Every year I write up a different kind of preseason prediction because the upcoming season really is unpredictable. To be honest, this should really be more like an expectation piece than a prediction, but like all kinds of writings like these, take with a grain of salt. What I tend to do is I take info from the last three years of each player and after some simple math and statistical research is done, I try to classify each team into four different categories: The Core, Bubble, Sophomore, and Lottery. Now this isn’t necessarily where I think each team will end up, but it’s the expectations and where they SHOULD end up by the end of the season. This also gives you a better understanding of where I’m coming from and how I interpret other teams. So going by the numbers, let’s check out the first category.
The Core Teams:
These are the teams that should make the playoffs: Tampa Bay, Boston, Toronto, Pittsburgh, Washington, and Columbus. The Atlantic is fairly simple but I’m not going to lie, trying to figure out the Metro took a little longer. Here are the actual points I see each team finishing by seasons end (5 point spread)
Tampa: 107-112; Boston: 102-107; Toronto 97-102
Columbus: 102-107; Washington 100-105; Pittsburgh 97-102
Tampa going in first place should be a no-brainer for everyone, agreed? I put Boston ahead of Toronto because I do like the Bruins goaltending over the Leafs, and there is more experience (in terms of games played and years) as a whole with Boston than there is with Toronto, but that will change next year.
Like last year, Columbus should win this division. They didn’t though and as of right now, it’s not looking any better. Trade rumors and injuries are going to seriously put the Jackets in a tough spot. The difference between the Capitals and the Penguins is Branden Holtby. The amount of games he plays/wins will decide whether this team can stay in the top 3. If he fails, you can be sure the Pens will take another shot at the division.
The Bubble Teams:
These are the teams that may not finish in the top three, but will be vying for a wild card position come April.
Flyers: 95-100; Florida: 92-97; Islanders 92-97; Devils 87-92
If the stars align and the Flyers can get some good, consistent goaltending, the Flyers can once again crack the top three. I’d say there’s a good chance for that to happen. The Florida Panthers are going to be a very exciting team and I’ll be watching with great interest. If Roberto Luongo can stay healthy, can the Panthers give the Leafs or Boston a run for their money? I’d love to see it. How do I have the Islanders over the Devils. There’s simply more info over the last three years for the Islanders and Panthers than there is for New Jersey. If reigning Hart Trophy winner, Taylor Hall can duplicate what he did and other players elevate their game, then the devils become a threat for a wild card spot, but at the start of this season, look for the Devils to be buyers at the trade deadline if they’re still in the hunt.
The Sophomore Teams:
Just like in high school, sophomores are just…..there. No place to put them because they’re still trying to figure out some kind of identity in this conference.
Buffalo Sabres 82-87; Carolina 82-87; Montreal 77-82; Detroit 75-80
Buffalo is probably the most improved team on paper, but due to the Atlantic division being dominant, what will this translate to come game time? The Hurricanes are the one dark horse that I’m keeping a very close eye on. If the offense finds a spark and Scott Darling (who dropped 25 pounds) regains any resemblance to his Chicago form, I could see the Canes making a wild card run. Montreal will once again depend on Carey Price. The problem with that is I sound like a broken record. Detroit lost Henrik Zetterberg to retirement and again, due to the division that they’re in and the improvements to Buffalo, I don’t really know where they land.
The Lottery Teams
These are the teams, that may not necessarily be a lottery team, but have the least likeliest chances of making the playoffs. Two years ago, Toronto was on this list and last year it was the Devils, so please take this with a tiny grain of salt because you just never know.
Rangers: 72-77; Ottawa 70-75;
The Rangers are sticking with their plan and they should. This should still be a fun team to watch as the young kids need time to mature and grow. Ottawa? If I’m a Sens fan, I want to know who wants to play here long-term and do I have to get rid of my Stone and Duchene jerseys.
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