2011-12 NHL Final Standings Predictions, 1-30

SAN JOSE CA - DECEMBER 21: Patrick Marleau #12 congratulates Dan Boyle #22 of the San Jose Sharks after Boyle scored a goal in the second period of their game against the Edmonton Oilers at HP Pavilion on December 21 2010 in San Jose California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

We've worked our way through our 2011-12 goal differential estimates and final standings predictions for all 30 teams and, much to my surprise, there was little disagreement in the comments.  This article is just a refernce point containing all thirty predictions, as well as my predicted standings broken down by conference and division.  

The table below shows the conference breakdown and predicted goal differential.

Eastern Conference
Western Conference
Washington +40
San Jose +55
Boston +35
Vancouver +55
Pittsburgh +30
Chicago +35
New Jersey +20
Los Angeles +25
Philadelphia +20
Detroit +20
Montreal +15
St. Louis +15
Buffalo +15
Nashville +10
New York +10
Calgary Even
Tampa  Even
Anaheim Even
Ottawa -15
Columbus -15
Carolina -20
Dallas -25
Toronto -30
Colorado -30
Florida -35
Minnesota -35
Long Island -45
Phoenix -40
Winnipeg -45
Edmonton -65

Next up is the breakdown by division.

Eastern Conference
Western Conference
Atlantic Northeast Southeast
Central Northwest Pacific
Pittsburgh Boston Washington
Chicago Vancouver San Jose
New Jersey Montreal Tampa
Detroit Calgary Los Angeles
Philadelphia Buffalo Carolina
St. Louis Colorado Anaheim
New York Ottawa Florida
Nashville Minnesota Dallas
Long Island Toronto Winnipeg
Columbus Edmonton Phoenix

Lastly, compendium.

#1 San Jose Sharks (1st in the Pacific, 1st in the Western Conference) - The Sharks may have the best group of defensemen in the entire league. Brent Burns solidifies their top four, and Colin White and Jim Vandermeer give them two veterans who can competently play on the third pairing. Youngsters Justin Braun and Jason Demers make eight guys that I'm confident can play at least bottom pairing minutes. Up front, the Sharks swapped Dany Heatley for Martin Havlat, which probably means that Joe Pavelski will move over to play wing on the top line. The second line will probably be Havlat with Logan Couture and Ryane Clowe to start the year, which is going to cause problems. The power play was one of the best in the league last year, and I expect that to be the same again this season. With the additions on defense along with Michal Handzus at center, the PK should also improve. I don't think too much of Antti Niemi, but he, Antero Niittymaki, and Thomas Greiss should be able to combine for something close to average netminding if not a little bit better. Goal differential prediction: +55 (Change from 2010-11: +20)

#2 Vancouver Canucks (1st in the Northwest, 2nd in the Western Conference) - The Canucks haven't made many changes to last year's club, but I still have them taking a small step back because they'll start the year with a couple of key players on the mend in Mason Raymond and Ryan Kesler, and because their depth took a small hit with the departure of Christian Ehrhoff. Last season was also the first in the last few seasons where they were an elite team in terms of possession (their Fenwick percentage with the score tied was slightly under 50% in both 2009-10 and 2008-09 compared to 53.9% last season). The roster did change significantly before last season (the major additions were Dan Hamhuis and Manny Malhotra), but I'd still like to see at least one more year of stellar results before I buy in to this club as an elite EV team. Where they're unquestionably elite is in goal. Roberto Luongo took a lot of flack for his performance in the Stanley Cup Finals, but he's still one of the three or four best goaltenders in the entire league. Goal differential prediction: +55 (Change from 2010-11: -22)

#3 Washington Capitals (1st in the Southeast, 1st in the Eastern Conference) - The addition of Tomas Vokoun at a bargain-basement price is huge. He's one of the top goaltenders in the NHL, and should provide a significant bump for the team's chances. The club has retained or replaced all of the key players from last year's roster, and the young defense pairing of Karl Alzner and John Carlson should be even better this year than they were last season. Combine that with a weak division and playing in the weaker Conference, and the Capitals are my favorite to win both the Eastern Conference, and the Stanley Cup. Goal differential prediction: +40 (Change from 2010-11: +13)

#4 Boston Bruins (1st in the Northeast, 2nd in the Eastern Conference) - The defending Stanley Cup champions remain one of the best teams in the league, and may actually be a better club this season than they were last season. With Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask the club has the best goaltending in the NHL. Up front, the club will have three very strong lines anchored by Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Tyler Seguin. Bergeron should have won the Selke trophy last year in my opinion and will no doubt be taking all of the tough assignments again this season, which will provide significant cover for Krejci and Seguin to rack up some impressive offense at even strength. The blueline is thin after the top four, but I expect them to make some additions there before the playoffs. So why the big decline in goal differential from last year? The Bruins had a very high shooting percentage last season, which I expect to regress, and the club hasn't added anything of significance to make up for that decline. Plus, as good as Thomas is, I don't expect him to have another record-setting season between the pipes. Goal differential prediction: +35 (Change from 2010-11: -16) 

#5 Chicago Blackhawks (1st in the Central, 3rd in the Western Conference) - I think they win the division this year. I'd call it "bouncing back" except that this was a very good team last year too. Their Fenwick percentage with the score tied (54.0%) led the Western Conference and their +33 goal differential was already good enough for seventh in last year's standings. Their depth up front isn't what it was in 2009-10, but it is better than last year, mostly because the club reallocated some of the resources from dealing away Brian Campbell to the forwards. And while losing Campbell will surely hurt, the Blackhawks replaced him with the much cheaper Steve Montador, and have added a couple of low cost options (Sami Lepisto, Sean O'Donnell) to bolster their depth at the position. I haven't seen enough from Corey Crawford to believe he'll be consistently above average - and his AHL career gives some reason to doubt him - but Ray Emery is a good back-up plan if things go south. I think I may actually be underrating this team, but concern about the goaltending and penalty killing keep me from moving them up. Goal differential prediction: +35 (Change from 2010-11: +2)

#6 Pittsburgh Penguins (1st in the Atlantic, 3rd in the Eastern Conference) - Sidney Crosby is out indefinitely, which means that the Penguins have $8.7M in dead cap space. Normally, that would have me pushing them down this list (and I have pulled them down a bit), but the Penguins performed very well without Crosby and without Evgeni Malkin during the last half of last season. Now, they have Malkin back, and it looks like Crosby is probably going to be back in the lineup before the end of the year. They also have as good of a supporting cast as ever with the addition of Steve Sullivan and James Neal on the roster for a full season, in addition to a very strong top four. It's understandable that the club is committed to Marc-Andre Fleury (that contract isn't going away), but he's been just slightly above average over the last four years, which holds this club back. Swap him and Vokoun, and I'd probably have the Penguins as favorites to win it all. Goal differential prediction: +30 (Change from 2010-11: -9)

#7 Los Angeles Kings (2nd in the Pacific, 4th in the Western Conference) - I'm the kind of person who needs to see some results before I'll go to town betting on a team, but my oh my, does this team every look good on paper. Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards and Jarret Stoll down the middle. Simon Gagne, Dustin Brown, Dustin Penner and Justin Williams on the wings. Drew Doughty anchoring the defense. A solid starter in goal and a blue-chip prospect behind him ready to take over if he falters. They've even got a little bit of cap space to make an addition (or two) at the deadline (and they could use one more top four defender at evens to push Jack Johnson down the depth chart). I don't know what the internal expectations are, but I'd have to think that another first round exit would be a massive disappointment. Goal differential prediction: +25 (Change from 2010-11: +4) 

#8 Detroit Red Wings (2nd in the Central, 5th in the Western Conference) - The retirement of Brian Rafalski definitely hurts. Ian White is a solid defender, but he doesn't come close to adequately replacing Rafalski. In goal, the team is relying on Jimmy Howard and Ty Conklin who both have some question marks - neither was above average last season, and Conklin was awful. There is still tremendous quality up front, and Nicklas Lidstrom is back on the blueline for a 20th season coming off yet another Norris Trophy, but this is not a flawless team. And with Lidstrom, Brad Stuart, Niklas Kronwall, Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen Tomas Holmstrom, Todd Bertuzzi, and Danny Cleary all on the wrong side of thirty, the core of the team is getting old. I don't think there's a huge fall coming this year, but for the first time in about two decades, I wouldn't be totally shocked if the Red Wings miss the playoffs. Goal differential prediction: +20 (Change from 2010-11: No Change)

#9 New Jersey Devils (2nd in the Atlantic, 4th in the Eastern Conference) - I got burnt predicting a strong finish for the Devils last season, and I'm leaving myself open to getting burnt again, but I think that there are good reasons to believe in this club. They had one of the better Fenwick percentages with the score tied at evens in the NHL a year ago (53.3%), but were done in by the league's worst on-ice shooting percentage (6.7%). The story was similar on the power play: the team was generating shots, but just couldn't score (their shooting percentage 5-on-4 was 8.4%, which was only better than the Florida Panthers). Further, Zach Parise returns after spending most of last year on injured reserve. They've gone from cap-strapped to having cap flexibility over the summer, which both opened up roster spots for young players like Adam Larsson and Jacob Josefson and should also give them room to sign Parise to a contract extension. The best part about this youth movement? They're not overdoing it - there are suitable veterans at each position of responsibility so that the younger players can be brought up slowly. It's possible that a slow start leads them to tear the team down, but I think a return to the top half of the league is much more likely. Goal differential prediction: +20 (Change from 2010-11: +55)

#10 Philadelphia Flyers (3rd in the Atlantic, 5th in the Eastern Conference) - The club had a very controversial summer, and look worse on paper today than they were at the start of last season. But that doesn't mean that (all) of Paul Holmgren's decisions were poor. Swapping Jeff Carter and Mike Richards for a bevy of young talent holds a certain logic. The cluster of forwards under twenty-five is impressive: Claude Giroux; Wayne Simmonds; Brayden Schenn; Jakub Voracek; Sean Couturier; James van Riemsdyk. The developmental situation is also excellent with a veteran group of defensemen who will be able to cover up more mistakes than most, and an excellent if not elite goaltender... who's getting paid like an elite goaltender... for the next five thousand years. That Ilya Bryzgalov contract really is bewildering. Anyroad, I think they'll fall a bit, but not all the way out of the playoffs. Goal differential prediction: +20 (Change from 2010-11: -16)

#11 St. Louis Blues (3rd in the Central, 6th in the Western Conference) - I thought that they would make the playoffs last season, and I'm pretty much standing by that assessment now. I think the big difference will be goaltending. The club got terrible goaltending last year, especially from Ty Conklin who posted an .891 even strength save percentage on over 400 shots. I'm no fan of Brian Elliott, but he can improve on that. Jaroslav Halak also had his worst season in the NHL, and I expect him to be substantially better. The veteran additions of Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner also give the team more depth up front than they had a year ago, and should help to mitigate against any injury problems. Goal differential prediction: +15 (Change from 2010-11: +9)

#12 Montreal Canadiens (2nd in the Northeast, 6th in the Eastern Conference) - In terms of possession numbers, Montreal is in some ways the mirror image of Boston. The Bruins had an elite season by those measures in 2009-10, but ended up being just above average in 2010-11. The Canadiens, meanwhile, were very good in 2010-11 (their Fenwick percentage with the score tied at even strength was 52.7%), but they were awful in both 2009-10 (46.8%) and 2008-09 (47.8%). I chose to more or less split the difference and rate them as slightly above average for 2011-12. Now, that said, they also had one of the worst shooting percentage five-on-five last season (7.0%), which is something that should move toward league average for 2011-12, and they have a very good young goalie in Carey Price. I have them improving a bit on last year's goal differential, but if it turns out that last season's possession metrics were a mirage, this club could really bomb. Goal differential prediction: +15 (Change from 2010-11: +8) 

#13 Buffalo Sabres (3rd in the Northeast, 7th in the Eastern Conference) - The team has made some significant changes, and has spent a lot more money, but I'm not convinced that they'll be better. Robyn Regehr and Christian Ehrhoff are upgrades on defense (though I'm not sure that Ehrhoff is that much better than Steve Montador). Up front the addition of Ville Leino is off-set by the subtraction of Tim Connolly, and the club is counting mostly on youth to make up for the losses of veterans like Mike Grier and Rob Niedermayer who handled a lot of the Sabres' defensive zone starts at even strength. Grier also led the team's forwards in ice time on the PK, so while these guys aren't exactly the most impactful performers, they were useful players. I'm not convinced that the Sabres have the internal depth to adequately make up for those (admittedly low-impact) losses. The big question is special teams. If Rehehr can make the PK hum and Ehroff sets fire to the PP, then they'll probably improve on last year's performance. I have my doubts. Goal differential prediction: +15 (Change from 2010-11: -2)

#14 New York Rangers (4th in the Atlantic, 8th in the Eastern Conference) - The Rangers are a wacky team. Their goal differential last season was +35, and the percentages all seem sustainable, so you'd think that they must have been a good possession team. And yet their Fenwick percentage with the score tied at even strength was 48.9%, which really isn't very good at all. So what's happening? Well, the Rangers were very good when the score wasn't tied. Their goal differential in games decided by three goals or more was +42 (with a record of 16-8) compared to -7 in games decided by two or less (with a record of 28-30). That's quite the split! The question is, do you bet on that going forward? I decided not to, and have consequently dropped their goal differential significantly. I think the Rangers will actually be a bit better at puck possession this year - the addition of Brad Richards should really help - but that will be largely off-set by a small regression from their goaltending, which combined with a reduced number of blow-out wins will result in a substantially worse goal differential, but very similar record to 2010-11. Goal differential prediction: +10 (Change from 2010-11: -25)

#15 Nashville Predators (4th in the Central, 7th in the Western Conference) - I didn't think that Nashville would make the playoffs last season, and they went on to prove me wrong. Or more accurately, Pekka Rinne and Anders Lindback proved me wrong. I had those two pegged to be slightly below average last season, and couldn't have been more wrong. They actually combined to form one of the best tandems in the league and pushed the Predators into the playoffs. This season, the Predators will return mostly the same club, with a couple of veterans shipped out (Steve Sullivan and J-P Dumont), and a new bargain contract moved in (Niklas Bergfors). As such, I think this is another year of bargain basement playoff hockey for the Predators, with the not-insignificant decline in goal differential coming because of a step back toward average from the two 'tenders (call me stubborn). Goal differential prediction: +10 (Change from 2010-11: -15)

#16 Tampa Bay Lightning (2nd in the Southeast, 9th in the Eastern Conference) - This team was really good last season, but sabotaged by poor goaltending. They traded for Dwayne Roloson halfway through the year who righted that ship and then marched to the Eastern Conference finals and to within one goal of the Stanley Cup Finals. The key parts of their lineup are all returning, and they play in the Eastern Conference's weakest division. I have them missing the playoffs. I have them missing the playoffs for two main reasons. The first reason is that I'm not sure that the goaltending problem is really solved. Roloson played well last season, but his numbers over the last four years suggest a pretty average goaltender. And at forty-two, there's some chance that his level of ability will take a precipitous fall. Back-up Mathieu Garon isn't an adequate solution if there are problems. The second reason is that I'm not totally convinced that the team is as good as they showed last year. Last season's club had a Fenwick percentage of 52.2% with the score tied at even strength, which is truly outstanding, but the year before that, with a very similar roster, they sat at 45.8%. I understand that young players like Victor Hedman and Steven Stamkos are bound to improve and that the coaching is probably significantly better, but that's a massive improvement. There were seven teams who showed significant improvement (a move of 2.0% or more, e.g. from 46% to 48%) from 2008-09 to 2009-10, and five of those seven regressed in 2010-11 with the biggest gainer in 2010-11 moving up just 0.6%. I'd need to do a larger study to really make anything of that, but it makes intuitive sense to me that a big jump would usually be followed by a correction, and as such, I have the Lightning taking a step back. Goal differential prediction: Even (Change from 2010-11: -7)

#17 Calgary Flames (2nd in the Northwest, 8th in the Western Conference) - I get the feeling that I'm wildly optimistic about the Calgary Flames. In the SBN survey, the consensus put them at 13th, and no one rated them any higher than 9th. I can't figure it out. The Flames aren't a great team, but they've been consistently above average in terms of possession for a long time now, and last season, had a very good 52.0% Fenwick percentage with the score tied at evens, which was good enough for tenth in the NHL. Granted, the core of this team is getting older, and they have very little in the way of cap flexibility because of term, dollars, and no-movement clauses given out to existing players, but those aren't issues that hurt them on the ice right now. And a look at their roster reveals a pretty solid group of defenders - the late summer signing of Scott Hannan helped a bunch - and more depth at forward than they've had in the recent past with mostly the same proven group of performers. I don't have much faith in their goaltenders or special teams, so I've got them declining from last year's showing, but I have a really hard time seeing this team as an out-and-out bottom-feeder. Goal differential prediction: Even (Change from 2010-11: -13) 

#18 Anaheim Ducks (3rd in the Pacific, 9th in the Western Conference) - One of the truly frustrating teams in the entire league. Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, Lubomir Visnovsky, Toni Lydman, Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu, Jonas Hiller, and then absolute dreck. The most frustrating part is that the elite core isn't even all that expensive! The total price tag (in terms of cap space) is $35.35M, which would leave them $1.93M per support player to fill out the 23-man roster if they were spending to the cap. Problem is, (a) they don't spend to the cap, and (b) they waste a tonne of money on underperformers like Jason Blake, Luca Sbisa, and Francois Beauchemin, and the result is a team that tends to get widely outshot at even strength. But the elite guys will give the Ducks a great power play, and Jonas Hiller will stand tall in goal, and the team will have a chance at the playoffs. A competent manager would have this club in much better position than that. Goal differential prediction: Even (Change from 2010-11: -4)

#19 Ottawa Senators (4th in the Northeast, 10th in the Eastern Conference) - With this one, I know that I'm more optimistic than most, but I can't help it. With Craig Anderson, the Senators have improved their biggest area of need a great deal. Last season, the club had a .906 save percentage five-on-five, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see that improve .015 to .020 points this season, which is good enough for a +30 to +40 swing in goal differential all by itself. And really, other than goaltending, this team wasn't terrible. Their special teams poor, and their Fenwick percentage with the score tied at evens was 48.2%, which certainly isn't any great shakes, but it's a lot better than your traditional basket-case. The Senators look like they'll be adding some youth to the lineup this year, but those players will also need to do it on merit. David Rundblad won't make the team unless he can beat out Brian Lee, and Lee played 50 games last year, so you'd have to think that Rundblad making the team would actually help to make them better. I obviously don't think this team is going to be great. In fact, I think they'll be pretty poor. But that looks fantastic compared to most folks who seem to think that they're going to be atrocious. Goal differential prediction: -15 (Change from 2010-11: +43) 

#20 Columbus Blue Jackets (5th in the Central, 10th in the Western Conference) - Bonus prediciton: Scott Howson loses his job. These poor buggers are in the wrong damn division, and the team is getting awfully stubborn on a young goalie. Scott Howson spent the whole summer tooling up: he added Jeff Carter; he added James Wisniewski; he bought expensive extensions for R.J. Umberger and Fedor Tyutin; and when Kristian Huselius was injured, he added Vaclav Prospal. Scott Howson spent a lot of money. What he didn't do, however, was address the goaltending. The Blue Jackets enter the season with Steve Mason and Mark Dekanich. Mason has been a raging disappointment since a hot start, and Dekanich has played in exactly one NHL game. So yeah... the Blue Jackets will be better, but goaltending is a huge question mark, and I have a hard time picking the Blue Jackets to make the post-season if they can't be league average in goal. Goal differential prediction: -15 (Change from 2010-11: +28)

#21 Carolina Hurricanes (3rd in the Southeast, 11th in the Eastern Conference) - The Carolina Hurricanes haven't bee a very good possession team for the last two seasons. In 2009-10, it showed up in their results: the Hurricanes had a -26 goal differential and missed the playoffs handily. In 2010-11, it didn't. Despite a worse showing in their underlying numbers, the Hurricanes were in the hunt for a playoff spot until close to the last week of the season, and their goal differential improved to -3. I think that we'll see the team's underlying numbers improve this year, but that the goal differential numbers will regress back to 2009-10 levels. Goal differential prediction: -20 (Change from 2010-11: -17)

#22 Dallas Stars (4th in the Pacific, 11th in the Western Conference) - A fall here is pretty easy to explain. First, they weren't that good last season. They got by almost entirely on percentages with one of the league's best shooting percentages five-on-five (9.1%), and two goaltenders who played well above their established level of ability. In Kari Lehtonen's case, his overperformance came in the health department. He really is a very good goaltender when healthy, it's just that he hasn't been healthy. Last season, he played in a career-high 69 games, only the second time in his career that he's manned the net more than 50 times. Should injury troubles return this year, the Stars are again relying on Andrew Raycroft. That gamble somehow paid off last season, mostly because he didn't play that much and lucked out on the PK in a very small sample. If he plays more often, his luck will run out. Add to that the loss of Brad Richards, and I think the Stars will struggle despite some smart depth additions over the summer. Goal differential prediction: -25 (Change from 2010-11: -19) 

#23 Toronto Maple Leafs (5th in the Northeast, 12th in the Eastern Conference) - I believed in this team last season. I thought that with better goaltending, they'd be contending for the playoffs. I was mostly wrong. The team did get much better goaltending, but their leap forward in terms of possession in 2009-10 turned out to be nothing but a mirage - in terms of Fenwick percentage with the score tied at even strength, the club went from 48.0% in 2008-09 to 52.7% in 2009-10 to a dismal 44.4% in 2010-11. I had expected some regression, but that is a crazy turnaround! The terrible special teams also stayed terrible, especially the power play. So what about this year? I think the team will make improvements in all of those areas, but that the goaltending will falter, and that the team will end up with a pretty similar finish to last season. Goal differential prediction: -30 (Change from 2010-11: +3)

#24 Colorado Avalanche (3rd in the Northwest, 12th in the Western Conference) - This team was devastated by injuries last season, and had one of the worst quarter-seasons in the history of the thirty-team NHL with a grand total of zero regulation wins in their last 22 games (their record in regulation was 0-17-5) and -36 goal differential during that stretch. This team was terrible in that stretch, and it makes last year's team look worse than it really was. They were actually pretty decent at the start of the year, and over the summer, they've strengthened the team considerably by adding Semyon Varlamov in goal, and Jan Hejda and Shane O`Brien on defense. Of course, they're still relying on a lot of youth up front, and they paid a heavy price for Varlamov (their first round pick). If he gets injured (as he's wont to do), the team will likely struggle. Overall, I expect a better and more consistent year than last season, but I don't think the quality is there for them to be consistently good. Goal differential prediction: -30 (Change from 2010-11: +31)  

#25 Florida Panthers (5th in the Southeast, 13th in the Eastern Conference) - The Panthers were decent at even strength last season, but were awful on special teams, and it isn't just the percentages that got them down (on the PK, that's what was propping them up): their shooting rate five-on-four was the worst in the league. Maybe the acquisitions of Brian Campbell and Ed Jovanovski will help there. The additions up front should also help the team to maintain that relatively near-average showing at evens: Scottie Upshall, Marcel Goc, and Tomas Fleischmann are all pretty good players. But all of those gains are, to my mind, washed away by replacing Tomas Vokoun with Jose Theodore. Goaltending matters, and going from likely elite to likely below average is going to be a tough pill for this club to swallow. Goal differential prediction: -35 (Change from 2010-11: -1)

#26 Minnesota Wild (4th in the Northwest, 13th in the Western Conference) - I think that the Wild are rebuilding, and so this prediction partially reflects that. With the departure of Brent Burns, the team's defense has taken a big hit. Their possession numbers were already quite poor a year ago - their Fenwick percentage with the score tied was a terrible 43.7% - and they haven't been good for several years now. I think they'll be mostly out of the playoff hunt by the time the trade deadline arrives, and expect that they'll try to put Dany Heatley in ideal circumstances this year in an effort to flip him for a younger player who will be ready to help in the near future if not immediately. But if this all happens, the playoffs will be a distant bell, and the Wild will be on the outside looking in for the fourth year in a row. Goal differential prediction: -35 (Change from 2010-11: -8)

#27 Phoenix Coyotes (5th in the Pacific, 14th in the Western Conference) - This is the team that I see taking the biggest fall in the NHL's standings. The Coyotes were a pretty good team in 2009-10, and a decent team last year, but in both instances they were being propped up by some outstanding goaltending. With Mike Smith replacing Ilya Bryzgalov, that's not likely to be the case this year. This is especially true on the PK where the Coyotes have been one of the worst teams at shot prevention for several years, but have been buoyed by strong netminding. In addition, the Coyotes had one of the better on-ice shooting percentages during five-on-five play last season at 8.7%, which I expect to regress toward league average. With the percentages moving the wrong way on the Coyotes, they'll need to count on getting a greater share of the shots, and I don't think that's going to happen. was able to adequately replace most of their losses (Raffi Torres, Daymond Langkow, and Boyd Gordon in for Lee Stempniak, Vernon Fiddler, and Eric Belanger on their way out), but Ed Jovanovski is a big loss on defense. In the end, I think the percentages bite them pretty hard. Goal differential prediction: -40 (Change from 2010-11: -45)

#28 New York Islanders (5th in the Atlantic, 14th in the Eastern Conference) - You never can tell when one of these young rebuilding teams is going to suddenly announce that they've arrived, and there's a chance that it happens for the Islanders this year. But I wouldn't bet on it. The defense isn't particularly strong, and as much as I like Marty Reasoner and Jay Pandolfo, the club hasn't added much in the way of impact pieces up front either. Even some of the guys who are returning look poised for a fall. Michael Grabner, for example, had a very high shooting percentage relative to his career norms, and also had a very high individual point percentage, both warning signs that he might be set to regress. Al Montoya, meanwhile, played very well in a cameo, but has shown no signs of being an NHL caliber goaltender at lower levels. He's only the backup, which wouldn't be worth worrying about except that the starter is thirty-six years old and coming off a dreadful performance in Russia. All of that adds up to another year in the basement. Goal differential prediction: -45 (Change from 2010-11: -10)

#29 Winnipeg Jets (5th in the Southeast, 15th in the Eastern Conference) - The more things change, the more they stay the same. I'm looking forward to Winnipeg's home opener, and to the return of Teemu Selanne, and for their first game in Edmon... looks at schedule... derp. Anyway, the Jets are back, and they're back to being bottom-feeders. The Jets have a few nice pieces up front, but they don't have anyone that you can look to and reasonably assume a sixty-point season if he stays healthy. And despite a good defense corps, that lack of goal-scoring will really hurt because the goaltending isn't going to be good enough to carry them. Goal differential prediction: -45 (Change from 2010-11: +1)

#30 Edmonton Oilers (5th in the Northwest, 15th in the Western Conference) - I wish it were otherwise, I really do. I mean, I cheer for this team; I want to see them do well. But there's just too much. In terms of possession, they were one of the worst clubs in the league. On the penalty kill, they were one of the worst. Power play? Among the worst. Goaltending? Terrible. And things haven't really been addressed. The addition of Eric Belanger helps. The addition of Ryan Smyth helps too, but realistically, he's a step down from Dustin Penner, who was on the team at this time last year. I think Ben Eager probably adds some marginal value too, but I think that's about it for helpful additions. Andy Sutton and Kurtis Foster are about a wash except that Sutton is a lefty and the club needs righties; Cam Barker hasn't shown he's of much value, and may find it hard to match the contributions of Jim Vandermeer; Darcy Hordichuk is a better player than Steve MacIntyre, but the coach will probably play him more too, so that trade-off probably makes the team worse. But the biggest issue for this team was goaltending, and the management team did nothing to address it. As I said in the open, no team is actually likely to finish dead last, but it seems to me that the Oilers have as good a chance as anyone. Goal differential prediction: -65 (Change from 2010-11: +11)  

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Join The Copper & Blue

You must be a member of The Copper & Blue to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at The Copper & Blue. You should read them.

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