With the start of the NHL season just two weeks away, we can begin to make our predictions as to which teams will come out with playoff spots come April. Sports are very hard to predict (obviously) as there are many unknowns that can factor into a season. A teams season can be completely derailed by guys getting hurt or having a down season (see 2016/2017 Lightning). To counter, teams can have 1-2 players or an incredible goaltending run (Andrew Hammond with Ottawa in 2014/2015) absolutely put the team on their shoulders and drag their mediocre team to the playoffs (2017/2018 Devils with Taylor Hall). Regardless of how silly predictions may be, they sure are fun to do and look back on at the end of the season. (I’m extremely bad at this by the way).
8) Vancouver Canucks
Vancouver lost arguably their two best players this offseason to retirement (Daniel and Henrik Sedin). Vancouver has already been the worst team in the NHL over the course of the past three seasons and managed to get worse over the offseason. Signing Jay Beagle and Antoine Rousell for three years a piece was not good at all. If Arizona hadn’t started off so poorly last year, Vancouver would’ve been in the basement by a mile.
7) Anaheim Ducks
I’m sick of the ducks. In their first round series against the Sharks last year, Anaheim didn’t even look like they belonged on the same ice surface as San Jose. Their offense is very weak outside of Rickard Rakell and what is left of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. John Gibson is made of glass and Ryan Kesler may never play hockey again. I see the Ducks completely falling apart this year.
6) Calgary Flames
This team frustrates me. They added James Neal via free agency to help boost their scoring (finished 27th in goals for last season). His contract is not good and I don’t think he brings that much of an impact to the Flames lineup. The Flames have lacked depth scoring to surround Monahan and Gaudreau for a few years now and I don’t feel they did enough to improve it this offseason. This team needs another big offensive weapon. Trading Dougie Hamilton is also puzzling as he is one of the best defenders in the league.
5) Arizona Coyotes (x)
That’s right, I have these guys making the playoffs for the first time since 2012. Arizona had a really strong finish to their season last year after one of the worst starts in the salary cap era. They traded for Alex Galchenyuk who I feel is going to destroy worlds now that he has had a change of scenery. They signed Michael Grabner who has been a reliable goal scorer in his past two seasons. They added Vinnie Hinistroza and Jordan Oesterle who have been solid depth in their young NHL careers. Antti Raanta proved to be the real deal despite his injuries last year. I really like this team and believe they are going to take a huge step forward in 2019.
4) Los Angeles Kings (x)
I’m not as high on LA as other people are. Their defense is very solid and Jonathan Quick has the ability to pull a rabbit out of his hat. Their offense is just so mediocre. Adding Kovalchuk this offseason does help. But outside of Kopitar, Carter, and Toffoli, this team is very weak up front.
3) Edmonton Oilers (x)
Nothing went right for the Oilers last year and I feel they actually handled the offseason well by doing nothing. We saw what this team is capable of in 2017 when they made it to the second round. Connor McDavid is only getting better and Cam Talbot cannot have a worse year than he did in 2018. I believe Edmonton gets back on track in 2019.
2) Vegas Golden Knights (x)
Many fans have ragged on Vegas for not resigning James Neal or David Perron, who granted, were huge parts of their success. The James Neal deal that Calgary gave him was not good, and Vegas should be glad they avoided that. Anyways, they replaced them with Max Pacioretty via trade and Paul Stastny via free agency. I don’t think Vegas is a slam dunk, playoff team like they were last year, but they are looking just as good, if not better than last year.
1 ) San Jose Sharks (z)
This team is stacked. After not landing John Tavares, Doug Wilson went out and robbed Ottawa of Erik Karlsson. San Jose now has the two best defenseman in the league and another great on in Marc-Edouard Vlassic. This is one of the most well constructed teams in the league and is more than capable of competing for the Stanley Cup.
7) Chicago Blackhawks
The Hawks’ reign of terror is officially over. Corey Crawford is having an extremely rough time recovering from his injury and may never even play again. They singed Cam Ward to be his backup who hasn’t been good since 2012. Toews and Seabrook have suddenly become overpaid albatrosses. The defense outside of an aging Duncan Keith is the equivalent of wet cardboard. The only bright spots are Alex DeBrincat and Nick Schmaltz. It’s shaping up to be a rough couple years ahead for the Blackhawks.
6) Minnesota Wild
I’m sick of the Wild. It’s the same issue every year, they don’t have elite talent. Eric Staal did score 40 goals last year and Jason Zucker had a career year last year. Other than that, its less than impressive to say the least. They have really begun to feel the effects of the Suter and Parise contracts as it really limits their roster flexibility. They should start selling on Spurgeon, Staal, and Zucker while their value is high.
5) Dallas Stars
These guys are the Calgary Flames of the Central. They don’t have good enough depth outside of Benn, Seguin, and Radulov. Klingberg is a Norris caliber defender and they have literally no one else beyond that. Find a defenseman and some more forwards, then we will talk.
4) Colorado Avalanche
What these guys accomplished last year was incredible. Going from the worst team in the salary cap era to pushing the Nashville Predators to their limits in the playoffs the next year (after trading Matt Duchene too). Nathan Mackinnon unlocked his true potential and became the MVP runner up. The future is very bright for this team, but I think they will fall just short of the playoffs this season.
3) St Louis Blues (x)
I think this team had the best all around offseason. They got a fantastic deal in the Ryan O’Reilly trade. They signed Tyler Bozak, a solid 3rd line center to a reasonable deal. They also brought back David Perron for the third time on a very team friendly deal. They brought in Patrick Maroon for basically nothing as yet another good depth add on forward. Robby Fabbri will also be returning to the lineup this year. The only question mark on this team is Jake Allen, you never know what you are going to get.
2) Nashville Predators (x)
The Predators are have the best top 4 in terms of defense in the NHL. Nashville won the Presidents Trophy last year and will be in the hunt for it again this year. This team also has $8 million in cap space and Pekka Rinne coming off the books next year. This team is so well constructed and is going to be competitive for years to come.
1) Winnipeg Jets (x)
The Jets unlocked their true potential last year and found a goalie at the same time. This team has no holes and is ready to win now. They will be making another deep playoff run this season.
8) New York Islanders
The Islanders lost their best player this offseason and has missed the playoffs in the past two seasons. They still don’t have a goaltending solution unless Robin Lehner revives his career. They singed Leo Komarov, Valteri Filppula, and traded back for Matt Martin. The Islanders had one of the worst off seasons imaginable and I don’t think they are going to have much success this year. Mat Barzal is a stud though, hopefully they surround him with competent talent in the future.
7) New York Rangers
The Rangers have been trending down since their cup final defeat in 2014. Last season they missed the playoffs for the first time in years and announced they would be rebuilding. They will be looking to sell off guys such as Zuccarello, Kevin Hayes, and maybe more. They’re going through a transition, but are still not a terrible team. When they sell those guys off is when things will go downhill.
6) New Jersey Devils
The Devils relied way too heavily on Taylor Hall last year and to their credit, it worked out. The Devils didn’t do anything this offseason and that is really discouraging. I don’t think they can repeat the success they had last year.
5) Carolina Hurricanes
I’m not falling for this again. I’ve said for the past two years now that Carolina is going to breakout and make the playoffs. They probably could if they had league average goaltending. But I’m not putting my faith in Scott Darling or Petr Mrazek to be the answer for the Hurricanes. The Jeff Skinner trade was terrible. The Hurricanes can’t score, so their solution was to trade one of their best goal scorers and not get one back in return. They must have some real high hopes for Svechnikov. I will not be renewing my “trendy breakout team” card with the Hurricanes this year. (God, do I love the Hamilton trade for them though).
4) Columbus Blue Jackets (x)
I really like the Blue Jackets because of their blueline and their goaltender. Their offense outside of Panarin and Dubois really doesn’t do it for me. I can also see this season getting really bad for Columbus. If they do trade Panarin and they can’t get Bobrovsky to extend so they end up trading him too, this could turn out to be an unregulated disaster for the Blue Jackets. I believe Bobrovsky will at least extend, Panarin I’m sure is gone after this year. Regardless, I think Columbus needs some more scoring to be a cup contender, but they will make the playoffs once again.
3) Washington Capitals (x)
This team has Stanley Cup hangover written all over it. They’re still a solid team, but I believe this is the season where the Caps begin to slip a bit. Then again, lots of people said that last year and look what happened…
2) Pittsburgh Penguins (x)
The Penguins had a tough offseason in my opinion. Having to trade away the Matt Hunwick contract after one year was no surprise to me as a Leafs fan, but having to package Sheary in the deal only to get a 4th rounder makes it even worse. The Jack Johnson signing is an abomination. What was Rutherford thinking on that one? At the end of the day, none of this matters because the Penguins have Crosby, Malkin, and Kessel and will be a cup contender yet again.
1 ) Philadelphia Flyers (x)
I am so high on this team. I love the deal they gave to JVR to add to their already fantastic forward core. I think their younger guys are ready to take a step forward this year such as Nolan Patrick, Travis Sanheim, Travis Konecny, and Robert Hagg. The only question mark for the Flyers is their goaltending as you never know when Brian Elliott is going to turn into a pumpkin. Carter Hart can’t be ready soon enough for the Flyers.
8) Ottawa Senators
Remember when I said the Islanders had the worst offseaon a few paragraphs ago? Yeah, I just changed my mind. They got robbed blind on both the Karlsson and Hoffman trades. The Eugene Melnyk video with Mark Borowiecki made me want to send the Senators defenseman a fruit basket. They are about to finish dead last in the NHL and they don’t even have their first round pick this year! Jack Hughes is going to look great in an Avalanche jersey. You’d better knock the Stone and Duchene trades out of the park. I genuinely feel bad for the fans of the Ottawa Senators.
7) Montreal Canadiens
Montreal can’t score and they traded their one guy who could (they did get a good return on Pacioretty however). The only hope this team has is if Carey Price has a bounce back season. I mean, he can’t be worse than he was last year. Weber is out for a significant time to put more salt in the wound. This team is going nowhere.
6) Detroit Red Wings
As the Red Wings are my second favorite team, it sucks to see Zetterberg go out due to injury. Despite his age, he was still an effective player and I always enjoyed watching him. I figure the Wings will be about where they were last year even without Zetterberg. Hopefully they can get something good for Nyquist at the deadline. Zadina may spark some hope into Red Wings fans if he has a strong rookie campaign. It’s going to be another “nothing” year for the Red Wings while they wait for the bad deals Holland has signed to expire.
5) Buffalo Sabres
They might be relevant this year! In all seriousness, I like what Buffalo did this offseason for the most part. The Skinner trade is excellent, acquiring Sheary and Hunwick for nothing from Pittsburgh was also great, and obviously they got their franchise piece in the draft, Rasmus Dahlin. The O’Reilly trade wasn’t bad in my opinion, just puzzling. They guy more than likely need a change of scenery and I get that. But it seems Buffalo is trying to be competitive this year and trading away a first line center with five years left on his deal seems strange to me. Carter Hutton is a huge question mark in net as he is coming off a career year in St. Louis. It’s safe to say I will be watching more Sabres games than in years past in 2019.
4) Florida Panthers (x)
If Florida stays healthy last season, they make the playoffs over the Devils. The Panthers have a great group of forwards in Barkov, Huberdeau, Trochek, Dadonov and now Mike Hoffman. Their back end is nothing to sneeze at either, anchored by Ekblad, Yandle, and Matheson. Luongo and Reimer is also a solid goaltending tandem. I believe Florida is going to crack a playoff spot in 2019.
3) Boston Bruins (x)
The Bruins are a scary team, no doubt. They have the best first line in hockey with Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak. They also have a surplus of young talent coming up in Ryan Donato, Jake DeBrusk, Anders Bjork, and Charlie McAvoy. Tuukka Rask is always a wild card though and I’m not sure you can trust Jaroslav Halak to be his backup. Watch as Rask returns to a Vezina Candidate this year.
2) Toronto Maple Leafs (x)
Well this is exciting. As if the Toronto offense wasn’t good enough, they added John Tavares into the mix. I believe this is the best offensive team in the NHL. Freddy Andersen has been great in his two years in Toronto and his track record says he is bound to have another one. The young core on the Leafs is a year older and is only getting better. It’s time for them to make some noise.
1 ) Tampa Bay Lightning (y)
This is one of the best constructed teams in the NHL. They have elite offense, defense, and goaltending. We saw what Tampa can do last year during the regular season and I am expecting more of the same.
With that, I will end this with two Stanley Cup Predictions
San Jose vs Tampa Bay is the logical final.
Because it’s the NHL and it’s totally unpredictable, Philadelphia vs. St. Louis. St. Louis will win their first cup in franchise history.
I have never been more excited for an NHL season to start in my whole life. So many huge moves were made and many teams look quite different. It should be a great season of NHL hockey. That is unless you are a Senators fan.