Western Conference Champion: Blues over Blackhawks
Stanley Cup Champion: Blues over Senators
Flyers Finish: 4th in Metropolitan Division, 7th in Eastern Conference
The Flyers have made some improvements this offseason and have cleared out some distractions (read: Ilya Bryzgalov). They still have to prove that their defensive corps can stay healthy and is strong enough to contend. They're going to need the young guys, in particular Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier, to step up and be major contributors.
I wavered between the Senators and Bruins to beat the Red Wings but went with Ottawa as a change of pace. Jason Spezza and Bobby Ryan could be a lethal combination. The Blues have strengthened their squad over the offseason and I think they could be one of the few teams with the firepower to take down the Blackhawks. I went with the Blues because I couldn't pick the 'hawks again so, St. Louis and Ottawa in the Finals. I think St. Louis has the better team and former-Flyers' coach Ken Hitchcock gets his second Stanley Cup.
Western Conference Champion: Kings over Blackhawks
Stanley Cup Champion: Red Wings over Kings
Flyers Finish: 3rd in Metropolitan Division, 7th in Eastern Conference
We need to see improvement across the board from the 2012 Flyers team. The defense didn't hold up, the goaltending was less than sub-par, and the offense struggled at time to score. I'm looking for Giroux and Hartnell to have stellar years, and Simmonds to wreak havoc in front of the net. Goalies Steve Mason and Ray Emery have to battle for a starting spot, which I think should go to Mason, and he will need to show consistency to get the Flyers faithful to trust him.
The Kings are going to be back after a cup hangover during the long offseason due to the 2011 lockout. I think Jeff Carter is set for a breakout year, with many other top players around him. The cruise through the regular season and for the most part handle their business in the playoffs. However, they run into a very hot Detroit team in the cup finals. Detroit will start slow, and will need a lot of production from their 2nd line, especially Johan Franzen, to reach their potential.
I"m just happy for a full season of hockey action, yo.
Western Conference Champion: Blackhawks over Blues
Stanley Cup Champion: Red Wings over Blackhawks
Flyers Finish: 4th in Metropolitan Division, 8th in Eastern Conference
Talk about deja vu, but it comes down once again to goal tending as well as defense for the key to success for the Flyers this season. Ray Emery and Steve Mason are definite upgrades from last year's train wreck of a goalie unit. Bryz is gone and spirits are much higher going into this year than last year. The addition of Vincent LeCavalier should prove to be a very smart decision on Holmgren's part even though it's not the most popular off season addition cap-wise in the NHL this year. Also look for a reportedly beefed up (if that's possible) Sean Couturier to have a big year.
My Stanley Cup prediction will certainly be an exciting one. The Blackhawks are still primed to make another cup run. (My pick, like Mike's has the Red Wings winning, but the prime-time match up is solely based on me, the viewer.) This time, with realignment, they have the chance to go up against their most hated rival in the Finals. A lot of NHL "experts" are leaning towards the Bruins or the Kings, but just don't see them capturing the same magic they had in their respective cup winning years. It's going to be an exciting season, a full 82 games, and a bunch of wacky outdoor match ups. It's time to drop the puck on the 2013-2014 season.