It’s finally fall once again. The sun is out in the city and elsewhere, the air has a notably crisper feeling. It’s my favorite season for a reason, and a big non-weather-related part of it is the return of hockey after a long, dreadfully boring and foggy summer. As the now thirty-one teams of the NHL take the ice for the few remaining games of the preseason, I feel like some regular order has been restored in the universe. Beyond all of the wild speculation of July and the barren news-less wastes of August, we’ve actually got something to talk about now. That said, I feel like throwing a few final darts in the dark. Here’s my own stab at wild speculation — the final standings for the 2017-18 NHL season. It’s been awhile since I did this, mostly because of how pointless it is. And sure, the season is still over a week away, but it’s not like this prediction is going to be any more-or-less accurate based on what unfolds over that time, right?
Basically what I did was throw every team into a spreadsheet with last year’s point totals, and gave them multiplier coefficients based on a number of observations, such as:
- PDO reversion: basically inverting last season’s number so each team starts at 100%.
- Injuries: an estimate based on man-games lost and a reversion to the mean, using a multiplying factor based on the standard deviation. Obviously, this cannot account for which teams get rocked by injuries this year.
- The offseason: a guess based on whether they addressed obvious weaknesses, lost key players, changed staff, and/or other general wtf-ness (looking at you, Florida). Big name prospects and rookies go here. Potential breakout performances are entirely unaccounted for.
- Gut feelings and other generally uninformed nonsense: does the number look like it makes sense? If no, adjust it. This was used more to diversify the results and make them fit a more typical point spread and postseason cutoff than to invalidate the above factors.
Very scientific I know. Following that strict and infallible methodology, I’ve compiled the above results. I think some explanations might be needed here:
The Lightning were murdered by injuries last year. With a healthy roster, growth from the kids, and continued defensive strength, they’ll handily win the East, and in my scenario, the Presidents’ Trophy. Washington takes a step back, but even losing 16 points in the standings is enough to overtake a significantly weakened Pittsburgh team. Toronto takes another step forward, but their exceptional injury luck last year should catch up with them a bit. Carolina’s got the right stuff (read: fancy stats) and made improvements, so they make enough of a leap to pass three teams in the division, with the Flyers right behind them in pursuit. CBJ comes back to earth, and both New York teams regress. Buffalo takes a giant step forward, but it’s not enough to make the cut. The Senators move back a smidge, and Boston drops like a rock. The Devils do somewhat better, while the Red Wings and Panthers fall further into the basement.
In the west, the Pacific shapes up very similarly to last year, with the Ducks and Oilers finishing neck and neck near 110 points. Dallas comes back with a vengeance to win the Central and the Western Conference (and might just be my preseason Cup pick, were I to make one), while the Hawks and Wild regress somewhat; both still finish with 100 points. Meanwhile, the Jets kids and goaltending should finally get it together enough to steal a wildcard spot from the Pacific. The Sharks and Blues slip slightly but only the former can sneak into the playoffs thanks to the relative strength of their respective divisions. The Flames improve, but can’t break past the Central wildcards. Nashville maintains. The Coyotes leap ahead, yet like Buffalo, it’s not quite enough to breach the post-season. The Kings continue their slide backward, now with much worse possession numbers due to coaching turnover. The Canucks do slightly better than last year thanks to the kids, as do the Avalanche, who gain over 20 points, but that shouldn’t be hard, right? Vegas finishes last overall — it just feels right, especially with that roster.
Overall, the median point total increases slightly due to Vegas existing, while the deviation tightens up thanks to Colorado giving away points. Half of the teams got better, while half got worse. Playoff turnover sees five teams getting back in, and necessarily, five missing.
This is not particularly what I want as a fan of certain teams, so it must be at least a little bit accurate. I’ll be sure to check back in on this when the playoffs begin!
But right now, it’s finally hockey season again. (Almost.)