It is officially hockey season.
For weeks I have been counting down the days on my whiteboard, until today when I could finally write “HAPPY HOCKEY” in place of how many days. It was a good feeling.
I have made some bold predictions, but it wouldn’t be complete without a full run down of how I think the standings will look at year’s end. So here we go…
(Legend: p=Presidents Trophy, x=Playoff spot, y=Division Champs, z=Conference Champs)
- Tampa Bay Lightning -y
- Montreal Canadiens – x
- Toronto Maple Leafs – x
- Buffalo Sabres
- Ottawa Senators
- Boston Bruins
- Florida Panthers
- Detroit Red Wings
The Lightning come into the season prepared for the worst and ready to get to work after a disappointing, injury riddled season cost them the playoffs last year. They are hungry and ready to get back to the playoffs. Montreal will have some experimenting to do with their center position but will score enough and get the usual saves from goalie Carey Price to finish near the top. The youth movement continues to thrive in Toronto and Matthews and company will find themselves back in the playoffs. Jack Eichel rides his confidence and his new contract to help the Sabres get closer to the playoffs, but there is still work to be done. A year after a Cinderella run, the Senators come back to earth and find themselves on the outside looking in. Same with the Bruins, who just can’t seem to put it all together despite a dynamic first line. The Panthers wish they had Jagr back, or Marchessault, or Smith, or anyone that scored goals for them last year. Detroit’s first year in the Pizza Palace is a dud and they hope for the lottery ball to bounce in their favor come draft time.
- Columbus Blue Jackets – z
- Pittsburgh Penguins – x
- Washington Capitals – x
- Carolina Hurricanes – x
- New York Rangers – x
- New York Islanders
- New Jersey Devils
- Philadelphia Flyers
Other than the Penguins, I really have no idea how this division will shape out (I’ve changed it so many times now). But I will drink the kool aid on the Blue Jackets as they look to have an even more complete team than last year. The Penguins are going to the playoffs, where they end up seeding wise will depend on how tired they are after playing so many hockey games the past few years. Washington will still find a way in, and then find a way out. The Carolina Hurricanes, one of the best kept secrets in the NHL, find their way in despite a close battle with the New York teams. The Rangers edge out the Islanders, but I don’t know why because I like the Islanders way better on paper (probably because of Handsome Hank and his goaltending). New Jersey tries to get in on the fun but is still a year or two away from making that big leap back to the playoffs. Philadelphia finishes last with a young defense that will be a force to be recon with soon and uncertainty throughout their lineup.
- Dallas Stars – y
- Chicago Blackhawks – x
- Minnesota Wild – x
- St. Louis Blues – x
- Winnipeg Jets – x
- Nashville Predators
- Colorado Avalanche
The new look Dallas Stars click and find their way through to the top of the Central. Chicago welcomes back Brandon Saad with open arms and in return gets a more balanced line up and the second spot in the division. The Wild won’t go away either and gut out a top 3 spot. Despite injuries to start the season, the Blues finish in the first wild card spot as the still have a potential 50 goal scorer in Tarasenko and an all around solid defense. The Jets make it because they have too much scoring potential not to, and an in your face defense. They will need to get some goalie help, but not much as they finish with one of the top power plays in the league. Last year the Predators were the last team to get into the playoffs, just above the Jets. The tides are turned this year as the Predators can’t live up to the expectations in Smashville. The Avalanche can’t find their way out of the basement in the toughest division in hockey.
- Edmonton Oilers – p
- Anaheim Ducks – x
- Calgary Flames – x
- San Jose Sharks
- Los Angeles Kings
- Arizona Coyotes
- Vegas Golden Knights
- Vancouver Canucks
Connor McDavid leads the Oilers to the President’s Trophy while once again leading the league in points (get used to it). The Anaheim Ducks finally finish in second place in the division after having control of it for quite some time. Calgary gets hot and comes into the playoffs swinging for the fences. The Sharks get close, but with an older core and a mix of young guns, finish just outside of the top 3. The new bench boss and control in LA doesn’t quite cut it for the Kings as they continue to find themselves on the outside looking in. Arizona is improved due to some talented rookies and a new philosophy, but they still have work to do. The Knights finish their first season not last in their division, but their owner’s statement of making the playoffs in their first three years of existence looks dim. Vancouver waves goodbye to their season as they wave goodbye to the Sedin twins and a new era is set to begin for the Canucks.
While he didn’t give me any specifics, site creator Jeremy has made himself some playoff picks. So here is what he thinks the playoffs will look like come April:
1. Montreal Canadiens 2. Tampa Bay Lightning 3. Boston Bruins
1. Columbus Blue Jackets 2. Pittsburgh Penguins 3. Washington Capitals
1. Philadelphia Flyers 2. Toronto Maple Leafs
1. Minnesota Wild 2. Chicago Blackhawks 3. Winnipeg Jets
1. Edmonton Oilers 2. San Jose Sharks 3. Calgary Flames
1. Dallas Stars 2. Colorado Avalanche
Columbus Blue Jackets over the Edmonton Oilers
Happy hockey everyone.