Nash, Datsyuk, Gaborik to have Career Years in 2011-2012?

With the start of the NHL regular season approaching rapidly, much speculation has been doled out regarding what’s to come in the year ahead. While predicting the future is impossible, that’s exactly what I’ve set out to do in answering many of those questions. Here are 30 predictions that I expect to see fulfilled by season’s end:

Rick Nash Evgeni Malkin Penguins Blue Jackets

Will Rick Nash top 40 goals again? (Icon SMI)

1. With Jeff Carter as his center, Rick Nash sets a career high in assists with 45+ and reaches the 40 goal mark for the 3rd time in his career.

2. Fresh off of surgery, Tuukka Rask returns to form and reclaims the starting spot in Boston as Tim Thomas falls from his record numbers of the previous year.

3. While Brad Richards’ goal scoring numbers stay consistent with the rest of his career, his assist production makes a marked increase as linemate Marian Gaborik avoids injury and tops 40 goals for the 3rd time in his career.

4. With the acquisition of veteran goaltender Tomas Vokoun and continued development of youngster Michael Neuvirth, the Capitals ride their goalie tandem to the Eastern Conference Finals.

5. After being traded to Minnesota, Dany Heatley fails to put up more than 60 points and stays below 25 goals.

6. Directly related to #5, Martin Havlat, recently traded from Minnesota, has the best season of his career playing in his new San Jose home.

7. Pavel Datsyuk continues where he left off and puts forth a season that wins him the NHL MVP.

8. After an impressive goal scoring season, Steven Stamkos hits a slump, despite linemate Martin St. Louis putting up similar numbers to the year before.

9. Sidney Crosby returns shortly after season’s start but puts up timid numbers in comparison to years past.

10. Stuck centering the 2nd line, Mike Richards has a similar year to the previous one, putting up around 20 goals and 40 assists.

11. Anaheim DucksCorey Perry & Lubomir Visnovsky put forward less impressive seasons and the Ducks fail to make the playoffs.

12. Ilya Bryzgalov struggles through the 1st quarter of the season but his competitive nature takes control as Sergei Bobrovsky challenges for starting position. He then backstops the Flyers deep into the playoffs.

13. Dallas has an unimpressive season and finishes in the bottom 3 of the Western Conference.

14. Steve Mason recovers from 2 unimpressive seasons, returning to his Calder Trophy form and the Blue Jackets make it past the first round of the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

15. James Neal has the best season of his short career after playing a full season in Pittsburgh.

16. Phoenix has a woeful season and promising defensemen Keith Yandle folds under pressure. The Coyotes finish last in the West.

17. Edmonton doesn’t finish last in the league. That place belongs to the Ottawa Senators.

18. Ilya Kovalchuk has a more well rounded year under less pressure with the return of Zach Parise, but those factors are not enough to overcome problematic goaltending and the Devils miss the playoffs again.

Corey Crawford Chicago Blackhawks Goalie

Can Corey Crawford avoid the sophomore slump? (BridgetDS/Flickr)

19. Corey Crawford gets a serious case of the sophomore slump disease, Patrick Kane struggles with wrist problems, and Chicago holds it’s breath as the team struggles to make the playoffs once again.

20. Colorado & St. Louis both have better seasons and fight for the playoffs, one making it and the other not.

21. The Kings make it to the Western Conference finals, Jonathan Quick is a Vezina Trophy finalist.

22. Nicklas Lidstrom puts forth decent numbers in what will be his final season in the NHL.

23. Pittsburgh and Buffalo swap playoff seed spots, the Sabres finishing 4th, the Penguins finishing 7th.

24. Montreal misses the playoffs as Carey Price plays inconsistently.

25. Winnipeg makes the playoffs in the 8th seed in their first year of existence.

26. Tampa Bay finishes first overall in the league but doesn’t make it out of the first round of the playoffs.

27. Boston shares a similar fate as the Lightning and doesn’t come close to repeating as champions after an impressive season.

28. Shea Weber leaves the Predators at the end of the season. Shortly after he signs with the Red Wings.

29. Carolina and Toronto have nearly identical seasons to the previous year and finish in the same spot, just outside of the playoffs.

30. Jeff Skinner and Michael Grabner have average seasons while fellow Calder finalist Logan Couture puts up slightly better numbers than the year before.

Am I spot on or way off base? We’ll have to wait until the end of the season to find out the definitive answer to that, but in the meantime you can share your opinions in the comments below.

Article originally posted here.

Andrew Johnson

Andrew Johnson

Andrew is a passionate hockey fan at heart, and has been since a very young age. Residing in Michigan, he grew up with the team he currently covers at THW, the Detroit Red Wings.

7 Comments

  1. Regarding the Hawks, I’m in partial agreement with you Andrew. Crawford may face turbulence due to circumstances beyond his control and contrary to many predicters, Chicago will not be a dominant force in this year’s reg. season or playoffs. Rhetorical question: Mayers, Frolik, Stalberg and Carcillo to replace lost Stanley Cup depth in Byfuglien, Ladd, Versteeg, Niemi (and now Campbell)…I don’t think so! They might have been better doing the unthinkable…parting with one of their big money players for picks and using the cap room to keep Byfuglien, Ladd or Niemi. I would have kept Byfuglien and Niemi with the money and looked at letting go either Kane, Sharp or Keith or Seabrook for a stock of picks at the height of their demand. Seabrook maybe as valuable or more so than Keith. Baseballers would call him a 5-tool player. We’ll see.
    However, Kane will be fine this year getting min. 78 points in a pretty healthy season. First pick in my points pool this year? It starts next week (late) and I’m thinking D. Sedin or Marty for my first pick.

  2. I think #2 is dead on.

    I’m going to disagree with #21, I think Bernier is gonna steal the #1 job by season end. I also thing Rinne wins the Vezina.

    • Andrew Johnson says:

      Bernier is a good goalie, but I still think Quick is the guy. It’s going to be interesting watching that battle play out again this season. It’s simply a matter of consistency I think. I also absolutely wouldn’t be surprised if Rinne won the Vezina, and he will if he has another season like last. I would be perfectly alright with that too, considering he’s on my fantasy team. ;)

  3. Shea Weber is still a restricted free agent next year so you may want to reconsider your point about him.

    • Andrew Johnson says:

      You’re completely right. I would suspect, that based on his decision to only sign for one year, he isn’t particularly interested in staying put. I have a feeling Nashville will be dealing his rights rather quickly come season’s end. The biggest bidder for a new d-man will most likely be the Red Wings, as it seems evident Nicklas Lidstrom will retire after this season, and Brian Rafalski left this summer, so they will have significant cap room and a need for a #1 defender.

      • Dylan McGonigal says:

        Shea Weber received arbitration. He was given that contract based on what Dmen of his caliber were earning.If the wings get him they will have to give up 2 first rounds and a 3rd I think.

        • Andrew Johnson says:

          While in my mind that would be completely worth it, I don’t believe they would have to. As far as I’m aware they’d only have to give up draft picks if they made an offer and Nashville declined to match. If Nashville were to trade negotiating rights I don’t think it applies. What the ‘Wings would have to give up to get those rights, I’m not sure. I’m fairly certain this will be Shea’s last season in Nashville unless they do great things in the playoffs this year, which I don’t foresee them doing.

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