I could tell you I’ve spent untold hours compiling statistics and running numbers to come up with exactly what I think will happen during the 2017-18 NHL season, specifically with the Edmonton Oilers, but that would be a damn lie and it would hurt my brain, so, well, no. That’s better left to somebody else.
Let’s face it, when it comes to making NHL predictions, nobody has a crystal ball or a sure shot way of peering 82 games into the future. One way or another, we’re all guessing, no matter how complicated we try to make that guessing game appear. If we could get it right most of the time ahead of time, we’d be pulling so much cake out of the gambling end of the game we wouldn’t have time to do anything else. I’ve yet to have that problem.
For me, it’s fun. I look at where teams finished the previous season and how they got there. Did they over-achieve, under-achieve or perform about as expected? Who has come and gone since then? Any big additions or key personnel losses? Is the core, are the go-to guys, getting long in the tooth? Are the kids ready to deliver? Probably not a lot different than you do it. If I get it mostly right, I crow about it. If I get it mostly wrong, well, nevermind. Just like you do it. So, with the Oilers getting started against the Calgary Flames tonight, let’s go . . .
ORDER OF CHOICE
Here’s how I see the divisions lining up (playoff teams in bold):
Tampa Bay Pittsburgh
Montreal New York Islanders
Florida New York Rangers
Detroit New Jersey
The Lightning are due for a bounce with a healthy Steven Stamkos and I think Nikita Kucherov (40 goals in 74 games last season) takes a run at the Rocket Richard Trophy . . . the Maple Leafs have as talented a young core as anybody and I like all that talent up front despite a questionable blueline . . . Jack Eichel will look like he’s worth all that money when the Sabres surge . . . Doug Weight and the steady hand he provided behind the bench last season gives the Islanders the slightest of edges over an improved Carolina outfit . . . the Blue Jackets were no fluke last season and Artemi Panarin leads the encore . . . still see Pittsburgh as the class of the East and I won’t be surprised if they end up in the Cup final again.
Apr 1, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; The Edmonton Oilers celebrate an overtime goal by forward Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Anaheim Ducks at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Dallas San Jose
Chicago Los Angeles
St. Louis Arizona
While I see Minnesota as the class of the Central, there’s not a lot of separation between the next four teams . . . I might be reaching here, but I see Chicago dropping off substantially with Panarin and Marian Hossa out of the mix and I’ve got them missing the playoffs . . . if the Sharks falter at all, and they might with Patrick Marleau gone and Joe Thornton 38 and coming off knee surgery, Chicago might still get in . . . I might like the Flames more than some people do, but the addition of Jaromir Jagr to all that young talent looks like a great pick-up to me and Calgary’s blueline is stacked . . . if the Oilers start fast and put the Ducks in a chase position out of the gate we’re going to have a helluva race atop the Pacific, but I’m sticking with the more experienced Ducks by a hair, at least during the regular season.
STANLEY CUP FINAL
Art Ross Trophy – Connor McDavid
Hart Memorial Trophy – Connor McDavid
Calder Trophy – Mikhail Sergachev
Norris Trophy – Victor Hedman
Vezina Trophy – Braden Holtby
Jack Adams – Todd McLellan
Sep 23, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) celebrates a third period goal against the Winnipeg Jets at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
For me, the road to the Stanley Cup final for the Oilers leads through Anaheim . . . I believe the Oilers have more room to grow with the experience that will come from being in the race again to bolster the taste of success they got last spring . . . McDavid and Draisaitl, whether they play together or apart, will combine for 185 points this season . . . Cam Talbot likely won’t play as many games this season as last, so while his wins will likely dip into the high-30s, I think his save-percentage and goals-against average will improve over last season . . . Oscar Klefbom takes an even bigger offensive role with Andrej Sekera out to start the season and finishes with 40-something points . . . rookie Kailer Yamamoto proves the doubters wrong and sticks for the balance of the season.
There, you have it.