5. Which team(s) are the greatest threat to BC in Hockey East this year?
JG: I picked Lowell to win the regular season crown (though I think BC will win the Hockey East tournament) so they're obviously my pick. They're such a well coached team and have a real "system" in place where they can just slot guys in and get continued success. They need to get better goaltending than they got last year, which could well doom them in the tournament, but they're going to be a stout team.
BU has the potential to be great again but the Eichel-sized hole in their lineup is going to be a huge adjustment. We saw what happened last year when you lose a once-in-a-generation player.
LB: Well hopefully BC won't have the frequent Maine away game curse this year, because that would be pretty sad.
UML will be a challenge, and I think it will come down to goaltending and physicality. I agree with Joe that BU will initially struggle a bit to readjust to playing without Eichel, but they're still a good team that won't make things easy for BC.
BCHB: I'm really interested to see what BU does this season. Everyone is talking about their defense but as we learned last season, that can only take you so far. I find it hard to believe that guys like O'Regan and Oksanen can maintain such a high level of play without Eichel. I do believe they'll struggle out of the gate but by midseason, they will be right behind BC in terms of the Hockey East standings.
NG: I don't feel that BC is the team to beat in Hockey East this year. UMass-Lowell is going to be very good, and BU, even without Jack Eichel, is going to be a very good team. In a tightly-packed Hockey East season, the difference between first and third could be a couple of points here or there, points I'm not sure BC is going to pick up during the regular season.
GS: Lowell loses very little scoring to graduating, although they are hurting more than usual in goal. However, the games against Lowell have been the "toughest," both talent wise and physically, for the last few years now, and I don't expect that to change this season.
AB: Honestly there are three or four teams that realistically have a shot at winning the conference. That said, there is a ton of depth in this conference, and games against much of the conference will be tough outings. In terms of winning the conference, look for UML and BU to give BC the most trouble.
AJ: UMass, haha just kidding. I'll go with Lowell. Well coached, physical, and always play the Eagles hard. That series in February has the potential for a Hockey East championship preview.
GS: January 23rd vs. UConn
AB: February 8 to win the Beanpot.
The worst case scenario is that BC's defense is too messy and disorganized; one or two of the star freshmen underwhelm; and some of the now-veteran forwards don't take a jump to the next level. If that happens, BC will probably end up around where they were last year, right on the tournament bubble.
What I expect to happen is for BC to struggle a bit defensively early on in the season, but get those issues tightened up and lines sorted out by January before going on a tear late in the season. I think BC can and will go to the Frozen Four but I'll stop short of predicting a national championship until we see what the freshmen can do in real competition.
LB: The best case scenario is we destroy everyone and win everything. BC has a lot of skill - between healthy Demko, highly ranked freshmen, and some solid returning players, the Eags have the potential to beat most teams.
The worst case scenario is inexperience takes over, everyone gets discouraged, and the team crashes and burns. Assuming everyone stays healthy I don't see this happening.
I think it'll be another year where there is some initial dominance, then a slump based on nerves and inexperience, then a classic Jerry York speech that results in BC closing out the season in a winning fashion.
BCHB: The best case scenario is an undefeated season. I get mocked on Twitter all the time for saying this but they're way more talented than anyone else in Hockey East, if not the country. I don't see anyway they actually get this done but who knows, stranger things have happened. Worst case is a first or second round exit from the NCAAs. That will take place if the defense looks utterly lost for the majority of the year and the offense is unable to out the puck in the net. My expectation is that they will five or six games, and roll to a 6th National Title.
NG: Best Case: The freshmen mature and dominate, the defense comes together, and Demko only has to make the key saves he needs to. On talent and talent alone, BC wins 20, then learn how to play as a team to become a 25-win roster. The cruise through Hockey East against some fatally flawed teams and earn the #1 seed locally against the Atlantic Hockey champion (cough cough Bentley cough cough).
Worst Case: There's a noticeable divide in the way they play, making it hard to watch. Then they take a couple of injuries, and it's all over before it ever really gets started. I remember when BU had all that talent amassed on their roster two years ago, but they simply didn't play together. They lost 20 games. Do I think BC will lose 20? No. But this is going to be a great challenge to see what kind of magic Jerry York has left in the tank.
Likely scenario: I think there's going to be some growing pains, but this team needs to be hitting its stride some time in the second half of the year. A strong finish in third is better than limping home and still finishing first or second. I think this team finishes the season in Tampa, but I don't think they win the championship.
GS: Joe's predictions are almost word for word what I'm thinking as well.
Best case scenario is that the freshmen provide the scoring punch that we've been missing the last couple years and it vaults the team over the logjam in the middle of the NCAA tournament field, putting us as a solid but not commanding #1 overall. I'll stop short of saying BC will utterly dominate because even in the rosiest of worlds, none of these kids are going to be Jack Eichel or junior year Gaudreau.
Worst case is the freshmen kind of disappear into the line chart. There's no chance they are all "busts" but it's entirely possible we're overexcited and are expecting way too much from them. Even the best freshmen need time to develop. So the worst case is we have something like last year, except with a defense that isn't quite as good and an offense that's pretty mediocre, leaving us once again on the PWR bubble.
My prediction is toward the good end of those, if only because the difference between tourny bubble and a #1 seed is miniscule. As bad as last year feels, we were still a tournament team, and it's almost a sure thing we should be improved by a good amount.
That "good amount" should be plenty to move us from the bottom of the logjam to the top, and I think we end up as a #1 seed -- perhaps not #1 overall, but I'm fairly certain we'll be in that top 4.
AB: Best: The freshmen talent adjusts quickly, Thatcher Demko stays healthy and the defense plays lights out. The team runs over the conference with ease, the team wins the conference and gets a #1 seed in the tournament.
Worst: The freshmen struggle in the college game and don't contribute to the scoring right away. The Eagles barely get a first round bye and lose a three-game series to miss out on the Garden. The team gets a #2-#3 rank in the tournament and lose in the second round.
My prediction: I think BC will come into its own in Hartford, Conn. on Nov. 24. After that the team will be dominant. They should win a very competitive Beanpot. They should get to the Garden for Hockey East, possibly losing in the final round. Finally, this team will get to the Frozen Four.
AJ: Best: The freshmen click right away, start to perform and BC gets off to a hot start. Demko really settles in an BC goes into conference play on fire. They win the games they need to, win the Beanpot yet again, take back the HE trophy and make a Frozen Four run.
Worst: The defense is a sieve, the offense is sloppy which leads to more turnovers. BC can't put it all together and we have a repeat of last year all over again.
My prediction: I think BC will definitely be the class of Hockey East this year. I love the offensive firepower they potentially have going into this season, and expect Thatcher Demko to improve into an elite goalie. I don't see a Natty in their future but I certainly believe they can win Hockey East.
They will clean up in Hockey East, of that I have no doubt (especially now that the Hyannis Curse is no more), but they are going to again struggle in games at the end of the year against top teams without the ability to battle harden themselves extensively over the course of the year.
I will say that this is the year it finally comes together and they win it all -- but I'm saying it out of desperation, because I don't know when their next shot at the top will be once the final buzzer sounds at the end of this season.
AB: Well, no one can doubt that the Hockey East championship is the Eagles' to lose. There are maybe one or two teams in the conference that could potentially give the Eagles a decent game. With the move out of Hyannis, Mass., the tournament should be won by the Eagles, guaranteeing a tournament birth, possibly a #1 seed. I think they get to the finals but lose, marking the beginning of a down period for the program.