For a number of seasons now, the Metropolitan and Central have been the deeper and better of the NHL’s four divisions.
That has meant teams in the Atlantic and Pacific have been choosing higher in the entry draft in the last several decades.
Is that balance of power on the brink of shifting this season? According to my annual preseason forecasts, the answer is yes — at least to some level.
A few of these predictions — from the divisional standings into the playoff picture into the draft lottery chances — are, admittedly, aggressive in nature.
Maybe that’s the Vegas effect or the fact that parity is alive and well in the NHL, with plenty of playoff turnover and standings shuffling from one season to the next.
William Karlsson Golden Knights 2018
(THW file photo)
William Karlsson along with also the Vegas Golden Knights surpassed all expectations last time whilst completely ruining everyone’s predictions. The slate is wiped clean and we are starting from scratch again.
With the exception of a couple of teams, it is safe to presume 25-plus owners and general managers are entering this year with the expectation of making the playoffs or thinking in that possible.
Heck, that number could be as large as 31. Again, Vegas demonstrated 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 hard to dispute any predictions 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 highest likelihood of winning the Rasmus Dahlin lottery.
Boy, was I ever wrong about these Golden Knights, but so was everybody else who posted their predictions prior to last season. I can’t remember a single printed 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 last collapse in favour of Colorado or New Jersey creating the playoffs? Feel free to inform me, but they have been few and far between to be sure. Most had three of those clubs at the lottery mix based on my memory. Yes, including yours truly.
(Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)
Taylor Hall and the New Jersey Devils surprised the baseball world by making the playoffs last season. Hall was so dominant in the second half he proceeded to win the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player.
In 2017, there have been seven different teams in 2018 counting Vegas. That’s almost 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 nowadays.
Surethat has been a crazy year and might have been more turnover than usual, but I believe it is likely to become the new standard thanks to that aforementioned league-wide parity.
In reality, I am feeling a tad conservative in calling”only” six different playoff teams in 2019 out of 2018. Put the over/under at five and I’m totally taking the over.
Tempting as it is to show that listing right here and right now, I’ll hold off on the spoilers and cause you to read on. But apologies ahead of the 15 enthusiast bases of teams which didn’t create my playoff picture, especially the six that fell out from last year since they will be the most enraged.
Without further ado, here are my 2018-19 preseason predictions (with the variation in my offseason predictions in parenthesis)