For any variety of seasons now, the Metropolitan and Central have been the deeper and better of the NHL’s four branches.
That has meant teams from the Atlantic and Pacific have been choosing higher in the entry draft in the last several decades.
Is that balance of power on the verge of changing this year? According to my annual preseason forecasts, the solution is yes — at least to some degree.
A few of those predictions — from the divisional standings into the playoff picture into the draft lottery chances — are, admittedly, aggressive in nature.
Perhaps that is the Vegas result or the fact that parity is alive and well in the NHL, with plenty of playoff turnover and standings shuffling from one season to another.
William Karlsson Golden Knights 2018
(THW file picture )
William Karlsson and also the Vegas Golden Knights surpassed all expectations last season whilst fully ruining everybody’s predictions. Now the slate is wiped clean and we are starting from scratch .
With the exception of a couple of groups, it is safe to assume 25-plus owners and general managers are entering this season with the anticipation of making the playoffs or thinking in that potential.
Heck, that amount might be as high as 31. Again, Vegas proved whatever is possible by advancing to the Stanley Cup Final as an expansion franchise.
Granted, that was 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 only 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 everybody else that published their predictions before last season. I can’t remember a single published prediction of Vegas making the playoffs in its inaugural campaign.
Come to think of it, my head is also drawing blanks on any printed predictions from past collapse in favour of Colorado or New Jersey making the playoffs? Feel free to enlighten me, but they were few and far between to be sure. Most had all three of those clubs at the lottery combination according to my memory. Yes, such as yours truly.
(Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)
Taylor Hall and the New Jersey Devils surprised the hockey world by making the playoffs last season. 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 were seven different playoff teams in 2018 in 2017. That is nearly half — 7 of 16!
That included Winnipeg, Colorado, Vegas and Los Angeles in 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.
Surethat has been a crazy year and might have been more turnover than usual, but I feel it’s likely to become the new norm due to that aforementioned league-wide parity.
In fact, I’m feeling a tad conservative in calling”just” six different teams in 2019 out of 2018. Put the over/under in five and I am totally taking the over.
Tempting as it is to reveal that listing right here and right now, I will hold off on the spoilers and make you read on. However, apologies in advance to the 15 fan bases of groups that didn’t create my playoff picture, particularly the six that dropped from last year since they will be the most enraged.
Without further ado, here are my 2018-19 preseason predictions (using the variant from my offseason predictions in parenthesis)