Each week, The Reporters put their thumbs out to the good and the bad in the world of sports. But this time around, the panelists become prognosticators and make their picks for the 2012 Stanley Cup champion.
Bruce Arthur, National Post: My thumb is up to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the team I'm picking to win the Stanley Cup; Partly with my heart and partly despite Sidney Crosby's head. This team produced at a 94-point clip without Crosby or the injured Evgeni Malkin last season. In the playoffs, they stretched the Tampa Bay Lightning to seven games and lost a coin flip. I think - or I'd like to think - that this year Malkin roars again, Crosby comes back as more than a shadow of himself, and one of the great comeback seasons in hockey is written.
Dave Naylor, TSN: My thumb is up to the Los Angeles Kings whose time will finally arrive this season, low these many years after they joined the NHL back in 1967 - a year that should ring familiar to fans of another long-suffering team. The Kings may have blazed the trail into the NHL's sunbelt back in the 1960s, but their fans have been forced to wait and watch - while sunny Stanley Cups have been raised in Carolina, Tampa, Dallas and even neighboUring Anaheim. Now with Dew Doughty back in the fold to join a young core that includes Jack Johnson, Anze Kopitar and what should be a highly motivated Mike Richards, the stage is set for the first LaLa land Stanley Cup.
Michael Farber, Sports Illustrated: My thumb is up to your 2012 Stanley Cup champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins. As entertaining as the Penguins are, they are more than hockey eye-candy. They've been there - won that. When healthy, of course, Pittsburgh has no apparent weaknesses. Sidney Crosby and the resurgent Evgeni Malkin should score a passel of goals. Yes, I'm guessing Crosby will be full bore by the playoffs, and potential Norris finalist Kris Letang is part of the Conference's most impressive group of defencemen. Life might get in the way, but the Cup could find a home in the 'Burgh for much of this decade.
Dave Hodge, TSN: Thumbs up to the Stanley Cup champion San Jose Sharks, and hearing myself say that I just know I'm going to be right. I 'm just not sure what year it'll be when I'm right. But I'll take a chance on 2012. I like the big changes the Sharks have made, bringing in Brent Burns and Marty Havlat and Michael Handzus. They've knocked on the door often enough to keep trying with what they had, but that wouldn't have inspired confidence in me, or in them, or in anybody else. This seems like the year to make it happen for San Jose.