For any variety of seasons now, the Metropolitan and Central have been the better and deeper of the NHL’s four divisions.
That has meant teams in the Atlantic and Pacific have been picking higher in the entry draft in the last several years.
Is that balance of energy on the verge of changing this year? According to my annual preseason forecasts, the solution is yes — at least to a level.
A few of these predictions — by the divisional standings to the playoff picture into the draft lottery chances — are, admittedly, aggressive in character.
Maybe that’s the Vegas effect or that parity is alive and well in the NHL, with lots of playoff turnover and standings shuffling from one season to another.
William Karlsson Golden Knights 2018
(THW file picture )
William Karlsson along with the Vegas Golden Knights surpassed all expectations last season whilst completely destroying everyone’s predictions. The slate is wiped clean and we are starting from scratch .
With the exception of a couple of teams, it is safe to presume 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 could be as large as 31. Again, Vegas demonstrated anything 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 year 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 everyone else who published their predictions prior to last season. I can not recall a single published forecast of Vegas making the playoffs in its inaugural campaign.
Come to think of it, my mind 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 those clubs in the lottery mix based on 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 creating the playoffs last year. Hall was so dominant in the second half that he proceeded to win the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player.
From 2017, there were seven teams in 2018 counting Vegas. That is nearly half 7 of 16!
That comprised Winnipeg, Colorado, Vegas and Los Angeles from the West, replacing Chicago, St. Louis, Edmonton and Calgary. In the East, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia and New Jersey bumped out Ottawa, Montreal and the New York Rangers.
A year makes.
Surethat was a crazy year and may have been more turnover than usual, but I feel it is likely to become the new standard thanks to this aforementioned league-wide parity.
In reality, I’m feeling somewhat conservative in predicting”only” six distinct playoff teams in 2019 out of 2018. Put the over/under in five and I am totally taking the above.
Tempting as it is to reveal that list right here and right now, I will hold off on the spoilers and make you continue reading. But apologies ahead of the 15 fan bases of groups that didn’t create my playoff film, especially the six that fell from last year since they will be the most enraged.
Without further ado, here are my 2018-19 preseason predictions (with the variant from my offseason predictions in parenthesis)