According to the hockey experts gathered by the NHL on TSN, the Stanley Cup champion is...tougher to pick than ever. In trying to get a consensus pre-season pick from a panel of 13 experts, seven different teams earned votes. The defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers, however, attracted the most attention, earning three votes each.
"I like the Pittsburgh Penguins," said Peter Laviolette. "There's a lot of good teams, very good teams, in the National Hockey League, but the Penguins have the two best players in hockey in (Sidney) Crosby and (Evgeny) Malkin."
Ray Ferraro picked the Flyers to beat the Vancouver Canucks for the Stanley Cup, and Pierre McGuire agreed.
"I think Philadelphia is bang on the mark because of their depth," McGuire said in support of Ferraro's pick. "Vancouver, I think they are the real deal and I think they will come out of the West."
Bob McKenzie, however, thought Detroit would complete unfinished business after falling to the Penguins in the 2009 Final. He predicted the Wings would win this year, topping the Flyers.
"I think the Pittsburgh Penguins might suffer the hangover for the Stanley Cup celebrations, and I think Detroit's hungry," McKenzie said.
James Duthie picked the Chicago Blackhawks to win the Cup, while Craig MacTavish gave the nod to the San Jose Sharks.
As for the regular season, the Boston Bruins and the San Jose Sharks were the consensus picks for conference titles.
A couple of teams, however, were singled out as having the potential to have better seasons than the panel predicted.
"I think Florida might be a team that's poised for an advancement," said MacTavish. "Playing against them last year, they were a completely different team that what we've seen out of the Florida teams in the past. They were really an attacking team, they played the game with a lot of energy. I give Pete DeBoer a lot of credit for instituting that system with them… They've got a lot of really good young players and I feel that they might be poised for a move up."
Laviolette said he thought the Tampa Bay Lightning would be better than the 13th spot pegged by the panel.
"Tampa Bay has got good goaltending in Mike Smith if he can be healthy," said Laviolette. "They've beefed up their defence, they've got plenty of offensive firepower with the likes of (Vincent) Lecavalier and (Martin) St-Louis. Look for Steven Stamkos to have a bigger year. I think Tampa Bay could challenge for a playoff position."
Although Laviolette said he thought the Calgary Flames would beat out the Canucks for the Northwest Division title, the Canadian team earning the highest marks from the panel was Vancouver, picked to finish second in the Western Conference. MacTavish said Daniel and Henrik Sedin would take another step and put Vancouver over the top.
"A genetic experiment gone great," MacTavish said of the Sedins. "They cloned a couple of beautiful hockey players in Sweden in Daniel and Henrik Sedin. They play like triplets a lot of nights, they way they support one another. They're going to be fantastic again."
MacTavish also said that the Los Angeles Kings could be a surprise.
"LA intrigues me. It's been an interesting managerial job by Dean Lombardi," MacTavish said. "They've sat in the weeds in my mind for the last number of years accumulating a bunch of assets, but now it's time to push it forward."
NHL on TSN Consensus Standings
1. Boston Bruins (NE)
2. Washington (SE)
3. Philadelphia Flyers (ATL)
4. Pittsburgh Penguins
5. Carolina Hurricanes
6. New Jersey Devils
7. New York Rangers
8. Montreal Canadiens
9. Toronto Maple Leafs
10. Ottawa Senators
11. Buffalo Sabres
12. Florida Panthers
13. Tampa Bay Lightning
14. Atlanta Thrashers
15. New York Islanders
1. San Jose Sharks (PAC)
2. Vancouver Canucks (NW)
3. Detroit Red Wings (CEN)
4. Chicago Blackhawks
5. Calgary Flames
6. Anaheim Ducks
7. St. Louis Blues
8. Los Angeles Kings
9. Dallas Stars
10. Columbus Blue Jackets
11. Edmonton Oilers
12. Nashville Predators
13. Minnesota Wild
14. Phoenix Coyotes
15. Colorado Avalanche
Hart Trophy – Alexander Ovechkin
Rocket Richard Trophy – Alexander Ovechkin
Art Ross Trophy – Evgeny Malkin
Vezina Trophy – Roberto Luongo
Norris Trophy – Chris Pronger and Zdeno Chara
Calder Trophy – Victor Hedman