NHL 2013-14 Preview: Sidney Crosby Adds to Trophy Case, Kings-Rangers Gives NHL Another Dream Final

Sidney Crosby, Patrice BergeronPreseason predictions are kind of dumb. You spend all of this time going over information, researching stats and putting on your forecaster’s hat and for what? More often than not, those predictions are laughable and stupid.

But boy do they spark debate and more importantly, they fill space. So we do them.

So without further ado, here are some almost certainly doomed NHL predictions for the 2013-14 seasons.

DIVISION WINNERS

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division ¬†— Boston Bruins

Too good, too deep. The schedule caught up with them down the stretch last year, but that won’t happen again this year.

Metropolitan Division — Pittsburgh Penguins

Is there enough goaltending to win a Stanley Cup? That’s debatable. But there’s too much talent — assuming everyone stays healthy — for the Penguins not to win the most ridiculously named division in sports.

 Western Conference

Central — Chicago Blackhawks

Unlike when they won the Stanley Cup a few years ago, the salary cap didn’t ravish the Hawks this offseason. They’ll slug it out with the Blues for the division title, but Chicago is still king in the Central.

Pacific — Los Angeles Kings

The Kings stumbled out of the gates last year, thanks in large part to injuries. They’re healthy now, though, and you can expect them to ride Jonathan Quick to the top of the Pacific while just holding off the Sharks.

PLAYOFFS

Eastern Conference Finals: Rangers over Bruins

Maybe a new look is all the Rangers need. Henrik Lundqvist is still one of the best goalies on the planet, and if this is it for him in New York, this would be a pretty good way to end that chapter of his career.

Western Conference Finals: Kings over Blackhawks

When it’s all said and done, the Blackhawks’ reign ends because of two reasons. One, they just run out of gas. Two, Quick continues to dazzle in the playoffs, and the Kings get through to their second Cup Final in three years.

Stanley Cup Final: Kings over Rangers

The goalie matchup is a wash, so this eventually turns into a battle of depth. Few teams can match the sort of depth up front and down the middle the Kings have, and that will make the difference in the Cup Final. Or it won’t. These are probably all wrong anyway.

INDIVIDUAL AWARDS

Hart Trophy — Sidney Crosby, Penguins

He’s still the best player in the game, no matter what the most outspoken Crosby hater wants you to think. If he stays healthy, there’s no reason to believe Crosby won’t take home the second Hart of his career (tough to believe he hasn’t won more). This pick is an easy out, but it’s tough to justify betting against him even in a year when he’s not coming off being shut out in the conference finals like he is this year.

Art Ross Trophy — Crosby

OK, so this is a little tiresome already, but what do you want? Crosby finished third in points last season, which is obviously pretty impressive on its own. What’s even more impressive is the fact that he played just 36 games on his way to averaging 1.56 points per game (a 128-point pace in an 82-game season). Health is still the obvious wild card, but Crosby contributes with the best of them and takes advantage of a loaded roster. Oh, and if Pittsburgh sees an increase in power-play time — likely after ranking 21st in the NHL in power plays last season — that’s just another stepping stone to the top of the league’s points leaders.

Vezina Trophy — Jonathan Quick, Kings

Quick’s Vezina prospects last season were doomed by a few things. The then reigning Vezina Trophy winner had offseason back surgery that was blamed in part for his slow start to the 2013 season. That surgery also kept Quick from getting any work in during the lockout. It also didn’t help that Quick saw two key defensemen in Willie Mitchell and Matt Green go down in front of him. But Quick still turned it on down the stretch going 6-3-1 with a 2.25 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in April before posting a 1.86 and .934 in the playoffs. Makes sense that he’d pick up right there going into the 2013-14 season.

Norris Trophy — Shea Weber, Predators

There hasn’t been a repeat winner since 2008 when Niklas Lidstrom was putting the finishing touches on a three-peat, so that seems to rule out P.K. Subban. Also, four of the last five winners were first-time winners. So it could really be anyone, especially with all of the legitimate contenders that are out there. I think this is the year Shea Weber breaks through, and that’s more of a hunch than anything else. Who really knows, though. This is the most wide-open race in hockey as you could also make the case for players like Subban, Ryan Suter, Kris Letang, Zdeno Chara, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Erik Karlsson and on and on.

Selke Trophy — Patrice Bergeron, Bruins

This is a homer pick, not in the fact that I wear Bruins pajamas and am pulling for Bergeron to win, but it’s a homer pick in the fact that I get to watch Bergeron every night and see the impact he makes all over the ice. He does so many little things night in and night out that make him the perfect example of a two-way forward. He also does well in traditional stats like faceoffs and advanced stats like Corsi making him the perfect pick.

Calder Trophy — Mark Scheifele, Jets

A good-sized kid with a ton of offensive talent who will get a chance to play? Sure, why not? This award is as unpredictable as it gets, so let’s go with Scheifele and dispel any notions of East Coast bias in the process.

Jack Adams Award — Alain Vigneault, Rangers

Vigneault’s resume in Vancouver — aside from the glaring lack of a Stanley Cup — speaks for itself. Now he’s the fresh face that is sorely needed in New York. The Rangers are already a very good team, and the new voice of Vigneault should do wonders. So, too, should a willingness to actually play some offense, which should do wonders for a solid group of forwards. The fact that this award has become an award for the guy who does the most with the least could end up costing him votes in the end, though.

Yardbarker

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