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Are you ready puck heads?The NHL season has dropped the first puck of the season.The road to crowning the next Stanley Cup
Champion is under way....and hockey fans are chomping at the bit to have
bragging rights.At the start of the
season every fan in every city has something to say.“The ---- are going all the way this
season!”“Last year is in the past, this
year our ---- are going to surprise everyone!”“We may have sucked for a few seasons but this year I know the ----
return to the playoffs and make a deep playoff run!”Let’s be honest, 65% of the people talking
will be silenced by the time we reach the All-Star game.But at this moment, on this day, everyone has
belief in their team.
The Stanley Cup is one of the most difficult trophies to win
in the sports world.The season may not
be as long as others (*cough baseball cough*) but the grind of the season sure
can take its toll on many players.Football is often said to be the more physical demanding sport, and in
some cases 100% it is, but they also play once a week.Hockey players battle on the ice sometimes 3
or 4 games a week, every week.Winning
Lord Stanley truly is the Royal Rumble of professional sports.We start with 30 teams, all with big
aspirations and dreams of championship glory.One by one every month we slowly elevate a few contenders, define more
pretenders and narrow down the field.Ok
sure, the WWE Royal Rumble match itself has a new participant enter the ring
every 60 seconds and eliminations happen all the time, but I think you are
quick and smart enough to catch the analogy I am throwing down here.
For the #TwineTime NHL season preview, I thought we would go
Royal Rumble style here.Let’s start
with the teams that should be thrown over the glass at the beginning of the
match and see which team is left skating around the big ice come Spring.
As the great announcer Michael Buffer would say, “Let’s Get
Ready to Ruuummmbbbbllllllleeeeee!!!!”
30. Arizona Coyotes (Last Year Final Ranking: 29) – No
surprise here with the Coyotes getting tossed over the glass within the first
few minutes of the season.A team in
heavy rebuilding with young players bodes well perhaps for the future but not
for the present.Stay patient though
Coyotes fans, top prospect Auston Matthews, the Scottsdale native, should be
staying home come next season.
29. Toronto Maple Leafs (LY:27) – Destined to finally become
Canada’s worst team, the Leafs will get tossed by the previous basement
dwelling Oilers during their battle November 30.Oh well fans in the 6...at least you have the
New Jersey Devils (LY:25) – This is more a combination of lack of offensive
talent and playing in a strong Metropolitan division.I cannot see the Devils being able to stay
competitive against divisional foes New York, Pittsburgh and Washington.
27. Colorado Avalanche (LY: 21) – Outside of Nathan
McKinnon, there really isn’t much power in the punch of this team.They may stick around for a few eliminations
but in the end, they go out Repo Man style.
26. Edmonton Oilers
(LY: 28) – The Connor McDavid era is in full effect in Edmonton.Congrats Oilers, you move up the rankings
this year and are no longer Canada’s worst team.We have heard this story before in E-town on
how this is the year with a fresh new young face joining the team.Get excited I suppose...but this is becoming
a bit of a broken record.This team will
be closer to a playoff spot than they have in many years and that is reason to
be excited.Unfortunately, you are also
missing out on the playoffs...again.
(LY: 30) – Second overall pick Jack Eichel will be yet another draft pick thorn
in the side of Oilers fans (see Tyler vs Taylor debate).Eichel will outperform McDavid and, most
importantly, help his team finish ahead of the number one pick’s team in the
final standings.The argument will be
mute though as both teams miss the playoffs anyways.
Flyers (LY: 24) – I expect a similar season from the Flyers as last year.Good at times, awful at others.Golfing come early spring.The top teams in the Metropolitan will
closeline this team over the boards once division battles start heating up.
Hurricanes (LY: 26) – I suppose they could surprise and last longer than
expected but the talent again will be hard to match up week in and week out
against the deeper and more talented teams in the conference.Don’t get me wrong though, this is a Rick
Martel-style team that will hang around longer than you expect.
22.Vancouver Canucks (LY: 10) – The first early
tragedy of last year’s Top 16.The
Pacific division continues to get better and the Canucks have done little to
keep up.The Sedin twins are not getting
younger.The competition is.Something has to give eventually and this is
the year the Canucks take the deep dive back in the ocean.
21. Detroit Red Wings (LY: 11) – This will be a completely
new team this season and the question surrounding the Wings is how the players
buy into new head coach Jeff Blashill.A
staple to always make the playoffs and be around at the end of the Royal
Rumble, this may be the surprise shock early elimination.I mean Hulk Hogan cannot win the Rumble every
year right?(And yes, I do still think
of this team as a 90’s team).
(LY: 17) – Last season the B’s missed the playoff for the first time since
2007.In the preseason, they lose top
D-man Zdeno Chara to an upper body injury.Things are not looking bright in Beantown.With having a very young blue line, the more
experienced teams should be able to capitalize on them quickly.This team may be in a deep playoff hole
before Chara makes it back on the ice.
19. Florida Panthers (LY: 19) – This is my surprise team in
the Eastern Conference.Ok, I know when
you compare last year’s final ranking to my ranking in the Royal Rumble it is
the same.But don’t be fooled.This team almost made the playoffs last
year.A few more wins should come their
way this year.Why can’t they make a
strong playoff push again?The question
will be whether Aaron Ekblad sustains his rookie season numbers or suffers a
sophomore slump.Plus they have legend
Jaromir Jagr now so the old school Penguins fan in me loves them just for
that.This team is the Bob Backlund of
the season, no expectations really heading into the rumble but somehow will
stay around until the final week of the season.
(LY: 13) – The Senators captured the hearts of many Canadians fans last season
in their surprise run to the playoffs.Led by the Hamburglar goalie Andrew Hammond, Senator fans have high
expectations again this season.If you
are looking for a player to watch, pay attention to Curtis Lazar, also known as
#MrSmiles or #LazerLazar.This team
should make another playoff push this season given the weaker Atlantic
Jackets (LY: 22) – Finally we start seeing some teams rise up from the ashes of
Royal Rumble basement dwelling and become a mid-card contender.The jackets are a trendy pick for a playoff
team, I realize that.But for obvious
reasons, namely: Nick Foligno, Ryan Johansen, Scott Hartnell, Boone Jenner,
Sergei Bobrovsky, Ryan Murray, Brandon Dubinsky.See, you have to be a bit impressed with this
team.Combined with the Atlantic
Division being the weakest in the league, this team has a high possibility of
at least nabbing one of the wild card spots.
(LY: 14) – Another Canadian team capturing the hearts of fans in the True
North.Making the playoffs was a great
thing to see last year and watching playoff games back in Winnipeg vs. Anaheim
was memorable.Unfortunately for the
Jets, it might be hard to replicate that feat this season.A strong rookie core could elevate this team
to success or be their down fall depending how the talent holds up.Nic Petan could be an unexpected breakout
star for the team in his rookie campaign and young guns Mark Scheifele and
Jacob Trouba could provide young speed and firepower.The Central Division is just soooo competitive.If this team were in the Eastern Conference,
they make the playoffs hands down.Out
West....could be a problem.
15.San Jose Sharks
(LY: 23) – The Sharks missed the playoffs last year for the first time since
2003.What happened?This team took a hard fall from grace and
will want to ensure a repeat performance does not happen this year.Lots of NEW in San Jose though: New Coach
(Peter DeBoer), New Goalie (Martin Jones), New Captain (Joe Pavelski).Old results though?Which Sharks team do we see?The one who comes out strong in the regular
season and tanks in the post season?Misses the post season all together like last year?Or a completely NEW result in a strong
Stanley Cup run?This could be the Bret
Hart saga....slowly built expectations, reach strong results, tail off and end
your career in WCW oblivion?
(LY: 16) – Speaking of Bret Hart, the next team to go over the boards is Hart’s
hometown Calgary Flames.The Flames were
the surprise team of the playoffs last season, knocking out favourite Vancouver
in the opening round before losing to Anaheim in the second round.The additions of Dougie Hamilton and Michael
Frolik should yield strong payoffs for the season.Heading into the season the Flames are going
with 3 goaltenders on the opening day roster, not commonly seen.The jury is still out on exactly which 2
goalies will be around for the long haul.The Flames could be hard pressed to replicate the results of last
season...at the same time do not underestimate another playoff appearance for
Islanders (LY: 9) – No major changes in the offseason could be just what the
club needed.The Islanders shot up the
standings last season racing to 101 points and losing a very even and hard fought
Eastern Quarterfinal to division rival Washington.Expect a similar battle this season amongst
all 4 teams in the Metro.John Tavares
continues to be the leader on this team.This team could go as far as his shoulders are able to carry them.
Capitals (LY: 8) – Ovi always has his team as a threat in any Rumble.He is willing to throw down and go skate for
skate with any player and any team in the league.The Capitals will enter the season full of
confidence, especially acquiring Justin Williams in the offseason.Williams is a proven Stanley Cup champion and
will bring a ton of experience, especially playoff experience, to this
team.The Capitals are often known for
choking in the postseason...Williams is known to elevate his game come
playoffs...which tradition continues?
Canadiens (LY: 2) – Carey Price, Carey Price, Carey Price.No way Price replicates his stone cold
performance of last season is there?If
we see another Carey “Stone Cold” Price between the pipes this season, the
Canadiens once again could finish atop the Atlantic Division and make a run for
the Eastern Conference title.Should
Price falter though, the door is wide open for Tampa Bay and top contending
Metro teams to pass them by.
(LY: 7) – The defending champs will see a fall this season.These guys truly are the sexy team every
season...you either love them or are heartbroken because of them.Even in his prime though, the “sexy boy”
Shawn Michaels could not go out and dominate the Royal Rumble every year and
expect to take home a title shot.The
‘Hawks are dealing with crazy off-season media coverage surrounding Patrick
Kane.This could be a major distraction
heading into the season.But Kane
controversy aside, the team lost Patrick Sharp, Kris Versteeg and Brandon
Saad.The Central Division is ready to
take them down and this might be the season it happens.
9.Dallas Stars (LY:
19) – The biggest mover in the league in comparison to last year comes from
Dallas.The Stars entered last season
with a lot of buzz and being considered a trendy pick to make the
playoffs.They wilted under the
pressure.Not this year though.This is a team relying on the dual goalie
effect to work in their favour.Should
Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi provide the one-two punch between the pipes, this
team could shock many with a deep post-season run.They have the talent to throw a few more
experienced teams over the board and out of the title picture.The question is how long can they stay on the
ice for against a few of the big boys?
8.Los Angeles Kings
(LY: 18) – So the Kings also shot up 10 spots in the standings, but the Kings
were closer to a playoff team last season than the Stars so they do not get the
biggest mover award.No hard feelings for them though, they would gladly trade that
honour for a stronger chance at a division title...something they should find
within their grasps this season.The
addition of Milan Lucic should help power this team back into the playoffs and
push for the Pacific Division title.
7.New York Rangers
(LY: 1) – See Montreal.The Rangers
season could live or die on the pads of goalie Henrik Lundqvist.The Rangers have also been smart is
developing a strong blue line...go figure when you are the Blueshirts.Get it...blueline, Blueshirts?Anywho....the Rangers should be competing for
an Eastern Conference crown once again this season.The issue is how long can this team keep
going?4 years, 12 playoff rounds, 0
Stanley Cup titles.You can only stick
around towards the final few fighters for so many years before people begin to
realize you aren’t a real threat.Call
it the Mr. Perfect syndrome.Expected to
be near the end of the Royal Rumble every year entered but never a threat to
win it all.
6. Nashville Predators (LY: 6) – Oh Nashville, if only you
didn’t have to tangle with Chicago all the time.This is your year though Preds fans.This is the year Nashville provides the
closeline over the top rope and surpasses the hated Blackhawks in cup consideration.I have faith in Pekka Rinne this season and
they are ready to move from mid-card player to championship contender.
(LY: 12) – This is truly my BOLD prediction for the season: the Wild will
finish second in the Central Division and host a playoff round.Look how well they played in their opening
round playoff series vs. St. Louis.They
played outstanding hockey in eliminatingg the favoured Blues.Of course, they were swept by the ‘Hawks in
the next round but still lots to build off of from the playoff run.My concern is the play of goalie Devan Dubnyk
of course.Do we get Wild playoff-style
Dubnyk or Oilers bad goals allowed Dubnyk?Yes I know this is different as he actually has some defence now but
consistency are the main factors to success for a starting goalie and his team.
4.St. Louis Blues –
(LY: 4) – Quickly becoming the Kane of the Rumble.Completely destroy and dominate during the
match, eliminating many championship hopes and looking like a strong contender
for the title shot.Then, they get down
to it and BOOM...early elimination to a surprise pretender.The Blues are picking up at least 109 points
every season for 3 years now.The team
has not changed much from the past.Is
there any reason not to expect this team to win the hardest division in hockey,
the Central?The bigger question will be
the same as it is every season, can they win when it matters?
Lightning (LY: 5) – The early preseason pick to win the Eastern Conference.The Lightning are the defending Eastern
champions and have assembled a strong team once again to make a long playoff
run.Steve Stamkos is hungry for a
Stanley Cup and this could be the year.Making back to back Cup finals is always a challenge but it is not
unheard of.Considering the East is
noticeable weaker still in comparison to the West, Tampa Bay could be in the
midst of a short reign of terror.
Penguins (LY: 15) – Dong...Dong....lights go black and here comes the
Undertaker...oops I mean the Penguins.Here is a team, on paper at least, nobody wants to see come playoff
time.For comparison, this would the
biggest jump in rankings but the Penguins were a playoff team last year, have
arguably the best player in the league and are consistently at or near the top
of the standings.To say the Penguins
are a playoff team is not much of a reach.Notwithstanding the playoff issues by goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, the true
issue last season was injuries destroyed the Penguins defence.Flower actually played quite well in the
playoff loss to the Rangers last season.Should the guys on D stay, relatively, healthy this season the Penguins
should shoot back near the top of the Metro.The addition of Phil Kessel cannot be ignored and playing beside a
stronger team could only help Kessel’s numbers.They have elite players who make this team a real threat.Similar to the presence the Undertaker had
with opponents sometimes star struck looking across the ring at him, teams
could have a similar feeling this season when they look across the ice and see
the Penguins skating towards them.Black
and yellow could reign supreme with a legit shot at being last team standing.
1. Anaheim Ducks (LY: 3) – The early season
favourite among many hockey fans.While
the Ducks may not be your favourite team, most fans enjoy watching them take
the ice.Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry
are entertaining and have incredible skills that make your jaw drop.This team brings back the core from last
year’s Western Conference finalist team who gave Chicago all they could
handle.I expect bigger and better from
them this year.There are no main areas
of weakness or concern for the Ducks either.This team has the swagger of a CM Punk and the mentality of being the
“Best in the World”.Could this be the
year we see the cup head back to California once again?The Ducks have the firepower to throw all 29
other teams over the boards on their own and claim the Stanley Cup.
The 30 teams are prepped.The ice has been freshly cleaned.The fans are chanting.Now is the
time.Welcome to the NHL Royal Rumble! Enjoy the action...it is going to be fast and furious as always.