Well, the 2014-2015 season is underway as I type this, so that means I'm probably the 25,002,019th person to throw predictions out there. I've traditionally avoided doing season and post-season predictions because you might as well just pick teams out of a hat and pencil Stamkos and Crosby in for at least half of the awards.
Biggest Regular Season Drop-off: Anaheim - Here's a team that rode above average goaltending (9), below average shooting percentage (30), and an awful power play (22) to a Number One berth in the ultra competitive western Conference and then benched their starter in the playoffs. With Hiller now in Calgary, I don't see Andersen and Gibson being ready to shoulder the load of an 82 game season.
Biggest Regular Season Gain: New York Islanders - Here's a team that finished 14 points back of getting smacked around by the Penguins. In the off-season, they've shored up their offense, defense, and goaltending. With a potential drop-off due to age and injuries to the Red Wings and Columbus, the 7th and 8th spots in the East look to be achievable for the team's last hurrah on Long Island.
Team that will be surprisingly tough to play against: Florida - Any team with Luongo in net can hang around. While they made some puzzling moves B like David Bolland (for all of the money) and Shawn Thornton (for any money), this team has developed some nice talent on it's top two lines.
Team that will be surprisingly soft to play against: Detroit. This team's incredible playoff streak of 23 years will probably end and not due to poor coaching or goaltending. Their star players are getting older (read: more injury prone) and the cupboard isn't as well stocked as its been for the past two decades. Obviously, this means they're somehow going to get one of the top two picks this year, stink for another year, and then go on another 20+ year run of being perennial contenders.
West Playoff Teams
1 St. Louis
2 San Jose
4 Los Angeles
East Playoff Teams
2 Tampa Bay
5 New York Rangers
7 New York Islanders
8 Washington Capitals
Cup Final: Los Angeles and Tampa Bay
Cup Winner: Los Angeles
Art Ross: Sidney Crosby
Rocket Richard: Steven Stamkos
Hart: Steven Stamkos
Selke: Anze Kopitar (#Selkesmooth)
Norris: Drew Doughty
Vezina: Tukka Rask
Like usual the trophy votes are based on prior history than the current season. Lidstrom probably still gets some write-in votes for the Norris.
So in June, we can all look back and see how bad I am at this prediction thing. It should be good for a laugh or three.