The NHL season is about to start, and it’s now time to predict the final standings at the end of the season.
* = Playoffs
^ = Presidents’ Trophy
< = Wild Card
> = Division Winner
I feel it is really easy to say that the Lightning win the division, as they still have the core of Kucherov, Stamkos, Point, Hedman and Vasilevsky, which is a better 5 than any other team in the league. I don’t think they win the Presidents’ Trophy, though, because of just how tough their division and conference is.
The other two playoff teams are the Panthers and Bruins, as both teams have a strong group of star players and enough good bench players that they will be second and third in the division. The Maple Leafs will be a Wild Card team, as having Auston Matthews on your team means you’re getting a bunch of goals. The only problem I see is losing Fredrik Andersson for Petr Mrázek, as Mrázek is a much more streaky goalie than Andersson, and also, I don’t fully trust the Leafs’ depth, but their top line’s raw talent can get them a Wild Card berth.
I think the Habs will miss the playoffs only because of the competition in their division and conference, as they lost a couple key players in Corey Perry and Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and with Price getting older, I don’t think Caufield and Suzuki will be enough to get them back to the playoffs. As for the Red Wings and Senators, I don’t see either rebuild being done yet, though, in the future they both could be great teams. Last is the Buffalo Sabres, who have overtaken the Cleveland Browns as the worst run organization in the big 4 North American sports leagues, as they have totally mishandled Jack Eichel, failed so far at most of their prospects, failed at bringing in free agents and failed at good personnel, so seeing them as anything but the worst team in the Atlantic Division is insane.
This division has two teams who are genuine threats to win it all in the Islanders and Hurricanes, who both have had recent playoff success in some shape or form recently, along with good rosters, but the Islanders had a good offseason, as they kept the key players and added some veterans in Zdeno Chára and Zach Parise, where as the Hurricanes had a bad offseason, as they let go of all three of their goalies and got back Fredrik Andersson and Antti Raanta, which is definitely a downgrade. They also lost their best defenceman and arguably best player in Dougie Hamilton and replaced him with Ethan Bear, which is another downgrade. They also replaced a bunch of depth they lost with downgrades, but overall, they still have most of their core, but they won’t win the division, as they just aren’t better than the Islanders, who will win it.
The other playoff team is the Capitals, as they still have many players from their Cup winning team along with a couple newer players, and the Wild Card Penguins won’t be higher than than on the standings as Evgeni Malkin is out for a couple months.
I think the Devils will be fifth because their young core of Ty Smith, Yegor Sharangovich, Nico Hischier, Mackenzie Blackwood and Jack Hughes will be continuing to get better, and with the addition of Dougie Hamilton, it might allow P. K. Subban to return to his previous greatness, so why won’t they make the playoffs? Well they might. It’s just that I trust Crosby and Malkin (when he gets back) more than the Devils as a team, though, in the next two years, this Devils team could become a Stanley Cup favorite.
As for the Rangers, they are hard to place, as they have the Bread Man and Mika Zibanejad, who are both awesome players, but their depth is pretty poor, and their young players of Kaapo Kakko, Vitaly Kravtsov, Igor Shesterkin and Alexis Lafrenière haven’t gotten to the next level yet.
The Flyers are not going to be they high, as this is the toughest division in hockey, and the Blue Jackets are the only non-threat out of all 8 teams; hence, why they’ll finish eighth. But the Flyers just aren’t able to be that high, as Carter Hart had a terrible year last year, and even if he gets back to form, the team has limited depth, a bunch of older players and some unproven, or so far, bad young players.
Even though the Avalanche lost Philipp Grubauer, I still believe they can win the Central Division mainly because they were able to get Darcy Kuemper, who isn’t a huge downgrade; rather, just a slight one. They also still have Nathan Mackinnon, who is one of the best players in the league. The main reason, however, is that most of the other teams didn’t improve that much in their division.
The two other playoff teams are the Jets and Wild, as they just have the required high end talent to win a lot of games, but the Jets get second since Connor Hellebuyck is a better goalie than Cam Talbot.
I think both Western Conference Wild Cards come from the Central via the Blackhawks and Stars, as the Blackhawks will be back healthy unlike last season. They added Vezina winner Marc-André Fleury. The Stars, who added a couple decent players in the offseason, along with their young core getting better, will earn the second Wild Card spot.
As for the Predators, they simply just aren’t good enough, along with the Blues, as both teams have veterans and young players, who are good but not as good as the best teams in the division. The Coyotes finish last to no one’s surprise, as they just flat out are not a good team.
The Golden Knights win the division and Presidents’ Trophy. Why? Well, this is the weakest division in hockey by a mile. The Sharks and Ducks are still in the middle of their rebuild, the Flames are about to enter one, the Canucks will find a way to blow the season again, and the Kings are just starting to finish their rebuild.
The Oilers are essentially still McDavid and Draisaitl, but that’s enough to make the playoffs, and the Kraken acquiring Philipp Grubauer and some other vets will get them the other playoff spot.
Now, predicting the Kings as fourth in the division may sound crazy, as the Canucks have more talent, but the Canucks have a history of failing, and the Kings played really well last year, and the young guys will be better and the old vets will probably be about the same.
The Flames have just started their rebuild, so they still have some good players and will finish above the two actively rebuilding teams in the Ducks and Sharks. If Evander Kane does play this year, it’s safe to say the Sharks finish seventh, and even if he does not, they still should be better than the Ducks.