It may only be October, but this very week is the most wonderful time of the year. While everyone is chatting about the leaves changing and they’re busy Instagramming their first Pumpkin spiced latte of the fall season, I’m blasting Every Time I Die’s Low Teens for the third time today and getting pumped for the first week of the 2017 NHL season, so let’s get going!
This column is dedicated to bringing our fellow, hockey-loving metalheads breaking news and highlights during the upcoming season as well as predictions, players on the rise/decline, and who to add to and drop from your fantasy team when you’re bit by the injury bug.
For most of you, the writers of this column are two completely new faces, so allow me to introduce ourselves. My name is Vincent Romanelli, I play bass for a band called Moon Tooth, and writing with me is Scott Acquavella guitarist and vocalist of Cryptodira. We are just two homies from Long Island who have a deep love for heavy ass music and nerd out on everything NHL.
As I sit here strategically planning every fantasy move, gathering information on all my favorite teams and players, and weighing veterans against up and coming superstars, I ponder — who will take home the Cup?
Starting with our friends in the West, let’s break down some regular season predictions, starting with the Western Conference.
Pacific: California Love
The Anaheim Mighty Ducks will find themselves right at the top of the Pacific Division. Superstars Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry will turn it on again this year, continuing to be an offensive powerhouse fueled by veteran presence. With Sami “The Batman” Vatanen and Ryan Kesler on the power play, the Ducks won’t have trouble finding ways to put the puck in net. Goaltender John Gibson will be the man in net, finally solidified in the starting role. Gibson is a young star who will be a brick wall for Anaheim, pushing them to first place and into the postseason.
Top 3: Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings
Central: Nashville Smashville
I have a strong feeling in my gut that the Predators will find themselves on top of the bracket in the Central division. A force is pulling me onto the Preds bandwagon. I can’t tell if it’s my growing love for the city or P.K. Subban’s new black cowboy hat, but since fun has apparently been outlawed in Montreal, P.K. has brought his much needed energy to Smashville. This team is no longer Pekka Rinne and company. With the acquisition of major players in recent years (Ryan Johansen, James Neal, P.K. Subban) the Preds have become competitors in the most talented division in the NHL. As long as Pekka stays healthy this season, the Predators will grind their way to the top.
Top 3: Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues, Chicago Blackhawks
Western Conference Wild Cards: (1) Dallas Stars, (2) Minnesota Wild
West Coast Sleeper: The Colorado Avalanche. After struggling last season, they are my bounce back team; Colorado oozes with young talent and promise. With Nathan Mackinnon, Matt Duchene, and Gabriel Landeskog leading on the top line the possibilities are endless. Veteran Mother Russia goaltender Semyon Varlamov in net and back up Calvin Pickard will be sharing time between the pipes, and some friendly competition will keep them playing hard for more ice time down the stretch. Going 6-0 in the preseason, this is a team to watch over your shoulders for in the West.
And over to the Eastern Conference!
Metropolitan: D.C. On Top
While the Caps won’t repeat last year’s President’s Trophy-winning season, the dynamic duo of Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom should push them to the top of the Metro again with the Vezina Trophy-winning Brayden Holtby in the cage. The defending Stanley Cup champions will likely drop to the second spot, especially given the recent news that Sid the Kid is injured with yet another concussion (yikes!). While the Caps playoff choke-artistry has plagued them throughout the Ovechkin era, I do foresee yet another strong regular season from them. With the Caps and Pens taking seeds one and two respectively, I believe right behind them will be another set of rivals in the Islanders and Rangers battling it out in cold blood for the third spot in the Metro, with the other dropping to a wild card spot.
Top 3: Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Islanders
Atlantic: Lightning Strikes Again
Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman shocked the hockey world in late June when his star player, Steven Stamkos, seemed all but set to test the free agency market, but some late negotiation table magic brought the 2008 first overall pick on board for eight more years. A healthy Stamkos, along with the bridge-deal signing of fellow sniper Nikita Kucherov, makes Tampa the strongest team in the Atlantic. The high-flying Panthers will again be in the mix, this time swapping finishing spots with their cross state rivals, but some early injury issues could get them off to a slow start. Behind them in the third spot, I see the Montreal Canadiens with the added offensive flare brought by the ever-controversial Alexander Radulov, but only on the condition that the almighty Carey Price stays healthy. It will take a few years of Shea Weber aging to see the harsh effects of the devastating P.K. Subban trade, so I will give the Habs the third spot in a weak Atlantic division.
Top 3: Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens
Eastern Conference Wild Cards: (1) New York Rangers, (2) Philadelphia Flyers
East Coast Sleeper: The New Jersey Devils. To put it bluntly, the Devils are pretty bad, but if there’s anything that can push a lackluster team further than they should go, it’s a goaltender standing on their head. New Jersey has one of the best netminders in the business with Cory Schneider between the pipes, and last year he demonstrated his ability to put his team on his back when the Devils came dangerously close to squeezing into the final wild card spot, only to return to the bottom of the division. A seismic off-season trade sent promising young defenseman Adam Larsson to Edmonton for the dynamic Taylor Hall which will provide a tremendous offensive boost that the Devils have been so desperate for. Combine all of this with the last minute waiver-wire pickup of P.A. Parenteau, and the Devils could turn some heads if Philly or either of the New York squads take their foot off the gas and slip.