One day to go! Standing and fantasy predictions, tracking Prax's fantasy team, more!
So we're almost there and I'm starting to get jittery. I've indirectly told my boss that I won't be getting much work done until I get my hockey fix tomorrow night. And I'll certainly be plugged in the entire day... websites, radio, any news on line-ups and strategies and fickle fanbase fighting I can get my hands on, I WILL be on top of, and I will be posting a preview on the site before the Canadiens - Leafs game starts.
But as for today, I will be posting some general stuff... to start, my standing predictions, which come a little while after I revealed who I thought would win each division. I was a little off the wall in who I thought would be the six top teams in the league, and I stand by those predictions. 4 to 8 in each conference are a little less zany, but here are my standings for the Eastern and Western conference, with, of course, a few notes:
1. Pittsburgh Penguins
2. Boston Bruins
3. Carolina Hurricanes
4. Washington Capitals
5. Philadelphia Flyers
6. New Jersey Devils
7. Montreal Canadiens
8. Ottawa Senators
9. Toronto Maple Leafs
10. Buffalo Sabres
11. New York Rangers
12. New York Islanders
13. Tampa Bay Lightning
14. Atlanta Thrashers
15. Florida Panthers
I already explained my reasoning for the top 3, but I justified putting the Canes over the Caps for their willingness to win, and their strengths defensively over the caps, not to mention the clear advantage in goal, with Boudreau deciding that there's not clear-cut number one between Theodore and Varlamov. Varlamov will end up taking the number 1 job but by then the damage will have been done. it will be a close race between the two teams but in the end, I believe Ward and a lot of quality grinders will lead the Canes to a division victory.
Other than positioning, the only team entering the playoffs this year will be the Senators over the Rangers. I had a tough time picking between the Sens and the Leafs, but in the end I slightly allowed my bias to kick in and picked the Sens :). Seriously though, the Sens are stronger on offense and their defense is underrated, not to mention the X factor of Pascal Leclaire.
The Leafs are quite the opposite. And not to offend any of our leafs readers, but their offense is weak, their defense is overrated (don't get me wrong, they're good, but I've heard people calling them the best group of defensemen in the league, and they haven't even played a regular season game together yet... please), and their X factor in goal is not a positive X factor. They will be better, but I believe that divisional play will be their doom in the end.
I went slightly off the wall in my 11 to 15 picks, but I feel that the Isles deserve SOME (not much) credit for adding Tavares and Shremp and stabilizing their goaltending situation. I don't see anything good from the Panthers and the Thrashers added a few names but I don't see them being any good either.
If the east ends up this way, we'll be in for some interesting playoff matches:
Pittsburgh - Ottawa
Boston - Montreal (AGAIN!)
Carolina - New Jersey
Washington - Philadelphia
1. Chicago Blackhawks
2. Anaheim Ducks
3. Calgary Flames
4. Detroit Red Wings
5. San Jose Sharks
6. Vancouver Canucks
7. Columbus Blue Jackets
8. St. Louis Blues
9. Edmonton Oilers
10. Minnesota Wild
11. Nashville Predators
12. Los Angeles Kings
13. Dallas Stars
14. Colorado Avalanche
15. Phoenix Coyotes
While no teams that were in the playoffs in the west last year are out in my predictions, there are strong changes in terms of positioning. The Blackhawks overtake the Red Wings. The only question mark for the Hawks is goaltending, but Detroit has the same question marks, so I'm jumping on the bandwagon and giving the division to the Hawks.
I'm really high on the Ducks this year. They lost a lot last year but the players on that team are fighters and they're winners, and they will find a way to dethrown the Sharks, who fall to 5th. Positions 1, 2, 4 and 5 will be incredibly tight though.
The Flames are strong enough defensively to win the division over the Canucks in my opinion, despite not being as deep offensively. The coaching style of Brent Sutter will offset those deficiencies.
St. Louis and Columbus will continue to improve and find a way to make the playoffs again, while Minnesota, Edmonton and Nashville will be VERY close but will be disappointed, yet again.
Los Angeles will improve, but I don't think they're good enough to overtake their competition just yet, but they won't be as bad as Dallas, Colorado and Phoenix (who will cap off a summer of crap with an even crappier season. They will draft Taylor Hall and move to a city that cares... hopefully...)
Anyway, that's what I think, so go ahead and rate/hate/debate my standings.
So last night was my fantasy draft on Yahoo. And since it will be the only yahoo pool I will be doing this year, I thought I might add a fantasy report to my blogs once a week, and let people know how my team is doing versus the rest of the league.
That being said, in a 15-team league with the 10th overall pick, this is how my team looks like to start the season, and frankly, I'm pretty satisfied with the result:
Center: David Krejci, Joe Pavelski and Chris Drury
A lot of people think Krejci won't repeat what he did last year, and he is coming off surgery and a contract year, but frankly, I think the rest of his team is too good for him not to at least hit 60 points and a solid +/-.
Pavelski was a steal. Taken 150th overall with my 11th pick, Pavelski is ranked 59th on Yahoo and frankly, he will produce as a top sixty player this year, with Marleau on his wing having been dropped down to the second line with Heatley's arrival and having a lot to prove, and close on the right winig.
Drury will have an increased role now that Gomez is out of New York and although the Rangers won't be that great, Drury has to be. Either way, he's a good 3rd center and there are always good centers available off waivers.
Admittedly, I didn't focus too much on centers this draft, seeing as the lot of centers is always deep on yahoo.
Left Wing: Daniel Sedin, Kris Versteeg, Ville Leino, Erik Cole
Admittedly, I'm stocking up on wingers for trades as it's usually harder to find good wingers on Yahoo, but I'M satisfied with all four of these pick. As our good friend BBP pointed out, Leino might be a sleeper this year and Cole will be healthy and back in Carolina for the entire year alongside Staal. Versteeg might have a sophomore slump but he'll be alright, and Sedin is always a solid pick.
Right Wing: Jarome Iginla, Alex Kovalev, Jonathan Cheechoo
Iggy was my 1st pick at 10th and the best player available. Kovalev will be better than he was last year, as he always performs well after a bad year, and Cheechoo might be a sleeper in a rejuvinated top 9 forwards in Ottawa.
Defense: Dion Phaneuf, Dennis Wideman, Marc-Edoard Vlasic, Craig Rivet and Mike Commodore
Arguably my strongest position. Phaneuf is solid in all fantasy categories, Wideman will get a good amount of points and a huge plus/minus, Vlasic will give me a lot of power-play points, Rivet and Commodore will give me some points and penalty minutes.
Goaltending: Ryan Miller, Jonas Hiller and Martin Biron
The weirdest thing happened in this draft. Eight goalies out of 150 picks went in the 1st round, with another 8 going in the second round. By far the most goalies I've seen go early and it makes sense. But it certainly made for some tough picks for tending. But Miller will be healthy and will give the Sabres a chance this year, Hiller might not start at the beginning of the season but he'll be good, and Biron is an x-factor with the Islanders. This might be a position I'd want to improve on...
Anyway, I'll be posting updates on my team's performance every week. And I'll be back tomorrow with a pre-game report for the Leafs/Habs game.
Until then, check out www.hockeyindependent.com, another fairly new hockey site. B.D. Gallof has been kind enough to let me blog on his site about the Habs and spread the word about this site, so I thought it only fair to return the favor and tell you guys to check out his blog as well.
So check it out, and check back here tomorrow for a habs blog!