Before the season started we at NHLNOR made a season preview of how this NHL Regular Season would go. This is how well or how bad we ended up predicting this season in the Eastern Conference.

This is how we at NHLNOR predicted the season:

NHL Season 2016/17 Preview

Eastern Conference:

1. Washington Capitals – 54/60
2. Pittsburgh Penguins – 54/60
3. Tampa Bay Lightning – 54/60
4. New York Rangers – 50/60
5. Montreal Canadiens – 50/60
6. Florida Panthers – 47/60
7. Detroit Red Wings – 45/60
8. Boston Bruins – 45/60
9. Philadelphia Flyers – 45/60
10. Ottawa Senators – 44/60
11. New York Islanders – 43/60
12. Buffalo Sabres – 34/60
13. Carolina Hurricanes – 34/60
14. Columbus Blue Jackets – 33/60
15. New Jersey Devils – 33/60
16. Toronto Maple Leafs – 31/60

This is how Eastern Conference actually ended in 2016/17:

NHL – Regular Season Standings

  1. z_washington_capitals– 118 p
  2. z_pittsburgh_penguins– 111 p
  3. z_columbus_blue_jackets– 108 p
  4. z_montreal_canadiens– 103 p
  5. z_new_york_rangers– 102 p
  6. z_ottawa_senators –  98 p
  7. z_boston_bruins –   95 p
  8. z_toronto_maple_leafs–   95 p
  9. z_new_york_islanders–   94 p
  10. z_tampa_bay_lightning –   94 p
  11. z_philadelphia_flyers–   88 p
  12. z_carolina_hurricanes–   87 p
  13. z_florida_panthers–   81 p
  14. z_detroit_red_wings–   79 p
  15. z_buffalo_sabres–   78 p
  16. z_new_jersey_devils–   70 p

What did we get right?

  • 5 of 8 teams we had to make the playoffs, made the playoffs (Capitals, Penguins, Canadiens, Rangers and Bruins). The same for those who we had miss the playoffs.
  • Capitals and Penguins as the top two teams in the conference. Capitals with the 3rd best offense and best defense in the season. Penguins with the best offense. Both among the top crop on the Power Play (Capitals 3rd, Penguins 4th).
  • Capitals D was the best in the league with only letting in 182 goals, we had them as a “solid constructed defense” when they were able to play within the limits of their game. We also had them with better depth and together with the addition of Shattenkirk it shows as the entire team is on the plus side of the +/- statistics.
  • Penguins D “could see some problems”. Letting in 234 goals is only good for 8th in the Eastern Conference defensively (17th overall in the NHL).  In addition they were 11th on the PK in the Eastern Conference (20th overall in the NHL). With Letang out, defense will be their biggest issue going into the playoffs.
  • Canadiens and Rangers being solid but not over-convincing contenders. Though Canadiens have the 3rd best defense and Rangers have the 4th best offense, both teams are “mediocre” in the special teams (PP & PK). For them as others, it’s their defense that wins a championship.
  • Bruins getting into the playoffs because of their team defense. We said we “believed their d-core will manage a rebound from last season and surprise a lot of fans of their own team and from opposing teams.” But, that we thought “it will be more from the system than actual skill.” They fired Claude Julien midway (which we said would happen if they missed the playoffs, GM Sweeney acted earlier than we thought, but were looking at three strikes!), went on a tear with Bruce Cassidy behind the bench, before normalizing and being the best PK team in the league (1st with 85.7% in addition to being 7th on the PP with 21.7%). It really helped that Brad Marchand had a career year with 85 points.
  • Devils & Sabres being among the bottom feeders. For the Sabres, even though they were 1st in the league on the PP (24.5%), they were 25th on the PK (77.6%) and poor in ES. The Devils were 23rd on the PK (79.6%), but only 22 on the PP (17.5%).For the Sabres we said: “be clear, this is not a playoffs-defense.” Well, in a way we were right, however they could have gotten in with such a defense, if their offense was better. We said “at this moment there is still too much mediocre or over the hill in the lineup.” We were right.

    For the Devils we said this prior to the season: “The Devils looks like a team who should put their focus about 3-4 years down the line. They were abysmal offensively last season, but did good defensively given where they landed.”. We were right, and we’ll stick with that. Well, they didn’t score more goals though.

  • Islanders & Flyers missing out on the playoffs. About the Flyers we said “they lack more defined skill both offensively and defensively among the middle six and depth forwards. Overall it’s just not a team that scares you, it’s a poor man’s Kings.” Which is why they are watching the playoffs this season.About the Islanders we said “the challenge for Snow this year is replacing the players and identity lost, while improving the rest of the team at the same time. Look for the Isles to compete for a playoffs-spot, but don’t be surprised if they miss it in a very strong division.” and “the possibility of adding Ho-sang down the line, makes this intriguing, but for sure a bit unproven. But, do they have enough at the moment? Possibly not.” Even though they ended only one point away, they were on the outside looking in for a long time.
  • Hurricanes ended being the “best of the worst”. We said this prior to the season, “last season they finished “best among the worst” in the Eastern Conference. It’s doubtful that they will manage to hold on to that 10th spot this season, but I think we will see some players taking steps this season.” Some players took steps, they finished 12th. Check!

What did we get wrong?

  • Blue Jackets in the playoffs! Tortorella getting the Blue Jackets to play offensively minded hockey. We said: “Tortorella kept the team at mediocracy (or got them up to it) with his 34-33-8 record. And looking at how their roster is before this season, his biggest challenge this year is to manage an improvement from that.” Well, they came out on fire and never really cooled down. We also said “I think most of it is because of the pale looking offense, and with more confidence and some seasoning, this group aren’t as bad as their standing showed last season. But, they won’t get a better grade until they prove their worth.”Well, after letting in the 2nd fewest goals with 195 (plus 9th on the PK, 82.5%), they delivered. We also said: “Jenner, Atkinson and Wennberg provide solid contributions for their salaries. But, unless they find a way to implement more skill, they won’t reach the playoffs in the Eastern Conference.” They proved us wrong. Scoring 249 goals for 6th overall in the league (plus 12th on the PP with 19.9%). Much thanks to having 12 players above 10 goals.
  • Maple Leafs in the playoffs! We thought this season would come way to early for the Leafs. Instead they have 5 players with more than 60 points and their rookies Matthews and Nylander putting on a “clinic” now and then throughout the season. Matthews ending up scoring 40 goals and Nylander scoring points in 12-13 games in a row as a rookie. Both team records and both making a lot more impact early than we expected they would. Would the Maple Leafs benefit more of getting a high 1st round draft pick? Most likely. Would a trip to the playoffs benefit the young roster more? Absolutely!We said “that the pain continuing would be absolute certain”…well the team making the playoffs will give some relieve for sure, both among the roster and especially among the fans. They ended 5th in the league in terms of scoring with 251 goals (2nd on the PP with 23.7% and 10th on the PK with 82.5%), while their defense overall was as shaky as we guessed. Jake Gardiner with the most intriguing stat of the year. A +24 on a team were the average is roaming not much above 0.
  • Lightning hitting all kinds of injury issues to miss the playoffs completely. Stamkos and Callahan missing most of the season because of injuries. Tyler Johnson missing games. Bishop, Filppula and Boyle traded for financial reasons. Two real bright spots is the seasons of Victor Hedman and Nikita Kucherov. Hedman having a great stretch towards the end (most likely getting a Norris nomination after 16+56 for 72 points and a solid defensive display throughout the season, and Kucherov reaching 40 goals and 85 points on the season.They were 6th on the PP (22.8%) and 13th on the PK (81.4%). Basically it’s a hard miss for a team that was 1 point of getting in. Our biggest miss was that they would be healthy. They never were. We did however know that they are out because of lack of good depth on D. That and injuries shattered our “this team is poised to make a serious run at the cup.”
  • Senators made the playoffs! We had them on the outside looking in and we said this, “Boucher has been known as a defensively minded coach, and it will be interesting to see how his cautious side will affect the play of Erik Karlsson.” Well, the Sens did end up a negative two in their goal differential (212-214). But, Karlsson played a Norris contending season again getting 71 points on the board. Offensively they ended 23rd in the league on the PP (17.0%) and 22nd on the PK (79.7%). Basically they grinded out more wins than what they lost.
  • Red Wings to finally never find a way to go on a streak when they needed it the most, ending with GM Holland trading players away for picks and thus ending their 25-year playoffs streak. 3rd worst in the Eastern Conference (7th worst in the league) offensively with their 207 goals scored. Much because of them being 27th in the league on the PP (15.1%). We said before the season that “they actually look like a team with more depth than before.” Well, it did…then everyone struggled to score and Holland cut the losses by trading the depth. Therefore this is the first time since 1990 they are not in the playoffs. The only bright spot of the season is Zetterberg playing 82 games and scoring 68 points!
  • Bergeron firing Therrien, hiring Julien!
  • Panthers in all kinds of chaos early on and never recovered. Injuries, firing of the head coach, Rowe never getting it to roll and now Tallon is back as GM and Rowe moved to be an adviser of some sort. However, within all the mess…Marchessault scored a ton and were a lot of people’s lucky sleeper pick in the fantasy games. Panthers were 2nd on the PK this season (85.3%), but struggled offensively with Ekblad, Barkov, Huberdeau and others missing from several games to half the season.We said: “A question mark in regards to how good the defense is, and if the lack of depth on the wing will hurt more than they believe it will.” The first was a bit on point even though their defense was not that bad, however the lack of scoring depth on the wing hurt them badly (With only a couple on the wing scoring more than 15 goals).