NHL preview 2010-11

It has been 119 days since that jubilant June evening when the Stanley Cup was last awarded. The concealed nature of Patrick Kane’s game-winning goal discreetly won the Cup for the Chicago Blackhawks. Since then, many NHL teams have undergone dramatic changes, including the champions themselves.

It’s a little too windy in Chicago. The Great Lake breeze sweeps away titles and this year’s Blackhawks will not repeat as Cup winners.

While Kane is there to stay and the team still boasts an enviable core of young stars, sending off players that were so effective in their postseason run will put a damper on their winning ways. Antti Niemi, a starting goaltender who singlehandedly won several playoff games and Dustin Byfuglien, who had the tendency of scoring game-winning goals, are the primary examples of dispatched key contributors.

This year’s Stanley Cup champions are located in a more convivial climate and unlike the Blackhawks, have maintained all the players that gave the club success last season.

Cue the outcry from fans of the Vancouver Canucks. Acting as the only realistic contender of the small collection of Canadian clubs, this team will win many of their 82 regular season games as well as their division. A talented offense will be led by the most skilfully intimidating twins in sports, the Sedins.

The extent of potential accomplishment for the Flames, Oilers and other Canadian teams is overly dependent on the occurrence of recently underperforming or untested players rising above expectations.

Montreal’s official starting goalie Carey Price is a microcosm of the situation, whose consistently mediocre play over the past two seasons has yielded him only a single shutout and a subpar save percentage. He parties pretty hard though.

One other Canadian team will join the Canucks in the postseason, which many readers will want to refute: they play at the Air Canada Centre. The Blue and White are going to slip into a lower-level playoff spot with an over-performing offence and a revived defence.

A sanguine statement perhaps, but one presented by a lifelong Torontonian. At least I’m not promoting them as a serious contender.

However, this year’s Cup champions come from the Western Conference. While the high scoring, high flying Capitals and Penguins cannot be ignored, this cup-winner is faster improving and better-rounded.

The team I speak so highly of is the Los Angeles Kings, an organization that has steadily progressed over the past few years into a club with strength at all positions. Based around sharpshooter Anze Kopitar and gift from the hockey deities Drew Doughty, who seems cheaper than a drink at Phil’s when comparing his salary to his talent.

Several years ago I wrote a similar piece in which I predicted the Detroit Red Wings to win the Cup. It was a typical selection made just preceding the playoffs and the Wings lost in the first round.

This just gives me additional confidence in my Kings prediction. What are the chances that an incorrect pick of mine is publicized, in print, twice? Impossible.

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