The time has come for this year’s final issue of The Navigator. With the school year coming to a close and summer just around the corner, now is a perfect time to talk about seven things that will happen in sports over the summer. This way you can do whatever you want this summer, all while knowing that you are already up-to-date on what’s going to happen in the world of sports between now and September. Feel free to keep this list and keep track of how many times I was wrong; it will give you some homework to do over the summer.
1. The top two teams in the NHL regular season will be meeting at the Stanley Cup Finals
I know that statement sounds obvious when I write it like that, it really isn’t. The St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins are the top teams in their respective conferences, and one of the two will win the President’s Trophy as the regular season’s best team. However, regular season dominance doesn’t equal post-season success. In fact ,the last time the number one seed in the Western Conference played the number one seed from the east in Stanley Cup finals was 2001, when Colorado defeated New Jersey in seven games. That feat will happen again this year as Boston and St. Louis fight their way through their respective conferences and face off for hockey’s biggest prize.
2. The Boston Bruins will win their second cup in four years
Let me start off by saying I don’t like writing this. I’m not a Boston Bruins fan by any sense of the word. But that aside, the Bruins are the clear-cut favorite to win the cup this season. That is largely because they are lucky enough to play in the Eastern Conference, where the general talent of team is much less so than the west. The only team that has a chance to give Boston a run for their money in the Eastern Conference is the Pittsburg Penguins, who the Bruins eliminated handily in the Conference Final last season. But aside from the Penguins, there aren’t any other teams in the East that will challenge the big, bad Bruins, allowing them to make it to the cup finals without exhausting much energy. The same lack of talent isn’t existent in the Western Conference, where six or seven teams can be considered serious cup contenders.
While I feel like St. Louis is the most talented team in the bunch, they stand to face quite the battle if they are to reach the finals. If the Blues do manage to make it to the finals, the question will be if they have enough in the tank after two extremely hard fought series to take on the physical play of the Boston Bruins, and frankly, I don’t think they will.
3. Tiger Woods WON’T win a major in 2014
This almost seems like a foregone conclusion, but every year around this time, as the golf season picks up, the conversation inevitably turns to Tiger Woods and his chase of Jack Nicholas’s record of 18 Major Championship victories. Tiger is one of the greatest golfers of all time, but it appears his success in majors is over. Woods hasn’t won a major since the 2008 US Open, and hasn’t shot below 70 on a major weekend since 2011. It’s clear that fellow players no longer fear Tiger like they used to, instead it seems like Woods lets his current draught in majors get to his head, hurting his ability to dominate courses like he used to. For years, I thought Woods was going to win a major and each time he’s come up disappointingly short. For years, people have been saying that its Tiger’s time to rebound and win a major, now it finally seems like that time has passed.
4. The Toronto Raptors will win a playoff series
This season hasn’t been what Raptor fan’s thought it would be—it’s been much more. Toronto traded arguably, their best player, Rudy Gay, to Sacramento earlier in the season and became an improved team for it. Now, the Raptors have clinched their first playoff berth since 2007, and seem poised to have home court advantage in the first round of the NBA playoffs. The Raptors are an unselfish team who share the ball and get contributions from a number of different players on the roster. It is because of this “team first”, share the ball” attitude that Toronto will win its first playoff series since 2001. This looks like the start of a very bright future for Canada’s only NBA franchise, and Raptors fans will tell you, the success is long overdue.
5. The Vancouver Canucks will make the playoffs next season
I probably shouldn’t have included this on the list because I won’t be right or wrong with this prediction until this time next year, but with it almost a certainty that the Canucks will miss the playoffs for only the second time since the 2005 NHL lockout and every Canucks fan yelling about how everything needs to be torn down and rebuilt, I thought this would be the perfect time to tell everybody to calm down, take a deep breath, and realize that things are not as bad as they seem for Vancouver, although they aren’t as perfect as they looked three years ago. The Canucks have been riddled by injury this season, with impact players on the injured reserve from the opening faceoff of the season. Part of the Canucks lack of success this season has to be chalked up to bad luck—Alex Burrows has suffered multiple injuries throughout the season, greatly affecting his confidence and timing; both Sedins have spent large chunks of the portion injured and at least one member of the defense has been out this entire season. Add the injuries in with the new coach that the Canucks have been adjusting to, who is a polar opposite of their old coach in every possible way and you have a Canucks team who has struggled for large portions of the season to play up to their potential.
With that in mind, there is almost no conceivable way the Canucks don’t improve next season. The team has started to amass some talented prospects that will change for NHL jobs next year. Mix the youth in with a healthier core and a couple of free agent additions (the Canucks are looking at over $10 million in cap space this summer) Vancouver has a very good chance of being the bounce-back team in the NHL next season.
6. The Toronto Bluejays will be bad this season
The Toronto Bluejays were the talk of the baseball world last off-season. Last January, the Jays made a blockbuster trade with the Florida Marlins, acquiring pitchers Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson, as well as Shortstop Jose Reyes and outfielder Emilio Bonifacio. Toronto also signed National League Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey to be the team’s ace in the rotation. With all those moves, the Jays looked like they would be serious contenders for the playoffs in 2013, but the team fell flat. Reyes got hurt, and never really found his stride, then all the pitching Toronto acquired in the off-season failed miserably. Another off-season has passed and the Jays have made little in terms of moves despite the obvious need for another starting pitcher. Toronto goes into this season with largely the same team as last season and considerably less optimism of how the team will perform. I thought last season the Bluejays had taken a step in the right direction, but this season looks like it’s going to be even worse than the last, and that is certainly saying something.
7. The Seattle Mariners will also be bad
As a lifelong Mariners fan; this prediction pains me to write, but it needs to be written. No team in baseball made a bigger splash during the off-season than the Seattle Mariners, who signed free agents second baseman Robinson Cano to a massive 10 year $240 million deal. Seattle also traded for first baseman Logan Morrison and signed Corey Hart to a one-year deal.
The problem for the Mariners is while Cano instantly makes Seattle a much better team, it still doesn’t make the Mariners a playoff contender. The Mariners still have a glaring lack of depth at both the starting pitching and outfield positions, issues that the team ignorantly failed to address during the off-season. In many ways the Mariners’ outfield could actually be worse this season if the team stays committed to playing Hart, and his two surgically- repaired knees in the outfield this season.
The Seattle Mariners managed to do something special this off-season. They entered as the American League West’s fourth best team, spent almost $300 million on free agents, and are still the fourth best team in the division. It takes skill to spend that much money, and not manage to make much of a difference in the overall talent of the team on the field. At least Cano will be fun to watch.