The NHL season starts tomorrow, and every blog likes to put together a gimmicky look at the season. There's no reason The 'Eh' Factor can't get involved in this. Here are some lulz and predictions to get you ready for the season.
Canadian team most likely to win the Stanley Cup:
This is always a question that's debated on Hockey Night, TSN and Sportsnet before every season, as well as at the start of the playoffs. The general consensus is that it is the Vancouver Canucks, who are not just seen as Canadian favourites, but Western Conference as well.
Since showing up in Vancouver, Roberto Luongo has alternated between Vezina-or-Hart worthy years, followed by mediocre performances. His backup this year, rather than being a cast-off from some shitty team, is former first round pick Cory Schnieder, so Vancouver may just have the strongest goaltending tandem in the league.
Then we get into talking about the reigning Hart Trophy winner, who won the scoring title despite missing his twin and linemate for 26 games last season. Then we get into the improved defense with Dan Hamhuis and Keith Ballard.
And yet, as a Canuck fan, I have no idea yet how to handle seeing my team go into the season as favourites, so I'll just sit back and watch them screw up some other way again. At least they can't possibly lose in the playoffs thanks to the antics of Dustin Byfuglien anymore.
Canadian team that will have the best turnaround:
Obviously, its the Edmonton Oilers, and we could probably do all of this without mentioning you-know-who (no, not Sheldon Souray). At the very least, the team will be fun to watch. Jordan Eberle worked well with Shawn Horcoff in preseason, and Horcoff seems determined enough to prove he's not the most overpaid player in the game, which probably factored in him being named Oilers captain early Wednesday.
You look on that Oilers roster and you see about 6 or 7 names who could crack the 20-goal barrier, but the team really has no defense, and, for some reason, three goaltenders. Having Tom Gilbert as your number one defenseman is pretty bad, and having your highest paid defenseman in the minors is even worse.
Canadian team that will be under the most pressure to turn around:
Phil Kessel isn't a bad hockey player. Even after losing Marc Savard at centre and having no surrounding talent, Kessel scored 30 goals after missing the first 12. But the Toronto Maple Leafs, despite a massive restructuring since last year's starting 20, are still hard pressed to turn around as much as Leafs nation would hope. Kris Versteeg and Dion Phaneuf are sexier names than Matt Stajan and Ian White, but the bulk of the forward cast are your truculent superstars like Colby Armstrong and John Mitchell.
The Leafs made one of their better moves of the offseason by naming Dion Phaneuf captain, thus putting all the attention on him and taking some away from Phil Kessel. If the Leafs don't made a respectable run at the playoffs and give up another lottery pick, Kessel better be damn hopeful he's lit the lamp at least 40 times this year.
Canadian team that Montreal cop cars will be most happy to see miss the playoffs
Perhaps it's because the last time the Canucks went deep into the playoffs, I was six year old and didn't understand how fun it was to get boozed up and spark riots through down because of a hockey game, but, I guess the six year old fans of the Montreal Canadiens are just a little more hardcore than I was.
The goaltending situation is the big deal already, as it should be, because Canadiens management completely screwed this one up by not signing Carey Price *before* trading Jaroslav Halak. As a result, Price has just a $1 million lower cap number than Halak, but is signed for just two years and not four, so that oversight could actually be more expensive for the Habs down the road, and they got the worse goalie out of the deal.
I like Montreal because they're one of the few teams that aren't carting around a goon with them, likely because Habs jerseys only come in medium size or smaller. They sport an impressive number of overpaid scorers to also manage a little forward depth. Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez can be way better, especially with the money they're getting paid, but I refrain from calling them wastes of space since that implies the players must occupy a certain amount of volume on a three-dimensional plane. Travis Moen, Mathieu Darche and Maxim Lapierre are the type of guys you want to have on your fourth line. None of them record a lot of penalty minutes, but play hard and chip in the occasional goal.
Also, PK Subban. PK! PK! PK!
Ontario team with best chance at first overall pick
You ever find a deck of cards in your junk drawer and notice that there are always a few missing? The Ottawa Senators have. Rather than being a team with missing puzzle pieces, this is a team with gaping holes between the 2 of Clubs and Ace of Spades.
Scrolling down the Sens roster, you run into names like Milan Michalek, Nick Foligno and Chris Campoli, but no names that really stand out as having changed from the Sens 2007 Cup run. That's including the $31.5 million they've spent on disappointment Alexei Kovalev and future disappointment Sergei Gonchar. Gonchar was lucky to the tune of a three year-$16.5 million deal this summer in being put on the same powerplay unit as Sidney Crosby for four years in Pittsburgh.
At best, the goaltending on this team is subpar. At best, the defense is suspect, and at best, the whole team overachieved into the five spot last year. I wouldn't pencil them in for a lottery pick, but they're in a tough division and will be hard pressed to make the playoffs.
Canadian team with the funniest offseason
An offseason that began with bringing back cast-offs Olli Jokinen and Alex Tanguay ended with Darryl Sutter waiving his own son in the week leading up to Thanksgiving. The Flames seem to cling to this vague notion that all Jarome Iginla needs is a star centreman and he'll win a scoring title. At age 33, Iginla is past his prime and on the decline.
The horrible thing about the Calgary Flames having missed the playoffs last year is that Miikka Kipprusoff had his first good season since 2006/07 and the skaters were assembled in as the wrong combination of the wrong guys. Jay Bouwmeester has an awful contract and it was dumb of the Flames to sign him last summer instead of looking for forward or goaltending depth. The team is made up of anonymous has-beens like Ales Kotalik, Niklas Hagman and Tim Jackman rather than as feisty, chippy goal-scorers who took the team to Game Seven in 2004 and gave Sutter a lifetime pass to prove he really has no idea what he's doing.
American team that will generate the most interest to Canadian fans:
With Pittsburgh and Washington having grown tired over the past couple of years, look who has shown up? It's Canada's favourite (yes, O-U, lousy spellcheck) son Steve Yzerman, who is managing the Tampa Bay Lightning in, frankly, a way I think most people would love to see a hockey team run.
American teams in financial difficulty who will move to Winnipeg, Hamilton or Québec City
Phoenix Coyotes, Dallas Stars and Atlanta Thrashers.
Quick predictions that will bust in February:
Hart Trophy: Alexander Ovechkin
Art Ross Trophy: Alexander Ovechkin
Rocket Richard Trophy: Alexander Ovechkin
Norris Trophy: Drew Doughty
Vezina Trophy: Ryan Miller
Calder Trophy: PK Subban
Selke Trophy: Ryan Kesler
Jack Adams Award: Guy Boucher
Northwest Division: Vancouver
Pacific Division: San Jose
Central Division: Chicago
Northeast Division: Buffalo
Atlantic Division: Pittsburgh
Southeast Division: Washington
Presidents Trophy: Buffalo
Western darkhorse-but-not,-because-everybody-already-says-they're-a-darkhorse: St. Louis
Eastern darkhorse-but-not,-because-everybody-already-says-they're-a-darkhorse: Tampa Bay
Western Conference Champion: San Jose
Eastern Conference Champion: Boston
Stanley Cup Champion: THAT'S WHY THEY'RE PLAYING THE SERIES!!!!
Stanley Cup Champion, Take 2: Boston
Conn Smythe Trophy: Tuuka Rask
First fired coach:
Are you saying Boston may win the Stanley Cup and get the first overall pick?
That'd be really funny.
Statistics I will do my best to keep track of:
Player volatility: Essentially, the metric is used to calculate a player's gross plus/minus rather than his net plus/minus. If you ever wanted to know how many goals a player is on the ice for per 60 minutes of play, come to the 'Eh' Factor. The most useful function of the stat is to determine which players offer high-risk/high-reward type of play.
Deadlocked at zero in the second period and need to break open the game? Go to a player with high volatility. Need a late goal to tie? Go to a player with a high offensive volatility. Need to protect a lead? Look down your bench at the defenseman with the lowest goals against per 60.
Ice-time for bottom six forwards to wins ratio: This was the best metric I could think of that would determine whether fighting is important in the game or not.
Stupid things Pierre McGuire says: Tune into the 'Eh' Factor on Thursday mornings where we will break down the dumbest things Pierre McGuire has said that week.
Enjoy this season.