*Posted September 18, 2008*
Even with the NFL in full swing, and baseball playoffs right around the corner, it is fairly exciting that the 2008-2009 NHL season is upon us. It just seemed like yesterday that Marian Hossa’s deflection sailed wide of Chris Osgood, thus ending the Penguin’s magical season. The Pens first exhibition game is this Saturday, and they open up the regular season against Ottawa on October 4th. Let’s try and break down every division. The odds posted are for winning the Stanley Cup, according to Bodoglife. com.
Atlantic Division – Pittsburgh Penguins (6/1), New York Rangers (12/1), Philadelphia Flyers (15/1), New Jersey Devils (18/1), New York Islanders (66/1)
Easily the best division in the Eastern Conference last year with both teams from PA in the conference finals. Four teams can easily make the playoffs again. The Flyers are a sexy type pick, the Rangers lose Jagr, and the Devils always fly under the radar. I don’t expect the strength of last year top to bottom in the division, but at least three and maybe four teams should make the playoffs.
Division Winner Prediction – Pittsburgh
Northeast Division – Montreal Canadiens (10/1), Ottawa Senators (16/1), Boston Bruins (25/1), Buffalo Sabres (25/1), Toronto Maple Leafs (75/1)
This is an intriguing division with four possible playoff teams. Boston is the sexy pick, Buffalo should be improved, Montreal is solid, and Ottawa still has Alfredsson and Heatley. I think Montreal probably peaked last year and should take a step back. If Ottawa gets any kind of decent goaltending, they could rebound. I’m thinking three playoff teams.
Division Winner Prediction – Ottawa
Southeast Division – Washington Capitals (15/1), Tampa Bay Lightning (20/1), Carolina Hurricanes (33/1), Florida Panthers (50/1), Atlanta Thrashers (100/1)
This worthless division only had one playoff representative last year in Washington, but the group should be improved. Washington is the ultra sexy pick and Tampa Bay added some parts and the mullet. Carolina is just sort of flying under the radar; I like them to have a bounce back year. The Southeast should have two playoff teams this year.
Division Winner Prediction – Carolina
Central Division – Detroit Red Wings (4/1), Chicago Blackhawks (18/1), Nashville Predators (50/1), St. Louis Blues (50/1), Columbus Blue Jackets (65/1),
The champs and the rest. The Red Wings bring everyone back plus have the addition of Hossa. Chicago is the ultra-sexy Western Conference pick, but my gut and common sense thinks that they may be another year away. This may be going out on a limp, or not, but I only see one playoff team from this division.
Division Winner Prediction – Detroit
Northwest Division – Calgary Flames (25/1), Minnesota Wild (25/1), Vancouver Canucks (30/1), Colorado Avalanche (33/1), Edmonton Oilers (35/1)
Easily the most balanced division in the NHL and may be the best when the year is over. All five teams have a chance to make the playoffs and all five may have a chance to win the division. Edmonton should rebound after a disappointing year last season, and we will see how Colorado does with some aging stars. I will call for four playoff teams with perennial postseason participant, the Colorado Avalanche, missing the playoffs.
Division Winner Prediction – Calgary
Pacific Division – San Jose Sharks (9/1), Anaheim Ducks (12/1), Dallas Stars (18/1), Phoenix Coyotes (60/1), LA Kings (100/1)
This division is pretty clear-cut. There are two teams that won’t make the playoffs and three that will. The playoff caliber teams are also all Stanley Cup Championship type contenders. The Ducks are loaded, the Stars had a deep run last year, and the Sharks have recently been my pick to win it all.
Division Winner Prediction – Anaheim
It seems like Pittsburgh and Detroit and the favorites to return to the Stanley Cup finals, but a lot can happen over the course of a season. There is probably a better chance that both will not return to the finals than there is that they will. All I know that is that it will be exciting to watch what unfolds this year. So in-between fantasy matchups and Steeler games tune in and enjoy the opening weeks of the 2008-09 NHL Season.