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XN Sports NHL Predictions 2014

With the NHL season drawing closer, XN’s NHL experts — Jimmy Murphy, Sean Hartnett, Michael Clifford and Pat Pickens offer their awards predictions for the 2014-15 NHL season.

Sindey Crosby

With the new NHL season drawing ever closer, our crack team of NHL experts — Jimmy Murphy, Sean Hartnett, Michael Clifford and Pat Pickens were asked to offer their awards predictions for the 2014-15 NHL season.

What did they agree on?

  • All four of our experts have Sidney Crosby capturing the Art Ross Trophy.
  • Three of our experts agree that Anze Kopitar will win the Selke Trophy.
  • Three of our experts have tipped Jonathan Drouin to take home the Calder Trophy.
  • Three of our experts think Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill will be named GM of the Year.
  • Two of our experts foresee Sergei Bobrovsky capturing a second career Vezina Trophy.
  • Two of our experts have Erik Karlsson winning a second career Norris Trophy.
  • Half of our experts are predicting Alex Ovechkin to hang on to the Rocket Richard Trophy, the other half have chosen Steven Stamkos.
  • Our experts were divided over who would win the Hart Trophy. Two picked Crosby and the other half believes Stamkos will earn his first career Hart Trophy.
  • Two of our experts have pegged the New Jersey Devils as a “dark horse,” the other half believe the Florida Panthers could emerge as a surprise team.
  • Two of our experts believe the Colorado Avalanche are in for a tough season.
  • Two of our experts picked the Chicago Blackhawks to lift Lord Stanley.
  • None of our experts have backed the Los Angeles Kings to repeat as Stanley Cup champs.

Without further adieu, here are the 2014-15 XN Sports staff NHL predictions. Enjoy and let the debate begin!

 

Sean Hartnett

  1. Stanley Cup Winner: Canadiens over Kings. The Habs came very close to making last year’s Cup Final. A strong case can be made that had Carey Price been healthy, Montreal would have defeated the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals. A strong youthful core that includes Price, P.K. Subban, Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk will have benefited from last year’s run.
  2. Presidents Trophy: The Penguins have a very strong chance of winning the Presidents Trophy as they appear to be the class of the Metropolitan Division. New head coach Mike Johnston will get the most out of the talented Pens through his uptempo, puck possession system.
  3. Hart Trophy: The introduction of Johnston’s system means that the Penguins will be playing with speed and Sidney Crosby will have more of the puck and greater opportunities to display his all-world vision and skill. It’s possible that a healthy Crosby could eclipse his career-high of 120 points in the upcoming season.
  4. Art Ross Trophy: Sidney Crosby.
  5. Vezina Trophy: Henrik Lundqvist had a rough start last season due to prolonged contract talks that stretched into December. Lundqvist showed last playoffs just how unbelievable he can be when the pressure is on. Expect “King Henrik” to reign supreme over all goalies in 2014-15.
  6. Norris Trophy: This award is always a subjective one. My gut tells me this could be Shea Weber‘s year.
  7. Selke Trophy: It’s been a few years since Pavel Datsyuk has won the Selke. If the Wings can squeeze into the playoffs, Datsyuk should win the award.
  8. Calder Trophy: Jonathan Drouin is going to be surrounded by talent on a very deep Lightning team. Even though a broken thumb injury will keep him sidelined for the start of the season, he’ll still be the favorite to win the Calder.
  9. Rocket Richard Trophy: Steven Stamkos.
  10. Jack Adams Award: Plenty of experts have predicted Mike Babcock’s Red Wings to miss the playoffs this season. I don’t see this happening. Detroit has enough talent and the right man behind the bench to sneak into the playoffs in a crowded East.
  11. GM of the Year: Steve Yzerman spent money wisely during the offseason. The Lightning GM was able to make some intelligent, cap-wise signings in penalty-killing ace Brian Boyle and underrated all-around defenseman Anton Stralman. Additionally, Yzerman took advantage of the Canucks’ salary cap mess by plucking Jason Garrison from Vancouver.
  12. Darkhorse: The Devils have a chance to win a ton of games with Cory Schneider coming in as the clear-cut no. 1 goalie. Forget about New Jersey’s dreadful 0-13 shootout record last season. The Devils would have been a playoff team last season had Schneider played a few more games over a declining Martin Brodeur.
  13. Disappointment team: The Bruins appear set to take a step back during the regular season. Both the Canadiens and Lightning have improved. The Bruins haven’t due to the salary cap crunch. Losing Jarome Iginla’s goal-getting and big body is going to hurt. Having re-signed Reilly Smith and Torey Krug, GM Peter Chiarelli will need to deal away a veteran defenseman to clear up cap space.

 

Michael Clifford

  1. Stanley Cup Winner: Chicago over Tampa Bay. The ‘Hawks were a game away from their third Cup Final appearance in five years, and got better in the offseason. If Ben Bishop can replicate his performance from last year, this Tampa Bay team looks to be among a small handful of contenders in the East.
  2. Presidents Trophy: Chicago Blackhawks. The West will be a dogfight for most of the year but Chicago seems to be a lock to be among the top two or three teams, so I’ll take my chances on them leading the NHL.
  3. Hart Trophy: Steven Stamkos. While Sidney Crosby is the natural pick, if he and Malkin are both healthy this year, they could cut into each other’s perception of value to their team. If Tampa Bay truly takes the next step as a team, it’ll be largely thanks to an MVP-quality season from Stamkos.
  4. Art Ross Trophy: Sidney Crosby. As long as Crosby can play 75 games, it seems pretty likely he wins the scoring title. The only thing that would prevent a scoring title is a recurrence of past health problems.
  5. Vezina Trophy: Sergei Bobrovsky. The Blue Jackets are a team trending in the right direction and Bobrovsky has been among the best for a couple of years now. With a solid season from the Jackets, Bobrovsky should statistically be among the best goalies in the league.
  6. Norris Trophy: Erik Karlsson. Just watching Karlsson play is a source of enjoyment. He’s so smooth through the neutral zone, breaks the puck out with ease, and racks points at a level that no other defenseman can come close to.
  7. Selke Trophy: Anze Kopitar. The runner-up for this trophy last year has been one of the best two-way forwards for years now. With the public perception finally caught up to the reality of how elite Los Angeles is, another playoff campaign should be enough for Kopitar to get his due.
  8. Calder Trophy: Jonathan Drouin. Though he will miss the first couple weeks of the season, Drouin will be in a position to succeed, something that few other elite rookies can say this year. There is skill for days in Drouin’s hands and feet, and that will push him to the top of the list.
  9. Rocket Richard Trophy: Alex Ovechkin. It will be a close race between he and Stamkos this year, but Ovechkin has won this trophy in four of the last seven years, so I’ll bank on the odds and take Ovechkin.
  10. Jack Adams Award: Todd Richards (Columbus). The Metro Division is a hot mess this year, and Columbus has as good a chance as any non-Pittsburgh team to win the division title. If that does indeed come to fruition, Richards will be in the Jack Adams conversation.
  11. GM of the Year: Jim Nill (Dallas). If the Stars perform like many expect them to, they could easily vault themselves into the top half-dozen in the West. A lot of this would be thanks to the offseason acquisitions of Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky.
  12. Darkhorse team: Florida Panthers. The Panthers were a team that weren’t bad possession-wise last year, and largely have just been without quality goaltending for a couple of years now. If Roberto Luongo can perform like he always has in the regular season, Florida could sneak in as a wild card team in the East.
  13. Disappointment team: Colorado Avalanche. While the top-six forwards are among the best in the NHL, there really isn’t a whole lot past them. The depth for Colorado is a glaring weakness, and they got worse in the offseason with the acquisitions of Danny Briere and Brad Stuart. Without another Vezina-caliber season from Semyon Varlamov, this team will struggle to get to the playoffs.

 

Pat Pickens

  1. Stanley Cup Winner: San Jose over Montreal. The Sharks became the fourth team in NHL history to blow a 3-0 lead in a playoff series. Of the previous three, only the 1976 Pittsburgh Penguins failed to win the Stanley Cup the next year. That trend will continue.
  2. Presidents’ Trophy: Chicago Blackhawks. The ‘Hawks are well-coached, and the addition of Brad Richards gives Chicago two remarkably scary scoring lines.
  3. Hart Trophy: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s been six seasons since the NHL’s had a repeat MVP winner, and there are some injury concerns surrounding the 27-year-old center, but logic says this is the pick.
  4. Art Ross Trophy: Crosby. Assuming Pascal Dupuis is back to full strength, Crosby is poised to have a monster year. Although Pittsburgh’s scoring lines are thinner with the departure of James Neal, its top line, Dupuis-Crosby-Chris Kunitz, is in tact for a full season.
  5. Vezina Trophy: Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens. Price has had a star-crossed career in Montreal, and the fans up there are restless to see him lead Les Habitantes to the promised land. If not for Chris Kreider, Price may have done so a year ago, and he won’t have the Olympics to wear him down as he did last year. This is Price’s year.
  6. Norris Trophy: Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings. It’s slightly stunning to me that Doughty hasn’t finished any higher than third in voting for this award, despite the fact he boasts an improving two-way game. I think this is the year No. 8 in silver and black finally gets some recognition.
  7. Selke Trophy: Anze Kopitar, Kings. Kopitar’s well-roundedness is finally coming to the forefront, as he finished second in Selke voting last year. The LA center will likely hold off Jonathan Toews and Patrice Bergeron this year to claim the first individual award of his nine-year career.
  8. Calder Trophy: Sam Bennett, Calgary Flames. Jonathan Drouin’s injuries scare me, and Flames head coach Bob Hartley proved last season he isn’t scared to keep junior players — read, Sean Monahan — on the big club. Central Scouting had Bennett as the top skating prospect leading up to this year’s draft — ahead of the three players taken ahead of him, including No. 1 overall pick Aaron Ekblad — and he’ll lead a resurgent Flames team that should surprise.
  9. Rocket Richard Trophy: Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning. The last time he played a full, 82-game season in the NHL, Stamkos scored 60. Last season, although he missed 45 games with a broken leg, he still managed to pot 25. The Lightning are a strong offensive team, and don’t be stunned if Stamkos sets a new career high for goals.
  10. Jack Adams Award: Bob Hartley, Flames. This is a team loaded with young centers and finally has a stalwart netminder in Jonas Hiller. Plus, Calgary plays hard for Hartley, and I think they will be a tough team to play against this season. Do I think the Flames will make the playoffs? Not in a million years, but I do think they’ll be closer than a lot expect.
  11. GM of the Year: Jim Nill, Dallas Stars. In two offseasons, Nill has made bold moves to turn the Stars from also-rans to one of the heavyweights in the Western Conference. If Nill can find a goaltender either to push or replace Kari Lehtonen, he’ll win this award in a landslide.
  12. Disappointment Team: Philadelphia. The Flyers were up against the salary cap this offseason, leaving them helpless to sign players, while every other team in the Metropolitan Division got better around them. They traded top-line winger and fan-favorite Scott Hartnell. They watched Kimmo Timonen suffer a catastrophic leg ailment, one from which he will likely never return. Plus, last year, they needed heroic efforts from Claude Giroux and Steve Mason simply to reach postseason. Both are likely to regress this season, leaving Philadelphia to finish outside postseason.
  13. Darkhorse: New Jersey. The Devils finished five points out of a playoff spot last season even after dealing with the Martin Brodeur-Cory Schneider distraction, losing all 13 shootouts in which they participated and scoring the fourth-fewest goals in the NHL. The addition of Mike Cammalleri and departure of Brodeur should fix some of that. I think New Jersey ends its two-year drought from postseason.

 

James Murphy

  1. Stanley Cup Winner: St. Louis Blues over Tampa Bay Lightning — The Blues finally shed the overrated or choke label and get to the promised land behind their brilliant rookie goalie Jake Allen and the most-balanced roster in the league.
  2. Presidents Trophy: St. Louis Blues — The Blues also beat the President’s Trophy jinx.
  3. Hart Trophy: Steven Stamkos — Stamkos comes back from his devastating injury last season to lead this rising squad to the finals for the first time since 2004.
  4. Art Ross Trophy: Sidney Crosby — The Penguins stay stuck in neutral but Crosby keeps racking up the points.
  5. Vezina Trophy: Jake Allen — Not much hoopla about this kid but there’s a reason the Blues didn’t target another veteran goalie after the failed Ryan Miller experiment. Allen is the real deal!
  6. Norris Trophy: Ryan Suter — Might be a Hart trophy candidate too when all is said and done with all the minutes he eats up. Suter is worth every cent of that monster deal he signed two summers ago.
  7. Selke Trophy: Anze Kopitar — With the EA NHL cover jinx hanging over Patrice Bergeron, Kopitar finally gets his due.
  8. Calder Trophy: Jake Allen — See above.
  9. Rocket Richard Trophy: Steven Stamkos — See above.
  10. Jack Adams Award: Barry Trotz — Trotz finds the magic touch for Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals and gets them not only back into the playoffs but to the Eastern Conference finals.
  11. GM of the Year: Brian MacLellan — Ridiculed for the Brooks Orpik signing, MacLellan and his revamped defense laugh all the way to the conference finals
  12. Darkhorse team: Washington Capitals — The Caps are back!
  13. Disappointment team: New York Rangers — Too many offseason losses and false expectations from their Cinderella run to the finals last season do the Blue Shirts in.
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