough to return the Lightning to the playoffs, but not to capture the division.

The Bolts' defense and goaltending didn't improve. Lindback wasn't the answer. Carle and Salo struggled. The team's systems-play was a mess, and it precipitated a change behind the bench, with John Cooper taking over for the Bond villain Guy Boucher.

4. Florida Panthers:

What I got right:

The Panthers will drop from first to fourth, in large part due to regression on both an individual and team level... At the team level, the Panthers sucked in overtime and shootouts, but they got into extra time more often than any other team in the league (25 times). Look for the Panthers to miss out on a few more of those "tie points" in 2013.

Check and check.

Though the Panthers seemingly have decent forward depth with Versteeg, Fleischmann, Weiss, Scottie Upshall, Mueller, Sean Bergenheim, Marcel Goc, Shawn Matthias, and Tomas Kopecky, the fact that GM Dale Tallon felt the need to sign Alexei Kovalev is an ill omen that shows how desperate the Panthers are for top-end skill.

The Alexei Kovalev experience didn't last too long in Florida, but the Cats did lack for any kind of consistent top-end talent, particularly once Weiss went down to injury.

Kuba is steady and can produce some points on the power play, but he's also getting up there in years and shouldn't be counted on for top-pairing minutes

Kuba got minimal power play time and produced four assists, but he certainly showed himself to be past his prime.

What I got wrong:

Mueller produces when healthy, but he hasn't been able to stay healthy for several years.

Mueller stayed relatively healthy, but he didn't produce all that much, scoring 8 goals to go with 9 assists. He was, however, a Corsi beast, so perhaps he's a candidate for some shooting-percentage regression next year.

One area the Panthers aren't desperate is between the pipes, with steady veterans Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen holding the fort until prospect Jakob Markstrom is ready to take over.

Swing and a miss. It's hard to know how much of the Panthers' goaltending woes were defense, and how much was the fault of the men between the pipes, but holy Moses - Markstrom led the team with a .901 save percentage.

Barring a significant step forward from Erik Gudbransonand/or Jonathan Huberdeau, the Panthers will likely miss the playoffs.

Huberdeau showed that he could be a star as soon as next year. Gudbranson is still raw, but again, it's hard to smell good when you're up to your neck in raw sewage. I was pretty sure they wouldn't make the playoffs, but I definitely didn't see Florida as the worst team in the league.

5. Winnipeg Jets:

What I got right:

The Jets have talented and promising players sprinkled throughout their lineup, but they're spread far too thinly and too many are relatively one-dimensional. Dustin Byfuglien, for example, is an offensive force from the blue line. Unfortunately, his defense is forcefully atrocious. Zach Bogosian shows promise, but he remains hindered after offseason wrist surgery. In theory, Olli Jokinen,Bryan Little, Alexander Burmistrov, and Nik Antropov give the Jets three scoring-line centers. In reality, none of the three would be a top-line center on a Cup contender (although Burmistrov has potential), and Antropov is injured.

Overall, this was accurate. The Jets made the smart choice to let Scheifele stay in junior, so that was one less promising young player. Burmistrov looks a little lost. He has all sorts of talent though. Little had an outstanding year, but Jokinen was atrocious, and this might be the end of the road for the Joki-Turtle.

Perhaps the Jets can fly out of the basement if Bogosian returns, Ondrej Pavelec stands on his head, and young players like Mark Schiefele exceed expectations. Otherwise the frequent flyer miles will take their toll and ground the Jets before the playoffs.

Pavelec was terrible, and Bogosian wasn't a difference-maker. The Jets were better than expected, but they missed the playoffs. Enjoy the Western Conference Next year, boys!

What I got wrong:

The Jets took advantage of a raucous "honeymoon" crowd to post a relatively strong home record, but they were done in by an atrocious record on the road. With a compressed season filled with trips to the southeast, look for this pattern to continue.

Nope. The Jets were 13-10-1 at home and 11-11-2 on the road.

Evander Kane and Andrew Ladd provide grit and scoring from the wings, Alexei Ponikarovsky can score a bit and Blake Wheeler brings his, well, wheels, but it's not enough to offset the overall lack of talent across the roster.

Kane didn't take the major step forward into power-forward stardom that everyone is waiting for him to take. Something tells me he may have to leave Winnipeg to truly blossom. Ladd, on the other hand, was a revelation. Did I say revelation? I meant "lucky S.O.B." He shot 14.9% this year for 18 goals, against a career average of around 11%. He had a year like this before in 2010-2011, so it's not entirely unprecedented, but it was unexpected. Same thing goes for Wheeler. He shot 14.7% for 19 goals, against a career average of around 11. As with Ladd, Wheeler did this before in his rookie year in Boston, but it was an unlikely event.

Projected Standings (With Actual Standings in Parentheses)

(Division winners denoted with italics)

Western Conference

Central Division

  1. Chicago Blackhawks (same)
  2. St. Louis Blues (same)
  3. Detroit Red Wings (same)
  4. Nashville Predators (Columbus Blue Jackets)
  5. Columbus Blue Jackets (Nashville Predators)

Northwest Division

  1. Vancouver Canucks (same)
  2. Minnesota Wild (same)
  3. Edmonton Oilers (same)
  4. Colorado Avalanche (Calgary Flames)
  5. Calgary Flames (Colorado Avalanche)

Pacific Division

  1. Los Angeles Kings (Anaheim Ducks)
  2. San Jose Sharks (Los Angeles Kings)
  3. Phoenix Coyotes (San Jose Sharks)
  4. Anaheim Ducks (Phoenix Coyotes)
  5. Dallas Stars (same)

Western Conference Overall

  1. Vancouver Canucks (Chicago Blackhawks)
  2. Chicago Blackhawks (Anaheim Ducks)
  3. Los Angeles Kings (Vancouver Canucks)
  4. St. Louis Blues (same)
  5. San Jose Sharks (Los Angeles Kings)
  6. Detroit Red Wings (San Jose Sharks)
  7. Phoenix Coyotes (Detroit Red Wings)
  8. Minnesota Wild (same)
  9. Nashville Predators (Columbus Blue Jackets)
  10. Anaheim Ducks (Phoenix Coyotes)
  11. Edmonton Oilers (Dallas Stars)
  12. Colorado Avalanche (Edmonton Oilers)
  13. Dallas Stars (Calgary Flames)
  14. Calgary Flames (Nashville Predators)
  15. Columbus Blue Jackets (Colorado Avalanche)

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

  1. New York Rangers (Pittsburgh Penguins)
  2. Pittsburgh Penguins (New York Rangers)
  3. Philadelphia Flyers (New York Islanders)
  4. New York Islanders (Philadelphia Flyers)
  5. New Jersey Devils (same)

Northeast Division

  1. Boston Bruins (Montreal Canadiens)
  2. Buffalo Sabres (Boston Bruins)
  3. Montreal Canadiens (Toronto Maple Leafs)
  4. Ottawa Senators (same)
  5. Toronto Maple Leafs (Buffalo Sabres)

Southeast Division

  1. Washington Capitals (same)
  2. Carolina Hurricanes (Winnipeg Jets)
  3. Tampa Bay Lighting (Carolina Hurricanes)
  4. Florida Panthers (Tampa Bay Lightning)
  5. Winnipeg Jets (Florida Panthers)

Eastern Conference Overall:

  1. New York Rangers (Pittsburgh Penguins)
  2. Boston Bruins (Montreal Canadiens)
  3. Washington Capitals (same)
  4. Pittsburgh Penguins (Boston Bruins)
  5. Carolina Hurricanes (Toronto Maple Leafs)
  6. Tampa Bay Lightning (New York Rangers)
  7. Buffalo Sabres (Ottawa Senators)
  8. Philadelphia Flyers (New York Islanders)
  9. Montreal Canadiens (Winnipeg Jets)
  10. New York Islanders (Philadelphia Flyers)
  11. Florida Panthers (New Jersey Devils)
  12. New Jersey Devils (Buffalo Sabres)
  13. Ottawa Senators (Carolina Hurricanes)
  14. Winnipeg Jets (Tampa Bay Lightning)
  15. Toronto Maple Leafs (Florida Panthers)

If this FanPost is written by someone other than one of the blog's editors, the opinions expressed in it do not necessarily reflect those of this blog or SB Nation.

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