WECK’s NHL Predictions, 2010/11

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Also, if you want a slot in The Late Nick Mendola’s Saturday fantasy hockey draft, email: nickonweck@gmail.com. It’s free.

(WECK 1230) — Hockey. It’s really here. Such a sweet word, and the closest thing to a lifelong love I’ll have outside of my wife and food. I’m with a new radio station now, so I’ve been quite excited to see how the new staffers will call this hockey season.  

Without further rabble, here is the combined output of the staffs of Riter Radio (Brad Riter, Scott Wilson, Andrew Garrigan) and The Late Nick Mendola (Chris Ryndak, Mike Cline Jr., Nate Foley,  Brian Koperski, Mike Wzontek and myself, Nick Mendola).  

Let’s start with the hometown Sabres: Six of our nine predict the Sabres to take the Northeast Division for the second-straight year, while no one sees them falling any further than third and/or missing the playoffs. Brad Riter sees the team winning the Eastern Conference, and pledges to explain this on his revamped bradriter.com in the coming days.  

Their fortunes in the playoffs are a little more varied. Two have Buffalo flaming out in the first round, while three have the Sabres in the Eastern Conference Finals before bowing. The biggest number has the team losing in the second round.  

No longer playing baseball, Stafford may perform well.

Our thoughts, starting with WECK producer and The Goose’s Roost author Chris Ryndak: “The Sabres are looking to defend the Northeast Division title and I believe they’ll be able to. It’ll take big years from Tim Connolly, Drew  Stafford and Jason Pominville, but I’m optimistic about the production from the forwards. There may be concerns about the defense but having Ryan Miller in net can make up for any road bumps along the way. As for the rest of the division, Boston improved by adding Nathan Horton and drafting Tyler Seguin. They should be hot on the Sabres heels all year for that third seed. I’m not sold on the goaltending situation in Montreal or their defense, which is why I have them finishing a little low. Keep in mind there may only be a few wins separating third from eighth, so the Habs could very well be only a few points from a division title as well.” 

Riter Radio producer Scott Wilson: “Out again in the first Round.  Then we’ll be talking about how _______ was a worthless deadline acquisition, how Derek Roy and Tim Connolly are annoying and under performing, how there isn’t the needed grit in the corners.  Miller is really good though.”  

Six of our “experts” have the Washington Capitals winning the Presidents Trophy, with two giving the nod to Pittsburgh and one, the Sabres. More than half of our guys have the Florida Panthers posting the league’s worst mark, with two votes for Dallas and one each for the Islanders and Thrashers.  

And... scene. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

WECK intern Brian Koperski: “Florida lost Nathan Horton, and their big acquisition of the summer was Steve Bernier. Steve. Bernier.”  

Wilson: “They’re just like the Penguins, only without any of the talented players.  It’ll be a long season for Florida fans, again.”  

It’s not a surprise that five folks pegged Alexander Ovechkin to score the most goals in the league, and less of a surprise that all nine tabbed Thomas Vanek to pace the Sabres. Also mentioned for the Rocket Richard Trophy were Steven Stamkos (2), Ilya Kovalchuk and Rick Nash.  

WECK intern Nate Foley: “Thomas Vanek must have a bounce-back campaign. Last year’s total of 28 goals is just not good enough. He has to be more of a force with the man advantage. There is enough talent surrounding him that he should score 40+ this year. His presence and hands around the net are among the tops in the league. He will never be nominated for the Selke, so he has to contribute the best way he knows how: by lighting the lamp.”  

Ovechkin also got two votes to tally the most points in the NHL, but Sidney Crosby‘s three were tops. Henrik Sedin (2), Zach Parise and Patrick Kane were also mentioned. For the Sabres, Vanek and Derek Roy were named thrice, while Jason Pominville and rookie Tyler Ennis earned typed high-fives.”  

Ryan Miller‘s four votes were enough for him to repeat at Vezina winner over three-times selected Roberto Luongo. Also mentioned: Detroit’s Jimmy Howard and the Kings’ Jonathan Quick.  

Mendola, host, The Late Nick Mendola program: “Miller’s sound style and newfound unflappability are very difficult to find. He also has his most complete and deep defensive corps in years, with Shaone Morrisonn being a slight upgrade over the undervalued Toni Lydman and Chris Butler and Andrej Sekera waiting in the wings. Once you win this award once, they love to nominate you a second time and writers are probably yearning for a back-to-back winner.”  

Subban

Who will follow Tyler Myers as Calder Trophy winner? There was a tie atop the board as two pegged Ennis to earn the honor and another two picked Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban. Single votes were cast for Edmonton’s Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall, L.A.’s Jonathan Bernier and Boston’s Tyler Seguin.  

Foley: “While Jordan Eberle is a very close second pick, Montreal fan-favorite Subban made an impact in the playoffs last year and is still considered a rookie. Montreal always has a dangerous power play, and Subban will certainly be a contributor. He is a very good skater, and has a ton of offensive ability. If he can stay committed to improving his area of weakness in his own end, he will have an excellent chance at holding up the Calder at year’s end.”  

Postseason votes after these reverse order standings:  

WESTERN CONFERENCE (first place votes):  

15. Edmonton Oilers
14. Columbus Blue Jackets

13. Minnesota Wild

12. Dallas Stars
11. Anaheim Ducks
10. St. Louis Blues
9. Nashville Predators
8. Calgary Flames (1)
7. Colorado Avalanche
6. Phoenix Coyotes
5. Los Angeles Kings
4. Chicago Blackhawks (1)
3. San Jose Sharks (1)
2.* Detroit Red Wings (2)
1.* Vancouver Canucks (4)
  

The Canucks and Red Wings were tied atop the West in total number of points, but Vancouver’s four first-place votes pushed them to the apex of the conference. There was less of a divide in terms of how they’d fare in the playoffs, as an almost overwhelming 88 percent said they’d reach the Western Conference Finals, with the Sharks second with four nods. The Kings and Wings each also got three votes. Read below to see who makes the Cup Finals.  

EASTERN CONFERENCE (first place votes):  

15. Florida Panthers
14. New York Islanders
13. Toronto Maple Leafs
12. Carolina Hurricanes
11. Atlanta Thrashers
10. Tampa Bay Lightning
9. New York Rangers
8. Ottawa Senators
7. Montreal Canadiens
6. Philadelphia Flyers
5. New Jersey Devils
4. Boston Bruins
3. Buffalo Sabres (1)
2. Pittsburgh Penguins (2)
1. Washington Capitals (6)
  

Only two predictors didn’t tab the Caps to at least make the Eastern Finals, while there was more division about their opponents. Pittsburgh paced the rest with four nods, while the Sabres and Flyers each received three votes. The Devils have one fan pushing them into the ECF.  


Riter: LA over Washington
Ryndak: Pittsburgh over LA
Wilson: Washington over Vancouver
Koperski: Washington over LA
Wzontek: Vancouver over Washington
Foley: Pittsburgh over Vancouver
Garrigan: Vancouver over Pittsburgh
Cline, Jr.: Washington over San Jose
Mendola: Washington over Calgary  

My predictions will come following some tasty one-liners from our staff that didn’t quite fit in the above paragraphs:  

Wilson on Atlanta earning the No. 8 seed in his predictions: “They reaped the rewards of the huge salary dump in Chicago & with a lot of key players from that run to the title, Atlanta might have a shot to not only make the playoffs, but actually win a game.  They’ll still average 11,000 fans a game though.”  

Mendola on St. Louis sneaking into the playoffs: “They won’t be a ‘we want tacos’ five-goals-a-game team, but the Blues have put together a team that would make Buffalo proud. U.S. Olympians David Backes and Erik Johnson front a team filled with talent and a whole lot of grit. They are going to punch you in the face before, during and after they score more goals than you. With Jaroslav Halak in the fold, I would not be surprised to see them challenge Detroit and Chicago for a top spot in the former Norris.”  

Ryndak on Pittsburgh’s chances in the East: “The Eastern Conference is once again wide open but Pittsburgh and Washington should lock up the top two spots as long as their captains are healthy. Sidney Crosby showed last season that he’s more than capable of putting the puck in the net and there’s no reason to believe he won’t be near the top of the league in points once again. While scoring depth may be an issue, the Penguins got better on defense by adding Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek. They’re also a team that’s not afraid to make changes at the trade deadline, which should make them the favorite heading into the playoffs.”  

Wilson on Nashville as his No. 6 seed: “Barry Trotz has an annoying face.  I still miss JP Dumont.  Also, it’s worth noting that the Predators season slogan is ‘Smashville,’ which is usually a slogan reserved for drunk girls named Ashley, but whatever.”  

Mendola on the Leafs: “Kris Versteeg is a massive signing. With increased ice time in primary roles, I see him emerging as an absolute stud… at least in Leafs standards. With Colton Orr and Phil Kessel – love both players — they will take strides to being just as hated by Sabres fans as ever. I’m super excited they signed Clarke MacArthur. Otherwise, I would have a hard time hating them. If J.S. Giguere’s goalie coach reunion from last year’s deadline works, the Leafs could sneak into the playoffs.”  

Foley on why Roberto Luongo could win the Vezina: “The streaky netminder might have the deepest defensive corps in the league. Keith Ballard and extremely underrated Dan Hamhuis join a group that already has Andrew Alberts, Kevin Bieksa, Alex Edler, Sami Salo, and Christian Ehrhoff. The puck is never in the defensive zone when the Sedin line is out there, and Ryan Kesler is a true shut-down center. So, Luongo won’t face many shots on a nightly basis, and when he does, the quality chances will be at a minimum. He should pile up the numbers to be a top candidate for the Vezina.”  

Wilson on Columbus, his pick for No. 14 out West: “They often finish last.  It’s a shame too, because it’s one of the few expansion teams that was actually placed in a market where it should work.” 

Mendola on Edmonton’s Jordan Eberle: “Put up 100-plus points in Regina and then skated a bit in the AHL with a ‘no big deal’ attitude. Eberle plays beyond his years and will be beloved in Edmonton, who is not as far away as you’d think. It’s just that the West is an absolute bear.”Koperski on Ennis’ Calder campaign: “There hasn’t been a team to have back-to-back Calder Trophy winners since the 1967-68 Bruins. All streaks come to an end.”  

Wilson on a predicted Washington letdown… again: “Hey, it won’t be as heartbreaking this year when they lose in the first round, they’re used to it by now.”  

Foley on why Derek Roy will lead the Sabres in points: “Derek Roy could be the most talented Sabre, and he has the potential to be a point per game player. Giveaways don’t subtract points, so Roy should lead the Sabres in scoring this year. He has very good vision, and has the ability to score when given the opportunity. At times he tries to do too much, tends to stray from the system, can be lazy, and sometimes neglects his defensive responsibilities, but his ability to produce should not be questioned.”  

======  

Because I have an ego, here are my individual standing predictions:   

WEST
1. Flames
2. Red Wings
3. Sharks
4. Canucks
5. Kings
6. Blackhawks
7. Coyotes
8. Blues

9. Avalanche
10. Predators
11. Stars
12. Blue Jackets
13. Ducks
14. Wild
15. Oilers  

EAST  

1. Caps
2. Flyers
3. Sabres*
4. Penguins
5. Bruins
6. Habs 
7. Devils
8. Senators

9. Rangers
10. Leafs
11. Lightning
12. Canes
13. Thrashers
14. Isles
15. Panthers  

West Semis: Flames over Hawks, Wings over Canucks
East Semis: Caps over Devils, Penguins over Sabres  

West Final Four: Flames over Red Wings
East Final Four: Caps over Penguins  

Finals: Caps over Flames  

Jordan Eberle

Most goals (NHL and Sabres): Ovechkin, Vanek  

Most points (NHL and Sabres): Zach Parise, Roy  

Presidents Trophy: Washington  

Worst record: Florida

Calder Trophy: Jordan Eberle, EDM  

Vezina Trophy: Ryan Miller  

Email: nickonweck@gmail.com

3 Responses to WECK’s NHL Predictions, 2010/11

  1. Jesse says:

    Nick,
    I love your work but the Flames winning the West may be the worst pick I’ve seen in a long time. Injury problems and questions, mediocre players all over the roster, no center for Iginla and another year older for kipper don’t add up. They were a wreck last year and only few moves were made, nothing to make me think they will be any better than last year. Winning the West? yikes!

    I don’t hate the Blues pick but leaving Nashville out may be disrespectful. A loaded D corps, good goalie and “now with even more scoring”, I can’t keep them out of the top 8.

    • Nick says:

      Jesse, A lot of times I go with my gut feeling and part of this is turning into Chris Berman picking the Bills every year (though I’m not a huge Flames fan or anything). For the past three years I figured they’d put it together… not-so-much now. I love Kipper, and just have a feeling. I like Nashville, but I think the West is soooo tough right now. Regardless of who I put at Nos. 7 & 8, I’d feel like I missed someone. It’s by far the better conference, right?

      • Jesse says:

        Agree, the West is the tougher to pick (after the top 4 or 5 teams) and the better conference from the overall competition standpoint. With the West one injury (or two – if you were the Red Wings last year) makes a difference.

        The fun of the preseason is speculating but I think your flames pick is equivalent to a pick I might have made in the East, Tampa. I know alot of hockey purists hate the south but I’d love to see Tampa make the playoffs. Alot of firepower, new goalie, D still might be a few moves away yet. I think they are better off than the Flames team-wise and is a weaker division I can see Tampa sneaking in at 7 or 8th seed if they stay relatively healthy.

        Man am I glad hockey is here!