So the Red Wings will likely need to go down — way down — before they go up again. With no obvious weaknesses or glaring holes in this lineup, the sky could be the limit for Dallas. That will likely result is less success for the Senators — in the regular season and obviously in the playoffs if they were to make it again. Posts navigation

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As mentioned in the trending down article, this near dynasty is likely done. Stan Bowman is trying to turn back time by bringing back Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp, but Saad came at the expense of a superior talent in Artemi Panarin and Sharp will struggle to fill the void left by Marian Hossa.

Add it all up and the Blackhawks appear awfully vulnerable this season. This is bold, one of my bolder predictions this year. I originally had Winnipeg staying the course, making progress but missing the playoffs again. However, if the goaltending improves from last season, there is nothing else holding the Jets back.

Their defence, one through six, is arguably top 10 in the league, and Winnipeg will have the ability to roll four scoring lines if Paul Maurice so desires. This is still a young team on the upswing, but Maurice and Kevin Cheveldayoff might need to make the postseason to stay in charge.

I like their chances. This team overachieved last season, by my estimation — thanks to the Bruce Boudreau factor. He needs to regain his Vezina-type form for Minnesota to repeat its success. The Wild are still comparable to the Jets in terms of forward and defence depth, but Winnipeg has more star power up front and a better third pairing on the blue line.

If Hellebuyck and Mason can combine to match or outperform Dubnyk, that would definitely put the Jets over the top. But Boudreau is still the ace in the hole for Minnesota and his results speak for themselves in comparison to Maurice.

Unlike Dubnyk, Jake Allen turned it on in the second half and backstopped the Blues to a playoff berth before singlehandedly stealing that series against Minnesota by outduelling Dubnyk.

Without Allen, that is a different outcome, but can he sustain that momentum for an entire game season? Louis is still going to be in the playoff mix again.

Louis — could finish in any order, and goaltending will certainly be among the deciding factors. Louis finding a way into the postseason. The forwards should be fun to watch, especially if Nate MacKinnon finally breaks out, but this team is going to bleed scoring chances with little hope of stopping the opposition.

On the bright side, Andrei Svechnikov and Rasmus Dahlin are both looking like franchise players entering their draft year. That is what Colorado really needs, with MacKinnon failing to live up to his hype as a No. As long as the Penguins have these three players on their roster, they will continue to be contenders. A healthy Kris Letang is only going to help a team that won its second straight Stanley Cup despite a depleted defence.

Jim Rutherford has proven capable of finding the right fits to surround his core and Mike Sullivan evidently knows how to press the right buttons. Bottom line, this team knows how to win. Phil Kessel could be on his way out of Pittsburgh by the sounds of it, and this is another potential landing spot for Matt Duchene. Trending down after going all-in and failing to beat those pesky Penguins in the second round for the second year in a row, the Capitals lost half their playoff defence — trade-deadline ringer Kevin Shattenkirk and homegrown talents Karl Alzner and Nate Schmidt — plus top-six wingers Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams.

Brian MacLellan did manage to retain T. Oshie while also locking up Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov long-term. That might be a good omen, to be less of a powerhouse over 82 games and not feel as much pressure to be playoff favourites. The Capitals are going to need some young legs to step up into big shoes on the blue line with three of Taylor Chorney, Aaron Ness, Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey or perhaps Lucas Johansen or Connor Hobbs , projected to be on the opening-night roster.

Disclaimer, the rest of this division is wide open — from three to seven, if not eight. Pittsburgh and Washington should be playoff locks again, but the rest of the Metro was the hardest to rank — even harder than the Central. Going back to my offseason predictions, I was one of the few who saw playoff potential in that roster, correctly predicting Columbus to finish third behind Washington and Pittsburgh though I got talked out of that and turned the Blue Jackets into a lottery team for my preseason predictions.

Everything went right for Columbus to make that a reality and the Blue Jackets could just as easily fall back to earth and miss the playoffs this season, especially if Sergei Bobrovsky were to get hurt. However, as long as Bobrovsky stays healthy, I like Columbus to stay third. The defence is solid and the forwards are decent, with plenty of upside. I wanted to shake things up here but, alas, I wound up going with the same four playoff teams from the Metro as last season.

No shock value — nothing crazy, like predicting Columbus to make the postseason last year — but, as mentioned, any of the ensuing non-playoff teams could bump Columbus or the Rangers without much surprise. The forward group is still deep even without Derek Stepan and should continue to score by committee. The coaching duo of Alain Vigneault and Lindy Ruff will help get those extra few points needed to make the cut.

That pressure will fall largely on the shoulders of Scott Darling, a first-time starter acquired from Chicago. Cam Ward is capable of platooning if need be, but if Carolina is going to take a significant step forward, it probably needs Darling to be the real deal as a No.

Some within the analytics community are predicting a breakout season for the Hurricanes but, like the Blue Jackets last season, almost everything would have to go right for that to happen. Possible, but not probable. I call it complaining, but I consider it constructive criticism and I did take that feedback into account when finishing off my predictions.

The way I see it, from the outside looking in, the Flyers rank outside the top 16 — outside the playoffs — in goaltending, defence, special teams and coaching.

I feel like the Islanders are better than this ranking, but if they do finish this low, I doubt John Tavares sticks around past the trade deadline. Of course, it could play out similar to Steven Stamkos in Tampa Bay, but that would probably require a playoff run and a career year for Tavares.

Depth up front is something of a concern, unless youngsters like Josh Ho-Sang, Anthony Beauvillier and Matt Barzal can become consistent secondary scorers. I do like this former-player coaching staff — and I was never a fan of Jack Capuano — so I could totally see the Islanders bouncing back and finishing higher than I have them in the standings. Trending up, but in baby steps for the Devils. The forwards are getting better and more exciting by the year — winning the lottery for Nico Hischier and also acquiring Marcus Johansson after adding Taylor Hall last summer — so Schneider should get more run support this season, but not enough to outscore the opposition on a regular basis.

As it stands, another top-five pick is probably in the cards — much to the chagrin of Hall. Steve Yzerman has done a masterful job of stickhandling around the salary cap and locking up his core long-term, so Tampa should be built to win for the foreseeable future.

Obviously trending up, even if they overachieved to some degree last season, the Leafs are going to be a perennial playoff team going forward. The bar is being raised, but this roster should be capable of living up to increased expectations.

That is still putting a lot of pressure on sophomores like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and Nikita Zaitsev, but the real key will continue to be Frederik Andersen in goal. He needs to stay healthy because the depth at that positon is concerning, with Curtis McElhinney a mediocre at best backup.

If Andersen goes down long-term — and he does have a history of injuries — the Leafs may go down with him. Otherwise, Toronto should keep rising up and be more of a threat come playoffs. A full season of Claude Julien behind the bench, working extensively with Galchenyuk and Drouin, should be beneficial. Finally, another bold one — my boldest of all, even bolder than Winnipeg.

This is almost equivalent to my Columbus prediction from last year.