OK, so the puck has dropped and these never-to-be-read-at-the-end-of-the-season predictions are a little late. Nothing has happened to give me an edge since all the hockey players are still watching baseball anyway.
The Bruins are building a new off ice front office and a new on-ice look. With a new GM, new coach and goaltending up in the air, this could be a cold winter.
Zedeno Chara is a big (in many ways) add on defense. Patrice Bergeron should be a superstar this year. In net it’s Tim Thomas or Hannu Toivonen. Stop right there. Maybe the new Patrick Roy is in the twosome, but the season begins and ends at the goal line.
Former Maine star and Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella has the same problem. His No. 1 in net, Marc Denis, isn’t.
The Lightning are loaded with Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards, and Martin St. Louis on the first line, but there’s an eight-paragraph skip to the second line. Their defense is an issue as well.
Former Maine goalie Garth Snow, now the GM for the Islanders, gave his starter in net, Rick DiPietro, the much-discussed 15-year, $16.5 million contract. The rest of the NHL is waiting for the deal to look foolish and Snow says he can’t wait to prove them wrong.
Maine great Paul Kariya will be the best player on a very good Nashville team that lost in the first round to the Sharks last year. He plays in front of one of the game’s best between the pipes, Tomas Vokoun.
The Predators added forwards Jason Arnott, J.P.Dumont, and Joseph Vasicek. They should beat Detroit for the Central title.
The bigger picture, always written in vanishing ink, is this. In the East, Carolina (’06 Cup champs), New Jersey, the Rangers, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, and Buffalo should be seven of the eight to the playoffs. That last spot is up for grabs, with Boston in the mix.
Man, is there parity with the new salary cap. Ottawa and New Jersey make the East final with Marty Brodeur in net for the Devils being the winner. Could be the Rangers, Buffalo, or Carolina in that game, that’s how tight it is.
In the West, the Ducks are in a lovefest with the prognosticators. With Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer together on “D,” the accolades are flowing.
Those two are stupendous, but a team they are not. Jean-Sebastien Giguerre is an issue in net, and San Jose is a better team in the division.
Detroit, Nashville, Calgary, Anaheim, and San Jose are in. Chicago, Columbus, Phoenix (with Wayne Gretzky back behind the bench), and St. Louis are out.
That leaves Colorado, Edmonton (a finalist last year), the Wild, Vancouver, Dallas, and L.A. to sort out the last three spots.
I like Nashville and the Sharks in the West final with San Jose winning.
New Jersey and the Sharks for the Cup, and the winner is – drum roll, please – the Shark Tank holds!
No one picked Buffalo and Edmonton for the finals last year, so what is there to lose. As always, this column will self-destruct by mid-February.
Old Town native Gary Thorne is an ESPN and ABC sportscaster.