A couple days ago, I looked into the crystal ball and gave you the teams that won't be making the playoffs in the West. They might as well not even play the games my logic is so money. So, here's the order of your playoff teams:
Outlook: Vancouver locked up the Sedin twins and goalie Roberto Luongo to be at their core, but they were also very active this summer in adding Mikael Samuelsson, Mathieu Schneider and Christian Ehrhoff. The Canucks got to the 2nd round last season and they're gearing up expectations of another deep playoff run.
How they could make this prediction wrong: A little more secondary scoring from forwards other the Sedins is going to be necessary to beat the top teams in the West who seem deeper up front.
Player to watch: Luongo [54 gp, 33-13-7, 2.34 GAA, .920 sv %)
Young gun: Sergei Shirokov [rookie]
The rest (with two big surprises coming up) after the jump...
Outlook: My surprise team in the league and here's why. Add Rob Scuderi and Ryan Smyth to your lineup and the Kings get a couple of workmen who are good at what they do and always reliable. Put that with a core of guys like Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, Alex Frolov and Jack Johnson and it could be something special.
How they could make this prediction wrong: If it doesn't gell as quick as this prognosticator thinks, the Kings won't make the playoffs. Speaking of Quick, Jonathan's going to have to prove he's a bonafide #1 goalie in the NHL.
Player to watch: Kopitar [82 games, 27 goals, 39 assists last season]
Young gun: Drew Doughty [81 gp, 6g, 21a]
Outlook: A big step up for St. Louis, who have a great mix of forwards old (Keith Tkachuk, Paul Kariya, Andy McDonald) and young (TJ Oshie, David Perron, Patrik Berglund). Also they get former #1 pick Erik Johnson back from a season long knee injury, which obviously should be a big boost for them. They've positioned themselves to be the next team in the Pittsburgh-Washington-Chicago cycle to step up with a young core and vault into the playoffs, is this the year they take that next step?
How they could make this prediction wrong: Kariya and McDonald weren't able to stay in the lineup, the Blues will need their experience to get to the playoffs. If goalie Chris Mason and/or Ty Conklin can't step up, St. Louis could get kicked down in the shuffle of what should be a close bunch of teams from about 6 to 12.
Player to watch: Brad "Little" Boyes [82 games, 33 goals, 39 assists last season]
Young gun: Perron [81 gp, 15g, 35a]
Outlook: The Ducks suffered a big loss trading Chris Pronger for two young players and future draft picks, but they deepened their team. Lupul, one of the acquired players, will join Teemu Selanne and new-face Saku Koivu on what should be a great 2nd line to go along with the Corey Perry - Ryan Getzlaf - Bobby Ryan dominant top line. Ryan Whitney and Nick Boynton are going to have to step up and shoulder some of the burden with Scott Niedermayer in Pronger's wake.
How they could make this prediction wrong: JS Giguere had a dreadful season last year, Jonas Hiller was decent, so the big question is, who's the guy in net? And will he provide championship caliber goaltending?
Player to watch: Getzlaf [81 games, 25 goals, 66 assists last season]
Young gun: Ryan [64 gp, 31g, 26a]
Outlook: Tumultuous off-season saw Chicago add mercenary Marian Hossa but slip up and almost lose their RFA's on a paperwork mistake. While the long-term contract situation looks messy, for this season the Blackhawks ought to be the #1 challenger in the division for the Red Wings. Like the Penguins of a year past, the ‘Hawks young, exciting core of players caught the taste of the NHL post-season and got some valuable experience. Also like Pittsburgh, Chicago took a dismantling by the same Detroit team they'll have back in their sights. Can they learn enough to
How they could make this prediction wrong: Cristobal Huet takes over the reigns as the #1 goalie, which could lead to anything, he's not a very predictable player. Also Hossa's already hurt and Kane will have a huge spotlight on him everywhere for the cab incident; could be a bit of a circus when Chicago comes to town which could throw them off their games...Or strengthen their resolve.
Player to watch: Jonathan Toews [82 games, 34 goals, 35 assists last season]
Young gun: Kane [80gp, 25g, 45a]
Outlook: The salary cap catches up to Detroit, as they lose Marian Hossa, Mikael Samuelsson and Jiri Hudler, among others and try to replace a lot of production with redemption projects like Jason Williams/Todd Bertuzzi or their own next wave of youngsters like Darren Helm/Justin Abdelkader. Still, they'll have the best and deepest set of defensemen in the league as well as the vast pool of experience to dip into. The Wings are the two time defending conference champions, and until otherwise proven in the spring, are the team to beat in this conference.
How they could make this prediction wrong: It seems some Central Division teams have mental blocks that allow Detroit to run roughshod over them. I have DET 3rd because I project their division to be tough (look how high STL and CHI are). The Red Wings will be higher if those teams haven't advanced as much as predicted here.
Player to watch: Chris Osgood
Young gun: Darren Helm
Outlook: Adding Jay Bouwmeester to a blueline that already features Dion Phaneuf, Robyn Regehr and Cory Sarich will make Calgary a tough team to play against and gives them a great core. Phaneuf is already playing with a huge chip on his shoulder to silence his critics from last season and improve his standings with the Team Canada brass. Goalie Miika Kiprusoff has been a true workhorse, playing in 74, 76 and 76 games over the past three season. Jarome Iginla is clearly one of the game's best leaders, with him on board the Flames should be punching their ticket back to the playoffs.
How they could make this prediction wrong: Calgary didn't do much to replace the 39 goals and 81 points Mike Cammalleri contributed last season (though they will have a full year of Olli Jokinen), other than that there's not much in the way of proven secondary scoring. Another possible worry: Kiprusoff's GAA and save % has gotten worse each of the last 3 seasons, a trend that can't continue.
Player to watch: Phaneuf [80 games, 11 goals, 36 assists, 100 PIM last season]
Young gun: Dustin Boyd [81 gp, 11g, 11a]
Outlook: San Jose seems cursed: great regular seasons but a quick dismantling in the playoffs. They switched it up this season in acquiring talented but troubled Dany Heatley, giving the Sharks one of the top shooters in the game to go along with one of the league's best playmaking centers in Joe Thornton. SJ didn't end up trading their captain Patrick Marleau after all, which has to clear his mind and set him up for another solid season. Defensive depth could be a problem, the Sharks will lean heavily on the almost 40 year old Rob Blake.
How they could make this prediction wrong: If the team gets down on themselves for playoff failures past, they might not be in the hunt for the President's Trophy again. Also top goalie Evgeni Nabokov is in a contract year and his return is uncertain - will that encourage him toward a great year or will the uncertainty affect his performance?
Player to watch: Heatley [82 games, 39 goals, 33 assists last season with Ottawa]
Young gun: Marc-Edouard Vlasic [82gp, 6g, 30a]
What you guys think, how bad is this going to look in April? Shoot, how about it January it'll probably be shot.