I made my predictions for the 2019-20 NHL season yesterday. Use them to place your futures bets and thank me later. Now it’s time for some more spicy takes. Here are ten bold predictions for the upcoming year:
1. The Ottawa Senators won’t be THAT bad
The Senators are going to be back but everyone is predicting them to finish at the bottom of the standings for the second consecutive season. I don’t see it. Between Thomas Chabot and Erik Brannstrom, the team has the makings of a very exciting blueline. Add to that the fact that Brady Tkachuk is a legitimate star in the making and there is a decent core to build around. New head coach D.J. Smith won a Memorial Cup with the Oshawa Generals by using lesser-skilled players to play a low-event system that slows everything down - they were able to shut down a team with Connor McDavid, Dylan Strome and Alex Debrincat in the OHL finals. Smith might be able to do the same thing this year and the Sens will win enough games to finish outside of the bottom-3 in the East.
2. Clayton Keller is going to produce at a nearly point per game pace
When he signed a huge $57.2m extension this summer, Keller will become the focal point of a Coyotes offense that should be drastically improved this season. Arizona finished in the bottom-5 for goals scored last season due to a number of factors - not the least of which was being decimated by injuries. With Nick Schmaltz and Phil Kessel riding shot gun this season, we are going to finally see the potential Keller has. After scoring 65 points as a rookie two seasons ago, Keller is going to get up near 80 this year.
3. Cale Makar and Miro Heiskanen will be the two best players from the 2017 Entry Draft - yes that includes Elias Pettersson
Pettersson is good, Makar and Heiskanen will be better. There’s not much more to it.
4. The Buffalo Sabres will make a huge splash by trading for Taylor Hall at the deadline
Taylor Hall is set to be the biggest name on the free agent market next summer. It’s likely that the Devils would like to get him re-signed but with Darren Farris (the same agent as Mitch Marner) at the helm, the odds are good that Hall hits the open market in an attempt to sign a record contract. The Devils will be better this season but they are still likely to fins themselves as sellers at the deadline. They’ll look to swing a blockbuster for a huge haul (pun very much intended).
Buffalo is a team that is starving for a playoff birth. With Jack Eichel and Rasmus Dahlin in tow, the re-build has to take a big step forward this season. We know their ownership isn’t afraid to make a splashy move and this will be it.
5. The Boston Bruins will miss the playoffs
This is a lineup that is aging and has a lot of miles on their bodies. Add to that the fact that they’re in one of the best divisions in the league and the Bruins are going to fall below both Florida and Buffalo in the Atlantic standings.
6. John Tortorella will be fired before Christmas
The Columbus Blue Jackets are going to be really bad this season. That’s not exactly the best situation for Torts and his volatile personality. He’ll be the first coach to be fired this season and it will come by early December.
7. Semyon Varlamov won’t get injured this season
For Avalanche fans, this might be the craziest of them all. Varlamov has a lower body that simply isn’t conducive to a full NHL season. It’s the reason Colorado traded for Philipp Grubauer and the reason Joe Sakic decided to move on from Varly this summer. That said, I just have this weird feeling that he’s going to stay healthy this season and he’ll look really good playing in the Barry Trotz system.
8. The Seattle franchise will announce their name as the Totems and NHL fans will freak out when their jerseys aren't green
The new franchise has their GM and they made big news last week when they hired hockey legend Cammi Granato as a member of the front office. Now, as the team starts to build towards the expansion draft, the next step is to announce a name. Totems is the front-runner at this point. Everyone assumes the jerseys will be green given the colours of the other sports franchises (past and present) in Seattle. The NHL team is going to be red and black - you can take that to the bank.
At nearly every press conference the franchise has had kids present wearing Washington Wild jerseys - that isn’t an accident. The NHL franchise is going to adopt the red, white and black colour scheme to pay homage to a hockey organization that has a lot of history in the region.
9. The Florida Panthers will be the only team in the league to have a winning streak of 10 games or more
Joel Quenneville is the best coach in the NHL - and I’m not sure the second best is particularly close. When the Panthers talked him out of retirement, they were making a move that w ill have a bigger impact than any on-ice acquisition. With Barkov, Dadonov and Huberdeau up front, this is a very talented team that can win a lot of games. It might take a while for the Panthers to get comfortable with the new system but once they do, things could get interesting in the Atlantic. I expect the Panthers to flounder around .500 for the first few months of the season before they rattle off a huge winning streak in January.
10. The general public will finally get tired of Gritty
Gritty was a fun departure from the norm when the Flyers introduced him last year but he jumped the shark a long time ago.