Marek vs Wyshynski #0102 (Apr 11, 2012) Question of the Day:
Give us one "rock solid" prediction for the playoffs.
I think this is the year that the hockey community is going to mark historically as the year that we saw a definite shift in the balance of power in the Western Conference. Specifically, I think this is the year that we will point to when we say "This is when the Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks stopped being the cream of the crop, and the baton was passed to St. Louis, Nashville, and Vancouver". Maybe you can take Vancouver off of that list, as they've obviously been a top-shelf contender for the last two years or so, but the point is the ascension of Nashville and St. Louis, and more so, the end of the Sharks and the Wings as elite Cup contenders.
We'll point to this playoff in particular, not just because of the seedings of each team or their somewhat-less-than-expected regular season performances, but largely because of the way each will meekly bow out of the playoffs, with the new contenders climbing over the bodies of those who came before to take their place at the top of the conference.
That's not to say that these two teams will sink into complete failure and join such perennial failures as the Blue Jackets and the Oilers in the bottom of the conference. Neither franchise may stay down long (though Detroit will rebound faster than San Jose, with a surprisingly healthy prospect pool), but the both of them will fall into the #10 to #5 seed area, where you see the teams that can regularly make the playoffs, but aren't truly contenders. A good example of a team like this would be the Maple Leafs of the late 90's/early 00's. Those Maple Leafs always made the playoffs, they could frequently upset a pretender, but they couldn't get past the elite contenders in their conference. In the end, Detroit and San Jose will both be forced to yield to stronger powers in their divisions, and it will take time to reload from the losses that they're going to incur over the next year or two.
But in a few years, they'll be back. At least, Detroit will be. So enjoy it while it lasts, Predators and Blues.
Also worth noting: Nashville's stay at the top of the conference could be extraordinarily short. This is an interesting situation, in that in their playoff series provides a remarkable opportunity for Detroit, allowing them a fantastic chance to crush Nashville's contendership for the next several years, and maybe in doing so, restore the Red Wings to elite status. I'll post on this later this week.