It’s December 1st which means all 31 NHL teams have passed the quarter mark of the regular season. Some teams have played almost 30 games while others have barely passed the 20.5 games required for the “quarter of the way through the season” moniker.
In the Western Conference, the Edmonton Oilers are bad, the Colorado Avalanche are okay, the Vegas Golden Knights are good and there’s a very real chance that the Arizona Coyotes barely surpass Colorado’s 22-win 2016-2017 season benchmark of “worst team in the Salary Cap Era”.
Meanwhile in the Eastern Conference, the Tampa Bay Lightning are thundering their way back into dominance over the rest of the league, the Toronto Maple Leafs are the real deal, the Montreal Canadiens are turning a corner after stumbling out the gate and the New Jersey Devils are good– too good.
Oh and then there’s the fact that the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins are quietly in the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
So with everything in mind, let’s use Microsoft Excel to help us predict the rest of the season, shall we?
Unlike my standings projections before the first puck dropped on the season, I haven’t added any Gut Feeling 2.0 to these predictions. There’s going to be some surprises and there’s going to be some things that are way off, considering the fact that an equation cannot predict injuries, streaks or things of that nature. What might look insane now, will look different (hopefully) in another 20 games or so.
Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to do another round of this around the All-Star Game.
The moral of the story here is that if you’re off to a bad start, like Edmonton, and you’re running up against a tight salary cap moving forward, it’s never too early to start counting your quarters and figuring out what assets you’ll be able to lose by the trade deadline.
If you’re a good team, like New Jersey, then it’s the perfect time to assess how far you think you’ll go and determine who might be right the addition at or before the deadline that’ll push you further than expected and maybe all the way to the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.
2017-2018 Projected Standings after Two Months
- y-Tampa Bay Lightning, 101 points (25 GP so far)
- x-Boston Bruins, 98 points (23 GP so far)
- x-Toronto Maple Leafs, 94 points (27 GP so far)
- Montreal Canadiens, 92 points (27 GP so far)
- Detroit Red Wings, 89 points (26 GP so far)
- Ottawa Senators, 88 points (23 GP so far)
- Florida Panthers, 78 points (24 GP so far)
- Buffalo Sabres, 67 points (25 GP so far)
To keep things short, the Lightning and the Maple Leafs are still the best picks coming out of the Atlantic Division if you have your eyes set on trying to predict which teams might have a deep playoff run in 2018.
The Boston Bruins have been battling injuries all season long and while they’ve kept the pace with their youth-infused lineup, they still have a lot of development to go before they can reach a conference finals run, let alone Stanley Cup Final run. Ottawa’s decline continues to be one of the biggest surprises in the weakest division in the Eastern Conference. Other than that, nothing else is really groundbreaking here.
- z-Pittsburgh Penguins, 102 points (26 GP so far)
- x-New York Islanders, 98 points (24 GP so far)
- x-Washington Capitals, 98 points (26 GP so far)
- x-Columbus Blue Jackets, 97 points (25 GP so far)
- x-New York Rangers, 97 points (25 GP so far)
- New Jersey Devils, 94 points (24 GP so far)
- Philadelphia Flyers, 90 points (25 GP so far)
- Carolina Hurricanes, 84 points (23 GP so far)
In the Metropolitan Division the Pittsburgh Penguins look to regain their top-notch form as they’ve had a difficult time adjusting to life after Marc-Andre Fleury (and have especially struggled with a decimated defense from the offseason).
The Columbus Blue Jackets are likely to climb in later projections, based on their current performance, but again, since this is only based off of a formula in Microsoft Excel… Columbus will be just fine. They should be an underdog or a dark horse for Stanley Cup contention this season. This division will continue to be the tightest battle all season long, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see New Jersey inside or outside of the picture come April.
- p-St. Louis Blues, 107 points (25 GP so far)
- x-Chicago Blackhawks, 100 points (25 GP so far)
- x-Nashville Predators, 98 points (25 GP so far)
- x-Winnipeg Jets, 97 points (25 GP so far)
- Dallas Stars, 93 points (25 GP so far)
- Minnesota Wild, 93 points (25 GP so far)
- Colorado Avalanche, 85 points (23 GP so far)
As exciting as the battle for the Metropolitan Division should continue to be this season, the Western Conference’s Central Division has plenty of counterpoints to offer for top-notch divisional battles and Stanley Cup contenders. This is the season for the St. Louis Blues (to at least make a run for the President’s Trophy).
Whether or not St. Louis can go further than their 2016 Western Conference Finals trip went and make it back to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1970, only time can tell. Between the Blues, Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets, it’s safe to say one of your Stanley Cup finalists will be from the Central Division.
- y-Vegas Golden Knights, 106 points (24 GP so far)
- x-San Jose Sharks, 101 points (23 GP so far)
- x-Los Angeles Kings, 99 points (26 GP so far)
- x-Anaheim Ducks, 98 points (25 GP so far)
- Vancouver Canucks, 90 points (26 GP so far)
- Calgary Flames, 89 points (25 GP so far)
- Edmonton Oilers, 73 points (26 GP so far)
- Arizona Coyotes, 65 points (28 GP so far)
In the biggest surprise this season, the Vegas Golden Knights are not only tracking for a postseason appearance– they’re on the rails to a Pacific Division winning season. Yes, the Los Angeles Kings are the only other hottest team in the Pacific, but there’s something to be said for the San Jose Sharks experience the last few seasons.
Just like the Central Division, Vegas, Los Angeles or San Jose would be safe bets for a deep playoff run. The Anaheim Ducks could make things interesting as they have always done, but there’s really nothing else that looks promising to make a surge in the standings and/or postseason. Sorry Oilers fans.
Need a reminder of what things looked like early in November? Here it is:
Yes, of course, most of these will be wrong, hence why they’re bold predictions. Anyway, my models are showing me this… pic.twitter.com/onFSguU6Zz
— Nick Lanciani (@lanci53) November 5, 2017