John Garrett: Here it goes
This is the time of year when hope springs eternal. Every team is undefeated. Every team is going to make the playoffs. Every team is going to win the Stanley Cup.
It is one of the true attractions of any sport to have that belief that this is the year for your team to win it all. Your team can go from worst to first. John Tavares can make the Islanders that much better.
The truth of the matter is most of these beliefs are just wishful thinking and that is why the facts have to be looked at and you would be wise to heed these predictions.
The Pittsburg Penguins are the reigning Stanley Cup Champs but in my opinion they were fortunate to have a much easier road to the finals.
The San Jose Sharks were the most consistent team for 82 games but bowed out in the first round of the playoffs. They will not be as good this year but are still top of the class in the Pacific Division.
Anaheim was the most dangerous team in the second half, knocked off the Sharks and took Detroit to 7 games. They will be an automatic for the post season.
Dallas will be better and so will Los Angeles but with the circus in the desert, Phoenix has no chance.
Detroit has lost some good players but always seems to come up with more than adequate replacements. Marian Hossa, Mikael Samuelsson and Jiri Hudler are gone but Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Lidstrom are still there. The Wings will finish first in the Central ahead of the Blackhawks even though most of my fellow prognosticators are picking the Hawks to lead the way.
You have to remember that Nikolai Khabibulin was 25-8-7 last year while Cristibal Huet was 20-15-4. They have great flash and dash up front but look out in the crease.
Nashville is short on scoring but has three of the best young defencemen in the game are are one of the best coached teams in the league. They will be the third team from the central to get in the top eight. Steve Mason will not be able to carry the Blue Jackets this year.
The Northwest Division used to be one of the best in the league but has fallen on hard times. The Colorado Avalanche are near rock bottom. They are a year or two away from getting Patrick Roy behind the bench and regaining their former elite status.
The Minnesota Wild are in transition and will take at least a year to find a new identity.
The Oilers needed a change and Steve Tambellini made a wise move in hiring Pat Quinn and then getting a goaltender to compete egainst Roberto Luongo and Mikka Kiprusoff.
Most people are writing the Oilers off but I like them for 8th in the west.
The Canucks came from 13 points back to catch the Flames and win the division. I think it will go right down to the wire again as the Flames are better with Jay Bouwmeester and the Canucks are deeper on the blueline and will score more with Mikael Samuelsson on their power play.
Philadelphia is the team that should challenge Pittsburgh for supremacy in the east. Chris Pronger and Ray Emery make them a much better team.
New Jersey will be boring and successful.
Carolina got better under Paul Maurice. I can not see any of the other Southeast Division teams making a run.
Boston will pick up where they left off and dominate the Northeast.
Montreal will be smaller up front and speedier. Cammalleri,Gomez and Gionta will pile up the points.
Buffalo will be back in the hunt with a healthy Ryan Miller.
The Rangers made it last year as four teams from the Atlantic got in but I do not see that happening again.
So here it goes.