The NHL season is here and here's a look at Joe Haggerty's predictions for the 2019-20 NHL season.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning – They won 62 games last season and return the majority of their group after stumbling in the first round. They should again be the class of the Eastern Conference.
2. Toronto Maple Leafs – It will be interesting to see how the Leafs deal with Mitch Marner, John Tavares and Auston Matthews all commanding over $10 million per season. But the talent and maturity should be there for the Leafs to make a move.
3. Boston Bruins – The B’s are one year older and they missed a golden chance in the Cup Final last season. This year will be all about how they deal with that mentally, and on the ice where a Cup Final hangover effect could be very real.
4. Montreal Canadiens – The Habs just narrowly missed the playoff cut last season, so Claude Julien’s crew should/could be a playoff team this year.
5. Florida Panthers – The talent is absolutely there, and maybe the addition of Joel Quenneville and Sergei Bobrovsky is enough to get them over the hump.
6. Buffalo Sabres – One of these seasons Jack Eichel, Rasmus Dahlin and the rest of the considerable talent on this team will come together. I’m guessing this isn’t going to be the year.
7. Detroit Red Wings – The Red Wings really, truly need an infusion of talent on their NHL roster to go along with guys like Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha. It’s a sad state of affairs in Hockeytown.
8. Ottawa Senators – The Sens were terrible last season. They won’t be much better this season.
1. Washington Capitals – After a year of recovering from their Stanley Cup win, the Capitals should be poised to reclaim their rightful place as the big dog in the Metro.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins – Sid and Geno lead the way as always, and leaving behind the Phil Kessel era might be the best thing for a Pens team looking to rebound.
3. New York Rangers – The addition of Jacob Trouba and Artemi Panarin instantly kicks the Blueshirts up a couple of notches. This could be the real surprise team in the Eastern Conference this year.
4. Carolina Hurricanes – The Hurricanes made it all the way to the conference final last season before showing they weren’t ready for prime time. Maybe they will be this season.
5. New York Islanders – The Isles surprised everybody last season, and they will be even grittier and tougher to play against with Semyon Varlamov between the pipes.
6. New Jersey Devils – The Devils are loaded with young talent, should have Taylor Hall motivated and playing at the top of his game and added PK Subban to the mix to make things interesting. Intriguing group.
7. Philadelphia Flyers – It could be a long year again in Philly, but at least they’re building it the right way with young players and a burgeoning young goalie in Carter Hart.
8. Columbus Blue Jackets – They were decimated by defections. Will they fold like one of those cheap suits that John Tortorella wears on the bench, or will they again rally and be miserable to play against? There’s still some talent there.
1. St. Louis Blues – The Blues found a winning style of play in the second half of the year. It will be interesting to see if the NHL allows them to play that heavily during the regular season.
2. Nashville Predators – The framework for an excellent, deep and diverse team is still there, but they need to find something to get over the hump. I don’t think Matt Duchene is that something.
3. Dallas Stars – They still have Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn and adding Joe Pavelski could be exactly what they needed to toughen them up. They are developing into a strong core group.
4. Colorado Avalanche – They still have one of the best lines in hockey and one of the most exciting young defensemen in the NHL in Cale Maker. This will be one fun team to watch.
5. Winnipeg Jets – There is a lot swirling around this team after they underachieved last season, and it feels like it’s really not going to get resolved until they figure out what’s going on with Dustin Byfuglien.
6. Minnesota Wild – Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and Devan Dubnyk are all still there, but the Wild may be falling behind in a Central Division that’s getting better and younger every year.
7. Chicago Blackhawks – It’s sad to watch Jonathan Toews, Pat Kane, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook marooned on a bad team, but it’s tough to ice a deep team when you’re paying a couple of players big bucks.
1. Vegas Golden Knights – The Knights are talented, tough and now they’ve got Mark Stone for an entire season. They should be the team to beat in the Western Conference.
2. San Jose Sharks – A healthy Erik Karlsson could be a huge difference-maker for a Sharks team that was already ultra-talented, but they are also getting a little long in the tooth in spots.
3. Calgary Flames – The Flames are explosive offensively and have a great deal of talent, but the goaltending situation could sink them if Cam Talbot and Dave Rittich can’t get the job done.
4. Vancouver Canucks – With the explosive rookie trio of Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson and Bo Horvat, the Canucks are my surprise team to make the playoffs this season. Tyler Myers is an interesting add there.
5. Arizona Coyotes – Will Phil Kessel turn the Coyotes into a winner? Umm no. He’s really not a great choice for a young, impressionable team, but let the fancy stats kids in the desert figure that one out.
6. Edmonton Oilers – This has to be the year that the Oilers start to figure it out with Connor McDavid, doesn’t it?
7. Anaheim Ducks – An aging group of Ducks players and a severely limited offense are going to lead to a tough year in Anaheim. They may get jealous of Corey Perry in Dallas real quick.
8. LA Kings – It’s time to completely blow this thing up. They should trade guys like Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar to teams with a chance to win and just start over.
Tampa Bay Lightning over the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference Final – This should be the season that the talented Lightning crew puts it all together before the salary cap blows them apart.
Dallas Stars over the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final – Something tells me that this is the season that Dallas puts it all together and battles their way through an always rigorous Western Conference playoff tournament.
Stanley Cup Final: Lightning over Stars in 5 games to finally give Tampa Bay a measure of payback for the embarrassment of choking so hard in the first round last spring.
Hart Trophy – Brayden Point: The Lightning forward is truly something special and this might be the season he moves out from under Nikita Kucherov’s shadow to be the best player on the NHL’s best team.
Norris Trophy – Charlie McAvoy: If the Bruins defenseman can simply stay healthy, he’s going to dominate and turn into another Drew Doughty-type defenseman at both ends of the ice. The talent is there, so the 21-year-old just needs to go out and do it.
Calder Trophy – Kappo Kakko: Why? Because I just wanted to have the Rangers rookie in my season preview. Who doesn't love Kappo Kakko?
Vezina Trophy – Sergei Bobrovsky: Paired with Joel Quenneville in Florida, Bobrovsky seems poised for his third Vezina while serving as one of the key pieces for a Panthers group looking to fight back into the playoffs.
Selke Trophy – Patrice Bergeron: Who else but Mr. Perfect? If he stays healthy it’s his to lose.
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