Anyone who can sit here and prognosticate, pontificate and wax prosaic on the fortunes of a season a mile away is mining in the deep murky waters of an unchartered sea. Well put on your wetsuit kids because that’s exactly where I’m going.
The Blackhawks staged a miraculous comeback and snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. They are your NHL Stanley Cup champs for the 2013 season but that’s ancient history in the eyes of the gambling gods. Emotion is for fans not sharpshooters with an eye towards cashing in with their NHL picks based on due diligence rather than geographic loyalty. So with that, let’s gaze into our lead crystal ball and see what will happen next season.
Stanley Cup Odds
Red Wings 10-1
Maple Leafs 30-1
Blue Jackets 40-1
Let’s Get Serious
Oaky I know there are some of you out here that believe the Flames are on the cusp of an NHL dynasty but then again if I lived in the barren outpost of Calgary, Canada I might be inclined to pin my hopes on the local entry as I shiver away in no-man’s land. What else is there to do besides pine for the days when the 1988 Olympics forced the world to contemplate, why Calgary?
Thus we will dispense with any notion that Lord Stanley’s Cup will deign to visit similarly challenged franchises like Columbus, Phoenix, Buffalo, Nashville and Dallas et al. We need to get down to cases, stop frontin’ and keepin’ it real yo. God what a douche bag I am but I digress.
The Penguins, Blackhawks, Bruins, Blues, Kings, Sharks, Rangers, Red Wings, Ducks and Canadiens all have my stamp of approval for bona fide Stanley Cup contenders. Sorry Canucks fans, your team is just too damn wimpy.
The Penguins are the NHL odds favorites and should be with Evgeni Malkin wrapped up with an 8-year extension that will pay him enough to buy those little luxuries like an Aston Martin V12 Vantage Coupe on the weekdays and a Bentley Continental when cruising the countryside on weekends. However, all that speed and finesse will not get the Penguins back in the finals unless they ship Marc-Andre Fleury out and someone – anyone - back in who can stop the puck in the postseason. I like Tomas Voukon but I’m not sure I would pin my hopes on a 37-year-old goaltender who, while solid, is certainly not elite. If they swing a deal for a top flight netminder then I’m sold.
The Bruins are all blood and guts (or grit and balls sayeth Kevin Garnett) but I’m not sure they can do it again with Chara getting older and Bergeron plagued by injuries. Lucic was invisible throughout much of the regular season but came alive in the playoffs. They will have to make a decision whether to pay Horton and deal Seguin or vice versa. Unless they can keep both, the Boston Bruins will be a year older and a talented player shorter.
The Blackhawks could return to do it all over again because Toews and Kane are locked up. They will watch a few of their free agents walk off to greener pastures bolstered by a Stanley Cup ring but no worries, the Hawks are in good stead.
The Kings look well put together with Jonathan Quick in the fold for the next decade or so and will be a force to be reckoned with.
The Canadiens are getting a little long in the tooth but did edge the Bruins in the Northeast division. I’m not sure they’re ready unless they get an infusion of talented youth.
The Rangers have over $14 million in cap space and are definitely a contender even as currently constituted. They look mighty enticing at 20-1.
The Blues came this close to a Cup…back in ’70. They’ve got over $23 million to move from the middle of the pack to a top tier threat. Can they do it? They’re the freakin’ Blues, of course they can’t!
The Sharks don’t have much salary cap room to roam but they’ve got the guys in place that almost took them to the Western Conference Finals before they were upended by the Kings. Don’t count them out.
The Ducks might just be my dark horse. They gave the Red Wings all they could handle and have their core firmly set. At 20-1 in our NHL odds, me likes.
The Red Wings locked up goaltender Jimmy Howard but have decisions to make with restricted free agent Ian White set to cash in while Valterri Filppula will be fielding offers from one and all. I’m not sure Filppula is vital to Detroit’s success but if allowed to walk, that void will need to be filled.