For any variety of seasons now, the Metropolitan and Central are the better and deeper of the NHL’s four divisions.
That has intended teams from the Atlantic and Pacific have been choosing higher in the entry draft in recent decades.
Is that balance of energy on the verge of changing this year? In accordance with my yearly preseason predictions, the solution is yes — at least to some level.
A few of these predictions — from the divisional standings to the playoff picture to the draft lottery odds — are, admittedly, competitive in nature.
Perhaps that’s the Vegas result or the fact that parity is alive and well in the NHL, with plenty of playoff turnover and standings shuffling from 1 season to another.
William Karlsson Golden Knights 2018
(THW file photo)
William Karlsson along with also the Vegas Golden Knights exceeded all expectations last season while fully ruining everybody’s predictions. The slate is wiped clean and we are starting from scratch again.
With the exception of a couple of groups, it’s safe to presume 25-plus owners and general managers are entering this season with the expectation of making the playoffs or believing in that possible.
Heck, that number 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 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 greatest odds of winning the Rasmus Dahlin lottery.
Boy, was I ever wrong about these Golden Knights, but so was everybody else that published their predictions prior to last season. I can’t recall a single published prediction of Vegas making the playoffs in its inaugural campaign.
Come to think of it, my mind is also drawing blanks on any published predictions from past collapse in favour of Colorado or New Jersey making the playoffs? Feel free to inform me, but they have been few and far between to be certain. Most had three of those clubs at the lottery combination according to my memory. Yes, including yours truly.
(Brian Babineau/NHLI through Getty Images)
Taylor Hall and the New Jersey Devils surprised the hockey world by creating the playoffs last year. Hall was dominant in the second half he proceeded to win the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player.
From 2017, there have been seven distinct teams in 2018 counting Vegas. 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 today.
Surethat was a crazy year and might have been more turnover than usual, but I believe it’s going to become the new standard due to that aforementioned league-wide parity.
In reality, I am feeling somewhat conservative in predicting”only” six distinct playoff teams in 2019 from 2018. Set the over/under at five and I’m totally taking the above.
Tempting as it is to reveal that list right here and right now, I’ll hold off on the spoilers and make you continue reading. However, apologies in advance to the 15 enthusiast bases of teams which didn’t create my playoff picture, particularly the six that fell from last year since they’ll be the most enraged.
Without further ado, here are my 2018-19 preseason predictions (using the variation in my offseason predictions in parenthesis)