For a variety of seasons now, the Metropolitan and Central have been the better and deeper of the NHL’s four divisions.
That has intended teams in the Atlantic and Pacific have been picking higher in the entry draft in recent years.
Is that balance of power on the verge of changing this year? In accordance with my yearly preseason forecasts, the answer is yes — at least to a degree.
A few of those predictions — from the divisional standings into the playoff picture to the draft lottery chances — are, admittedly, aggressive in character.
Maybe that’s the Vegas result or the fact that parity is alive and well in the NHL, with lots of playoff turnover and standings shuffling from 1 season to another.
William Karlsson Golden Knights 2018
(THW file photo)
William Karlsson and also the Vegas Golden Knights exceeded all expectations last time while completely destroying everyone’s predictions. The slate is wiped clean and we are starting from scratch again.
With the exception of a handful of teams, it’s safe to assume 25-plus owners and general managers are entering this season with the expectation of making the playoffs or thinking in that possible.
Heck, that amount might be as large as 31. Again, Vegas proved whatever is possible by advancing to the Stanley Cup Final as an expansion franchise.
Granted, that has been a remarkable run of Leicester-level improbability, but it’ll be difficult to dispute any forecasts from this day forward.
For the record, my preseason forecasts from last season had the Golden Misfits bringing up the rear in the Pacific, not just missing the playoffs but finishing dead last with the highest likelihood of winning the Rasmus Dahlin lottery.
Boy, was I wrong about those Golden Knights, but so was everybody else who published their predictions prior to last season. I can’t recall a single published forecast of Vegas producing the playoffs in its inaugural effort.
Come to think of it, my head is also drawing blanks on any printed predictions from past fall in favour of Colorado or New Jersey creating the playoffs? Feel free to enlighten me, but they were few and far between to be certain. Most had three of these clubs in the lottery combination based on my memory. Yes, such as yours truly.
(Brian Babineau/NHLI through Getty Images)
Taylor Hall and the New Jersey Devils amazed the hockey world by creating the playoffs last year. Hall was dominant in the second half he went on to win the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player.
Counting Vegas, there have been seven playoff teams in 2018 in 2017. That’s nearly half 7 of 16!
That included Winnipeg, Colorado, Vegas and Los Angeles from the West, substituting Chicago, St. Louis, Edmonton and Calgary. In the East, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia and New Jersey bumped out Ottawa, Montreal and the New York Rangers.
Crazy, what a difference a year makes.
Sure, that has been a crazy year and might have been more turnover than usual, but I believe it is likely to become the new norm thanks to that aforementioned league-wide parity.
In fact, I am feeling a tad conservative in calling”just” six distinct playoff teams in 2019 out of 2018. Put the over/under at five and I am totally taking the above.
Tempting as it is to show that list right here and right now, I will hold off on the spoilers and cause you to read on. But apologies in advance to the 15 fan bases of teams that didn’t make my playoff picture, especially the six that fell from last season since they’ll be the most enraged.
Without further ado, here are my 2018-19 preseason predictions (using the variant from my offseason predictions in parenthesis)
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