I got money
Here are 19 predictions you can take to the bank
Posted: Thursday October 4, 2007 2:03PM; Updated: Friday October 5, 2007 5:31PM
I was speaking to a woman after an exhibition game the other night about predictions. She wondered how anyone can know what's going to happen this season based on the scant evidence offered during the preseason.
"Simple," I replied. "When the hockey gods are whispering in your ear, all things are possible."
I think she bought it.
You've already had a glance at my big calls for the season. Here are 19 more predictions you can take to the bank. At least that's what the hockey gods are telling me.
1. The last-minute camp cut we'll be hearing from within a month: Chris Conner (Stars).
Despite the clear and present danger of being the league's lowest-scoring team, the Stars chose to keep three physical fourth-liners (Todd Fedoruk, Krys Barch and Brad Winchester) on one-way deals ahead of the player who led the team with nine preseason points. Conner, a 5-8, 180-pound winger who looked stronger and more confident in camp, is on a two-way deal that made him the obvious choice to send to Iowa of the AHL when Dallas cut down to the 23-man limit. But given the team's need for anyone whose hands don't turn to stone in the offensive end, Conner should be back in Big D and racking up the points before long.
2. The Paul Stastny of 2007-08: Brett Sterling (Thrashers)
Sterling doesn't have the all-around game of Stastny, the Colorado forward who emerged from deep in the pack to contend for the Calder Trophy last season. But the AHL Rookie of the Year (55 goals with the Chicago Wolves) last season, boasts the kind of offensive touch that's sure to put him in the Calder mix along with favorites Erik Johnson, Jonathan Toews and Nicklas Backstrom. Sterling will start the season on a line with Ilya Kovalchuk and Todd White, and should get a long look on the power play. If he keeps up his preseason scoring pace, no one will mind if he needs name tags to identify his own defensemen.
3. The I Wouldn't Trade For Him With Your Draft Picks Award: Nikolai Zherdev (Blue Jackets)
He went fourth overall in 2003, ahead of Thomas Vanek, Dion Phaneuf and a dozen more blue-chippers. Just four years later, Zherdev is an albatross around the neck of the Jackets, and the league's most frustrating cocktail of talent and non-performance. He was brutal in the preseason, further reducing whatever market might have existed for his services, so he's likely to be Ken Hitchcock's problem for the foreseeable future. The NHL is littered with reclamation projects, but Zherdev might be one player who won't get a second chance.
4. The player who'll generate more highlight reel moments than anyone not named Crosby: Vincent Lecavalier (Lightning)
It's going to be a long season in Tampa, where the Lightning will be in tough to grab a playoff spot. Fortunately for the faithful, the sublimely gifted Lecavalier will be worth the price of admission by himself. Look for the reigning Rocket Richard Trophy-winner to not only improve on last seasnn's totals -- 55 goals sounds about right -- but lead the league in those oh-so-close moments that force first-star performances out of opposing goaltenders.
5. Last season was a complete mirage: Bill Guerin (Islanders)
I chucked him onto the scrap heap prior to last season, in the wake of his 13-goal swan song with the Stars. But Big Bad Bill rediscovered his game with the Blues, scoring 36 goals and earning an All-Star berth for his efforts. An indication of a career that is back on the rails? Not a chance. The real Guerin is the one who not only went goalless in the playoffs with the Sharks, but bailed on the physical game that defined the best years of his career. He'll earn the C on his chest with his work in the room. Don't expect much on the scoreboard.