NHL Season Projections

Joseph Beaudet

 

Nothing has been posted in a while. Baseball is boring to write about until the trade deadline, basketball is just always boring to write about if I’m completely honest, football is dead, and that brings us to hockey. Hockey is always fun to write about, so long as there’s even maybe something to write about. And now here we are.

Quite simply, I’m just going to go through every NHL team, then at the end do conference standings and all that good stuff. So, without further adieu…

 

Metropolitan Division

 

Carolina Hurricanes

The Hurricanes were not a good hockey team last year, by any stretch of the imagination, though there were bright spots. Finishing 7th in the Metro last year, they ranked in the middle of the league in both goals scored and goals allowed. Getting Sebastian Aho another year under his belt will be big for Carolina, and he should be a solid contributor again this year. After finishing with 87 points last year, they did upgrade their goalie by trading for Scott Darling, but I don’t see much of an improvement for the Canes, and I think they’ll finish with 90 points.

 

Columbus Blue Jackets

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Artemi Panarin was an upgrade over Brandon Saad, and the Jackets ran like bandits in that trade. However, the two best teams in the league just so happen to be in the Metro with the Jackets, and while they got better, if anything, they most definitely aren’t going to leapfrog the Penguins or Capitals next year, and will still finish third in the division. After going on an absolute tear last year, I don’t foresee the same happening, and the Jackets will drop from 108 points last year, to 104. Not a big drop off by any stretch of the imagination, but a drop off nonetheless.

 

New Jersey Devils

Nico Hischier is going to lead the Devils to the……. just kidding. While Hischier should come in and play with the Devils right off the bat, there is no way he leads them to the playoffs. He is no Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews. There is no way around it, the Devils are wasting Cory Schneider’s prime. And while I do think the Devils will improve over their record from last year, they’re still going to be basement dwellers and finish with a staggering 73 points, a 3-point improvement from last season’s 70.

 

New York Islanders

The Islanders just missed the playoffs last year, but they won’t just miss the playoffs this year. They’re going to miss them by a much larger margin. Trading Ryan Strome for Jordan Eberle is a good trade… for the Oilers. The Islanders downgraded, not by much, but a downgrade nonetheless. After finishing with 94 points last season, the Islanders will finish with 89 this year, and finish fifth in the Metro.

New York Rangers

After trading Antti Raanta to the Coytoes, the Rangers better hope Henrik Lundqvist doesn’t have a bad run of form, because he’s the only goalie on the roster that’s been a No.1 goalie his entire career. The signing of Kevin Shattenkirk should help an already powerhouse Power Play unit. After finishing with 102 points last season, The Rangers take a fall in production, and finish with 98 this year.

 

Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers actually had a decent season last year, I had no idea. They hovered around the middle of the league in both goals scored and goals allowed, but will miss the playoffs again this year, simply because they haven’t improved much. Trading away Brayden Schenn was a bit of an odd ball move, but being able to get two first round picks, and a respectable center in Jori Lehtera makes it worth it. Nolan Patrick and fellow first-round pick Morgan Frost could both come in and play for the Flyers straight off the bat, but Nolan Patrick will likely get the nod while Frost will likely remain in the OHL. The Flyers see a minuscule hit in their point total, dropping from 88 last season to 87 this year

 

Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins should have no issue this season, however, losing Marc-Andre Fleury is going to hurt more than people think. Matt Murray may have proven that he can be an elite goalie, it’s just a fact that he can’t play every game of the season, that takes a toll on everyone. However, the Pens while they’re still going to lose out on the Metro title, will finish with 109 points, a slight drop off from last year’s 111.

Washington Capitals

The Capitals are the NHL’s definition of a bottle job. Somehow managing to be one of the best teams in the regular season, just to lose in the second round year in and year out. Losing Kevin Shattenkirk and Nate Schmidt, among others, will hurt without a doubt, but the Capitals are the Capitals and they will Capitals it. After finishing last season with 118 points, I see little-to-no dropoff, and finishing with *just* 115 points.

 

 

Atlantic Division

 

Boston Bruins

The Bruins were among the league’s best defensively, and around the middle of the league offensively. For the Bruins, the main key is scoring more and having the points distributed more evenly. They were to some extent, but from fifth to sixth highest totals on the team, there was a 12-point difference. Tuukka Rask cutting down on the “Really Bad Starts” (a stat from Hockey Reference) wouldn’t hurt either.

 

Buffalo Sabres

Simply put, the Sabres can’t have someone who played in 61 games be their top point getter. It just can’t happen. The Sabres need to improve exponentially on offense to even think about making the playoffs. With decent goalie play this season and Jack Eichel remaining healthy all year, the Sabres could very well make the playoffs. Assuming they get better on offense as well.

 

Detroit Red Wings

The Wings need Jimmy Howard to stay healthy all year, and to play like he did last year before getting hurt if they have any hope of making the playoffs. They also need the defense to step up and not leave their goalies on an island endlessly. Danny DeKeyser is going to play a huge role in the Wings’ success this season after a down year in 2016-17. The Wings have offensive potential, and Dylan Larkin is the name to keep an eye on after a sophomore slump in 2016-17.

 

Florida Panthers

The Panthers weren’t great last season, and likely won’t be great this season, especially after losing their only 30-goal scorer in Jon Marchessault to Vegas in the expansion draft. While his production will be picked up by committee, the Panthers need to score more as a whole, as well as defend better if they have any hope of making the playoffs. Vincent Trocheck and Aleksander Barkov are two names to keep an eye on for Florida.

 

Montreal Canadiens

The Canadiens won the Atlantic last season on the back of Carey Price. However, a goalie only gets you so far, and they lost in the first round of the playoffs. For Montreal to get back to the playoffs, the need to be a better offensive team. In order to do so though, Alex Galchenyuk needs to remain healthy all year, and consistently put up points.

 

Ottawa Senators

The Senators made the playoffs on the back of an inspiring season from Craig Anderson. They were among the league’s worst in scoring, and some of that could come back to the fact that Erik Karlsson had their highest point total, but that seems to work for them as they made it to the Conference Finals. To get back to the playoffs, Craig Anderson needs to have another phenomenal season, in what will likely be one of his last, and they need to be much better offensively.

 

Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning just missed the playoffs last year without their best player, Steven Stamkos. Andrei Vasilevskiy and Peter Budaj need to play well this year if the Lightning have any chance of making the playoffs. Steven Stamkos also needs to stay healthy for most, if not all, of the season, and return to Steven Stamkos-form.

 

Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto squeaked into the playoffs last year. The Maple Leafs were one of the league’s best teams offensively, but struggled defensively. Obviously, they’ve got to improve defensively, but they could easily be the league’s best offensive team with another year under Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and Mitch Marner’s belts.

 

 

Central Division

 

Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks, like the Capitals, are one of the league’s best teams in the regular season. And again, that’s just it, the regular season. They downgraded one of their best players in Artemi Panarin to Brandon Saad. Chicago is amongst the league’s best offensively and defensively. To continue making the playoffs, the Blackhawks need Jonathan Toews to step up a little bit more and have Corey Crawford play like the elite goalie Blackhawks fans think he is.

 

Colorado Avalanche

The Avalanche were far and away the worst team in the NHL last season, and it wasn’t even close. They were the worst in the NHL both offensively and defensively. The Avalanche’s core is one of the youngest in the league, but it will be hard for them to make the playoffs. Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene both need to step up massively for the Avs to even maybe think about the playoffs. Losing Calvin Pickard in the expansion draft as well will likely bite them in the butt though, with Semyon Varlamov being an OK goalie at best.

 

Dallas Stars

Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn are keeping the Stars competitive. There’s no way to sugar coat it either. After trading for Ben Bishop this offseason, the Stars have one of the better goalies in the league. After being the second worst team defensively in the NHL, they need all the help they can get. Seguin and Benn need to continue performing well, and Ben Bishop needs to learn how to be a productive goalie while being left on an island endlessly.

 

Minnesota Wild

The Wild were among the league’s best offensively and defensively, and look to do the same this season. The Wild had the easiest schedule in the league though, as per Hockey Reference. For Minnesota to remain successful, Eric Staal and Mikko Koivu need to not have the second and third highest point totals, respectively, on the team.

 

Nashville Predators

Ahhh yes, the Predators. The Cinderella story of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Losing James Neal to Vegas in the expansion draft is a big loss, however, they Predators still have players on their roster to fill his shoes, to some extent. In terms of improvement, Nashville definitely has to get better defensively. Pekka Rinne has also got to play like he did all season for this team to be successful.

 

St Louis Blues

The quality of player falls off significantly after Vladimir Tarasenko for St Louis. Despite there being room for concern in that regard, the Blues still managed to be in the top half of the league both offensively and defensively. Jake Allen needs to have another strong season for St Louis to even think about remaining contenders.

 

Winnipeg Jets

The Jets had one of the best offenses in the NHL, but that doesn’t do much for a team when they also have one of the worst defenses. Connor Hellebuyck had a respectable season, and needs to do the same this season. But having a decent goalie only takes you so far when you have a shaky at best defense.

 

 

Pacific Division

 

Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks won the Pacific after being one of the best defensive teams in the NHL. However, the offense struggled, only scoring enough goals to get them 17th in the league, which is fine considering they’ve got one of the better goalie situations in the league with John Gibson and Jonathan Bernier. The Ducks need to improve offensively, but will be fine if they don’t, in order to make the playoffs.

 

Arizona Coyotes

Arizona was among the league’s worst both offensively and defensively, and it probably doesn’t help their case when their second highest point total comes from a defenseman in Oliver Ekman-Larsson. After trading for Antti Raanta, their starting goalie should cause them little, if any trouble. But, like many perennial basement dwellers in the league, they need to improve everywhere.

 

Calgary Flames

The Flames finished the season near the middle of the league both offensively and defensively. After trading for Mike Smith, their goals against figure should decrease at least a little bit, and Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk having another year under their belts, the Flames could be a team to reckon with. But the two need to have better years than they did this year to get lead the Flames back to the playoffs.

 

Edmonton Oilers

Edmonton was among the league’s best both offensively and defensively this past season, placing top-10 in the leauge in both respectively. Having the best player in the league on your roster, you’re never really going to struggle too much. The Oilers are among one of the youngest teams in the NHL, and with more experience under their belts, they should challenge in a fairly weak Western Conference. The main thing Edmonton needs to improve and make it back to the playoffs is more experience. Scoring and defending a little better wouldn’t hurt either.

 

Los Angeles Kings

The Kings were among the league’s best teams just a few years ago. Now, they’re basement dwellers, to some extent, and have one of the worst offenses in the league. Their only saving grace being that they are still, somehow, one of the better defensive teams in the NHL. To make the playoffs this season, it’s plain and simple. They need to score more, and shoot when given even the slightest chance

 

San Jose Sharks

The Sharks are an interesting case. Their offensive and defensive numbers are similar to the Kings, ranking just slightly higher than Los Angeles in each. No matter, the Sharks are one of the league’s better teams. Offensively, there is significant room for improvement, with Brent Burns having the most points and a share of the most goals on the team. While he is an offensive minded defenseman, he definitely shouldn’t be the leading scorer on a team. Assuming other players step up on offense, the Sharks could once again challenge for a Stanley Cup in a fairly weak Western Conference.

 

Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks were among the league’s worst offensively, but were….just kidding I misread it, they were bad defensively too. The Canucks need to improve exponentially on offense to even think about making the playoffs. It’s not the greatest thing when two of your top three point-getters are the massively overrated 36-year old Sedin twins. Don’t get me wrong, the Canucks were bad on defense, but they were even worse on offense, and there isn’t much hope for them if I’m honest.

 

Vegas Golden Knights

It’s luck of the draw that the new kid in town is the last team on this. I’ve discussed their roster before and I think Vegas could be in for a decent season. However, they didn’t get much offense in the expansion draft or the draft itself, and that could come back to bite them in the butt. They went into the expansion draft with a Ken Holland mindset of “Grit and muscle is better than offense.” It’s too early to say what Vegas for sure needs, but I have a sneaking suspicion that their problem will be offense for a few years to come.

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