In this edition of Avid Thoughts, it’s time to make predictions for the first blog article of the year at the Area 51 Sports Network.

New year, new me as many people say. It’s now 2023 and people make new year’s resolutions. For example, going to the gym more, reading more books, learning a new skill etc. But most people give up on those resolutions on the first or second day of the year. I’m sure you are one of them. I’m right, aren’t I?

Instead of making resolutions that we won’t commit to, how about we do something more fun? What’s that? Making predictions.

Now I could make predictions for the movie of the year, (I’m most excited for Oppenheimer) or album of the year ( I hope it’s Paramore’s upcoming album This Is Why) but since this is a sports website, I’m predicting sports.

Now I could go through every sport and make predictions but as you read by the title we are focusing on hockey and soccer. Why? It is because those are the sports I know best. After all, Mark Twain said it best: Write what you know.

Am I expecting these to be all correct? Of course not! I’m not the oracle. I’m terrible at predictions anyway. Some are bold, and some are not.

The Vancouver Canucks miss the playoffs by a few points and Bruce Boudreau gets the boot

This is the most Vancouver Canuck prediction yet.

The Canucks will remain in the playoff hunt until April. Elias Pettersson will continue his strong play and the return of Thatcher Demko will provide a bit of a boost.

The Canucks will go on a five-game win streak and then go on a six-game losing streak. It will be a few months of ups and downs and chaos. Vancouver will control their own destiny on the final game of the regular season which takes place on April 13 at Mullett Arena against the Arizona Coyotes.

They will just beat the Coyotes and they are in right? Nope. The Canucks, despite their effort, lose 4-0 in Arizona and miss the playoffs again. To make things worse, that loss allowed the Seattle Kraken to claim the final wild-card spot. That is going to hurt more than getting hit by your own green shell in Mario Kart.

As a result, Bruce Boudreau doesn’t get a new contract at the end of the season. Bruce, there he goes! Don’t worry about him though, he’ll find a new NHL coaching job within a month.

Am I a masochist for making this prediction? Maybe. But this is the Canucks we are talking about so it is likely.

Despite numerous offers, Bo Horvat walks for nothing in free agency

Bo Horvat is having a career season and his name has been involved in trade rumours.

The Canucks will get numerous calls about him before the trade deadline and despite the offers, (with one being really, really good) they don’t trade him because they are still in the playoff hunt. The only one who does is Luke Schenn who gets a pick…and a roster player.

Sure, this also seems like a masochist prediction but knowing this organization, this again seems like a nightmare but likely scenario.

The Canucks do try to do everything they can to keep Horvat but he walks and signs for another team which I won’t name. Brock Boeser, Conor Garland and Tyler Myers end up being traded to create cap space but it is too late. The following season, the Canucks do not name a captain but Elias Pettersson, JT Miller, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and a free agent signing end up wearing the “A” on their jerseys.

I would like to make positive predictions about the Canucks but it is tough because they are stuck in no man’s land and don’t look like they want to get out of it.

Hopefully, the opposite happens with the Canucks this year.

Alexis Lafreniere gets traded at the deadline

The 2020 first-overall pick has struggled since coming into the league with the New York Rangers. He was a healthy scratch last week for a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning and this isn’t the first time in his career he’s been a healthy scratch.

Lafreniere has five goals and 12 assists for 17 points in 37 games this season. While he has shown flashes, he is not the playmaker he was touted to be so far.

While just 21, Lafreniere still has room for growth.

The Canucks have been linked to Lafreniere by Rick Dhaliwal of CHEK TV’s Donnie and Dhali: The Team. If I were the Canucks, I would kick tires. Trading Horvat for Lafreniere straight up is not the way to go by the way.

I predict Lafreniere will get traded on deadline day… just not to the Canucks. He will get traded to the Montreal Canadiens and playing in his home province could provide him with a fresh start and a boost to his career.

Connor McDavid scores 50 + goals but the Edmonton Oilers miss playoffs

What more can be said about Connor McDavid. He’s the best player in the NHL.

He currently has 32 goals and 40 assists for 72 points in just 38 games. Not only can he win the Art Ross and Hart, but he could also win the Rocket Richard.

I say he does it. But he doesn’t win it alone. He and Tage Thompson of the Buffalo Sabres will possibly score over 50 and possibly 60 goals to be the first joint Richard Trophy winners in a full season since Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos won it together in the 2009-10 season. (Alex Ovechkin and David Pastrnak won it together in 2019-20 but the regular season was paused and not resumed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.)

However, McDavid’s efforts won’t be enough as the Oilers will just miss out on the playoffs. They are being linked to Jakob Chychrun to help their defence but somehow they will trade for Joel Edmundson instead because the Oilers seem to make questionable decisions a lot. (John Klingberg would even be a better option.)

The Boston Bruins beat the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final and Patrice Bergeron retires soon after

The Boston Bruins weren’t supposed to be good this season according to many experts but they are.

The Bruins won the Winter Classic at the time of this writing and it looks like they are the favourites to win the President’s Trophy with 62 points in 37 games. Not to mention, they also are 14-0-1 at home this season which is absolutely insane.

I feel like the Bruins will beef up at the deadline and I’ll boldly predict that Vladimir Tarasenko gets healthy before the trade deadline and is traded to the Bruins to help their wingers. As good as they are, they need some more scoring help and Tarasenko could provide them scoring depth.

They’ll beat Jack Eichel and the Vegas Golden Knights in six games to win the Stanley Cup. (This will be a final that has both teams not having an elite starting goaltender.) Shortly after, Patrice Bergeron will call it quits. He’ll be 38 next year and ending his career with a Stanley Cup is the best way to go out. Bergeron will feel like he’s completed his journey and end his illustrious career as one of the best two-way forwards of all time.

Connor Bedard gets drafted by the Arizona Coyotes

North Vancouver’s Connor Bedard is lighting up the World Juniors as I type this. He just set the record for most points and goals at the World Juniors for Canada.

The kid is unreal. He’s going to be a superstar in the NHL without a doubt. I am manifesting the possibility of the Canucks drafting Bedard. Maybe the doomer predictions above will work because you know, reverse psychology.

I’ll try the reverse psychology thing again here.

The Arizona Coyotes will win the draft lottery and select Bedard. Now, for Canucks fans this is better than the Anaheim Ducks or San Jose Sharks selecting Bedard. But remember how I said the Coyotes would beat the Canucks on the last day of the season denying them a playoff spot? Yeah, this is a double whammy.

Bedard is just what the Coyotes need not only on the ice, but he could help attendance grow and grow hockey in Arizona. Imagine Dylan Guenther and Bedard on the same line in the NHL though, that would be scary.

The Vancouver Whitecaps make the playoffs but fall to LAFC in the conference finals

Let’s move on to soccer. The Vancouver Whitecaps look to improve their squad and get back to the playoffs as the January transfer window just opened.

It looks like they already made their first signing. The Whitecaps seemed to have signed 23-year-old Uruguayan centre-back Mathias Laborda from Nacional of the Uruguayan league. The official announcement could come in the next few days. Caleb Wilkins of 86Forever did a deep dive on Laborda if you want to learn more about him.

Laborda and Karifa Yao are the new Whitecaps centrebacks and now they need to focus on finding a goalkeeper and of course, a striker which a designated player spot can be used for. Once Laborda is officially confirmed, there is no doubt that the Whitecaps will be all in on signing their new striker.

Let’s make predictions for the Whitecaps, shall we?

I predict that they will be better in 2023. (Depending on the rest of their signings of course.) With a proper preseason against MLS competition, I feel like they’ll have a better start.

So an early prediction is that the Whitecaps will make the playoffs and host at least one playoff game. But their run will end in the conference finals in Los Angeles in a penalty shootout against LAFC. Former Whitecaps goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau will stop the new DP striker’s decisive penalty to send LAFC back to the MLS Cup final because that is so Vancouver sports. (I predict they’ll win the Supporters Shield again too.)

Maybe I’ve taken too much hopium in regards to the Whitecaps but I have this year could be different. But you are probably going to remind me that Russell Teibert is still a Whitecap and is the captain. Yeah I know, and the Whitecaps won’t sell him and no CPL team is going to take his wages unless he agrees to take a massive pay cut. If he plays in a lesser role next season, I’ll be fine with that.

Whitecaps defend Voyageurs Cup but exit early in CCL and Leagues Cup

The Whitecaps have three other competitions besides MLS so predictions have to be made for those.

They have the Canadian Championship, which they won last season. My early prediction is that they defend their title in a rematch with a much improved Toronto FC but this time at BMO Field.

They’ll play a couple of CPL teams on their way to the final which will include a matchup against newcomers Vancouver FC in Langley. They will find a way past CF Montreal at BC Place and win a tight final in Toronto and Vanni Sartini can add an extra year to his Canadian Championship tattoo.

But the Whitecaps also have to play in the CONCACAF Champions League and they will face Honduran side Real España in the round of 16 which takes place in March. They should win but knowing the Whitecaps, they won’t make it easy. I think they’ll win comfortably in the first leg at BC Place but will nearly blow the tie in San Pedro Sula but will survive.

Unfortunately, they will face LAFC who will beat Alajuelense in the round of 16 and won’t do well. So that will end their CCL title dreams.

There is also the brand new League’s Cup which is a tournament that takes place in late July and August. MLS will pause for a month so all teams can face every LIGA MX team.

There will be a group stage of 15 groups of three and the Whitecaps are among the teams that are unseeded due to them finishing 17th in the Supporters Shield standings. That means their group will be decided by a draw which will happen at a later date. My prediction could change depending on who they draw but I’m predicting they’ll draw into group three with Austin FC and Mazatlan and unfortunately won’t make it to the round of 32 and will head home early.

Once the main roster is set, my Whitecaps predictions could change.

Canada’s Women make it to the World Cup Final….but lose to the US

The Women’s World Cup takes place in Australia and New Zealand from July 20 to August 20. We have to do predictions for Canada in this tournament.

Canada’s women’s team ranks sixth in the world according to the latest FIFA rankings.  They have the greatest women’s soccer player in Christine Sinclair and she is in her Twilight years but is still great. However, there has been a wave of talent that has entered the Canadian program and they could be pivotal at the World Cup.

These include goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan, defenders Ashley Lawrence and Kadeisha Buchanan, midfielders Jesse Fleming, and Julia Grosso and forwards Janine Beckie, Jordyn Huitema and Adriana Leon. Canada has talent and they could be a team that goes far in the World Cup. With all that talent, expectations are high for the reigning Olympic champions.

I think Canada will go far but won’t win the World Cup. They’ll lose the final to the United States, the freakin’ US. It will sting, a lot. Out of all my predictions, I hope this one is the wrong the most.

Jude Bellingham signs for Liverpool in the biggest transfer of the year

A lot of big money transfers could happen in 2023. Let’s make predictions on Jude Bellingham who should be the hottest commodity on the transfer market.

Bellingham impressed at the World Cup with England and has done well with Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga. The 19-year-old is quick and is great at passing the ball. He makes efficient short passes and is great at unlocking the attack with long through balls. Bellingham is also solid defensively.

So many teams want to sign him but it feels like Liverpool is the favourite. I predict he’ll finish the season at Dortmund but will join the Reds for a fee of 170 million Euros and that will make him the third most expensive soccer player behind Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

I do think Liverpool will finish top four and Jurgen Klopp’s job will be safe but they aren’t going anywhere if they keep playing Jordan Henderson and James Milner in the midfield. They are good players but are getting older. Harvey Elliott is a decent prospect but he needs some help. Fabinho and Thiago Alcantra have been fine but need to find consistency. Bellingham and Liverpool seem like a perfect fit.

Chelsea finish 7th in the Premier League but get off to a flying start in 2023-24 due to numerous signings

You knew Chelsea would pop up in these predictions. It’s been a rough stretch for them the past couple of months. With Sunday’s 1-1 draw to Nottingham Forest, they have not won away from Stamford Bridge since October and have one win, three losses and three draws in their last seven games. Oh yeah, Manchester City is up next in both the Premier League and the third round of the FA Cup. Fun.

As much as I want Graham Potter to succeed and have backed him, it doesn’t look like he is ready to be a manager at a top club. He tinkers with the lineup so much and Chelsea doesn’t really have an identity. The forwards can’t score, the midfield looks leaky and the defence could use a little bit of work other than Thiago Silva.

Potter’s free-flowing attacking style of soccer shown at Brighton & Hove Albion has been non-existent outside of a couple of games in the Champions League. Yes, he doesn’t have the players he wants but he needs to figure things out too.

That being said, Chelsea has already made signings and all have been under 22. They signed Ivorian striker David Datro Fofana from Norweigan side Molde. (20) There was also French centreback Benoît Badiashile from Ligue 1’s AS Monaco (21) and Brazilian wonderkid midfielder Andrey Santos. (18)

But Todd Boehly is looking to make a splash by signing Benfica and Argentina midfielder Enzo Fernandez who is 21. He won the World Cup with Argentina and was named the tournament’s best young player. According to Gianluca Di Marzio, it is close to being done with Chelsea willing to play the 120 million Euro release clause.

Oh yeah, predictions. Despite signing Fernandez, Chelsea won’t win a trophy or play in the UEFA Champions League next season. They need an overhaul which I believe will happen in the summer.

With Fernandez most likely coming, they still need another midfielder and I think they will sign West Ham’s Declan Rice, who has been linked to Chelsea for almost three years. Rice and Fernandez in the midfield will look great for the next five-plus years.

They also signed RB Leipzig striker/attacking midfielder Christopher Nkunku and will definitely try to improve the attack and defence in the summer. So even with Fernandez, I think Chelsea won’t see the top four but next season, (depending on who they sign.) I predict they will go the first two months of the season without a loss.

Even if Chelsea fails to make the top four, Potter’s job is safe. He has a five-year contract and hopefully, he can prove everyone wrong when he gets the players he wants.

Manchester City finishes second in the Premier League but beats PSG in the Champions League Final

The biggest game of men’s soccer in 2023 is the Champions League Final and it is always fun to make predictions for that game.

Manchester City has been a European powerhouse for years but they never won the Champions League. The same thing is said about Paris St-Germain.

Both these two teams have a generational talent. PSG has Kylian Mbappe and Man City has Erling Haaland. Mbappe is fresh off a World Cup Final hat trick and the Golden Ball while Haaland has had a month off and is ready to score more goals.

I think Manchester City will challenge Arsenal for the Premier League title and it will once again be decided on the final day. This time, I have Arsenal coming out on top. ( I felt like puking writing that.)

Haaland is poised to break more goal records and he already has 21 (!) in the Premier League and we are only halfway through the season.

I’m predicting that he and Mbappe will be duelling it out in one of the best Champions League Finals of all time. It’s always a treat when Man City and PSG meet in the Champions League but with these two, it makes the matchup more exciting. We can’t forget that PSG also has Neymar and Lionel Messi while Man City has Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden.

The 2023 UCL Final will go to penalties and Haaland will score the winner giving Man City their first title.

Well, those are my predictions. What are yours? Let me know in the comment section below or on Twitter!