It's that terrible, terrible time of year. There's about a month to go until NHL players find their way back to their teams and training camps start and the lack of real hockey news has a lot of us searching for the meaning of life and trying our best just to get out of bed every day.
Okay, it's not that bad. But sometimes it feels like it is.
Since there is such a lack of big hockey news to write about, I decided to go ahead and do something that is both fun and futile which many hockey bloggers do to pass the time during the summer. I'm going to make a bunch of predictions about next season. These predictions will vary in their boldness, and will all probably be wrong. However, they're my opinions and I'd like to express them and see what y'all have to say.
Here's how this is going to work. I'm going to write 10 predictions, five will be about the Stars and five will be about the league in general.
Let's start with our beloved Dallas Stars:
1. The Stars leave the All-Star Break with Jack Campbell as their backup goaltender.
This is going to be a weird season for goaltending in the Dallas Stars organization. With all the options they have for the season, I'm thinking Jack picks up right where he left off last year and becomes one of the most dominant AHL goaltenders through the first half of the season. On top of that, Jussi Rynnas will beat Anders Lindback for the backup job out of the gate, and the Stars won't have much faith in the latter goalie. If Kari goes down for any more than 3 games at once, Campbell will come up and steal the backup job, going 1A, 1B with Rynnas until Lehtonen is ready to come back.
2. Ryan Garbutt scores 10 goals.
We all love Ryan Garbutt. He's a hard nosed player who never quits on a play and has hustled non-stop since he first stepped on the ice in that hideous black #60 jersey. He'll continue to be an effective checking winger, but the Stars now have a legitimate second line which will take away from both his minutes and scoring opportunities. With the Garbutt-Eakin-Roussel line moving back into a more traditional 3rd line role, he won't have the same opportunity to put up points.
3. Curtis McKenzie gets the first extended call-up of forwards. Brett Ritchie takes another year to mature. Scott Glennie becomes a regular by season's end.
We're also all very high on Brett Ritchie's potential in the NHL. Because of this, a lot of Stars fans (myself included) are salivating at the prospect of seeing him play in the big league this season. However, Jim Nill will take the more classic Detroit approach and let Ritchie simmer in the AHL, where he'll begin to dominate by season's end. McKenzie, on the other hand, is older and more physically ready for the NHL. He showed that, in the right situation, he can put up points. He'll be called up to play a bunch of games in a depth role and then sent back down. Scott Glennie will finally show his worth and force the Stars to keep him on the 4th line for the second half of the season.
4. Patrick Eaves plays 15 games.
Eaves was a depth signing at best and the Stars already have somewhat of a logjam going in their bottom six. There won't be room to add him in and he'll only play the odd game when someone has to sit out or needs to be scratched for motivation.
5. Tyler Seguin scores 40 goals, both he and Jamie Benn hit 90 points.
This isn't as bold as it may seem at first. Both are young and only getting better and, on top of that, will have a lot more room to maneuver since teams will have to split up their matchups between the first and second lines.
1. The Columbus Bluejackets finish as the 5th seed in the East and lose in game 7 of the second round.
This is just a gut feeling. I love how Columbus plays. They play a gritty, hard working game from top to bottom and they compete really hard. They have a great home crowd which I do believe gives them an advantage. Sergei Bobrovsky will have a great campaign, Johansen will sign and score 30 again, and their kids will grow another year older. They'll be one of the most dangerous teams in the league.
2. Alex Ovechkin scores 50 goals again, not all from the same spot, and reminds everyone that he should be in the conversation for best player in the game. He will also commit to a bit of defense.
Ovi had a tough year last season despite his 50 goals. He was constantly ripped apart in the media for his +/- and he seemed extremely sheltered. Now that he has a real coach to work with, he'll work on his defensive game and this will help his offense. He'll score 50 from all over the ice and go back to the days where his creativity, rather than just his one-timer, made him deadly.
3. Neither Calgary nor Edmonton will finish last. It'll be Phoenix.
Despite all the hate they get, both the Flames and Oilers will be decent teams. They'll both finish higher than Phoenix, Nashville, and Winnipeg. Both teams have a lot of young, highly skilled players and Scrivens and Hiller will win them a lot of games.
4. Johnny Gaudreau will score 60 points and run away with the Calder Trophy for best rookie.
Johnny Gaudreau has done nothing but light poor goaltenders up for the last few years. He's a big reason I believe the Flames won't be a complete joke next season. He's got a ton of skill and, while he's tiny, he's slippery as hell and great at finding openings. I hate the guy, but he deserves his nickname "Johnny Hockey".
5. The San Jose Sharks will win the Stanley Cup.
GASP!!!! This is definitely the boldest prediction I've made in a while, because the Sharks are known chokers. They'll have a fire under their butts this season and, with Niemi or not, they'll win the Stanley cup. Their center depth is unrivaled and Logan Couture will really break out and become one of the league's best all around forwards. Tomas Hertl will score 50 points and be a big time player come playoff time, and they'll barely make it out of the Western Conference and win in the final round.