Every year on DTFR you may recall seeing division standings forecasts for the National Hockey League from month-to-month and, well, I didn’t forget about it this year, don’t worry.
When the Vegas Golden Knights joined the league in 2017-18, the initial forecast entering October was infused with an educated guess (*ahem*, gut feeling) for each and every team– but especially Vegas since they had never played before– in addition to the usual arithmetic utilized to compile the average of three different forecasts ranging from the last 10, five and three seasons.
Entering the 2021-22 National Hockey League calendar, with the inaugural season of Seattle Kraken hockey set to begin, I shifted my focus on a “gut feeling” projection for the Kraken to that of the standings projections that I’ve done for at least the last few seasons now.
In other words, the forecast you’re about to see uses the forecast function in your spreadsheet of choice (Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets), whereas the standings projections in the link above is based on an expected points totals model using last season’s offense and a whole bunch of other things I won’t bore you with.
As such, Seattle received a projected points total based on the loosely projected offense using a composite of what the Kraken could have had, if every player on their roster entering training camp had scored goals last season for Seattle instead of their respective teams.
But for this edition of standings predictions– using the forecast function– since the Kraken never played a game entering October 2021, they were given an 8th place standing in the Pacific Division with an asterisk– signifying that their results are incomplete until they hit the ice.
Now, of course, entering November, the Kraken have played some games, so the forecast reflects that (albeit limited in the variance of possible outcomes, since they don’t have quite the same backlog as the 31 other NHL franchises).
If you’re confused, let’s move on and talk about how things looked entering October for each division and whether or not things have changed that much entering November– keeping in mind that all 32 teams played anywhere from as few as seven games to as many as 10 games in October.
And remember, my degree is in communication, not statistics.
Entering October, the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion, Tampa Bay Lightning were a safe bet to lead the Atlantic Division standings over the course of a return to the usual 82-game schedule.
The Boston Bruins, who made quite a few moves in the offseason, would do their usual thing under head coach, Bruce Cassidy, and display a strong effort, though how realistic is this expectation, you ask?
Probably not as spot on as you’d think.
Last season’s temporarily realigned divisions– featuring intra-divisional play only– helped teams like the Bruins beat teams like the Philadelphia Flyers almost every time they squared off.
This season, Boston will have to face a stronger than ever before– if not as good as they were in 1995-96– Florida Panthers roster, for example, which is more likely to be reflected in a later forecast after a couple of months are in the record books.
So that’s actually a perfect explanation for why the Toronto Maple Leafs and Panthers don’t look quite as dominant as they were last season in the forecast entering October.
The reduced schedule alone yielded similar point totals to regular-length seasons in the past, which downplays this year’s projected outcome, logically, right?
Keep that in mind for the Colorado Avalanche later, though there may be more to it than just the fact that the 2016-17 season is still accounted for in both the 10-year and five-year models, which drags down the average.
Anyway, the Montréal Canadiens aren’t a playoff team and the spread between the Ottawa Senators, Detroit Red Wings and Buffalo Sabres reveals each of those three teams is likely to be more competitive than in season’s past, but like Montréal likely on the outside looking in.
Entering November, the Bruins and Senators have played the fewest games in the division (seven games each), resulting in not that much change, while Florida gained seven points in the current forecast– moving themselves into a divisional playoff berth in the process.
Should the Panthers’ success be of concern to Leafs fans if Toronto isn’t in the top-3 in the Atlantic Division?
The Lightning haven’t had as much spark as they usually do, which can be attributed to the price of winning back-to-back Cups in a span of, what, like, 10 months?
They’re tired, but not too tired, because Jon Cooper will ensure his team bounces back when the real season starts as the trade deadline approaches and the push for the playoffs begins.
Though the Sabres are quick out of the gate, reality should set in as the calendar flips to December and Buffalo will slip out of playoff contention and into being surprisingly somewhere in the middle.
That isn’t to say that Ottawa and Detroit have been that much worse than the Sabres to start the 2021-22 season, but, yeah, things are better than last season for Buffalo, at least.
If you’re going to put stock into anything, invest in the Panthers rising to 1st or 2nd place in the Atlantic by season’s end.
Taking a look at the Metropolitan Division entering the 2021-22 season, it seems like it’s more of the same for the last four or five seasons now.
Somehow the Washington Capitals or Pittsburgh Penguins win the division, while the New York Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes upset either team in the First Round. I don’t make the rules.
While there’s a lot of optimism for the Islanders to make a significant jump in the standings given their recent runs to the Eastern Conference Final, it wouldn’t surprise me if they’re like the Lightning and take a little dip in just about everything.
It’s not a reset, but a refresh with high expectations for a big 2022-23 season to finally get over the hump and reach their first Stanley Cup Final appearance since 1984.
Maybe by then Tampa will have succumbed to the salary cap era, so they won’t be in New York’s way in the postseason.
As for the other New York team, well, the Rangers are sure to frustrate more than just their own fans as they’ll agitate their opponents, sure, but won’t play much of a spoiler in their quest for whatever it is James Dolan has told General Manager, Chris Drury, to do this offseason.
At the very least, the fact that the Metropolitan Division is a close spread reveals what we already know– that it’s truly anyone’s guess as to who will make the playoffs this year.
The last decade has conditioned us to expect Pittsburgh or Washington to be the top team, but the Philadelphia Flyers or New Jersey Devils could sneak in and disrupt things enough for the Hurricanes to run away with the Metropolitan title in the regular season.
Though the Columbus Blue Jackets are forecasted to have the same number of points as the Flyers in both October and November, it’s worth noting that Philadelphia is forecasted to amass 29 regulation wins to Columbus’ 23 regulation wins in the latest projection, so yeah, they’re a team.
The Blue Jackets could be within striking distance of a playoff spot or they could simply be better than the Rangers and Devils and that’s about it in their attempt to do something.
Is it a rebuild or are they just holding out for the right offseason moves? Time will tell, but the time may be ticking on prolonged irrelevance.
Anyway, Washington and Pittsburgh have cooled off as Carolina got out to the best start among all 32 teams, which, given the eight points between 1st and 3rd in the November forecast, could indicate that the Hurricanes will usurp the Capitals and Penguins for division control.
Meanwhile, the longer the Islanders go without setting a tone, the better chance the Flyers have at making the postseason.
In the Central Division, the St. Louis Blues are expected to return to form entering October from a pure forecast standpoint.
Is it realistic? Probably not, though St. Louis should be better than their 2021 First Round exit in four games at the hands of the Avalanche.
That said, Colorado may surprise you being so low in this forecast.
Again, remember that it’s an average of models based on the last decade, five seasons and three seasons, so the Avs rise to division dominance in recent years is better reflected on the contingency that they continue to play well.
Right now, they aren’t playing that well, but again the graphic above reads “entering October” not “entering November”, so perhaps I should’ve saved that tidbit for a minute.
Meanwhile, the Nashville Predators, Winnipeg Jets and Minnesota Wild have all been consistent enough in recent years to earn better praise entering the 2021-22 calendar, but at least one of those teams is sure to reveal themselves as a pretender by about the quarter-mark of the season.
As for the Dallas Stars, Chicago and the Arizona Coyotes, well, if Dallas can stay healthy, they should improve. Chicago hasn’t done themselves any favors in terms of roster makeup and the Coyotes are intentionally steering the ship aground for a top lottery draft pick in 2022.
Not much has changed after one month of NHL action in the Central Division forecast, though it should be noted just how quickly Arizona’s fallen off (even though they were already expected to be a basement team given the immense roster turnover over the summer).
The Wild and Jets flipped positions courtesy of Minnesota gaining a point between October and November’s forecast, as well as the regulation win tiebreaker (entering November, the Wild are forecasted to have 36 regulation wins, while the Jets are forecasted to finish with 31).
The Blues have had a hot start and, as a result, remain atop the Central forecast while nearly every expert analyst’s Stanley Cup favorite not named the Lightning (Colorado) remains in 5th.
Entering the 2021-22 season, the Vegas Golden Knights made a big trade, but looked to be on the verge of contending for the Presidents’ Trophy in back-to-back seasons.
Though they lost the Presidents’ race to the Avalanche last season on a tiebreaker, the Golden Knights could benefit from an overall weaker division they’re in. And yet… (keep reading)
The Calgary Flames are surprisingly hot in the Pacific forecast entering October, but considering the three California teams, the uncertainty of Seattle and the volatile wishy-washiness of the Vancouver Canucks, it kind of makes sense.
What doesn’t make sense is the Edmonton Oilers– with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on their roster– seated in 5th place in the Pacific Division.
Then again, to repeat myself, this forecast is an average based on the last 10, five and three seasons, so the Oilers have really only been a consistent playoff contender for the last five seasons or so, which means that they won’t rise in the forecasted standings quite as fast as you’d hope.
It pays to be consistently good over a longer period of time in this model.
Finally, after their first nine games in NHL history, the Kraken have entered the chat in the 2021-22 forecast entering November, but they’re forecasted for a league-worst 64 points.
Seattle isn’t bad, necessarily, they’re just figuring out the chemistry on the ice, in the room and giving Philipp Grubauer plenty of time to learn the system and get acquainted with being the No. 1 goaltender on a new team– both in the brand new expansion team sense and since leaving the Avalanche for the Kraken in free agency.
The Flames are continuing to turn heads by being within striking range of taking the forecasted division lead from Vegas– especially as the Golden Knights roll slowly out of the gate.
Meanwhile, Edmonton’s on course for significant gains in the next forecast entering December, while everything else looks to be about the same because, after all, it is the Pacific Division.
It’s not great!
If you’ve read every word of this, congrats. Give yourself a sticker or something.
Stay tuned for the next forecast in about a month. It should be a little quicker to update the stats, write a few words and hit “publish” than it took this time around.