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:
1. St. Louis Blues – 54/60
2. Chicago Blackhawks – 53/60
3. San Jose Sharks – 52/60
4. Los Angeles Kings – 51/60
5. Nashville Predators – 51/60
6. Dallas Stars – 49/60
7. Anaheim Ducks – 49/60
8. Minnesota Wild – 45/60
9. Colorado Avalanche – 39/60
10. Edmonton Oilers – 35/60
11. Calgary Flames – 34/60
12. Winnipeg Jets – 33/60
13. Vancouver Canucks – 32/60
14. Arizona Coyotes – 29/60
This is how Western Conference actually ended in 2016/17:
- – 109 p
- – 106 p
- – 105 p
- – 103 p
- – 99 p
- – 99 p
- – 94 p
- – 94 p
- – 87 p
- – 86 p
- – 79 p
- – 70 p
- – 69 p
- – 48 p
What did we get right?
- 6 of the 8 teams we had in the playoffs, made the playoffs (Blackhawks, Wild, Blues, Ducks, Predators & Sharks). 4 of 6 teams we had not making it, didn’t make it (Coyotes, Canucks, Jets & Avalanche). With the Oilers and Flames making it, and Stars & Kings missing it.
- We had the Blackhawks among the top teams. They finished there despite them finishing 19th on the PP (18%) & 24th on the PK (77.7%) overall in the league. The did however have six guys with 20 goals or more, and played defensively and offensively sound during Even Strength. We said, “The Blackhawks just hit another brick wall this offseason dealing with the salary cap issues. Losing two solid middle six players for picks, in addition to unloading a bad contract. The only signings in is veteran depth, and there are question marks to whether they are worse than last year. At the same time, they will always be in contention as long as they have their core pieces intact. The defense remains a very strong part of any chance the Blackhawks will have for success. This team might not be what it was 3 years ago, but it still good enough to beat any team in the league over a 7-game series.”
This is were they are now. Top of the West while being 4th in scoring (9th in the league) and 6th in goals against (10th in the league). A team that has strengths, but exploitable soft spots.
- Blues making it in! We had them among the top contenders and in a way we are a bit wrong, but we said this about Ken Hitchcock, “His biggest criticism is that the Blues often can become a too heavy defensive team, to the point where things don’t work their way, they don’t have the abilities or mentality to turn it around.” That’s what happened and he got sacked, which got the Blues back on track eventually. We said, “they did lose their longtime captain David Backes, which will definitely hurt them.” Which it did! We also said, “it is likely that Shattenkirk will get traded before the deadline”, which he was!All of these created some issues for the Blues, but they still managed to be 8th in the league on the PP (21.3%) and 3rd in the league on the PK (84.8%) which gave them a 5th place pointwise in the Western Conference. We said, “St. Louis is still, even with no Backes, a physically imposing team on offense. They will let you know that they are a very well-composed team, even with the questions surrounding the goaltending. It’s built both to dominate and intimidate, while still having a fair share of highly skilled and explosive players.” This is exactly what they are, and they will be tough to beat for the Wild.
- The Wild making it to the playoffs! And we did have that, but not with that margin they did make it with. We said “With the hire of Boudreau, he has hired a proven winner in the regular-season”,and “their possibly biggest and most interesting move, was to add a high energy coach behind the bench in Boudreau. Energy is something the Wild seemed to have lacked the last few years, and it’s their most interesting offseason signing.” Which just got an even harder check stamp to it this year. Boudreau gave them energy in the buttloads. Scoring 15+ goals more than the closest contender in the West. The were also 3rd in goals against in the west.Where the Wild lack firepower is during the special teams. 9th overall on the PP (21.0%) and 10th overall on the PK (82.9%). This together with which guy takes the lead in the playoffs is what concerns those cheering for the Wild. We said, “Eric Staal will center the first line with Zach Parise and Owen Coyle. This is a solid, albeit unspectacular first line. On the scond line Koivu will provide steady play and great leadership. They will be reliable, and they will produce. The last two lines are ok, but there’s a point to be made to get more skill on the third line.” All of these points still stands even though they were scoring the most as a team in the regular season among the western teams. Is that enough to get past the Blues?
- Predators making it as an outsider, again. We said, “Poile made some solid deals this summer, most noticeably a very good contract with Filip Forsberg. Nashville’s defense will be entertaining, and it will be solid. Forwards 8/10: This is one of those ratings that’s hard to give. It basically comes down to the wingers just not being good enough to compensate for the lack of elite centers. Some will argue Ryan Johansen is an elite center-man, but he still has a lot to prove.”When it comes down to it, the Forsberg deal is great. Their defense hasn’t been at the top level defensively, but they provide an offensive push offensively along the entire group. Ryan Johansen did well, but still have things to prove and there is still a lack of one or two elite wingers. The balance just shifted to the two swedes this season, with both Forsberg and Arvidsson hitting 30+ goals. As we said, “The team is well-skilled, but not more than that. It doesn’t really edge out other teams in the division in this sense”
- Ducks finishing with the 3rd overall record in the West, and with the best defence! We said this about the Ducks prior to the season, “The Ducks made the post-season last year by having the best defense in the league and win the Pacific division. They return this year knowing that a good regular season isn’t enough when they can’t finish their opponents in the post-season. Overall, the Ducks don’t really look that much different from last season in terms of skill and how they are composed as a group.” In many ways we got it sort of on point, however the Ducks did it a bit better than we thought, even though they scored less that we though they would.The reason being their D’s being less involved offensively and more sound defensively, which is also why we saw them as having a similar team this season. We got it more right then wrong, but their increased focus on their defense can make them finally go further in the playoffs. We also said, “Where the Ducks have more issues is among the wingers and that 4th line. To be among the top contenders, the Ducks just doesn’t score enough. Having a more direct Carlyle behind the bench might help some in that direction, but for now, there is some deficiencies that needs to be sorted out for them to come closer to a Stanley Cup final berth.”This is a vital point for the Ducks, there is still issues with those wingers spots, and unless the provide more assistance to Getzlaf and Perry on the board, it will still be a disappointing season for the Ducks, despite their good regular season standing.
- Jets not being good enough to fight for a playoffs spot, but not bad enough to be anywhere near the lottery pick in the standings. We missed a little bit in terms of having them on 12th than 9th place, but expected them to lose ground to the Oilers and Flames. However we didn’t see the Kings and Stars collapse. We said, “The biggest obstacle would be to get more going offensively, which they have a shot at with the new additions, and find a way to shut opponents down defensively, because their D wasn’t very good last season. Scheifele is locked up long-term, and looks to be a “Toews-light”. A highly talented scoring winger from Finland is in place (Hello Déjà vu Jets-fans) with Laine and there seems to be a plan to organizing the back end.”Well, in some ways we were somewhat on the right track. Scheifele putting up 82 points on the board and Laine scoring 36 goals for a great rookie season. We said this about their D, “They have plenty of money locked up in their D for the next two seasons even without Trouba, and the question is, do they need to shuffle more?” The answer is a yes, but the bigger issue is finding a true number one goaltender first and foremost. And, goaltending is a part of a teams defense, the biggest part. We were in for some correct guesses and some “correct” intuitions.
- Canucks ended among the bottom three teams just as expected. We said, “The Canucks organization shouldn’t expect him to suddenly make gold coins out of pocket change, so hopefully he’ll get the time and space to go about his business improving their play this season. His biggest obstacle will be to get more offensive contributions among his roster and limit the amount of mistakes made defensively.” We talked about the coach Desjardins, and after the final day he got fired. We said this, “The Canucks biggest offseason moves were signing Loui Eriksson, trading for Erik Gudbranson and re-signing Jacob Markstrom. But neither of those moves makes this team a whole lot better.”Especially among the forwards, having six guys scoring more than 15 but less than 21, with Eriksson not being among them(missed some games because of injury, but still). Our projection still stands. “Overall, this lineup shouldn’t be good enough to make the playoffs, and they need more retool fast if they want to make more damage before the Sedin’s careers are over. The way they are built just isn’t very effective, they won’t have a 2nd line that will give enough support, and their 3rd line aren’t close to being among the best 3rd lines in the league.”
- Coyotes finishing in 12th place! We said this about Tippett and his strategy for the team prior to the season, “Continues to put out a strategy where defensive responsibility reigns, but with a lot of youngsters being on the team and coming into the team, it’s going to be a curious case to follow in terms of how much the youngsters will be allowed to free flow offensively” and we thought “this team will still be a work in progress. Frankly, improving from last year’s 12th place in the Western Conference will be daunting task, given the most likely progression some of the other bottom feeders from last year’s standings are looking to have.”In regards to the Coyotes season, we feel we hit the right spot and we stand by our previous remarks about their upcoming future: “Ekman-Larsson is the glue and franchise defenseman on this team (even top point scorer last season with 55 points). Stabilizing himself as one of the best in the league at his position is a good starting point for Chayka’s worries (or good challenges in this case). He’s age also aligns with the younger skilled forwards in terms of when a contending team can be iced in 3 years’ time.Among the forwards-group, there is a true mix of talent and veteran presence. Problem is that the veterans are too old or too beat up to carry the team offensively, and the youngsters haven’t developed enough yet, to show a constant threat to the better teams in the league.
Chayka’s challenge will be to identify a true number one center and find the correct complimentary players at the right time. In regards to where this team are prior to this season, they aren’t close to being a threat, but show some flashy sparks now and then. Chayka’s main objective for the season should be to continue the development process, and trade the veterans if an opportunity is presented before or at the trade deadline.
What did we get wrong?
- The Alberta teams progression has gone quicker than expected. With the Oilers and the Flames reaching the playoffs.
- Oilers in the playoffs! McDavid scored a 100 points to win the Art Ross Trophy. We said, “The Edmonton Oilers once again had a rough time last season, but McDavid weren’t playing the whole season and now they have added pieces that should see them move several spots up from that bottom position.” Well, they moved up more spots than what we thought. Being 5th in the league on the PP (22.9%), 4th in the West in goals scored with 247 (9th in the league) and having McDavid scoring a 100 and five players scoring more than 20 helped that.We said, “I’m not completely sold on their depth yet, but they do have a solid shot of being the new young guns in the NHL. Question is if this season comes to soon or not. It might improve, and it might even be better than we put, but it needs to be proven.” Well, they proved us wrong, but there are still some depth issues as only 8 scored more than ten goals.
- Flames in the playoffs! 10th on the PP (20.2%) and 12th on the PK (81.6%) in the league. We said, “with the tough conference, expect improvement, but don’t expect a playoffs spot. Captain Giordano missed a lot of last season, which you could tell if you look at how bad they were in their own zone last year. I’m not completely sold on the 2ndand 3rd defensive pairs, and their defense might still be a factor that keeps them from competing for a playoffs spot.” Well, their defense proved us wrong to a degree. 8th best in the west in goals let in with 221. 6th best on offense with 226 goals scored.
- Kings missed the playoffs! Prior to the season we said, “The Kings had by all means a fairly good regular season. They were among the best defensive teams in the league, but their forward group couldn’t score enough, and when they in the playoffs met a better offensive minded team who had a good defense, they couldn’t keep up.” Well, this time this were the reason they couldn’t get out of the regular season. 5th on the PK with 84.5%, but a mediocre 15th on the PP (19.1%). Only Carter & Kopitar scored more than 50 points, and only Carter and Pearson scored more than 20 goals on the roster.We said, “Quick hasn’t been as good the last few years, and unless he’s at his game, the Kings won’t defend themselves to another title. Therefore, look for the Kings to push the envelope more in the regular season.” This happened, they couldn’t find that push. We said, “they got the NHL core skills, but lack something extra outside the top centers, and live more on a great system than outstanding skill.” That’s why we had some things right, but is also why the Kings now are on the golf course.
- Stars missed the playoffs! We said, “That being said, Ruff will remain coach even if this season isn’t a success. Last year has given both him and Nill well-deserved job-security.” Well, the Stars were terrible defensively and Ruff were let go. We said this about their goalies, “last year proved that this was a huge weakness for the team, and as much goals as they get out of Benn and Seguin, it’s just not going to be enough when they get to the play-offs. If they get to the play-offs, which I do think they will.” Well they didn’t! The Stars were worst on the PK (30th in the league with 73.9%, almost 3% behind the next team). 20th on the PP (17.9%) couldn’t save that and when their Even Strength were not close to last season, they were chanceless.
- Sharks stepping a bit back. 25th on the PP (16.7% and 18 on the PK (80.7%). Offensively they stepped a bit back, with only five guys scoring more than 40 points. However despite their mediocre PK, their Even Strength were good enough to make them the 2nd best team defensively in the West (5th overall with 201 goals against). But compared to last season, they have regressed, even though Brent Burns put on a top Norris contending season with his overall play, 29 goals and 76 points. However we did get this, “Their defense core has proven themselves as one of the better in the league, especially when the system is rolling.”, correct. And as we said “this is a tight group who knows what it takes, and be not surprised if they are back there fighting for it this coming season.”
- Avalanche plummeting to the bottom by a fair margin. We said, “the Avalanche has added more experience to the roster. Nothing stellar, just players who has been in the league for a while and know what it takes, but be clear, this are depth players, possibly complimentary players at best. Which is what the Avs needed.” About their defense we said, “two solid pairings, nothing you can complain about. Yet, not something that sets the world alight either.” And finally about their team we said, ” It’s an ok team, but needs quite a few pieces to be a really good team. Still, it has the potential to go on a streak and could go into the play-offs.”Well, everything went south for the Avs. Coach quit before season, they never found their ground and their number one goalie got injured before some trades didn’t really have impact this season. Plain disappointing all over the roster.