So we’re just about two weeks away from the start of the regular season and it’s time for my predictions segment. Now unlike many, I love doing predictions. It gives me a chance to really look into researching other teams and I pride myself on how that research comes to fruition. As always I will break down each conference into four categories: The Core; Bubble, Sophomores, and Lottery. When it comes to predicting where I put each team, I had to decide how many points will be needed to make it to the middle of April. As far as the West goes, I believe that 95 points will be the minimum requirement. Where each team will land in the standings will be anyone’s guess, but if a team mentioned in the Core or Bubble sustain enough injuries, the points total could slightly drop. I’m also adding another element to the prediction piece, each teams projected end of year total which will roughly have a span of five points. So without further hesitation, let’s start with the Core.
The Core Teams
These six teams, even with injuries, have enough talent and depth that they should land in the top 8 for the playoffs.
1. Chicago: 97-102 points
The Hawks made some cap-crunching moves on offense and defense due to the expansion draft and by them always being at the top of the cap ceiling. The loss of Scott Darling will be the biggest question mark as he was a great backup to Corey Crawford. However, these are still the Hawks and they should make the playoffs with the players on this roster.
2. St. Louis Blues: 100-105 points
This year will be about Jake Allen. It’s his time to take over as one of the top goalies in the division, if not the conference. There’s still plenty of depth and talent on this team, but Allen is the catalyst. If he can steal a few games, it would not surprise me if the Blues win the division.
3. Nashville Predators: 97-102 points
For the Preds it’s simple, can they repeat? After what fans witnessed last year, it won’t matter how many points Nashville ends up with, what matters is how they come out to begin the post season.
4. Anaheim Ducks: 100-105 points
Let’s be realistic for a moment. We all want a Pacific Division showdown with the Oilers again, so a first or second place finish will do that. I think the Ducks will have enough to beat the third place team in the division and move on to the Oilers in the second round. Speaking of the Oilers……
5. Edmonton Oilers: 105-110 points
Here’s your western conference regular season champs. Does this mean they’re winning the Cup? Nope. The central division is the toughest coming out of the west, so you’re going to see a lot of teams scrunched up at the top. In the Pacific it’s just between the Oilers and Ducks. Can the Oilers get past their rivals and move on to the Conference Championships? Can they handle that kind of expectation?
6. Minnesota Wild: 97-102 points
Minnesota is another year older and still have not delivered the fans anything to really cheer about. I’m nervous the trap door is going to open up on them and they fall, but for now they have the tools to make another legit run heading into the playoffs.
These teams will probably hit the wild card spots or be in the fight for one for the entire season.
1. Dallas Stars: 95-100 points
Here is my dark horse for the western conference folks. The only reason why I don’t have them in the playoffs is because you can only have five teams from one division and the Stars have not been as consistent over the last few years. This is my safe bet, but if any of the Hawks, Wild or Preds go into a long losing/winless streak of any kind, the Stars move in and they’ll be a force in the playoffs and will change the entire outlook.
2. Calgary Flames: 95-100 points
They’re boasting one of the top defenses in the league and the biggest question will be, once again, the goaltending. If Calgary can rack up 230 goals, this team should make the playoffs with consistent goaltending and their defensive unit. Look for them to be players throughout the season as they’ll look to improve the team as the Oilers/Ducks battle for first in the pacific.
3. San José Sharks: 92-97 points
Can the Sharks get any older? How will they play without Patrick Marleau? Goaltending should be good and they might get one more good year out of Joe Thornton, but it’s time for the younger players to step up and carry the torch.
4. Los Angeles Kings: 92-97 points
See the Sharks about getting older. Will the offense come alive? Can Jonathan Quick stay healthy? With new management coming in and trying to tackle similar cap issues that the Flyers have recently gone through, it’s tough to put them in third place in the pacific now.
The Sophomore Teams
These are teams I really don’t know where to put them. They’re like sophomores in high school, they’re making an identity for themselves running around and you just never know where they’ll end up. Sometimes they may surprise you and make it to the postseason.
1. Colorado Avalanche: 65-70 points
Because the Avs play in the central division, the points total is lower. Matt Duchene remains on the team and it will be a distraction all season if/when he’s traded. I can’t see another sub 50 point season from them again, but stranger things have happened.
2. Arizona Coyotes 75-80 points
I’m rooting for the Yotes this year. I stated before, if the Kings or Sharks become too much of a retirement home and things fall apart, I could see Arizona becoming a bubble team this year, but a lot has to go right for them. Keep a careful eye on them if they get close or beyond the 80 points. Someone has to replace the Sharks or Kings at some point.
3. Winnipeg Jets 87-92 points
The Jets really do deserve to be a bubble team and if they were in the pacific, I may have them higher than the Sharks right now. They just need to come out of the gate with their guns blazing and try to see if teams like Chicago and Minnesota stumble to the point they could get that possible last wild card slot.
The Lottery Teams
These teams are not necessarily going to finish last in the conference, but have the least likeliest chance of making the playoffs.
1. Vegas Golden Knights 60-65 points
As someone who follows the draft and prospects, I like what Vegas did this summer to build this team. I’m looking forward to seeing what else they do during the season. Roll the dice, play spoilers, win points you shouldn’t have gotten and relish in other teams demise. Good luck.
2. Vancouver Canucks 65-70 points
If this is going to be the farewell tour of the Sedin Twins, let it be this year. Too many questions on this team to go over so let’s just watch and cringe a few times and we’ll get a better assessment in April.