Welcome to September everyone! The month where, when you’re a hockey fan, you want to skip like Thanksgiving and move right into Christmas, or in this case the month of October. What September does give hockey fans are training camps and preseason games to watch as a teaser, a chance to start predicting where your favorite team will finish a the end of the season or determine how much blood pressure medication they’ll need to get them through a possible rough season. So I usually do my regular season predictions a day or two before the regular season begins, but I always do a preseason look at the teams before they even hit the ice in September. This is where I find my dark horses, my possible basement dwellers and so on. Now I must reiterate that this is strictly by the numbers. I’ll take the last three years of each season of the players and then for every team I take 12 forwards, 7 defenseman and 2 goalies. I total up the possible offense and the possible defense/goalie and I compare to the other teams. The following rankings are as of September 1st. A lot could change in a month, for example the Islanders acquiring Boychuk and Leddy days before the start of the season significantly impacted the Islanders as I moved them up from a bubble team to a playoff. Again I’m looking for some kind of consistency, that’s all. Here’s a look at the Eastern Conference Rankings:
3. Tampa Bay
13. New Jersey
Now obviously some teams on this list made the playoffs last year and are ranked pretty low right now. Washington and Columbus as examples are slated by some to make a run at the division title and maybe make a deeper run into the playoffs. So why do I have them so low? There are three criteria’s for a lower ranking: The team may be going through a rebuild, you don’t keep older players over a three year span when you’re rebuilding (Hello Buffalo). Younger teams: Some teams get younger and lack the 3 full seasons, so they’re rankings are lower (Hello Washington, Florida) and some get hit with an injury bug so severe it impacts their rankings (Hello Columbus, Carolina). As you can see the bottom four teams are the ones most are not expecting to make the playoffs anyways. As for the top four, they should make it in.
Here is something else to consider: if any of the top teams become injured, I can look on here for now and see which team would sneak in, so I’m looking for Ottawa and Philly to be in the playoff race all season long. I also expect teams 10-16 to be the most active in player transaction during the regular season because at some point each of those teams need to improve. Again this is as of September 1st and I’m expecting some activity between now and October 5th. After October 5th, we’ll have a better look at each team when they start the season.
As for the Islanders, if they stay healthy they should make the playoffs. Doesn’t mean the roster won’t change but as of September 1st, and assuming Brock Nelson is signed before camp, this will be a good first year in Brooklyn.