The Stanley Cup was just taken off the shelf and awarded
to the Boston Bruins at the conclusion of the 2010-11 season, but count us in
as forward thinkers here at SBR.
We’ve already got our eyes out on next year, as well as
the betting odds to win the Cup. Here’s a rundown of our predictions for 2012,
including both value NHL picks and realistic predictions.
Chicago Blackhawks +1500
The Chicago Blackhawks are a great value pick to win the
Western Conference and aim for their second Cup in three years.
The biggest issue for the Blackhawks in 2010-11 was that
they had played too much hockey over the previous two seasons (with two deep
runs into the Stanley Cup playoffs) and they simply wore down in the regular
season. It seemed very rare to find all of their stars healthy and in the
But with a longer offseason to recover, don’t bet against
this team. They are still fully loaded and it appears that goaltender Corey Crawford
is in fact the real deal. If they stay healthy, they are as good as anyone in
Vancouver Canucks +600
I know, I know. At this point, everyone in Vancouver is
still stinging from the loss. They are also wondering how they can possibly
live with Roberto Luongo for 11 more years.
But let’s be realistic for a second: the Canucks have
their top six forwards back, an All-Star goaltender in Luongo, and while they
have some work to do on the blue line, most of the team that won Western
Conference will be back.
More importantly, they’ll have more experience the next
time they roll through the playoffs. Maybe adding a veteran forward who’s won
the Cup before is all this team really needs; they aren’t far off, as much as
their sour fans don’t want to admit it right now.
Value Pick: Philadelphia
Perennially, the Philadelphia Flyers are one brick short
of a complete house. That brick is a goaltender. If they can solve that
problem, the Flyers will be a Stanley Cup contender almost every season.
Looking through some of the goofs the Flyers have tried
to skate by with (Sergei Bobrovsky, Michael Leighton, Brian Boucher, Antero
Niittymaki and Robert Esche, to name a few) and it’s fairly clear that this
team hasn’t really put much of an effort into that particular position. That’s
impressive considering the Flyers have been in the playoffs in 15 of the last
This offseason, they picked up the rights to Ilya
Bryzgalov, who would present a big upgrade at the position. The key for the
Flyers will be to sign him and get him to play as steady as he has throughout
his whole career.
The Flyers have plenty of scoring depth up front, they
have Chris Pronger on the blue line and they have an undying thirst to do
whatever it takes to get the job done. If Bryzgalov alleviates their headaches
between the pipes, they are going to be a dangerous team in the East.
Pittsburgh Penguins +900
The Pittsburgh Penguins should be a real concern for the
rest of the NHL in the 2012 season. Even without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni
Malkin, the Pens still made the playoffs this past season and gave the Tampa
Bay Lightning all they could handle in the first round.
Crosby scored 32 goals in 41 games last season, which
included a 25-game point streak. He’ll love the new look of his team when he
returns in 2012 after concussion symptoms limited him to exactly half of the
Tyler Kennedy had a career year, goaltender Marc-Andre
Fleury had an awesome second half to the season, James Neal offers plenty of
hope as a scoring winger and a healthy Eric Tangradi should give them a boost
All of the Pens stars and defensemen are under contract
for next year and while they’ll have to replace some role players, this team is
great shape to contend for a Cup next season so I would look to them in the NHL lines as a potentially undervalued team next season.