Here are the absurdly early predictions from CIA Radio's season finale, in which myself, Ms. Gee, and Mr. Williams picked all the division winners, the conference finals, and the Stanley Cup champion. This way in case any of us are right we have RECORDED PROOF~! that we did, in fact, call it first.
I got Quinlan's off the phone with him a few hours later. And swear to christ he did in fact pick the Islanders to win the Atlantic and go to the Eastern Conference finals. He wasn't kidding. He really believes this will happen.
I should also note that we did all these predictions under the assumption that Kovalchuk is going to the Kings. I still think that's going to happen until he officially signs with another team, but should it not I would imagine our next round of predictions on the eve of the regular season will look very different. But considering 3 out of 4 of us picked them to win the Cup next year (oops, spoiled it!) it looks like we all agree: adding Kovalchuk to the Kings will make them a superpower. Not that they're far off to begin with; in their excellent posts comparing the "core" of the Blackhawks to the other big Western Conference teams, the Kings were the team that Second City Hockey was most worried about. It'll be interesting as we get closer to the season to see if our consensus matches up with the consensus of the rest of the hockey world.
Alright, here's all the picks. And then after I make my Cup pick, I'll tell you why I DIDN'T pick some other teams.
John, Emily, & Sean- Penguins
John & Emily- Blackhawks
Sean & Quinlan- Red Wings
John & Quinlan- Bruins
John & Quinlan- Canucks
Emily & Sean- Avalanche
John, Emily, Quinlan & Sean- Capitals
John & Emily- Kings
Sean & Quinlan- Sharks
Eastern Conference Finals
John- Penguins over Flyers
Emily & Sean- Penguins over Capitals
Quinlan- Capitals over Islanders
Western Conference Finals
John- Kings over Red Wings
Emily- Kings over Blackhawks
Sean- Red Wings over Avalanche
Quinlan- Kings over Canucks
Stanley Cup Finals
John & Emily- Kings over Penguins
Sean- Penguins over Red Wings (god help me if I have to watch that shit again)
Quinlan- Kings over Capitals
So that's everybody's picks. Really quick, now I'm gonna say why I DON'T think these teams will win the Cup:
Blackhawks- Might as well start with the defending champs. Lack of depth, Pat Kane looking like he's not going to be sober by training camp, etc. will all combine to do in the Hawks, probably in the second round. But don't worry, Hawks Nation, they'll be back.
Penguins- My Eastern Conference winners due to their much-improved defense, I don't think they have the goal-scoring to compete with LA, especially on the wings. Crosby is great and all but last year proved that one man can't do it alone. And as great as their much-improved defense is, they still don't have that one "superstar" defender like Drew Doughty.
Red Wings- My Western Conference runners-up, I just think they're too old to get past the young, hungry Kings. I honestly see this year going pretty similar to last year for them; an OK regular-season hurt by injuries, gets hot down the stretch but not hot enough to catch the Hawks for the Central, etc. Difference this year is I think the team pulls closer together to try and get Nik Lidstrom one more Cup before he retires next off-season, so that gets them past the second-round and back into the Conference Finals this time. But no further.
Flyers- My Eastern Conference runners-up, there's no question they're still a great team. But goaltending and having too many centers who can't play wing will ultimately do them in against the deeper, better Pennsylvania team.
Devils- Assuming they don't re-sign Kovalchuk, they won't win the Atlantic this time. They'll get in because they always do, but Jason Arnott? Really New Jersey? Another first-round exit's in the cards.
Canucks- I flirted with giving them the conference final position over Detroit, but I'm not buying into that defensive corps just yet. Like SCH said, they've got the deepest pool of #3 defensemen in the league, but no real elite top-pairing guys. Dan Hamhuis was a #3 on a good Nashville team, but Keith Ballard was a #3 on a bad Florida team. So I'm not buying in. And obviously Luongo still has done nothing in the playoffs yet, so that doesn't help.
Sharks- Kicking Nabakov to the curb in favor of a guy who's never, ever been playoff-tested does not suddenly mean they're on their way over the hump. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Capitals- Like the Canucks, I flirted with giving them the Eastern runner-up spot over Philly, but like the Canucks I'm not ready to buy in yet either. They flamed out in the playoffs in epic fashion and are now basically San Jose East, and their brilliant plan to change all that appeared to be.....well, nothing, actually. Great plan. Until Mike Green realizes he has to change his game in the playoffs and/or John Carlson steps up and makes him irrelevant, they're destined to first- and second-round exits.
Bruins- This is my dark horse. I love the Nathan Horton move; he seems legitimately excited to be there and if he can stay healthy and put up between 30-40 goals, they will be a contender. They were the #1 defensive team in the NHL last year, all they were missing was some goal-scoring. Yes, the Philly collapse will sting for a while, but you can also point to some key injuries and kind of explain away at least a bit of it (obviously not all of it). Plus, the real X-factor here is what, exactly, will Tyler Seguin (who I still maintain will be better than Taylor Hall) bring to the Bruins in his rookie season? It will be fun to watch, and I think if it all comes together the Bruins could be a serious Cup-contending team, but at this juncture I still feel like they're another year away. We'll see.
Oh god, I got so excited for this season just writing all that. Can we all just pretend it's October now? Please?