1. Washington--terrific team in relatively weak division, due for a serious regression in shooting luck.
2. Pittsburgh--best East team in a much stronger division, with Malkin due for a bounce-back.
3. New Jersey--strong team in tough division (seeded 4) and should still be strong in the regular season.
4. Boston--best team in a middling division (seeded 3) due for a season closer to 2008-2009 than 2009-2010.
5. Philadelphia--another elite team in the Atlantic. They're just a bit more inconsistent than the two teams I ranked ahead of them
6. Ottawa--they got in as the 5th seed with some poor luck with regards to defense and goaltending. They'll make the dance again, just barely missing out on their favorite Antarctic dance partner.
7. Tampa Bay--I like the changes Yzerman has made. The Lightning are improved at all positions.
8. Montreal--A more Caps fan would write "FML" here. Anyways, here's what you need to know.
9. Atlanta--they're taking steps in the right direction, and while they lack stars, they do have good depth everywhere.
10. New York Rangers--they won't miss by a shootout, but I don't think they have it in 'em, to be honest. If any of Gaborik, Staal, and Lundqvist goes down for more than 10 games, they're done.
11. Toronto--early reports lead me to guess Nazem Kadri won't make the Leafs this year. That's a huge blow, considering they're already thin at center. Unlike the Caps, they don't have stud wingers to compensate.
12. New York Islanders--they're almost a playoff team on paper, but paper rosters don't show that Mark Streit is injured for six months. Or I guess they do. Whatever, he's a top-15 defenseman and hurt for a long time. Ouch.
13. Carolina--they're kind of rebuilding. Youth has growing pains.
14. Buffalo--yeah, I'm radical. They go as Miller goes. This season...not as good. Only a certain trade from Florida keeps them out of the basement.
15. Florida--no surprise here. They're rebuilding and I think will trade Vokoun.
Washington over Montreal--since John Carlson > PK Subban
Pittsburgh over Tampa Bay--sorry, Steven.
Ottawa over Boston--Ottawa is a really unstable team. So they could get swept or sweep here easily.
Philadelphia over New Jersey--tough forechecking forwards make it tough on defenses, let alone defenses without puck movers (sorry, Andy Greene)
Washington over Ottawa--Washington has talented shooters that can expose Ottawa's goalies.
Pittsburgh over Philadelphia--this will be a fun series, won't it? I like what Shero does at the deadline and whatever he does then will put the Pens over the top.
Pittsburgh over Washington--2C and 3C and 6D who is top-4 good are an awful lot of important holes to fill.*
1. Nashville--that cat in their logo ate the box I'm supposed to think inside of! In seriousness, they're really good, with depth and balance at all positions.
2. Vancouver--see Washington.
3. San Jose--they're always really good, and their power vs power strategy seems to be paying dividends.
4. Detroit--man, the West is tough this year!
5. Los Angeles--they're deep and balanced at all positions as well.
6. Chicago--see Detroit.
7. St. Louis--I expect Pietrangelo to make a huge difference.
8. Columbus--Yep, Steve Mason and his Central boys just pwned your favorite division.
9. Phoenix--they had great luck with Ilya Bryzgalov and shootouts. That's unlikely to continue.
10. Anaheim--thanks to these guys, I now see that Bobby Ryan is actually amazing, and a 1-2 punch of Getzlaf-Ryan down the middle will be lethal. I'm on the optimistic side of Cam Fowler, expecting him to fill in for retired Scott Niedermayer on the power play and Hiller to have a better season.
11. Edmonton--Ales Hemsky will be back and they added Taylor Hall and Magnus Paajarvi, who I pick to win the Calder Trophy. Consider that they were the most injured team last year, and I think it's safe to say they'll be a lot better.
12. Colorado--Anderson will likely take a step back and they just lost Mueller too. The Corsis will catch up to 'em.
13. Dallas--What's that? You regret passing on an immediate contributor in Cam Fowler for someone who might make an impact in, at best, three years in Jack Campbell? Color me surprised. Oh, and Brad Richards is good, but not 91 points-good.
14. Minnesota--losing Josh Harding is killer, as Niklas Backstrom isn't great in a non-Lemaire system and the Wild don't have those wild forwards who can run-and-gun like Todd Richards wants. At least Havlat can be healthier.
15. Calgary--will someone fire Darryl Sutter now? Seriously, I feel bad for Flames fans. The Flames' only source of oxygen is Miikka Kiprusoff's aging pads, as Jay Bouwmeester, Matt Stajan, and Steve Staios's contracts slowly suck that oxygen away.
Nashville over Columbus--Rick Nashville stars along with Shea Weber's cat-jacketed cannon. Both play pekk-a rat-mason on the internet, which I guess means they're pecking for e-rats. I think music city Suters our interests here. (You're welcome for omitting the Horny pun)
Vancouver over St. Louis--Vancouver keeps winning until they face Chicago. That's the rule.
San Jose over Chicago--revenge is sweet, and so is victimizing the Hawks' lower lines now that they aren't lined with stud two-way forwards.
Los Angeles over Detroit--Detroit has one D, Drew Doughty has two. Two D's back to back make a puck that will end up behind Jimmy Howard in overtime of Game 7.
Los Angeles over Nashville--I think Lombardi makes a move at the deadline that ends up putting his team over the top here. Too much center depth for LAK.
San Jose over Vancouver--rules are made to be broken, and San Jose can keep the Sedins in
Los Angeles over San Jose--Antti Niemi is about to meet his worst nightmares--Wayne Simmonds, Ryan Smyth, and lots of penalties to kill. Dustin Brown and Alexei Ponikarovsky will shine here and dominate the Sharks.
Pittsburgh over Los Angeles--the young Pittsburgh squad will teach younger LA how to win (and all those puck moving D negate the effects of LA's penalty-drawing forwards). Some Caps fans likely contemplate suicide before a big free-agent signing saves them. Guys, Phillips is spelled with two L's.
*subject to change without notice