Answer: YES. NHL hockey is back today! So, I basically completely missed the pre-season this year; who really cares that much anyway, but this week at least I’ve got time carved out for the start of the NHL season. Tonight, I’ll be watching the San Jose Sharks attempt to avenge their spectacular collapse against the Los Angeles Kings by spoiling the Kings’ Stanley Cup banner raising at Staples Center. I don’t know what to think about the Sharks this year just yet; hopefully an identity appears relatively quickly, perhaps they get their revenge tonight. Still, I have a bad feeling it could go the other way really quickly. (although… see below)
Which way? The way I actually hope things go for the Buffalo Sabres, my beloved hometown team. The team I’ve lived and died by over the last sixteen years. I haven’t had too much to say about them on this blog, relatively speaking, because they haven’t had much success. This year? I hope for no success, at least as far as winning games is concerned. They’ll compete, no doubt, but they need to lose and lose often. (Ideally, entertaining and close games) The shining light toward the end of a dreadful rebuilding period is a top pick in the 2015 draft, one which is looking to hold a franchise-maker at the apex. Last place for Buffalo would be choice. If they forget to tank and make the playoffs instead, well that’s good too I suppose. For years they’ve had the consensus best prospect pool in the NHL; it’s almost time for those prospects to carry the load and missing out on a top two pick might not be completely awful (see below). I’m still hoping: Stanley Cup Champions by 2020, at the latest!
In just two and a half short weeks I’ll be at the SAP Center watching these two teams battle it out on the ice. I have a feeling my Sabres will continue their domination of the Sharks in San Jose. Because that’s what’s not supposed to happen, yet keeps happening. But, if the Sabres lose? Who cares; lottery.
Like last year I’m not going to get into detail about predictions and the like, but I would like to throw out some general end-of-season ideas. Here’s how I see the seedings roughly shaping up, in no particular order.
In the West:
Pacific: Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose
Central: Chicago, St. Louis, Dallas
Wild Cards: Vancouver, Edmonton (!)
In the East:
Atlantic: Boston, Montréal, Tampa Bay
Metropolitan: Pittsburgh, Columbus, New York Rangers
Wild Cards: New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils
Notables off the board: Detroit, Minnesota, Philadelphia, Colorado
Draft lottery top five (aka Tank Wars): Calgary, Winnipeg, Buffalo, Carolina, Toronto
I think Colorado is due for regression (as does everyone else). I think Edmonton will finally have their year, as will the New York Islanders. Florida will do better than the lottery, but still fall short. As a Sabres fan I expect nothing but awfulness given the personnel, and as a Sabres fan, I expect nothing good, so they finish third last and lose their guaranteed shot at McEichel. Also notable, the end of Detroit’s playoff streak. They’ve been on the decline since 2011, a borderline team the last two seasons, and now they’re looking like their time of supremacy might be over.
Stanley Cup Champion: San Jose Sharks
Yes folks, I’m doing it again. They will be so driven by their implosion to Los Angeles they’ll pull a Boston circa 2010-11. I’m not super-superstitious. This isn’t a jinx. I won’t be kicking myself in April for doing this. Knock on wood.
In addition to my minimalist standings graphic, last seen on the 2014 playoff preview post, I’ve sated my creative drive this year by building a magnetic version for my dry-erase board. I can’t wait to start shifting these beautiful paper chips around!
Also, I started off this week by getting back on the ice for the first time in six months. It was a blast as always (and I scored a hat-trick!), except I’m so out of shape I think once is enough for the time being. I’m just going to sit back on the couch, put up a game (read: all the games) on my computer screen, and soak it all in.