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Predictions and Expectations

Last year I missed the mark on the Edmonton Oilers. I thought they’d be a playoff contender — not a Stanley Cup contender, but in the playoffs nonetheless. They didn’t come close to being the team I thought they would. Since no one likes a quitter, here are my predictions for this season.

After the San Jose Sharks, I think the Pacific Division is wide open.

Vegas will take a step back, but how far? They won’t have the same emotional start to the season with their city and fans (last year’s tragic shooting connected them to the city), and internally they won’t be able to rally around them being castoffs. I think they will be competitive, but far from a playoff lock. I don’t have them making the playoffs. Everything went well for them last season, but the cruel reality of the NHL will hit Vegas fans this season.

Who is going to score in Anaheim after Ryan Getzlaf and Rickard Rakell? Their defence and goaltending are really good. Randy Carlyle can get on players, and if the Ducks struggle early I think he could be on the hot seat.

The Kings, Flames and Oilers all have question marks.

Can Mike Smith play 55 solid games for the Flames? Can he stay healthy? If not, right now they Flames’ backups are a big question.

Can the Oilers defend better? Their goals against, and not just on the PK, was their biggest weakness last season. Trent Yawney will help behind the bench, but Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson need to be better.

Do the Kings have enough secondary scoring? Anze Kopitar had a career-best 92 points, and Dustin Brown had an unexpected 61-point bounce-back season, but the rest of their forwards didn’t produce a lot. A healthy Jeff Carter is a huge boost for them, and he likely makes Tyler Toffoli better. Toss in Ilya Kovalchuk and suddenly their offence isn’t that bad. Brown is out indefinitely with a broken finger, so the chance he scores 60 points again is very low, but Carter and Kovalchuk will more than fill the gap.

Arizona has teased the analytics community for years. They were competitive in the second half of last season, producing the eighth most points in the west, with Antti Raanta playing well in goal. I just don’t see them being able to score enough to compete in the west.

Vancouver has some exciting young forwards, but their defence isn’t good enough. They will be in a lot of games, but they will lose a lot of close ones because they will allow too many goals. If they can win the draft lottery and get Jack Hughes, their fans will have reasons to be excited.

PLAYOFF CUT LINE…

Last season we saw four teams from the Pacific and the Central make the playoffs, with Colorado grabbing the second wild card with 95 points. St.Louis and Dallas had 94 and 92 points respectively, as the Central had six of the top-ten west teams. Calgary was fifth in the Pacific with 84 points.

The seven central division teams averaged 98.4 points per team, while the eight Pacific teams were at 89.1. The Metropolitan division averaged 92.1 points/team and the Atlantic was 87.37.

The Central is still very good, but they won’t have six of the top-ten in the west. I expect Calgary and Edmonton to be better, while Colorado and Minnesota will fall back. The wildcard spots will be hotly contested.

Pacific Division:

San Jose: 107 points
LA: 98 points
Edmonton: 96 points
Calgary: 94 points
Vegas: 94 points
Anaheim: 88 points
Arizona: 85 points
Vancouver: 70 points

Central Division:

Winnipeg: 110 points
Nashville: 106 points
St.Louis: 100 points
Dallas: 97 points
Minnesota: 89 points
Colorado: 88 points
Chicago: 83 points

For fun I have Vegas and the Flames playing a play-in game. It would be awesome for the league. The one thing I dislike about my playoff seeding scenario is that despite four teams from each division making the postseason, the division winners will play a wildcard team from the other division. I really wish the NHL would change the rule, so if four teams from each division make it, the division winner plays the fourth place team from their division, regardless of point totals. But honestly I don’t see Vegas being in a play-in game. They will miss.

Which eight teams do you have making it in the West?

MORE FEARLESS PREDICTIONS

1. I think the easiest major trophy prediction is taking McDavid to win the Art Ross. He will lead the NHL scoring. He will score 120+ points, and I don’t think that is very outlandish, either. The tough prediction is who will finish second in NHL scoring. Over the past two seasons, only nine players have averaged more than one point per game. Taylor Hall and Phil Kessel have averaged 0.99 points/game, but they just missed the cutoff.

Blake Wheeler and Patrick Kane (1.01), Mark Schiefele (1.02), Ryan Getzlaf (1.03), Sidney Crosby (1.13), Brad Marchand (1.15), Nikita Kucherov (1.20), Evgeni Malkin (1.21) and McDavid (1.27) are the nine. Malkin would be my pick, but he always misses some games. I’ll take Schiefele to finish second with 101 points.

2. Alex Ovechkin scores 18 power play goals and ties Luc Robitaille for fourth overall in PP goals with 247. He also moves into 14th place all-time in goals (he is currently 19th with 607) as he passes Dino Ciccarelli, Bobby Hull, Joe Sakic, Jarome Iginla and Dave Andreychuk.

3. Leon Draisaitl scores 14 PP goals for the Oilers, which is the most by an Oiler since Ryan Smyth scored 14 in 2007.

4. Only 95 players have scored 400 NHL career goals. Three players will join that club this year: Joe Thornton, Eric Staal and Malkin. This is a fairly safe prediction as Thornton needs three goals, Staal needs five and Malkin has to score 30 to reach 400.

5. Speaking of Thornton, he has a surprisingly good season and picks up 50 assists. That will give him 1,080 in his career, and moves him into seventh place all-time, passing Adam Oates (1,079), Steve Yzerman (1,063), Gordie Howe (1,049), Marcel Dionne (1,040) and Mario Lemieux (1,033). Not a bad group of players to pass in one season.

6. Patrick Marleau hasn’t missed one game in nine seasons. The last game he missed was on April 7th, 2009. He has played 706 consecutive games, and all of them have come in his thirties. His current streak is the eighth longest in NHL history. Marleau continues his incredible streak and finishes the season with 788 consecutive games, the fifth longest streak in NHL history. He is also 11th all-time in NHL games played at 1,575 and at the end of year he will be fifth, passing Ray Bourque (1,612), Larry Murphy (1,615), Scott Stevens (1,635), Dave Andreychuk (1,639), Chris Chelios (1,651) and Mark Recchi (1,652), leaving only Ron Francis, Jaromir Jagr, Mark Messier and Gordie Howe ahead of him. They all sit between 1,731-1,767.

7. Keith Yandle has a 715 game active streak going, but his streak ends in similar idiotic fashion as Andrew Cogliano’s did last year, via a lame suspension. Yandle gets one game and his streak is over.

8. Zdeno Chara is 64th all-time in penalty minutes, and is one of only four active players in the top-300 all-time. Can you name the other three? (If you can, without looking it up, you are a stats guru. Answer at end of the article.) Chara picks up 61 PIMs this season for a total of 1,900 in his career. That moves him up only two spots to 62nd all-time.

9. Alex Ovechkin is the only player who has scored 50 goals in any of the past six seasons. He did it three times and scored 49 last year. In fact, in the past decade he has scored 50 goals five times, and the rest of the NHL produced five 50-goal seasons. But this year, we see three 50-goal men in the same year for the first time since 2010, when Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos did it. Patrik Laine, Auston Matthews and McDavid each score 50. It is the first time two Canadian teams have a 50-goal scorer in the same season since Keith Tkachuk (Jets) and Alex Mogilny (Canucks) did it in 1996, and it is the first time since 1984 that three Canadian teams have a 50-goal man. The Oilers had three: Wayne Gretzky (87), Glenn Anderson (54) and Jari Kurri (52), while Michel Goulet scored 56 with Quebec and Rick Vaive scored 52 for the Maple Leafs.

10. Power plays across the league continue to improve. In 2014 only three teams had a PP efficiency of 20% or better. In 2015, there were seven teams, in 2016 there were eight, in 2017, 11 teams, and last season 18 teams had a PP of 20.4% or better. The trend continues and 21 teams finish at 20% or better. The only playoff teams under 20% last season was Anaheim (17.8%) and Columbus (17.2%).

11. My Stanley Cup Final will have San Jose and Tampa Bay. Doug Wilson will acquire a scoring forward at the deadline to make the Sharks even deeper. I believe he goes all-in this season. Who are your Cup Finalists?

**Trivia answer: The other three active players in the top-300 all-time in penalty minutes are Cody McLeod (112th with 1563), Dion Phaneuf (224th with 1292) and Joe Thornton (269th with 1,194). Thornton needs 21 points to move into 15th all-time and when he does, the only scorers in the top-15 with more PIMS will be Mark Messier (1,912), Paul Coffey (1,812), Gordie Howe (1,695) and Stan Makita (1,264). Thornton had had an unreal career and the physical aspect of his game was often overlooked. He can be mean and dirty as well as highly skilled.

Recently by Jason Gregor:

  • Hemmercules

    Flames miss the playoffs when “The best defence in the NHL” flounders for the second year in a row and Mike smith gets his 100th groin injury and misses the last half of the season.

    • TKB2677

      I agree with you. Smith always gets some kind of an injury and he is 36. Plus their back ups are not very good. I am actually surprised they didn’t put in a claim for one of the Leafs goalies. Plus they downgraded their defense with the Hamilton trade and Gio will be 35 tomorrow. I don’t care who you are, eventually you take a step back.

    • Moneyball

      I can’t see the flames making many waves. Very high risk goaltending which is what you get when you goaltender is in his mid 30’s Geordano is super old and is slowing down, Hanifin is a downgrade from what they had and the forwards are average below the top line and Tkachuk. The new coaching is also suspect, I expect them to be around 80-85 points.

  • TKB2677

    I agree with what Gregor said about Vegas. They had an amazing season but to do it, every guy on their team had either a normal/good year or a career year. Even the guys who are gone. Neal had a usual/good year. Perron had a career year points wise. Nobody had a bad year at forward. That doesn’t usually ever happen 2 seasons in a row. So if a bunch of their key guys just have even OK years, there will be a drop off. All their defense played over their heads. Engelland, a career #6 dman was in the top 4 and doing fine. He’s 36 this year. Schmidt is missing 20 games for cheating. The Oilers have tried but you can’t win with at least a decent defense. Fleury was .927 last year. That’s 14 points higher than his career average. All the things I listed are very unlikely to repeat.

    • Hemmercules

      Im with you on this. Maybe because its basically what we saw with the Oilers this past year. Sustaining all those highs wont be easy. Last year the world had them finishing at bottom when the season ended, there were no expectations. Now there is major expectations and way more pressure. Losing Perron and Neil might not kill them but chemistry gets lost there. I dont think they will fall drastically but I doubt they end up like they did last season.

        • Hemmercules

          Tough to say. Will Karlsson score a goal on every 4th shot again?? Will Fleury have his best year ever again?? Will another veteran rise up like Perron did and have a career year?? Everything went right last season. I will be surprised if it happens again but they still have a good team.

  • TruthHurts98

    Vegas won’t step back much if at all I don’t think. I believe the 3rd & 4th spots in the Pacific is up for grabs. Let’s hope the Oilers ‘bring it’ on a nightly basis and they should have a legitimate shot at the playoffs. Here’s to hoping! At least we have the gift of watching Connor go super nova every game especially against the Flames:)

    • McRaj

      Depends what you think. Will their 2nd, 3rd, and 4th string goalies do as good as they did? Will Karlsson score on 25% of his shots again? Will there D without a legitimate #1 or #2 still be good enough? Will we see all these players have repeat years or more career years? I think Vegas fights for a wildcard spot but in the end misses out. I see San Jose, Edmonton, LA as the top 3 in the division. With Anaheim, Zona, Cgy, and Vegas fighting for 4th in the div and a wildcard spot.

  • bwar

    If Flames get decent goaltending, I think they make the playoffs. That is a very large IF considering who they have between the pipes this season. I don’t really expect Smith to be the starter at the end of the season.

    I think Edmonton is in the wildcard mix. Defense is just too weak to say we are a playoff lock. Relying on too many players bouncing back and taking steps forward this season. I think Cam Talbot alone can make up 10 points from last year so the rest of the team needs to make up another 10 points and right now I’m not 100% convinced that will happen. We are improved from last year but I’m a bit scared about how McLellan is going to manage the bottom 9 forwards and correct the special teams woes. McDavid getting 120 points and the Oiler’s missing the playoffs would be a real nightmare for the organization.

  • NotWinning

    Lucic will only get 5 goals before Christmas.
    The PP will be all about trying to build Lucic’s confidence
    The Defense will collapse.
    Klefbom will get hurt again.
    Mikko will be an epic fail.
    Todd will spend all season shuffling lines.
    Todd gets fired, Chia gets fired, Nicholson gets fired.

  • Serious Gord

    Who will make the playoffs in the west?

    Well we need 8.

    The ‘easy’ ones: San Jose, Winnipeg and Nashville – That’s three

    The ‘no chancers’: Chicago, Vancouver

    The ‘need a near miracle’ : Colorado, AZ

    so now need 5 out of the remaining 8.

    I pick Anaheim – too old not enough depth; Minnesota – same as Anaheim; AND…

    Edmonton. Far too weak on defense and no depth, too many rookies or near rookies in important roles.

    That noted, everyone of these teams has a glass jaw – and that’s goaltending (with the arguable exception of Vegas). the Backups for all of them are not good enough to carry their teams to the playoffs if the starter has a major injury.

    • bwar

      Don’t think I’d throw Colorado in the Need a Miracle category. Edmonton needs a lot of things to go well for them in order to get back to the postseason, they did it two years ago and I have a hard time saying this rosters roster is clearly inferior to want they iced two seasons ago. We got a chance but really need a lot of things to go our way.

  • Rob...

    How about another fun one. What’s your prediction for combined number of suspensions days handed out before the mid-point of the season. I think 80 games, especially since a 10 day’er is about to be handed out tomorrow. I’d say Marchand and Gudas are each good for another 5-7, and Kadri for 4.

  • OILERSORDEATH

    I don’t get the love for San Jose. Other than bucktooth Couture their forwards are older than dust. And I don’t thing their can Defence win them enough games.

  • toprightcorner

    Vegas had 12 players on their team that had career years, and 7 of them scored over 50% more points than they had ever had. Not only would it be impossible for most of those players to repeat it but likely most will take a step back by at least 20% production. Add that to their depleted blue line and with the extra goals they will allow, it will be a stretch for them to make the playoffs.

  • toprightcorner

    Pacific Predictions

    1) San Jose (112 pts) – they will run away with the division and it won’t be close

    2) Edmonton (98 pts) – Talbot will be better, PK will be better, PP will be better. They don’t have to score more goals (they will) they just need to keep them out of their own net and Yawney will make a huge difference.

    3) Calgary – (98 pts) – Edmonton wins the tie-breaker. Smith won’t play more than 50 games and that will cost them 2nd place. Their PP will also drop without Hamilton, but they will have better depth scoring than previous years.

    4) LA (95 pts) They may sneak in. Kopitar won’t repeat his career season and Brown will drop back to the 30 pt range of the previous 5 seasons. Carter healthy will help, but not enough. Kovalchuk will realize that his KHL success does not equal NHL success and will not score 25 goals. The team basically just got older and they can’t score goals. They have only been inside the top half of the league in GF once since the lockout (14th) their only chance at the playoffs is if Quick drags them there.

    5) Vegas (94pts) – They will score less and give up more. Schmidt missing 30 games as their best dman won’t help and they won’t have 4 players score .90 pt per game again. 12 players last year had career season, most 50% better. Impossible to keep that up.

    Arizona (88 pts) – they will improve and are only a year or 2 out form a possible playoff birth, they just don’t have the experience.

    Anahiem (88 pts) – Too old, too slow, and don’t have anyone to score goals after Getzlaf or Rackel. Their top 4 is great, but no forward depth.

    Vancouver (68 pts) – Petterson will win the Calder and Boeser will score 35 goals, but lack of scoring depth, terrible backend, and brutal goaltending will be their demise. The leadership of the Sedins will be sorely missed. They have a lot of great pieces but Benning has no idea how to use his cap space and big contracts to older bottom 6 players is not the answer

  • toprightcorner

    Other predictions:

    First coach to be fired – Randy Carlyle (Boucher a close second). He won’t make the All Star Game
    First GM most likely to be fired at seasons end – Stan Bowman (should be Bergevin but with no French speaking option he stays)

    Hart/Art Ross/Rocket Richard – McDavid
    Calder – Elias Petersson
    Norris – Hedman
    Vezina – Vasilevskiy
    Jack Adams – DeBoer

    • ziyan94

      If Boucher gets fired he will be jumping for joy getting off that shipwreck of a Senators team. Shame a coach of his caliber is stuck there (I’m sure he will enjoy the severance).

  • Flint

    Ok, I know… hometown bias and everything, but can some of you please outline why you’re all so bullish on the Oilers and keep predicting that everyone else will take a step back or won’t improve, when the Oilers are one of few teams who are going into the season with almost the exact same under-performing group as last year. Coupled with the fact that many other Western conference teams have gone out and made acquisitions that should make them as good if not better. Sure, granted, it’s likely the Oilers will be better than last year but the predictions I am reading on this site are in the neighbourhood of +20pts and some 8 positions better in the standings, with almost the exact same team.

    Really? Really? How?

  • Still Hate the Flames

    The following is a list of Flames upon whom I wish injury:
    Mikael Backlund
    Sam Bennett
    Austin Czarnik
    Dillon Dube
    Michael Frolik
    Garnet Hathaway
    Mark Jankowski
    Curtis Lazar
    Elias Lindholm
    Sean Monahan
    James Neal
    Anthony Peluso
    Derek Ryan
    Matthew Tkachuk
    TJ Brodie
    Mark Giordano
    Travis Hamonic
    Noah Hanifin
    Brett Kulak
    Michael Stone
    Juuso Valimaki
    Mike Smith

    You may have noticed the absence of Johnny Gaudreau, but that is just because I actually wish two injuries upon him. I also wish injury upon the coaching staff and many of the trainers.

  • toprightcorner

    Learn to read bud, he didn’t wish an injury on Smith he just predicted it. With Smiths track record, I wouldn’t be surprised if Vegas posted odds on it.

  • Hemmercules

    Haha. What the hell are you talking about classy??

    I would never wish an injury on any player, Smith is getting old and has a history of injury. Just a prediction. I will also predict right now that Klef will miss 1/4 of the season for some random illness/mystery injury. Klef is a good player when he’s on his game but I flinch every time he takes a decent hit. I like him but he’s a bandaid.

  • The internet is my only friend

    In all seriousness Opi. Have you ever seen a doctor for your sickness? It’s a mental health issue no doubt. No normal human being spends 10 or more hours a day commenting on a team they don’t like. You are either dealing with past family issues hence your anger for the oilers and it’s fans. Or it truly is some sort of mental health issue. I’m not here to bash you. I’ve just seen you at this for almost 5 years on multiple websites and I think it is getting worse. I will be your friend even if no one else will. Just seek help my friend.