It's October now.. which means that baseball has come to a close for the year (baseball ends in September, right?) and that we're mere days away from the puck dropping at the United Center for the first time in months... and now we probably won't have that pesky basketball taking up half the TVs at the bars. If only we could get the circus to have a lockout too. Anyways... here are my answers to questions that no one asked me about...
Patrick Sharp. I called him last year and I was correct so I'm not changing horses now. 38 and new career high for Shooter
Patrick Kane - easy choice here. Kaner will have a standout year but still won't break 100 points. 94 (31 goals, 63 assists... that equals 94, right?)
Just to be different than Fels, Duncan Keith returns to form but not quite Norris levels. +28
Penalty Minute Leader:
No question, Carbomb
Power Play Rank:
Defying all eyeball tests known to man.. the Clown Shoes will continue but the Hawks will still end up with the 4th best overall PP%
Penalty Kill Rank:
A definite improvement - 10th overall
Corey Crawford's stats:
It's one thing to pick the number of goals or assists a player will accrue... that's pure science with formulas and everything. You can't argue with it. Picking a goalie's stats? That's crazy talk. I assume we're going to see an improved Crawford if only because of a team that gives a shit playing in front of him.. as for the actual numbers - lets go with 62 starts, 42-18-2 - .908 SV% and 2.24 GAA. I have no idea if those numbers make any sense. Someone please remember to remind me of this prediction at the end of the year... try not to laugh while doing so.
Is it possible for Patrick Kane to breakout? I'm really hoping for him to go off all year long. I was also hoping to put Ben Smith in this category but he might have come down with a strong case of Crosby-itis (formerly known as Lindros Syndrome).
There's a good amount of potential here for disappointment. There's a lot of new blood on the team once again but thankfully I don't think we'll see anything like the let down we experienced last year. As far as individual players... much like Sam, I thought about putting Rostislav Olesz in here but realized that I too never really had any expectations to begin with for him. I guess it'll be a disappointment if I never learn to spell his name without looking it up but that's about it. I worry about Dave Bolland struggling with injuries (again) and ending up in this category through no real fault of his own but lets pray that never happens. Daniel Carcillo could be the energy player that was missing for so much of last year... he could also be a complete and utter disaster.
Oh, and I don't have very high hopes for Ray Emery either. I expect Salak to get more than his fair share of time with the Hawks.
It's not going to be an easy year but the Hawks are going to return to the top of the Central Division this year. Unlike Sam, I'm not ready to write off the filth that dwells most of the year in Detroit. There's every reason to think that they'll have a rough go of it this year and Sam wrote them out well... but when has that ever stopped them? You could have made most of those arguments last year and they still were a remarkably solid team. Lidstrom is old but this is almost certain to be his last year and he's not going to go out quietly like Chelios. Lids is going to put everything he can into this year.. and even at his age it's still better than 97% of the league. I don't want to count on Dats or Zetterberg going down with injury either because it almost ensures they will play a full season. And of course, it's not only going to be Scum causing us to fret - the Predators are once again seemingly inexplicably going to push hard and I wouldn't be surprised if the top three spots are all up for grabs really late into the regular season. The games between these three squads are going to be intense this year.. I can't wait.
Do you really care about the Jackets or the Blues? I didn't think so...
I'm going with Calgary in the final spot just for kicks. I like Iginla too much to wish a third year in a row without the post-season. I think they'll find a way to sneak in there. As much as I'd like to think the central can supply half the playoff teams for the West.. I don't think it'll happen. The top three are a sure thing but the Jackets are just barely going to miss out when the season ends. The Canucks are going to coast on an improved but hardly intimidating division (but they're going to fail again). The Kings are going to be scary but not scary enough to out duel the Sharks. I worry that the Sharks may have finally put together a winner... but I think I've worried about that for the last 3 years or so. The Ducks are the Predators in that they always seem to find a way to be good and annoying... plus Teemu Selanne is going out with a bang.
I really hate making this pick. No matter how well I lay out my argument, if I pick the Hawks I'm just a homer. If I don't, I feel like I'm selling out. C'est la vie. So I'll just throw it out there..
Hawks over the Bruins in 6 and we're all drunk the whole summer long... again.