Well, given the amount of hockey predictions popping up these days, I figured I'd throw my hat into the ring. Obviously, it's tough to predict a Cup winner this early in the season, especially with the enforced parity of the salary cap, but there is one team that stands above the rest for me. For any of you who read my other blog (www.undergroundcommand.blogspot.com), this one may not come as a surprise: I predict that this year's Stanley Cup champions will be the Anaheim Ducks. Over the off-season, they may have lost the "Mighty" from their name, but they've improved the on-ice team significantly. General manager Brian Burke once again proved how he belongs with the very best in the game, acquiring superstar defenceman Chris Pronger from the Edmonton Oilers to further solidify what was already a capable defence. Scott Niedermeyer, named the league's top defenceman in 2004, had a terrific season last year, and sophomore Francois Beauchemin should be able to build on a solid rookie season to elevate the Ducks' offensive output from the blue line even further. This team is also very solid in goal: the combination of 2003 playoff MVP Jean-Sebastian Giguere and Ilya Bryzgalov (who reeled off the second-longest playoff shutout streak of all time last year) should work well for them. Up front, they feature established stars like Teemu Selanne (last year's Masterton Trophy recipient), proven veterans such as Andy McDonald, Todd Marchant, and Rob Niedermeyer, and one of the strongest crops of young players in the league, featuring Corey Perry, Chris Kunitz, Ryan Getzlaf, and Dustin Penner. No wonder the Ducks were the overwhelming favorite to win the Cup in TSN's poll of NHL general managers: they received 11 votes, and the next closest team was Calgary with 4 (http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/feature/?fid=1364&hubname=)!
So far this year, the Ducks have lived up to the hype, reeling off three straight wins to share the Pacific Division lead with San Jose. They may not have Gordon Bombay or the Flying V, but these Ducks should soar into history this year when they raise Lord Stanley's mug.