It’s that time of year where hockey pundits and fans try and figure out which NHL teams will have success in the upcoming season.
We’ve been told this is “The Year of “Analytics” in the game so let’s start there and see what we find.
I strongly recommend you read the entire article linked to above for methodology and context but here’s a quick peek at the results.
I’ll let you make your own assessment of those stats based “predictions” (holy cow…look at Anaheim!) but I thought i would distill them a bit to see which teams will or will not make the playoffs in the WC based those methods.
Close But No Cigar
In the Toilet
Oh, where to begin!!!
The Stazis have the Sharks making a huge return to relevance, improving from 89 points last season to a Conference Championship with 110 points. This despite another few thousand miles on the odometer for Thornton and Marleau and bringing in a new coach and precious little else. Don’t think so.
They also have the Ducks dropping 10 points in the season(likely based on possession which the team always defies) and are likely ignoring the further maturation of the deep but youthful D the Ducks have deployed)
They correctly in my opinion have identified the Dallas Stars as one of the most improved team in the WC but they totally ignore the turmoil in Chicago which saw the Hawks lose Sharp, Oduya, Saad, among, others and the effect that may have on team chemistry never mind the Stanley Cup hangover that seems to be a real thing.
They also have the Oilers improving by only 8 points which I find very hard to believe considering the radical changes they’ve mad throughout the organization and on the ice.
Those are just a few quibbles so let’s take a look at what I think we’ll see this season.
Wins this division if their defensive game and goaltending improve to what they seemed to be in the last 20 games last season (best record in the NHL). The Stars top 6 forward group is the best in the NHL and even though Jamie Benn, Valerie Nichushkin and Ales Hemsky (as well as D John Klingberg and Patrick Nemeth) were injured last season, the Stars were the second highest scoring team in the league.
The Blues were tied for tops in the division last season and I have seen nothing to indicate they will drop back by any significant amount. With Vladimir Tarasenko likely to challenge for the scoring lead and perhaps some less difficult games against Chicago, the Blues are dropping back
The Wild had the second best goal differential in the west last season (+30) and despite a very slow start with sub par goaltending, finished with 100 points, a mere 2 points behind Chicago. They’ll get over that hump this season
Virtually every prognosticator I’ve seen is calling for the Ducks to top the WC and most pick them to win the Stanley Cup.
The Ducks have added tremendous speed up front in Carl Hagelin, size and grit with Chris Stewart and a veteran presence on D in Kevin Bieksa. Their young D, Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen, Simon Depres and Josh Manson are all going to be better and they have 3 quality NHL goaltenders in the system.
I’m going off the board here but I think the Flames have another gravity defying season in them.
The Stazis all insist, based on last year’s possession metrics, that the Flames will do a face plant this season.
I don’t they will since Brad Treleving knows full well his team has to improve in the area and addressed the issue directly by adding Michael Frolik and Dougie Hamilton.
Both are positive possession guys and a closer look at the Flames possession number show the Flames did juts fine when Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie were on the ice. Now that their second pairing has added Hamilton and their second line has added Frolik, they will be significanlyt better in that area.
And lest we forget, the Flames have also added Sam Bennett to their second like which promises to bring a lot more scoring than last season.
If they can get league average goaltending, and they have 3 strong choices in net, I see them finishing 3rd in the Pacific.
Here’s where things get very uncertain where injury, bad luck or a tickle in someone’s throat could decide the last 2 spots in the WC playoffs.
I’ll just rank them in order of what I think the probability is that they could make it.
Is Milan Lucic a strong enough replacement for Justin Williams?
They’ll be playing against tougher Ducks, Kings, Flames and Oilers in their division this season
Lots of changes and a Stanley Cup hangover.
Still not convinced they have enough offence and an injury to one centre kills them
The Canucks have added size, speed and youth to their lineup. Keep a close eye on Bo Horvat who looks ready to explode.
Rookie defenseman Ben Hutton was spectacular in the pre-season and brings size, speed and scoring ability to the Canucks D,
Whether or not youngsters Jared McCann and Jake Virtanen can make an impact is still in question but their infusion of youth should help a stale Canucks lineup.
The toughest team to rank. Big team that may have over achieved last season but, if their rookies take off they could surprise.
Their D remains weak and losing Ryan O’Reilly is going to hurt.
I’ve got them down for 10 more wins this season but that will get them nowhere near the playoffs and with a very tough first 20 games, they may be out of the race by Halloween again. Cam Talbot has never played in front of the worst D in the league before. He’s about to.