The NHL has become the most paratic league of any of the four major sports leagues. Teams can go from dead last in the league to the playoffs in the very next season. We have seen that two years in a row now with the Toronto Maple Leafs last season and the Colorado Avalanche this season. The NHL has become a very hard league to predict and this season was a prime example of that. With that being said, let’s look back on my predictions and see how I did.
Pacific Division :
1.) Edmonton Oilers (106 points)
2.) Calgary Flames (102 points)
3.) Anaheim Ducks (100 points)
4.) San Jose Sharks (93 points)
5.) Arizona Coyotes (85 points)
6.) Los Angeles Kings (83 points)
7.) Vancouver Canucks (75 points)
8.) Vegas Golden Knights (54 points)
Well that was rough. I’d have to say this was my worst division when it came down to predicting things.
Edmonton completely fell off a cliff after a terrible start to the season. Cam Talbot wasn’t the goalie he was last year. Their penalty kill at home was record breaking bad. Their forward depth was brutal. The defense was bad as usual. The lone bright spot was Connor McDavid literally dragging that corpse of a team around the ice each night. The Oilers really screwed up this year, as this was their last year to be competitive with McDavid on his entry level deal.
Calgary was so disappointing to me. I am very high on the Flames and think they should be one of the top teams in the league. But much like Edmonton, Calgary lacked depth scoring. Their top guys (Monahan, Gaudreau, Tkachuk, Giordano, Hamilton) were all bringing their “A game” each and every night. But they were not getting enough from the supporting cast around them. Even Mike Smith had a fantastic year after there was some question about his ability going into the season. When he was out, you really noticed as the Flames couldn’t keep the puck out of the net.
Anaheim I got just about bang on! John Gibson really saved the Ducks season with how great he was this year. The Ducks battled injuries all season and I was afraid they would fall short of the post season for awhile. Rickard Rakell is showing that he can be a top line forward in this league and Ryan Getzlaf is still one of the best playmaking centers in the league. Corey Perry had a bounce back season which helped, along with a breakout season from Ondrej Kase. Their defense is a force to be reckoned with as well (Lindholm, Manson, Fowler, Montour) and Anaheim could make some noise now that they’re relatively healthy.
San Jose I underestimated. I thought this was the end of the road for them after a really non-inspiring offseason. They managed to finish second in the Pacific and prove they can still contend. Timo Mier had a nice rookie campaign for the Sharks along with solid seasons from Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski, and Logan Couture (Couture had a really sneaky, good season). Evander Kane has also come in and turned out to be a great deadline acquisition.
Los Angeles was another team I underestimated. I didn’t think they improved much during the offseason after missing the playoffs. The new coach seems to be working out for LA. Shockingly, Dustin Brown has become an effective player again. Anze Kopitar is having a Hart Trophy caliber season after being completely snake bitten last year.
Arizona looked much improved after the offseason. They acquired Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta from the Rangers who were both great for them. They also acquired Nik Hjalmarsson who unfortunately, wasn’t so great for them. Clayton Keller had a fantastic rookie campaign for the Coyotes, but that was all that really went well for the dogs. They got off to a horrible start and couldn’t recover from it. They played well at the end of the season to take themselves out of the basement however. I don’t believe they are as bad as they showed us in the first few months of the season.
I was pretty bang on with Vancouver. Not the worst team in the league but in the bottom five. Brock Boeser is obviously very exciting and looks to be a cornerstone piece moving forward. They really do lack high end prospects and look to be bad for quite awhile. With the Sedins gone, they really look weak going into next season.
Now this was shocking to everyone. I could write a whole article on Vegas but I’ll keep it short. Vegas had a bunch of guys playing for contracts and with no expectations which led to a huge part of their success. William Karlsson, Reilly Smith, Jonathan Marchessault, James Neal, David Perron, Colin Miller, Nate Schmidt, MA Fleury, and others played massive roles in the teams success. Probably bigger roles than we could have imagined. They literally doubled the amount of points I thought they’d get.
Central Division :
1.) Chicago Blackhawks (104 points)
2.) Nashville Predators (102 points)
3.) Dallas Stars (98 points)
4.) Minnesota Wild (97 points)
5.) St. Louis Blues (95 points)
6.) Winnipeg Jets (90 points)
7.) Colorado Avalanche (66 points)
I did pretty bad here as well, but not nearly as bad as I did on the Pacific division.
I regretted this prediction from day one. The Blackhawks made their team significantly worse during the offseason and I thought they would be able to sustain their power in the Western Conference. I was dead wrong. It didn’t help that Corey Crawford missed the entire season with vertigo symptoms. They were even worse without him in the lineup and caused their season to go into a tailspin. They did have a great rookie season from Alex DeBrincat and a good sophomore campaign from Nick Schmaltz
Nashville I underestimated a bit. I have been high on Nashville for quite awhile as I feel they have the best defense in the NHL. Pekka Rinne was a Vezina Trophy quality goalie this season and everything pieced together for them. They are four lines deep and one of the best all-around teams in the league.
I, like many others, were very high on the Dallas Stars coming into this season. They upgraded their goaltending with Ben Bishop and added Alex Radulov to an already high power offense. John Klingberg had a Norris Trophy caliber season but the rest of the defense was very sub par. They had a real rough finish to their season which cost them their playoff spot.
Minnesota preformed at the level at which I expected them to. They always have solid regular seasons, but truly lack star power and that haunts them when it comes to the post season.
St. Louis was about what I expected, a bubble playoff team. They ended up missing out on the last game of the season after losing to Colorado, who we will get to. They hung in there even after selling at the deadline.
Winnipeg finally broke out as the team we as fans were hoping they would be. The offense has always been there, the issue has been goaltending. I didn’t have faith in their tandem of Mason and Hellebuyck and that is why I had them missing out on the playoffs. Mason didn’t work out but Hellebuyck sure did take a step forward and had a Vezina caliber season. That is a huge part of why Winnipeg was one of the best teams in the league this year.
Another team I got completely wrong. Colorado went from being the worst team in the shootout era, to a wildcard team in the matter of one season. Nathan Mackinnon took a huge step forward and is a Hart Trophy candidate this season. Even after trading away Matt Duchene, Colorado wasn’t hindered at all and snuck into the postseason. I even called Joe Sakic a horrible GM before the season. Boy, did he ever prove me wrong with the Duchene trade this year. Colorado should honestly be the best story in hockey this year, but Vegas did what they did this year also.
1.) Tampa Bay Lightning (112 points)
2.) Toronto Maple Leafs (102 points)
3.) Montreal Canadiens (98 points)
4.) Boston Bruins (92 points)
5.) Ottawa Senators (89 points)
6.) Buffalo Sabres (85 points)
7.) Florida Panthers (83 points)
8.) Detroit Red Wings (70 points)
I feel I did fairly well here. Better than I did in the Western Conference.
I had Tampa Bay bang on. I think many people noticed that they would be much healthier this season and would get back to the top of the league. Andrei Vasilevskiy took a massive step forward and became one of the top goalies in the league this season. Nikita Kucherov eclipsed 100 points for the first time in his career. Steven Stamkos got had a very healthy season up until the end and proved that he is still an elite player in this league. Hedman had a Norris caliber season. Brayden Point had a fantastic sophomore campaign as well. Everything went as planned for Tampa this year and they should be set to make a strong playoff run.
I knew Toronto would take a step forward this year, but I didn’t expect them to be a nearly 50 win team. They have one of the best offenses in the league along with Winnipeg and Tampa Bay. They have too many NHL caliber forwards to even fit into their lineup, which is a great problem to have when going into the playoffs. Freddy Andersen was great once again for Toronto and may have even been their best player.
I banked too high on Carey Price carrying Montreal to a playoff spot. He did not have a good year along with the rest of the Canadiens. Brendan Gallagher had a great year and that was really about it.
I underestimated Boston pretty hardcore. I was well aware of their three headed monster of Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak. I did not know their forward depth would be as good as it was this year. Jake DeBrusk, and Danton Heinen had great rookie years for them along with Calder candidate, Charlie McAvoy. Torey Krug was also a 60 point defender this year and Tuukka Rask regained his old form. They are a very scary looking team going into the playoffs.
Ottawa got off to a pretty decent start, then they traded for Matt Duchene and everything seemed to fall apart. They ended up regressing as many people said they would. I figured they would a little bit, but I had no idea it would be this bad.
Silly me thought that this could finally be the year Buffalo takes a step forward! Nope.
I hate that Florida was good this year. They did everything wrong this offseason and got away with it. Thanks to Aleksander Barkov, Vinny Trocheck, Jonathan Huberdeau, and a solid year from Keith Yandle and Aaron Ekblad. Florida got hot at the end of the year and almost made the playoffs. Their core of players is great, but I really hate how they have handled things in the front office for the past year and a half.
Detroit was bad again as I expected. No star power or really high end prospects.
I feel as though I did my best on this division.
1.) Pittsburgh Penguins (108 points)
2.) Washington Capitals (104 points)
3.) New York Rangers (100 points)
4.) Columbus Blue Jackets (97 points)
5.) Carolina Hurricanes (95 points)
6.) Philadelphia Flyers (90 points)
7.) New York Islanders (84 points)
8.) New Jersey Devils (75 points)
The Penguins were the Penguins.
Lots of people thought Washington would take a huge step back this season. I thought that was a bit ridiculous despite their rough offseason. The Capitals still have high end talent in Ovechkin, Backstrom, Holtby, Oshie, and John Carlson. They put together another solid regular season despite the pieces they lost during the summer.
I didn’t expect the Rangers to take the route they did. They decided to sell while they were in a playoff spot, which I feel was the right move. I figured they would continue to go for it to try and get Lundqvist a cup. I really liked their defense going into the season. Ryan McDonagh ended up being sold off and Brendan Smith was put on waivers very early on in the season.
Columbus had another solid regular season. Adding Artemi Panarin was huge for them as he was the driving force of their offense this season. Pierre-Luc Dubois had a solid rookie season playing with Panarin as well. Sergei Bobrovsky has continued to be one of the best goalies in the league. Their defense has been stingy as well. Seth Jones and Zach Werenski are as good of a top D pairing as any.
I would’ve been right about Carolina if their goalies could stop a puck. All of their underlying numbers are good but their goaltending combined for a sub .900 save percentage. Their defense is so stingy with shutdown guys like Brett Pesce and Jaccob Slavin. They also have high end offensive talent on the back end in Justin Faulk and Noah Hanifin who took a step forward this year. The young offensive core up front has a very solid top six with Aho and Teravainen leading the charge. They just need a goalie!
Another pick I regretted early on. Philly is another solid team who is haunted by goaltending. They had solid netminding from Mrazek and Elliott to close out the season. Giroux was back to his old self this season as well as Jakub Voracek. Sean Couturier had his offensive breakout to add to his incredible defensive play.
The Islanders totally botched their season. They had all of the makings to make the playoffs with how great their offense was with the new additions in Mat Barzal and Jordan Eberle. They failed to acquire any sort of defensive help at the deadline and were another team who could not buy a save this year. This was a huge blow to them in terms of signing John Tavares this offseason.
New Jersey was a huge surprise team this season as well. They were basically the Avalanche of the Eastern Conference in terms of going from the bottom of the league to a playoff spot. Taylor Hall was the driving force of this Devils team and helped a young Nico Hischier in his first season in the league. I didn’t like the Devils going into this year because I didn’t trust their defense (which I still don’t). The speed of the Devils is what makes them such a tough team to play each and every night.