Tuesday, October 04, 2005


NHL Brainstorm! Part 5 & Final

We have reached the thrilling finale of our Canadian blogger NHL Brainstorm!, and if I may say so, it's finishing off with a bang -- this is some golden stuff.

Thanks a tonne to all our contributors, both for your submissions and for sending your readers over here. The wisest prognosticator will receive the proverbial Filet Mignon on a Flaming Sword (TM).

Intros, preamble, and Part 1 are here; Parts 2, 3, & 4 are here, here, and here; or, just scroll down. Our concluding request for our contributors was as follows:

A) What will the results of the Stanley Cup Finals be? And B) how is your team going to do?

A) Sens in 5 over pretty much anybody they face. If I had to guess who was coming out of the West I'd pick San Jose or Colorado.
B) I know that it is brutally optimistic and more than a little lame to call for a hometeam Stanley Cup parade during the pre-season, but I honestly feel that the changes the Senators have made since Toronto eliminated them last season are enough to push them over the top. Career under-achievers like Radek Bonk and Patrick Lalime are gone and replaced by proven talent (Heatley, Hasek) and some amazing young players (Bochenski and Mezaros to name a pair). Add in a new coach who isn't afraid to treat the players like grown-ups and all the pieces are in place for a great season.

A) Picking finalists eight months in advance is a fool's game, and I change my mind on this every three days, but Ottawa over San Jose sounds vaguely plausible.
B) Calgary and Edmonton finish with the #4 and #5 seeds in the conference. Despite the bravest efforts of the girls on the Red Mile, the Oilers win in four straight and stage a heroic charge to the conference final. To hope for more would be hubris.

A) I'm thinking Colorado vs. Ottawa for the Finals, with Colorado pulling it out once again. Man, those evil bastards, er, fine players can sure pull it out under fire. I don't see either Calgary or Tampa Bay repeating their performances.
B) I'd love to say the Canucks will go all the way, and I do think they will be very competitive in the West. Jardine is right that the Canucks/Avs games will have a certain, shall we say, tang to them this year, and that looks like it will add some excitement to the season, especially given the number of times they will meet. However, I just don't see the Canucks pulling it out. They have trouble winning under pressure, and the West looks tough this year. I want to belieeeeeve, but I'm just not there yet. My car flag is at the ready though.

A) This is actually a tough question considering no one really knows how different the game is going to be with the new rule changes and massive player re-alignment. I am going to go with the safe bet and pick Philadelphia over Detroit in seven. Just looking at that pick makes me want to vomit, and I hope it isn’t the case.
B) It appears that goaltending might be an issue in Edmonton, which sucks because it is what cost the Oilers a playoff spot two years ago (rotten Tommy Salo). I had high hopes for Ty Conklin after his stellar play in the World Cup, but he is by all accounts rusty as hell so far this year. Both he and Jussi Markkanen have minor injuries right now, to add insult to, well, you know, injury. If the Oilers get off to a slow start, and if goaltending remains in issue, it is going to be a long year in the City of Champions. I must state here that I am also more than a little worried about the addition of Mike Peca. I just don’t think he has the offensive skills to play as a top line centre. I hope I am wrong, but at this point I think Kevin Lowe might have wasted four million dollars.

Really, I would be happy to wait a couple years on the Oilers if I knew that they were going to make some solid draft picks and develop them into excellent NHLers. Knowing their draft history, however, I have no such confidence. Oh, what I would do for a Billy Beane of hockey! I am going to predict that the Oilers end up in the 6-8 slot in the Western Conference, and lose out in the first round of the playoffs. Again.

Calgary seems to be everyone's consensus western pick, and I like them for a couple of rounds. Edmonton, Nashville and Anaheim will just be happy making playoffs again. Vancouver, Colorado and Detroit don't have the horses (though the Red Wings will do better than the Avs or 'Nucks).

That leaves the San Jose Sharks as my Western Pick for the final. It seems right as they're a solid team that have been on the cusp recently, but not able to get over the hump. I could very easily see a rematch of last years' Western Conference final matchup with Calgary, though this time I'll take the underdog Sharks to be victorious.

In the east, Tampa Bay will be seriously about another run, knowing that with the cap, they're unlikely to to keep their top three young forwards together for 06-07. Philly will be good at the end of the season, but will struggle early on with injuries, losing home rink advantage in the process. New Jersey is going to remain in the mix, but the new rules combined with their diminished defence hurts them. Boston's interesting, because they've got good players, but not a team yet. Watch for them next season.

That leaves me with my team, the Ottawa Senators. This is make or break time for the Sens - though one could argue that with Patrick Lalime, Radek Bonk, Marian Hossa and Todd White being traded out, not to mention Jacques Martin's firing - that "break" already started.

Just like their President's Cup 2002-2003 season, when Ottawa came within one goal of the Stanley Cup final, I believe that the Senators will compete for top team in the league. So long as Hasek is 70% of the Hasek of the past, Ottawa will outscore anything a team puts up against them.

Ottawa Senators over the San Jose Sharks in five.

What have I got left to lose here? Sens defeat Vancouver in six games. Only roadblocks I can see are, obviously, getting past the Leafs (which in any just universe would NOT require five goddamn tries) and Hasek's mind/body coming apart at inopportune times. Sens fans will recall hooting with joy after the Dominator threw a fit, ERRRRRR, "sprained his knee", and nearly handed them their first playoff round in '97.

Note: I will not accept the Stanley Cup as legitimate unless/until the Sens go through the Leafs on the way there. Alfie, you are on notice not to hoist that thing over your head until the Leafs are left bleeding in a gutter in your wake.

A) I think the "real Stanley Cup final" will see Vancouver squeaking by Calgary by the narrowest of margins to win the West. The Canucks will then demolish Ottawa in four games, unless Alfie and Co. can somehow find a way to capitulate in fewer. If anyone can do it, it's the Sens.
B) I'm pegging the Leafs at around 100 points — so that's, what, 101.75 with shootouts factored in? — and seventh place in a jam-packed East. There will be lows; there will be highs. Friends will become enemies; enemies will become friends. Mariusz Czerkawski won't be good for much of anything. And then, riddled with injuries, they will bow out to someone — not Ottawa, mind you — in seven hard-fought games in the second round. (All that's off the table, of course, if Allison and Lindros stay healthy. In that case, and I mean this, the sky is well and truly the limit.)

A) Ottawa beats Detroit in 6. Jardine has an aneurysm after seeing the monkeys fly out of Selley's butt.
B) Edmonton will end up 6th in the regular season and will upset Calgary in the first round on Dvorak's 7th game OT breakaway goal after a $3.5 million dollar giveaway by Hamrlik. Sweet justice. They will then lose in 6 to a Detroit team that everyone says is too old after Chelios cheap shots Hemsky onto the IR.

A) I can think of no more appropriate finale to the first season of new NHL (Episode IV: A New Hope) than an exact repeat of how the old NHL ended – Tampa Bay over Calgary in 7. Did you know that Philly, Ottawa, Boston, Pittsburgh, Toronto, and New Jersey all have shorter odds to win the East than Tampa? That's called value, my friends.
B) Much like the 2004 run, the sweetest part of the Flames' 2006 run will be that opening series, this time the 2 vs. 7 against Edmonton. Heading back to Reachall tied 1-1, the Flames win both games in OT on goals that the Oil's "Number 1 goalie" looks weak on. Then they come back to the 'Dome to mop up in Game 5, concluding the 4-goal win with Chris Simon using Jason Smith as a speedbag late in garbage time. Are you there God? It's me, Matt.

Now let's drop that bloody puck and get on with it! (Definition of hubris here, Sens fans).


If you're keeping score, that makes 5/9 predicting a Sens Cup victory, 2/9 picking them to lose in the final, and only 2/9 picking one of the other 14 teams in the East to win the conference.

In ESPN's poll (13,000+ votes), 23.9% have Philly winning the Cup, second is Detroit at 10.1%. Ottawa is 6th, 5.1%.

Calgary is 4th, 7.1%, Edmonton 25th at 0.7%.

ESPN is just about as bad on hockey as SI.

I think all of these expectations are going to kill Calgary, i mean, it took 7 years for Flames fans to finally have LOW expectations, and now in one year they have super high expectations, and guess what happens? The Flames choke a little in October, everyone panics, they lose to Edmonton and people call for Sutter to be fired. Iginla misses on a shootout and he's villified. Calgary is a fickle city, it must have to do with the fickleness of oil prices. I say, the best thing for Calgary would be to lose their first few games, then they can pretend to create a grudge, then they might be able to win something this year.

I think predictions are great and discussions on who will win the cup are awesome. However, I have been curious about one thing that NO ONE has mentioned yet in any media. That being the fact that I don't see any of the 30 teams looking the same at the end of the season as they do now. I mean, has anyone thought about the "salary cap" structure in terms of trades? if a team is close to the cap and they stink, they'll look to dump salary and players. if a team has cap room and make a run (Oilers? Flames?) they'll definitely look to pick up a player via trades. So my question is, how can you predict who will finish where based on current rosters, when its looking like anyone could get traded to any team. Jagr anyone?

See Part 2; sacamano did ask that same question (and make a guess).

I think the answer is that yes, everyone has thought about salary cap structure in terms of trades and the trade deadline.

K-Lowe was very specific about this point in a radio interview about a week ago. He also predicted a lot of movement at the deadline as teams try to reposition themselves for the offseason free agent market.

I just can't see the oilers waiting that long to pull the trigger on a trade, especially for a goalie if Conklin doesn't come up sufficient. Also, i'm still hoepful that a pure scorer will make his way to Edmonton to help out. I'm still of the opinion that Kariya would be an Oiler if they signed him before making the Pronger and Peca trades, I think Kariya wants to the "the go-to" guy on a team, and Nashville was his chance.

As I've documented elsewhere, I think the Oilers' need for a "sniper" or "one-shot scorer" or "#1 center" is vastly overstated.

Of course it would be nice, but they seem to get the puck in the net just fine.

I would not want to see Kariya here at 4.5 million bucks. I think he is done. Maybe it was the Suter hit. Maybe it was all those fruitless years playing with stooges in Anaheim. He is simply not a legitimately consistent offensive threat anymore.

Team Canada finally realized this, and I think after this season the rest of the league will too.

I agree on the team canada part, i think Doan, St. Louis, Marleau, are an upgrade over Kariya. But I don't think his best days are necessarily behind him. I do think he will look better on Nashville then he will in Edmonton, i think the Edmonton style would have worn him down over a season.

You may be right about the #1 centre theory in terms of statistics, but i don't think anyone will argue that the Oilers with Doug Weight were a way better team than the Oilers without Doug Weight. and i think when Lowe started talking to St.Louis about possible trades, Weight was first on his list.

True. And St.L is clearly one of those teams that - at some point this season - is going to explode their salary structure and try to start over.

I actually wouldn't be surprised at all to see Weight end up back in Edmonton - although not a 5.7 million.

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