Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thoughts on a New Season [2011-12]

Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images North America

That was the longest offseason ever.

When we last saw the Avs, David Jones scored his 27th goal of the season to defeat Edmonton in an OT thriller. Adam Foote bid farewell to the near-capacity crowd at Pepsi Center, and Peter Budaj secured a win in what turned out to be his last game in an Avalanche sweater. The win capped off a 30-44-8 season, good enough for 29th in the NHL and the right to draft Gabriel Landeskog.

Hey, at least the Avs have a chance to continue their winning streak when they take on the Detroit Red Things on Saturday night at the Pepsi Center. The home/season opener will also consist of a tribute to Wade Belak, Karlis Skrastins and Ruslan Salei, three former Avs who were tragically lost this past summer. There will also be a celebration for Peter Forsberg, who will become the fourth Av to have his number retired.

The last time Colorado retired a number, they came out and shocked the hockey world by defeating the San Jose Sharks 5-2, en route to a surprising playoff berth. I expect the same to happen after #21 is raised to the rafters. The Avs will win the opener by a score of 5-2.

Here are some other thoughts for the 2011-12 NHL season:

-The Avalanche will begin the season without a captain for the first time in team history. But only because they're afraid Ol' Man Stastny will cry when Paul isn't the choice.

-Chuck Kobasew is the new second line left winger. That experiment will last for 10 games, when Chuck Kobasew becomes your fourth line left winger.

-Gabriel Landeskog will not win the Calder because the favorite never wins the Calder. Oh, he's not the favorite? It's his to lose, then.

-Avs I'm most excited to watch: Landeskog, Mueller, O'Reilly, Johnson, Hejda, Elliott. Of course, last year I put Brandon Yip in this category.

-Colorado will start strong (as usual), begin to fade (as usual), but then (for a change) they will level out and play consistently (instead of tanking).

-Tyson Barrie, Stefan Elliott and Brad Malone will all get called up and stay up with the big league club.

-Kevin Porter, Brandon Yip, Kyle Cumiskey, and Matt Hunwick will not stick around past midseason.

-Semyon Varlamov will start 59 games, JS Giguere will start 22, and Joe Sacco will go with an empty net when they both somehow find their way into his doghouse.

-Props to the new and improved Avalanche twitter feed for in-game updates and practice reports. The Avalanche's media relations as a whole have improved drastically this summer.

-Washington will not get a chance to pick in the Top 5, as the Avalanche will make the playoffs. Eighth seed, baby!

-Western Conference Playoff Teams: Vancouver, Colorado, San Jose, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Detroit, Nashville, Chicago.

-I know, really creative. St. Louis and Dallas are the teams most likely to usurp one of the above.

-The team most likely to be usurped? Crap.

-But Dallas is going to have a tough time replacing Brad Richards' production. I don't see them having a very successful year.

-I can't see Phoenix at all.

-Rick Nash is not going to score 50 goals just because Jeff Carter is his center.

-Jeff Carter is going to score 50 goals because Rick Nash is his winger.

-Eastern Conference Playoff Teams: Boston, Montreal, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Washington, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, New York...Islanders? (Sorry, Dani)

-I'll get ripped on for taking the Isles over the Rangers or Hurricanes, but there is some really impressive firepower on the Island. This could be the year they finally break through.

-You know who won't be breaking through? The Flyers. But only because Chris Pronger won't be 100% for the playoffs.

-Evgeni Malkin may score 100 points this season. Sidney Crosby may still outscore him - even if he's not back until November.

-Boston will finish 3rd in its division, 7th in the conference, and fall to the Capitals in the first round. Stanley Cup hangover.

-Winnipeg will win its first game at home...and then lose the next five.

-The Winter Classic will again be the most watched one yet. Of course, that's until the NHL announces that Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are scheduled to play in 2013, much to the dismay of the 49 other states. (NHL: "What other states?")

-Award Predictions: The awards show won't be watched by anyone.

-But seriously:

Hart: Evgeni Malkin
Vezina: Marc-Andre Fleury
Norris: Shea Weber
Calder: Gabriel Landeskog
Lady Byng: Martin St. Louis
Selke: Frans Nielsen
Jack Adams: Jack Capuano
Art Ross: Evgeni Malkin
Richard: Jeff Carter

-Colorado will defeat Vancouver in the first round, but ultimately fall short against the Kings in the semi-finals.

-The Kings won't reach the Cup, however, as Drew Doughty puts the puck in his own net to give the San Jose Sharks the series clinching win. Now that's sticking it to Dean Lombardi!

-Washington loses in the second round again. Alexander Semin doesn't understand why.

-Pittsburgh wins the conference and advances to the Cup. This marks the millionth year in a row I've picked the Pens.

-San Jose v. Pittsburgh. Pens in 6.

-The NHL will have its most successful season ever.

Hockey is back. Let the fun begin.

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