For a number of seasons now, the Metropolitan and Central are the better and deeper of the NHL’s four branches.
That has intended teams from the Atlantic and Pacific have been picking higher in the entry draft in the last several years.
Is that balance of energy on the brink of changing this year? In accordance with my annual preseason predictions, the solution is yes — at least to some degree.
A few of these predictions — by the divisional standings into the playoff picture into the draft lottery chances — are, admittedly, competitive in nature.
Maybe that is the Vegas effect or the fact that parity is alive and well in the NHL, with lots of playoff turnover and standings shuffling from 1 season to the next.
William Karlsson Golden Knights 2018
(THW file picture )
William Karlsson and also the Vegas Golden Knights surpassed all expectations last time while fully destroying everyone’s predictions. Now the slate is wiped clean and we are starting from scratch again.
With the exception of a handful of groups, it is safe to assume 25-plus owners and general managers are entering this season with the expectation of making the playoffs or believing in that possible.
Heck, amount might be as high as 31. Again, Vegas demonstrated anything 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 will 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 greatest odds of winning the Rasmus Dahlin lottery.
Boy, was I wrong about these Golden Knights, but so was everyone else that posted their predictions prior to last season. I can’t remember a single published forecast of Vegas producing the playoffs in its inaugural campaign.
Come to think about it, my head is also drawing blanks on any printed predictions from past collapse in favour of Colorado or New Jersey creating the playoffs? Feel free to enlighten me, but they have been few and far between to be certain. Most had all three of these clubs in the lottery mix based on my memory. Yes, including yours truly.
Taylor Hall
(Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)
Taylor Hall and the New Jersey Devils surprised the baseball world by making the playoffs last year. Hall was dominant in the second half that he proceeded 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 almost half — 7 of 16!
That included Winnipeg, Colorado, Vegas and Los Angeles in the West, substituting Chicago, St. Louis, Edmonton and Calgary. From the East, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia and New Jersey bumped out Ottawa, Montreal and the New York Rangers.
A year makes nowadays.
Sure, that was a crazy year and might have been more turnover than normal, but I feel 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 from 2018. Put the over/under at five and I am totally taking the above.
Tempting as it is to show that listing right here and right now, I will hold off on the spoilers and cause you to continue reading. But apologies ahead of the 15 fan bases of groups which didn’t create my playoff film, particularly the six that dropped out from last year since they will be the most enraged.
Without further ado, here are my 2018-19 preseason predictions (with the variant in my offseason predictions in parenthesis)