countdown to the 96th NHL Season (that’s the 2012–13 NHL season for those of
you with a thing for the Gregorian calendar) has begun in earnest, and here are
some hot picks and top tips on who to back in this coming season.
The 2012-13 season is scheduled to kickoff
on October 11 and run until April 13, 2013. The bureaucratic story of the
summer is that the NHL announced the revised salary cap on June 28, setting the
cap for players' salaries to $70.2 million per franchise, with a minimum spend
of $54.2 million.
Let’s leave the accountants to their pencil
sharpeners and have a look at the on-ice prospects.
I reckon that the Edmonton Oilers will make
the playoffs. They have big names like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan
Nugent-Hopkins getting better every day, and they must be itching to get on the
ice with Ruskie Nail Yakupov, who could score a netful of goals this season. And the back their defence has been bolstered by the arrival of Justin Schultz, who
was a huge pickup. It’s all looking bonne for Les Oilers.
We were going to be seeing plenty of goals
from the Hurricanes, and they might well take the Southeast Division. With Jordan Staal, Joe Corvo and Alexander
Semin, Carolina are much improved on offense. They have a bunch of forwards who
could score, score and score goals in 2012-13.
The Florida Panthers surprised a lot of
people by winning the Southeast Division last season, but I don’t think this
team is ready for the long haul of 2012-13. It’s not the foresight of Cassandra to
say that the Florida Panthers are going to be kittens this season, but
I’m also expecting a poor season from the Bruins, too, at least by their lofty standards.
I don't expect the Bruins to drop out of
the playoffs or anything that drastic, but the probable loss of goalie Tim
Thomas, who posted on his Facebook page that he will sit out the season (oh
Facebook, how did we ever manage without you?) certainly doesn't bode well.
They will do OK in the standings but won’t get their paws anywhere near the
Stanley Cup this season.
Since the Vancouver Canucks have won
back-to-back Presidents' Trophies, some consider them serious contenders
for the Stanley Cup, but the fact that “time marches on” does them no favours.
Teams like Minnesota, Edmonton and Colorado have younger players and therefore
the potential to surpass the Canucks.
It’s time to take a bite of a reality
sandwich for Phoenix.
After surprising everybody by winning the
Pacific Division and reaching the Western Conference final this year, the
Coyotes have a lot to live up to (something I think they’ll fail to do). Good
time goalie, Mike Smith will be back, but the Coyotes overachieved last year,
and I feel that their window of opportunity (aka good fortune) is closing as they got where they got thanks to a lot of their more mature (aka older)
players (aka veterans). It remains to be seen how many of these players will
deliver in the same manner in 2012-13; players such as Coyotes’ Captain Shane Doan
will most likely be back, but he is ripe old 35.
I’m also fading the San Jose Sharks (remember how they were ousted so quickly in the
first round last time), if for no other reason than that’s what they do sooo
often. Prove me wrong Sharks, I dare you.
The Buffalo Sabres underachieved last season, but have a real room for improvement with Thomas
Vanek, Christian Ehrhoff and Ville Leino and will be a playoff team this year.
It’s a similar (but different) story for
the Winnipeg Jets, who are getting steadily better but are probably a year or
two away from being real contenders. They will improve on last season, and
maybe be even cause some upsets.
Poor Calgary has missed the playoffs three years in a row now, but instead of trading veterans for youngsters (and rebuilding), the Flames have
added the OAPs (Old Age Players), making Calgary look like a frosty Florida and
will likely chase eighth place in the West again.
For the Pittsburgh Penguins a lot/everything depends on one thing, the fitness of Sidney Crosby. With him
Pittsburgh is in with a big shout (HOLLLAA!) If not, they’re just a flock of
squawking seabirds. The
New Jersey Devils may have made it to the Stanley Cup finals, but they now have
BIG money issues. The team has to repay a loan to the league and is looking for
partners to try to raise capital, plus losing Zach Parise won’t help morale at
Finally a word on the reigning champions.
How do you follow a season like that
one? Either do not quite as well or do
it again, but don’t forget no team has repeated since 1997-98. My
gut says that L.A. will finish around fifth or sixth in the West, and make a
decent play for the conference title in the playoffs
Stay tuned for more tips and the pick of the
odds as we get closer to the ice!