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Boston Bruins 2020-21 Forecast Through 40 Games

“The stretch” is here. No, not the 7th inning stretch. It’s the Push for the Playoffs™️ as the NHL on NBC broadcasts will tell you.

Sure, the Boston Bruins have played 43 games and this forecast is already a little behind, but this time of year is loaded with things to do, stats to track and storylines to follow.

At least it’s not as far behind as other forecasts I still owe.

Everything that you’re about to see is done by hand. Kind of.

Sure, it all started in Microsoft Excel then migrated over to a GoogleDoc one day, but the premise is the same– I have no idea what I am doing.

My degree is in communication and my minor was in sport management. As part of my “Gen Ed” requirement to graduate, I got a “C” in Intro to Stats. Later, one of my sport management professors taught me how to use the “forecast” function in Excel (shouts Dr. Lyons).

It’s been four years since being told to step out of line and wait off to the side while my school searched high and low to find my diploma only to realize that it had been on the table in front of them the whole time (yes, this is a true story– my roommate even called me wondering where the hell I was for pictures with everyone).

The rest is history. Let’s get to talking about Boston’s forecast through 40 games, shall we?

First year players are hard to predict (if not impossible altogether) until they’ve had some experience in the National Hockey League under their belts. At least a game will make do, though their numbers will look a tad inflated until more time goes by and reality sets in.

That’s just a blanket statement that usually comes with an example– like Zach Senyshyn in recent years– though after 40 team games in a 56-game regular season schedule, there’s not enough data (this season, forecasted or otherwise) to really point out where making bets on a young player’s forecasted stats might be inadvisable.

Forecast is not pace.

While looking things over in both this current forecast and previous editions, please remember that there’s many variables that can (and will) disrupt a player’s season like injuries, lineup changes (being a healthy scratch, taxi squad member or otherwise), other American Hockey League related or waiver related transactions, trades, sickness, COVID protocol and intangible things like general superstitions, hot and cold streaks, etc.

Sadly, nobody’s been able to find a way to quantify all of that in a forecast function 2.0. In a perfect world, every player plays a full season.

Every player can reach, exceed or miss expectations in an exciting game of collective actions and puck luck. Unpredictability is part of many reasons why we watch sports.


Boston Bruins Forecast Through 40 Games Played (16 Games Remaining)

Brad Marchand remains on track to receive Hart Memorial Trophy attention as he’s in the midst of having a strong pull in Boston’s playoff direction.

The Bruins winger is forecasted to have 23-38–61 totals when all is said and done in 2020-21, which would’ve put him on pace for about 90 points in a regular length 82-game season had the ongoing pandemic never happened.

For the first time this season, David Pastrnak (17-19–36 forecasted totals) is not forecasted to lead his team in goals.

Instead, Marchand and Patrice Bergeron (23-28–51 forecasted totals) are forecasted to split the team lead in goals with 23 each, while Pastrnak trails with the second-most (17).

Nick Ritchie and Craig Smith are on track for 13 and 12 goals, respectively, as some of the better components of Boston’s depth this season, while third line center, Charlie Coyle’s down year continues with seven forecasted goals this season, which… …actually isn’t that bad?

Sure, 2021 hasn’t been the best year for Coyle, but it seems like a “bad year” for Coyle works much in the same that a “bad year” does for David Krejci.

It’s not that Coyle and Krejci are superhuman, but rather just human.

Plus, Krejci has already surpassed the four goals that he was forecasted to score in this 40 team games played model. Relax, folks. Every year can’t be golden.

On defense, Charlie McAvoy leads the team in points from the blue line with 7-30–37 forecasted totals, while newcomer Mike Reilly continues to impress with 22 forecasted assists (that’ll probably be too few).

In the meantime, upon returning to full health, Matt Grzelcyk can carve out 19 points in a battered season for Boston’s defenders.

While Reilly is destined to continue being a playmaker from the back end, newly acquired forwards Taylor Hall and Curtis Lazar are each expected to contribute offensively with Hall forecasted for 30 points by season’s end alongside Krejci and Smith, while Lazar should be good for 12 points on the season from the fourth line.

Oh and as for the since departed Anders Bjork? Well, at the time of the trade, he was forecasted to produce eight points this season.

That said, with consistent ice time in a top-six role in Buffalo, the new Sabres forward could yield respectable double-digit totals in such a short timespan. Nothing crazy, but 10 points or more isn’t out of reach if he was already on track to get about eight.

As long as the Bruins’ new-found offense can continue to produce and spur bottom-six scoring, then there’s a good chance with enough time to heal that the B’s can reset themselves on course for a playoff run with something to prove.

Sure the 2021 Expansion Draft for the Seattle Kraken got a bit more complicated with pending-unrestricted free agents in Hall and Reilly added to the fold, but if this is truly it for Boston’s core with Bergeron, Krejci, Marchand and Tuukka Rask (Krejci and Rask also being pending-UFA’s) then the time is now to go all-in and go for it.

Rask (2.20-2.22 forecasted goals-against average, .919-.923 forecasted save percentage) is expected to be rejuvenated by a decreased workload due to injury and the emergence of a hot hand in Jeremy Swayman– Boston’s fourth-string goaltender that, along with Dan Vladar, has literally saved the season.

Upon Jaroslav Halak’s (2.43-2.46 forecasted goals-against average, .913-.917 forecasted save percentage) return from COVID protocol, there’s a chance the usual duo of netminders for the Bruins could show signs of rust as they ease back into the routine for the long run.

That’s where Swayman and his best case scenario 2.22 forecasted goals-against average and .926 forecasted save percentage can provide relief as the B’s workout a three goaltender rotation similar to the Carolina Hurricanes’ situation with Petr Mrazek, James Reimer and Alex Nedeljkovic.

Whether it was inevitable that the NHL as a whole adopts a three-goaltender system because goaltending tandems were already catching on or simply a product of the contemporary times in a pandemic whereby carrying a third goaltender becomes a necessity by default, it’s not a bad idea for Boston to assess what they’ve got for the future.

Next season could very well be Rask and Swayman in net if the Bruins re-sign No. 40 this summer as the Finnish goaltender has indicated he’d like to be part of Boston’s transition in the crease a la the days of the transfer in power from Tim Thomas to Rask himself.

For a look at how things might have gone for the Bruins entering the 2020-21 season, feel free to read the original forecast through zero games played and how things looked through 20 games played.

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Bruins Forecast NHL Nick's Net Projected Stats Tracker

Boston Bruins 2020-21 Forecast Through 20 Games

O.K., so I’m still behind on some things around here.

Whether you’re new to DTFR or a long-time fan(?), you’re able to see the finished products around here and think “wow, that’s neat” and go about your day doing whatever the next thing on your mind happens to be.

You don’t have to wake up everyday to all the shot charts, player and team forecasts, expected points total models, Photoshop files, running list of game notes, podcast notes (yes, that’ll be back soon) and more that’s related to the day-to-day DTFR operations around here or other seemingly useless bits of information that may or may not see the light of day.

But that’s all the fun parts anyway. Hockey is my passion.

The long, grueling, season is counteracted by moments like Nathan MacKinnon underhand tossing Conor Garland’s helmet back to him and being fined $5,000 in the process.

Guess I’m going to have to start tracking how often that happens now.

In addition to everything mentioned above, you might not know that I’m constantly applying to jobs, so sometimes little things like this forecast write up gets put on the back burner until there’s a minute or two between games, guest appearances on other podcasts and more job applications.

Not trying to use anything as an excuse here, but please forgive me for being *checks notes* 15 games behind on the latest forecast, which will be irrelevant in another five games anyway, because it’ll be time to update Boston’s forecast through 40 games this season.

I do this all by hand in Microsoft Excel, so you know I’m not a real mathematician or statistician.

If you ask me to code something, I’ll ask you “what ‘R‘ you talking about? Get it? Did you see the pun I made there? Words, am I right?”

15 games ago, I updated each individual Bruins player’s forecast after writing my recap about Zdeno Chara’s first game back in Boston as a member of the Washington Capitals then eventually got around to updating the corresponding chart that you’ll see below.

Then I had to do that for whatever other teams I’ve been able to keep track of on time and I promise I’ll be writing about those forecasts… …eventually.

Oh and apply to more jobs.

Anyway, you probably don’t care about the life behind the screen, so let’s get to Boston’s forecast through 20 games, shall we?

As always, remember that my degree is in communication and my minor was in sport management. I got a “C” in my Intro to Stats class back in my first semester of college, which was eight years ago this fall.

Between then and now, I’ve worked in live sports production (TV and radio) and been unemployed, which explains why I’m constantly applying to jobs.

First year players are impossible to predict until they’ve built up some time in the National Hockey League. Generally at least a game will suffice, but their numbers might look a little “inflated” (for the lack of a better term) until the season rolls on and their expectations fall back to Earth.

In other words, Zach Senyshyn is now forecasted for 18 assists in this latest forecast, but that shouldn’t surprise you since he only had two assists in six career NHL games over the last two seasons.

That will change in the 40-game update, since he’s played in at least seven more games between the time this report was originally intended to be done and the next one.

Remember that forecast is different from pace.

Finally, remember that there’s a lot of variables, like injuries, being a healthy scratch or on the taxi squad, other American Hockey League related or waiver related transactions, trades, sickness, COVID protocol, general superstitions, hot and cold streaks, etc. that can (whether scientifically proven or not) disrupt a player’s season.

None of these can be accounted for in Microsoft Excel’s forecast function.

In a perfect world, everyone plays a full season. Every player has a chance to live up to expectations, hit and/or exceed their mark or miss it by a little/a lot.

Hockey is a game made up of collective actions and sheer puck luck. It’s unpredictable, which technically defeats the purpose of this (so if you’ve made it this far, give yourself a pat on the back).


Boston Bruins Forecast Through 20 Games (36 Games Remaining)

David Pastrnak came back from offseason surgery and looked like he hadn’t missed a step, since his scoring prowess left an immediate impact on the team and kept him forecasted as the team’s leader in goals by season’s end with 26, though Boston’s forecasted points leader has now shifted from Pastrnak to Brad Marchand.

Marchand’s forecasted 23-31–54 totals lead Pastrnak’s 26-26–52 totals, while B’s captain, Patrice Bergeron is on track to round out the top-3 in scoring with 20-30–50 forecasted totals– good enough for the second-most assists on the roster, one behind Marchand’s 31 and three ahead of David Krejci’s forecasted 27 assists.

It’ll be fun to see just how much things have changed in the next forecast, since Krejci’s gone off in the assist department lately and Marchand missed a couple of games due to COVID protocol, but let’s save that speculation (or hindsight) for the 40-game report, O.K.?

On defense, Charlie McAvoy continues to lead the way with 7-29–36 forecasted totals, while Matt Grzelcyk (13 points) and Jakub Zboril (12 points) are the only other defenders expected to reach double-digit points totals.

That’s quite an area of concern for the Bruins.

Not so much in the “oh no, who might get taken by the Seattle Kraken in the 2021 Expansion Draft” sense, but rather, the general “oh no, this team is not as good as they were last year, but we expected that, so they still need to acquire a defender and more at the trade deadline this year” sense (especially if one of the younger blue liners like Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon or Urho Vaakanainen aren’t developing as fast or as well as Boston desires).

Nevertheless, what might be more pressing than ever before is the question of what comes next after Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak?

Rask (2.27-2.37 forecasted goals-against average, .914-.921 forecasted save percentage) is expected to have decent numbers this season if he can make a return to full health, while Halak (2.45-2.48 forecasted GAA, .910-.916 forecasted SV%) looks solid for a backup.

Yet, at the time of this writing, both goaltenders are out of Boston’s lineup– Rask due to injury and Halak due to COVID protocol.

Stay tuned for first impressions on Dan Vladar and Jeremy Swayman in the next forecast and what that might mean for the offseason’s plans with both Rask and Halak as pending-unrestricted free agents.

For a look at how things might have gone for the Bruins entering the 2020-21 season, feel free to read the original forecast through zero games played.

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Blue Jackets Forecast NHL Nick's Net Projected Stats Tracker

Columbus Blue Jackets 2020-21 Forecast and 20-Game Update

Welcome back to another exciting rendition of “let’s trust the guy with a degree in communication to do some basic math stuff”.

As you are hopefully already aware, I kept the 2019-20 forecasts under wraps simply because I didn’t have the time and/or motivation to write up an explanation for each and every one of them.

Even still, I’m “behind” on 2020-21 posts given that the Columbus Blue Jackets have already reached the 20-game mark of the season.

That’s why we’re looking at both what the expectations were coming into the condensed 56-game schedule, as well as how things are holding up after the first, well, almost half the season.

If you’re a fan of numbers and things, you probably already read about this “catch-up format” in my first forecast for the Boston Bruins roster entering 2020-21. If you’re just a Blue Jackets fan, I’ve done my best to paraphrase my own writing, but you can go back and read it if you feel inclined.

As always, keep in mind that my degree is in communication and my minor was in sport management. My Intro to Stats class only fulfilled the math portion of my “general education” and met once-a-week at night for two-and-a-half hours in the fall 2013 semester.

I actually learned how to use the forecast function in Microsoft Excel in one of my sport management classes. Besides that, I got a “C” in that Intro to Stats class, so my credentials for doing this seem promising, right?

First year players are impossible to predict until they’ve had at least one National Hockey League game under their belt.

Young players that have had minimal NHL experience may also reflect “inflated” results– Liam Foudy’s forecasted assists entering the 2020-21 season has been highlighted for this reason.

Entering this season, he had only been part of two career NHL games and had one assist in that span. The forecasting function accounts for a player’s entire career and does some mathematics to come up with something over a predetermined number of games for the upcoming season (in this year’s case, 56).

In other words, Foudy’s forecast after 20 team games played should look a bit more “realistic”, for the lack of a better term.

A forecast is not the same as predicting pace.

Foudy has three assists in 12 games played in 2020-21, for example, and is forecasted to finish with about 11 on the season, whereas he is currently on pace for about eight helpers.

There are numerous variables that can, and will, impact a players’ performance throughout the year, including injuries, being a healthy scratch (or on the taxi squad), other American Hockey League related or waiver related transactions, sickness, COVID protocol, suspensions and general superstitions related to individual routines, beliefs, etc. (getting enough sleep before a game, wearing a certain lucky tie, using the same undershirt or shoulder pads for the last 13 years or whatever).

Players can get “hot” or “cold” at any point.

It’s not something that can be accounted for in a numerical forecast that sets aside the “eye test” until you try to figure out the nuances of how or why a player is playing the way they are playing.

In a perfect timeline, this forecast pretends nothing bad could ever happen and every Blue Jackets player lives up to their expectations. In reality, some will pan out, some will exceed expectations and some will fall short for whatever reason.

It’s an educated guess for an outcome in a sport that’s highly unpredictable due to its collectivistic nature and sheer puck luck.


Columbus Blue Jackets Forecast Through 0 Games (56 Games Remaining)

First up, let’s take a look at how things were expected to go coming into the 2020-21 season.

Prior to being traded to the Winnipeg Jets for Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic, Dubois was forecasted to lead Columbus in scoring with 16-22–38 totals this season.

New acquisition, Max Domi, was forecasted as a close second to Dubois with 37 points– leading the team in assists in the process with 25 (among NHL regulars last season, since Foudy technically was forecasted to lead in assists among Blue Jackets with 28).

Of course, Dubois was traded and Laine and Roslovic are off to hot starts with Columbus– scoring goals in bunches when they find the scoresheet, it seems. We’ll get to that in a minute.

Cam Atkinson was forecasted to score 19 goals prior to the start of the 2020-21 season, which leads Dubois’ 16 forecasted goals and Gustav Nyquist’s 14 forecasted goals on the roster.

Dubois, of course, was traded and Nyquist is out due to injury for most of this season, so… that checks out.

On defense, Zach Werenski and Seth Jones were expected to continue to lead with the way with 33 and 27 points, respectively, from the blue line.

Both defenders are expected to amass 21 assists this season– good enough for the third most forecasted among Blue Jackets skaters entering this season.

In the crease, John Tortorella will have to find the right balance between Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins.

There’s potential for a really solid goaltending duo in Columbus if Korpisalo is the starter and can best his 2.66 forecasted goals against average, as well as his forecasted .911 save percentage, while Merzlikins manages to find a way to reach his 2.35 forecasted GAA and .923 forecasted SV%.

Of course, after 20 team games played, Merzlikins is currently out with an upper body injury, so time will tell if he can return to form.

Columbus Blue Jackets Forecast Through 20 Games (36 Games Remaining)

Through 20 games of the 2020-21 season, the Blue Jackets are three points outside of the last playoff spot in the Discover NHL Central Division, trailing the Chicago Blackhawks for this season’s 4th place cutoff line.

The acquisition of Laine and Roslovic have been quite a welcome sight for Columbus fans, though consistency from the rest of the lineup remains to be an issue.

Laine, however, is currently forecasted to lead the team in goals (26) and points (46), while Roslovic is on track for 10-17–27 totals, which is about what he had in 71 games with the Jets last season (29 points).

Using the current forecasted totals, Roslovic is on track for about .551 points per game this season. He had .408 points per game with Winnipeg in 2019-20.

Atkinson remains in the top-three in scoring, trailing Laine in goals and points with 20 forecasted goals and 39 forecasted points, respectively, while Oliver Bjorkstrand is currently forecasted to amass 15-21–36 totals (the third most on the current roster).

On the blue line, Jones leads the way among defenders in points (32), as well as all skaters in assists with 27 forecasted assists through 20 team games played in the 2020-21 season.

Werenski is more in line with what you’d expect from a young defender of his caliber (8-16–24 forecasted totals) and has missed time due to injury, so that’s clearly a factor in his forecasted drop from before the season began to now.

In the crease, Korpisalo is sure to get more starts than Merzlikins as the latter is currently injured.

Korpisalo’s current forecast yields a goals against average between 2.59-2.63, while Merzlikins is on track for a 2.29-2.33 in however many games he ends up getting.

Why the range in GAA?

That’s new for this season.

It’s just to show a range between what the forecasted total is according to the model and what the adjusted forecast shows (calculated based on the forecasted goals allowed/forecasted minutes multiplied by 60, as one would traditionally do with goals allowed/minutes played multiplied by 60 to determine GAA).

I’m no statistician and I felt like there might be a way to try to get a better read on how things are going for goaltenders (with or without enough necessary data to yield a “realistic” result).

Don’t make any bets using only this forecast. If you’re a professional, you probably already know that.

Anyway, Korpisalo has a forecasted range between .912 and .913 in save percentage through 20 team games played and Merzlikins is on track for between a .923 and a .924 in SV%.

Again, a similar principle applies here.

One end of the range is the straight up forecast, while the other is influenced by forecasted saves/forecasted shots against.

Well, that does it for this forecast. Tune in after 40 team games played to see how things might go down the stretch (the final 16 games this season).

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Boston Bruins 2020-21 Forecast

Hello, friend.

Last season, I didn’t get around to posting my forecasts for the Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets and Vegas Golden Knights’ rosters.

I kept track of everything before the 2019-20 season began and after each quarter mark (roughly 20 games) as I normally do, but I just didn’t quite have the time and/or motivation to do a write up here on the blog for each one– let alone any of them.

This season, I’m already behind in presenting my findings entering 2020-21, but I’ve prepared all four teams’ player forecasts as usual.

To kick things off, we’ll take a look at how the 2020-21 season could’ve panned out if all Bruins players were healthy entering the 56-game season, but by the end of the month, Boston will already be 20 games into the season (provided nothing else is postponed) so it’ll be time for an updated forecast.

For the rest of the teams– including the addition of the Colorado Avalanche for a total of five teams being tracked this season– we’ll just take a gander at how things looked coming into 2020-21 and where each player is tracking after their respective 20-game mark.

In other words, Boston gets two posts (this one and another one in March) while Carolina, Colorado, Columbus and Vegas will each get a joint “forecast before the season began and forecast through 20 team games played” post, probably.

If you’re a fan of those teams and my… …expertise(?), I’m sorry. Please be patient. You’ve already been waiting since the last forecast I published in the 2018-19 season.

If you’re a fan of the B’s, well good news, let’s get into the forecast details.

As always, keep in mind that my degree is in communication and my minor was in sport management. I got a “C” in my Intro to Stats class in my first semester of college way back in *checks notes* the fall of 2013.

It was a night class and it was terrible, but I digress.

First year players are impossible to predict until they’ve had at least one National Hockey League game under their belt.

Young players that have had minimal NHL experience may also reflect “inflated” results.

No, Zach Senyshyn probably isn’t going to have 28 assists this season, but since he has two assists in six games over the last two seasons (his entire NHL career), the forecasting function in Microsoft Excel does math stuff based on his entire career as it would relate to if he played in all 56 games for Boston this season.

This will fix itself as the season progresses.

The same goes for Jack Studnicka’s forecasted 28 assists. Entering 2020-21, Studnicka has only played in two NHL games since just last season.

He’s already had a goal in six games this season and in the next forecast (after 20 team games played), he’ll likely be forecasted to have 1-8–9 totals by season’s end (assuming he plays in the remaining 36 games).

Forecast is different from pace.

Injuries, being a healthy scratch or on the taxi squad, other American Hockey League related or waiver related transactions, sickness, COVID protocol and general superstitions (getting enough sleep the night before a game, taping your stick a certain way every time, putting on the right skate before the left skate or whatever) may disrupt a player’s season.

These variables– tangible or not– are part of the game and cannot be accounted for in your everyday “straight up” forecast.

In an utopian timeline, this forecast pretends nothing bad could ever happen and every player has a chance to live up to their expectations. Of course, some will pan out, some will exceed expectations and some will miss the mark.

It’s merely a suggested outcome for a sport that’s highly unpredictable because of its collectivistic nature and sheer puck luck.


Boston Bruins Forecast Through 0 Games (56 Games Remaining)

Had the 2019-20 season gone according to schedule, David Pastrnak might not have missed any time to start the 2020-21 season.

Nevertheless, we’ll pretend that an alternate timeline stills exists for a moment and mention that if he had played in all 56 games this season, he was forecasted to lead the Bruins with 26-29–55 totals.

Brad Marchand was forecasted as the next highest scorer with 21 goals and 47 points, while David Krejci looked to lead the B’s in assists (29).

Of course, none of this is how it really happened, but Pastrnak is still off to a hot start, Marchand is feeling “100-percent” and Krejci is only now just about to miss game action, having not traveled with the team to Lake Tahoe for their outdoor matchup with the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday night.

Senyshyn and Studnicka’s assist totals have been highlighted in the chart above in reference to what’s already been stated in the introduction to this post.

Newcomer, Craig Smith, was forecasted to hit the twine 13 times and accrue 14 assists for 27 points this season, while Ondrej Kase was expected to notch 27 points in a 56-game season prior to injury.

On defense, the loss of Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug is expected to be felt on the scoresheet, though we’re likely to see Charlie McAvoy’s stock rise in the next forecast after 20 team games played.

Speaking of McAvoy, he was expected to lead the team in points from the blue line entering the 2020-21 season with 6-22–28 totals.

In goal, Boston’s poised for another strong run from their goaltending tandem of Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak.

Though Rask is likely to get more starts than Halak, the two are prime for producing similar numbers this season in differing workloads.

Rask is set for another season with a goals against average in the low two’s, between 2.28 and 2.34, while Halak is right on track for being one of– if not– the best “backups” in the league with a forecasted GAA between 2.48 and 2.72.

Stay tuned for the next forecast in about four games– however soon that will be, provided nothing else is postponed and the Bruins can avoid piling up names on the league’s COVID Protocol list.

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NHL Nick's Net Previews Projected Stats Tracker

2019-20 Pacific Division Outlook

As the entire hockey world awaits training camp action next month, let’s make some (un)educated guesses about the upcoming season that will totally pan out because everything always goes as expected. (It doesn’t.)

The projected standings below are only a forecast.

They are based on recent indications– as well as the last few seasons of stats– and cannot account for variations in roster construction (a.k.a. trades and free agency moves).

There’s a lot of variables that will turn the tables upside down, including transactions, injuries and otherwise. Anything can happen.

As always, it’s more important to remember 1) the spread and 2) the positioning.

Just how many points separate the projected division winner from the last wild card spot (the spread) and where a team is supposed to finish in the division standings (the position) can imply that things aren’t always what they seem.

A team that’s projected to win it all still has to play an 82-game regular season, qualify for the playoffs and go on to amass 16 wins in the postseason.

Projected Standings After ZERO Months

Pacific Division

  1. y-Vegas Golden Knights, 101 points
  2. x-San Jose Sharks, 100 points
  3. x-Anaheim Ducks, 96 points
  4. wc1- Calgary Flames, 93 points
  5. Los Angeles Kings, 89 points
  6. Vancouver Canucks, 83 points
  7. Arizona Coyotes, 78 points
  8. Edmonton Oilers, 77 points

Vegas Golden Knights: Pros and Cons

Despite a colossal collapse in Game 7 of their First Round matchup with the San Jose Sharks this spring, the Golden Knights are ready for what could be another deep playoff run in 2020.

A full season of Mark Stone– plus the rest of the original and supporting cast (Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, Paul Stastny, Max Pacioretty, Marc-Andre Fleury, etc.)– should provide Vegas with enough scoring power, while Nate Schmidt anchors the defense with Shea Theodore, Brayden McNabb, Jon Merrill and adopted Vegas son, Deryk Engelland.

Aside from working on the penalty kill and the peaceful transition of power from George McPhee to Kelly McCrimmon as General Manager of the organization (effective Sept. 1st), the Golden Knights have had a quiet offseason.

Sure, they traded Colin Miller to the Buffalo Sabres which hurts their blue line depth in the event of injuries, but Vegas has a few notable prospects with the Chicago Wolves (AHL) in Jake Bischoff, Nic Hague and Jimmy Schudlt that should be ready for a taste of NHL action if necessary.

Owner, Bill Foley, has his sights set on his original vision for the franchise– winning a Cup within the first three seasons of its existence.

The only downside for the Golden Knights heading into the 2019-20 season? Goaltending.

No, Fleury isn’t in decline from his status as one of the better goaltenders in the league, but his time in the crease has to be managed.

Though he was limited to 46 games in 2017-18 due to injury, Fleury amassed a 29-13-4 record with a 2.24 goals against average and a .927 save percentage. Vegas’ backup goaltender, Malcolm Subban, managed a 13-4-2 record in 22 games played that season with a 2.68 GAA and a .910 SV% in his rookie season.

Last season, Subban’s numbers took a turn for the worse.

He had an 8-10-2 record in 21 games played with a 2.93 GAA and a .902 SV%– all while Fleury was forced to carry a heavier schedule load, seeing his stat line slip to a 2.51 GAA and a .913 SV% in the process, but improving his overall record to 35-21-5 in 61 games.

Vegas added Garret Sparks, who carries a career GAA (3.09) and SV% (.898) that’s worst than Subban in six fewer games played over two full-time seasons as a backup (Sparks appeared in 37 games with Toronto, while Subban’s played in 43 with Vegas since 2017-18).

Gerard Gallant can’t rely on a fallback plan if one of them doesn’t yield a significant turnaround at this point in their careers (because there isn’t one) and he also can’t overexert Fleury in the buildup to the postseason.

This is why you can never have too many goaltenders in the system.

How would the Golden Knights fail?

If an Uber driver records their players complaining about their special teams play and/or said Uber driver can’t do a better job at not allowing four power play goals against on a five-minute major penalty kill.

San Jose Sharks: Pros and Cons

San Jose has about $4.683 million in cap space and Joe Thornton is still unsigned. Are we really ready to live in a world where Thornton isn’t on the Sharks and it’s not 1997-2005 again?

Also, Patrick Marleau is still unsigned too, but that’s besides the point– plus he spent the last two years with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Anyway, the Sharks went all in on Erik Karlsson’s extension, shelling out $11.500 million per season for the next eight years through the 2026-27 season.

As long as Karlsson can remain healthy (and the rest of the roster for that matter, unlike in this spring’s Western Conference Final run), then San Jose’s blue line remains one of the most dynamic forces of offensive capabilities from an otherwise non-traditional source of scoring production.

Kevin Labanc is an emerging star in a Sharks uniform and will carry a bigger role this season with the departure of Joe Pavelski to the Dallas Stars via free agency.

Meanwhile, it’s officially the Logan Couture Era in Silicon Valley– if General Manager Doug Wilson is truly moving on from the days of Thornton and Marleau– with supporting roles from Tomas Hertl and Evander Kane.

While Karlsson’s cap hit tops the league on an otherwise unnerving contract if something goes wrong, Wilson managed to keep Timo Meier in teal for the next four seasons at an affordable $6.000 million cap hit.

Other than injuries, the only thing that could scare the Sharks out of the waters of contention is the inconsistency of Martin Jones and Aaron Dell in the crease.

Despite compiling 36 wins on the season in 62 games played, Jones had a career-worst GAA (2.94) and SV% (.896), while Dell also managed to have a career-worst performance as a backup with a 3.17 GAA and a .886 SV% in 25 games played (of which he won 10).

Yikes.

How would the Sharks fail?

San Jose has had everything imaginable happen to them in the postseason, so what seems irrational, inexplicable and/or unimaginable, because that’s probably how they’d lose (again).

Anaheim Ducks: Pros and Cons

The Ducks have about $8.500 million in cap space with a good mix of pending-unrestricted free agents and pending-restricted free agents next summer, which means they’ll only have more money to spend and reallocate to their better, younger players like Troy Terry and Daniel Sprong.

What’s the bad news?

It’s Anaheim. They’re suffering from buying out Corey Perry’s contract for the next four seasons ($2.625 million in 2019-20, $6.625 million in 2020-21 and $2.000 million from 2021-23), Ryan Getzlaf is signed through 2020-21 and has a no-movement clause, Ryan Kesler may never play again and is also signed through 2021-22 with a no-movement clause and finally, Adam Henrique has a modified no-trade clause and is signed through 2023-24.

Yes, Kesler can be place on long-term injured reserve and shelved for the remainder of his contract and/or traded elsewhere (after waiving his NMC) to free up cap space if he truly cannot return, but the fact of the matter is the Ducks are still too tied up to takeoff and fly.

The depth of prospects is sketchy with the Ducks, considering not much is known about their overall plan.

Are they overcooking some prospects for a better immediate impact in the NHL or should they just play the kids, wait around near the basement of the standings and rebuild?

Though this forecast has Anaheim tabbed for a divisional spot, they’re likely to be looking from outside the division with perhaps only the saving grace of a wild card spot thanks to John Gibson’s existence as one of the best goaltenders in the game (until the skaters in front of him let him down).

At the very least, Dallas Eakins is back as a head coach in the NHL, so all is right with the world (and he did a decent job resurrecting his career with a strong performance in San Diego (AHL) after his dismal days in Edmonton).

How would the Ducks fail?

General Manager Bob Murray holds onto his cards for too long, talent development stalls and/or Eakins turns out to not be one of those classic examples of a coach that just came into the league a little too early, then got a second chance and succeeded.

Calgary Flames: Pros and Cons

The Flames couldn’t win the Cup with two-time All Star goaltender, Mike Smith, on their roster, so they rolling with David Rittich and Cam Talbot– who joins Calgary from their intra-province rival Edmonton Oilers.

Speaking of the Oilers, that’s where Smith ended up. Goalie swap! But without any actual trading involved, since Talbot was most recently serving as a “Plan C” for the Philadelphia Flyers if Carter Hart, Brian Elliott and Co. weren’t ready to go down the stretch.

Anyway, back to the “C of Red”.

Calgary sent James Neal to Edmonton in exchange for Milan Lucic and ended up saving $500,000 per season for the remainder of Lucic’s contract (signed through 2022-23) in the process. The Oilers retained salary in the trade. You heard that right.

Matthew Tkachuk and Andrew Mangiapane are still unsigned RFAs and General Manager Brad Treliving has about $7.757 million to work with in cap space.

Get a deal done with Tkachuk and the Flames will go on without any interruption as a team that pleasantly turned a lot of heads in the regular season last year, then sputtered out in the First Round in five games to the Colorado Avalanche.

Bill Peters is ready for his second season behind the bench in Calgary and the roster looks set to remain in contention for a divisional berth, if not leading the Western Conference once again.

How would the Flames fail?

Simply put, if they flame out at the end of the regular season like they did last season– March was a bad month, which led to their demise in five games against Colorado in the First Round.

Los Angeles Kings: Pros and Cons

The good news for the Kings? Tyler Toffoli, Trevor Lewis, Kyle Clifford, Mario Kempe, Derek Forbort, Paul LaDue, Joakim Ryan and Jack Campbell are all pending-UFAs after next season and Carl Grundstrom, Austin Wagner, Sean Walker and Kurtis MacDermid are all pending-RFAs.

The bad news? Drew Doughty is signed through 2026-27 at $11.000 million per season, Anze Kopitar is making $10.000 million per season through 2023-24 and Adrian Kempe is currently an unsigned RFA.

General Manager Rob Blake has a lot to sort through this season, but he’s already made some corrections to his blunders in his first two seasons as an NHL GM.

For starters, he replaced Dion Phaneuf with Ryan in free agency, brought back his stable backup goaltender in Campbell on a one-year deal and didn’t give up on Ilya Kovalchuk, but rather hired an actual NHL head coach fit for the contemporary game in Todd McLellan.

Though Marco Sturm remains one of the best looking assistant coaches in the league, we’ll let this one slide, Los Angeles.

Are the Kings actually that much better than they were last season? Time will surely tell, but one thing’s for sure– they can’t possibly be much worse, right? Right!?!

If anything, the Kings are a wild card team at best or situated behind either Vancouver or Arizona at worst in the standings, but they should be lightyears from the basement in the division this season with some solid additions through the draft over the years in Alex Turcotte, Jaret Anderson-Dolan and Gabriel Vilardi.

Los Angeles should be able to (somewhat) bounce back from their regression last season, but at the same time, the year isn’t 2012 or 2014 anymore. It’s time to start cutting the chord with former “glue guys” turned placeholders on a roster that needs an influx of youth sooner rather than later.

How would the Kings fail?

If Jonathan Quick gets hurt in any fashion and Blake can’t get rid of at least one of the eight players on the 23-player roster over aged 30 or older.

Vancouver Canucks: Pros and Cons

The Canucks are looking to make it back into the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2015, but did General Manager, Jim Benning do enough this offseason to set Vancouver back on the right track for 2020?

Benning went out and acquired J.T. Miller from the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for Marek Mazanec, a 2019 3rd round pick and a conditional 2020 1st round pick in June, then signed 29-year-old defender, Tyler Myers to a five-year, $30.000 million contract.

Miller and Myers are two quality assets compared to previous transactions made in the offseason by the Canucks. For once, Benning didn’t overpay an aging veteran player, but he also hasn’t cleaned up what might be a costly (both in price and on ice) fourth line in a league that runs four lines deep.

There’s a very real chance that none of the players on Vancouver’s fourth line any given night are making less than $3.000 million per season.

That’s unfathomable in a salary cap driven sport and only speaks to the number of misguided happenings in asset management by the Canucks.

Come to think of it, Vancouver only has five players out of a possible 23-player roster making less than $1.000 million per season. Sure, nobody’s making $10.000 million, but all those $2.000 million-plus, $3.000 million-plus, $4.000 million-plus and $5.000 million-plus contracts add up.

At least Elias Pettersson, Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser are worth watching night-in and night-out. Plus, Thatcher Demko should pan out to be one of the league’s better goaltenders.

There’s just one concern for Benning as the offseason continues– Boeser and Nikolay Goldobin are still unsigned RFAs.

And Boeser is certainly worth the four-year, $7.000 million cap hit he’s looking for. Too bad the Canucks only have $5.058 million in cap space though.

How would the Canucks fail?

By being close, but not close enough in yet another race for the playoffs. Things are heading in the right direction, however.

Arizona Coyotes: Pros and Cons

Mastermind GM John Chayka has landed this offseason’s biggest prize in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins– two-time Stanley Cup champion, Team USA representative and hot dog enthusiast, Phil “The Thrill” Kessel.

Kessel brings his goalscoring prowess to the Western Conference for the first time in his career, having been drafted by the Boston Bruins 5th overall in the 2006 NHL draft, then playing with Boston until being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2009 and then again the Pittsburgh in 2015.

No. 81 had 82 points in 82 games played last season, which was down from career-high 34-58–92 totals in 2017-18. Additionally, he hasn’t missed a game since 2010.

Along with Carl Soderberg– another offseason acquisition in a trade with the Colorado Avalanche– Kessel and the Coyotes are revamped and poised to make a run for the postseason.

Arizona’s only ranked low in this forecast because of nearly a decade of middle of the road rosters and missed opportunities since losing in the 2012 Western Conference Final in five games to Los Angeles.

The Coyotes haven’t been back to the playoffs since, but they’re trending upward.

With Nick Schmaltz, Jakob Chychrun and Oliver Ekman-Larsson locked up on long-term contracts, the core has really come into fruition while Chayka remains active in the draft and trade market.

Now they just need a little luck on their side to avoid losing Antti Raanta to the injury bug again.

How would the Coyotes fail?

If this forecast actually turns out to be true and Arizona finished 7th in the division, because otherwise who would actually want to see them fail?

Edmonton Oilers: Pros and Cons

Pro: New GM (Ken Holland) and a new head coach (Dave Tippett).

Con: Another new GM and a new head coach.

Pro: Connor McDavid!

Con: Plays for the Oilers.

Pro: They were able to trade Milan Lucic.

Con: While acquiring James Neal and retaining part of Lucic’s salary in the process, thereby spending more money than in the first place.

Pro: They should actually be better this year.

Con: We keep saying every year, even about a team that has the second-greatest player in the game behind Sidney Crosby on the roster.

Pro: There’s a lot of pending UFAs and RFAs on the roster.

Con: That means at least half of them are now going to have a career-year in a contract year and be overpaid either by Edmonton or other teams in the next offseason.

Pro: Two-time All Star Mike Smith signed a one-year deal to backup Mikko Koskinen.

Con: The average age of Edmonton’s goaltending duo is 34.

How would the Oilers fail?

How there’s any such thing as optimism besides having McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in Edmonton is incredible. If they make it to a wild card berth, it’d take McDavid playing every position, probably.

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NHL Nick's Net Previews Projected Stats Tracker

2019-20 Central Division Outlook

As the entire hockey world awaits training camp action next month, let’s make some (un)educated guesses about the upcoming season that will totally pan out because everything always goes as expected. (It doesn’t.)

The projected standings below are only a forecast.

They are based on recent indications– as well as the last few seasons of stats– and cannot account for variations in roster construction (a.k.a. trades and free agency moves).

There’s a lot of variables that will turn the tables upside down, including transactions, injuries and otherwise. Anything can happen.

As always, it’s more important to remember 1) the spread and 2) the positioning.

Just how many points separate the projected division winner from the last wild card spot (the spread) and where a team is supposed to finish in the division standings (the position) can imply that things aren’t always what they seem.

A team that’s projected to win it all still has to play an 82-game regular season, qualify for the playoffs and go on to amass 16 wins in the postseason.

Projected Standings After ZERO Months

Central Division

  1. z-Nashville Predators, 103 points
  2. x-St. Louis Blues, 100 points
  3. x-Winnipeg Jets, 97 points
  4. wc2-Minnesota Wild, 93 points
  5. Chicago Blackhawks, 92 points
  6. Dallas Stars, 92 points
  7. Colorado Avalanche, 86 points

Nashville Predators: Pros and Cons

Before you continue reading, it’s important to remember that this is the most unpredictable division in the league currently. Seriously.

Nashville is more than likely going to take the division in the regular season thanks to their minor moves in the offseason and major gains in the long haul, but everything else?

That’s to be determined.

Matt Duchene’s cap hit ($8,000,000) costs the Preds a million dollars less than P.K. Subban ($9,000,000), but there’s 10 pending UFAs on the roster after this season. If a legitimate one-two duo down the middle can’t get the Predators a Cup, then this window may be closing– and fast.

Pekka Rinne isn’t getting any young and the crease will soon be Juuse Saros’ before you know it.

The good news?

The Preds are still one of the most impressive teams on the blue line with Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis and Dante Fabbro.

How would the Predators fail?

Somehow 30 points in a season gets you a seven-year contract (*ahem* Colton Sissons), but kudos to General Manager David Poile on doing so at a $2.857 cap hit though. That being said, this is dangerous logic that’s tempting fate at the hands of the Hockey Gods, which might only further weaken Nashville’s goaltending when it counts in the postseason.

St. Louis Blues: Pros and Cons

Glue guys score important goals in the playoffs and glue guys come in all shapes and sizes– including dadbod, a la Pat Maroon.

But there’s just one problem, the hometown hero that lifted St. Louis over Dallas into the Western Conference Final has left the Blues for the Tampa Bay Lightning– a product of the salary cap era, a big postseason performance and a… wait, he’s not making a huge salary?

Why did Maroon leave? Because Ivan Barbashev– the younger, better, faster, stronger more long-term approach player– is still an unsigned RFA and the Blues have less than $2.000 million in cap space currently.

St. Louis still has its core, however, and will now find out if Jordan Binnington is truly “The One” or a one hit wonder over the course of a full season of having Binnington as their starter.

When all is said and done, the defending champs have a great chance to continue to make noise in the regular season and, well, we’ve never experienced the Blues winning the Cup before, so… can it happen again? Is that a thing?

How would the Blues fail?

The cliché Stanley Cup hangover. It’s a long, grueling, season that takes its toll– even with all sorts of proper training and nutrition.

Winnipeg Jets: Pros and Cons

The Jets are in trouble. Sure, they might have a decent season and finish in a divisional spot heading into the playoffs, but they’ve got about $16.150 million in cap space and currently unsigned RFAs in Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor and Eric Comrie right now.

Not to mention the fact that they traded Jacob Trouba to the New York Rangers in the offseason for Neal Pionk, but at least Winnipeg got back their 2019 1st round pick in the transaction (previously dealt to New York in the Kevin Hayes trade).

Yes, a team that should see a bounce-back season in the crease from Connor Hellebuyck leading the way to a potential deep postseason run, might not even make it past the First Round if two of their prominent players (Laine and Connor) are still unsigned by the start of the regular season.

Other than that, Dustin Byfuglien is aiming for a strong run without any more injuries and the rest of Winnipeg is looking to quietly do their thing under the tremendous leadership of their captain, Blake Wheeler.

How would the Jets fail?

If Laine and/or Connor miss any part of the regular season, the Jets aren’t going to be soaring all that far without the fuel to get them to the Stanley Cup Final.

Minnesota Wild: Pros and Cons

What an offseason for the Wild and their fans, right? I mean, things are really wild in Minnesota.

First, Mats Zuccarello lands a five-year, $30.000 million contract in the State of Hockey, then (now former) General Manager Paul Fenton is fired and now Bill Guerin has his first job as an NHL GM.

Welcome to the club, Mr. Guerin, now undo all of this mess that was done by the last guy and the guy before him dating back to July 4, 2012.

At least a full season of Ryan Donato in a Wild sweater should be exciting.

Joel Eriksson Ek signed a two-year extension and Ryan Suter’s play wasn’t too terrible last season, but the wheels fell off in the crease because of how bad puck possession was in front of Devan Dubnyk and Alex Stalock.

Though they’re forecasted as a wild card berth (the forecast formula accounts for more than just last season), Minnesota’s not looking like they’re really going to be much better than they were last season– if at all.

Unless Guerin has any big plans up his sleeve and can get to work patching the holes left and right.

How would the Wild fail?

If they add another player over the age of 30 to their roster, then you know it’s a full-on rebuild (which might actually be for the better at this point).

Chicago Blackhawks: Pros and Cons

Patrick Kane had a tremendous season in 2018-19, amassing 44-66–110 totals in 81 games while the Blackhawks failed to make the postseason for the second straight year.

In the meantime, those that remain from Chicago’s three Cups in five years core are another year older. Jonathan Toews is 31, Kane is 30, Brent Seabrook is 34, Duncan Keith is 36 and starting goaltender, Corey Crawford, is 34.

While incredibly talented, time is not on the Hawks’ side.

That’s why General Manager Stan Bowman has been working to make the team younger with Dylan Strome, Alex DeBrincat and newcomer Olli Maatta (acquired in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins this summer) taking on larger roles on the Original Six squad.

Even better, 28-year-old defender in his prime, Calvin de Haan, bolsters Chicago’s blue line and provides some much needed time on ice relief for Seabrook and/or Keith as second-year head coach, Jeremy Colliton, sees fit.

Winning the 3rd overall pick in the draft in June, brought Kirby Dach into the equation– whether he’ll be ready for NHL stardom behind Toews and Strome immediately or not.

Though the Blackhawks are forecasted to narrowly miss the postseason for the third straight season, they aren’t going to miss out on the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs by much and will be the team to knock out one of the teams higher up in this outlook (*ahem* Minnesota).

How would the Blackhawks fail?

Age continues to chip away at the memories of yesteryear. That, or injuries, probably.

Dallas Stars: Pros and Cons

The Stars weren’t happy with the production from their best players despite the fact that they were– in fact– their best players. Who would’ve thought?

But now Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn are joined by veterans Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry among Dallas’ forwards, while Andrej Sekera has taken a supporting role on the defense in place of the current unrestricted free agent Marc Methot (who may retire altogether).

On the bright side, Dallas’ defense contains Miro Heiskanen, Esa Lindell, John Klingberg and one of the most underrated aspects in the league– itself.

The Stars defense– combined with the superb duo of Ben Bishop as the starting goaltender and Anton Khudobin as their backup– is really solid.

Unfortunately, the team with the most goals at the end of the game always wins and sometimes Dallas just couldn’t score.

That’s where General Manager Jim Nill has looked to Pavelski’s prowess and Perry’s ability– should he rebound– to try to fill the cracks in their offensive game and start winning games even if they only give up a goal or two when it matters most (the playoffs).

Should the Stars beat the aging curve, they’ll make it back to the playoffs. But don’t think it’s easy– they coasted into the postseason last season and shouldn’t make a habit out of that if they’re looking to play their best hockey deep into June.

How would the Stars fail?

Somehow bringing in Pavelski (35-years-old), Perry (34), Sekera (33)– thereby increasing your overall average age– and expanding your list of no-trade and/or no-movement clauses to seven players on your roster just doesn’t always seem to payout. But at least Perry and Sekera are on one-year, $1.500 million contracts.

Colorado Avalanche: Pros and Cons

Pro: This forecast doesn’t take into account how much of an outlier the 2016-17 season was for the Avs.

Con: Unfortunately, the 2016-17 season has to be included in the dataset to “accurately” predict the upcoming season’s outcome until the 2026-27 season or so.

Pro: Colorado has one of the best first lines in the NHL.

Con: Mikko Rantanen is still an unsigned RFA (and he’s a vital part of the first line).

Pro: Joonas Donskoi, Nazem Kadri, Calle Rosen and Andre Burakovsky are all newcomers to the Avalanche with something to prove. GM Joe Sakic was busy on the phone(s)!

Con: If the team doesn’t gel by January, it’s going to be a long season.

Pro: Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar.

Con: The number of games Gabriel Landeskog will be suspended for at some point in the season.

Pro: This is a very exciting team to watch and a surefire dark-horse to make the Stanley Cup Final.

Con: Now I’ve jinxed them.

How would the Avalanche fail?

By proving this forecast right and inexplicably regressing to their 2016-17 season ways. Otherwise, they’re definitely not actually finishing last in the Central Division… right?

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NHL Nick's Net Previews Projected Stats Tracker

2019-20 Metropolitan Division Outlook

As the entire hockey world awaits training camp action next month, let’s make some (un)educated guesses about the upcoming season that will totally pan out because everything always goes as expected. (It doesn’t.)

The projected standings below are only a forecast.

They are based on recent indications– as well as the last few seasons of stats– and cannot account for variations in roster construction (a.k.a. trades and free agency moves).

There’s a lot of variables that will turn the tables upside down, including transactions, injuries and otherwise. Anything can happen.

As always, it’s more important to remember 1) the spread and 2) the positioning.

Just how many points separate the projected division winner from the last wild card spot (the spread) and where a team is supposed to finish in the division standings (the position) can imply that things aren’t always what they seem.

A team that’s projected to win it all still has to play an 82-game regular season, qualify for the playoffs and go on to amass 16 wins in the postseason.

Projected Standings After ZERO Months

Metropolitan Division

  1. y-Washington Capitals, 107 points
  2. x-Pittsburgh Penguins, 102 points
  3. x-Columbus Blue Jackets, 93 points
  4. wc1-New York Islanders, 91 points
  5. wc2-Philadelphia Flyers, 91 points
  6. New York Rangers, 89 points
  7. Carolina Hurricanes, 87 points
  8. New Jersey Devils, 84 points

Washington Capitals: Pros and Cons

Year after year, Washington finds themselves at the top of the Metropolitan Division with or without any sort of logical explanation.

The last time the Capitals didn’t finish 1st in the division? It was the 2014-15 season when the New York Rangers followed up a 2014 Stanley Cup Final appearance with 113 points and the President’s Trophy.

Once again, the Caps will find a way to turn things on late into the season and manage the top spot in the Metropolitan Division, but they’ll be doing so without a long list of members from their 2018 Stanley Cup championship roster.

After matching his regular season goal scoring total in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Devante Smith-Pelly wasn’t able to get back to form and subsequently reassigned to the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears during the 2018-19 season.

Now, he’s an unrestricted free agent.

Also departing Washington this summer were the likes of Brett Connolly (signed with Florida), Andre Burakovsky (traded to Colorado for Scott Kosmachuk, a 2nd round pick in 2020 and a 3rd round pick in 2020), Nathan Walker (signed with St. Louis), Matt Niskanen (traded to Philadelphia in exchange for Radko Gudas) and Brooks Orpik (retired)

Madison Bowey was traded to Detroit in February. Jakub Jerabek left via free agency last season and is now playing in the KHL. Philipp Grubauer was traded to the Avalanche last June. Jay Beagle signed with the Vancouver Canucks last July. Alex Chiasson joined the Edmonton Oilers last October.

With such a quick turnover in the makeup of their lineup, the Capitals’ championship window may already be closing– and fast.

At least Garnet Hathaway, Richard Panik and Carl Hagelin all signed four-year contracts with cap hits under $3.000 million.

How would the Capitals fail?

Radko Gudas and Tom Wilson end up suspended for the entire season somehow and get the rest of the Capitals in trouble for something.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Pros and Cons

Phil Kessel is signed through 2021-22 at $6.800 million per season. Alex Galchenyuk is signed through 2019-20 with a cap hit of $4.900 million.

Using the money saved from trading Kessel to Arizona and hoping Galchenyuk will suddenly become a 30 or 40 goal scorer simply because he’s now on the same roster as Sidney Crosby, Penguins General Manager, Jim Rutherford, figured it’d be a smart move to lock up Brandon Tanev in free agency with a six-year contract at $3.500 million per season and a modified no-trade clause one offseason removed from signing Jack Johnson.

If there’s any positives for Pittsburgh, it’s that Crosby still exists and Mike Sullivan remains the head coach. Oh and Evgeni Malkin exists too, though some would find it hard to believe, since he wasn’t included in the top-100 players of the last century list.

As long as Matt Murray and Casey DeSmith can weather the storm of an insufficient defense, injuries and inadequacy from last season, then there’s a good chance the current longest active playoff appearance streak remains alive.

If not, well, just look for Rutherford to continue to move chairs around on the Titanic.

This team is starting to spring a leak. If they’re not careful, they’ll sink in the standings.

But since the season really doesn’t start until January anyway for the Pens, they’ll work their way into a playoff berth as they’ve done for the last dozen years or so.

How would the Penguins fail?

Rutherford trades another goal scorer for a “glue guy” and clones Tanev and/or Johnson. Realistically, Murray continues to cool down from his meteoric rise a couple of seasons ago and won’t cost too much as a pending-RFA.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Pros and Cons

All my ex’s live in… everywhere but Columbus.

The Blue Jackets lost Artemi Panarin to the New York Rangers, Sergei Bobrovsky to the Florida Panthers, Matt Duchene to the Nashville Predators and Ryan Dzingel to the Carolina Hurricanes, but they brought in Gustav Nyquist and brought back Marko Dano via free agency.

Yeah, ok, so it wasn’t a great summer for Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen and Blue Jackets fans– even if they knew at least one of their big names (Bobrovsky) was never going to re-sign.

But while a lot of armchair GMs think the Blue Jackets are destined for a rebuild, there’s a glimmer of optimism if Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins can carry the weight of the crease, while younger players like Alexandre Texier, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Josh Anderson continue to emerge.

Making it as far as they did into the Second Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs was vital to the experience gained by Columbus’ core.

Though they’re likely not going to a be a dominant force in 2019-20, they should be in contention for what would be a fifth playoff berth in seven years under Kekalainen’s reign.

And if they turn heads again like they did when they swept the President’s Trophy winning Tampa Bay Lightning in the First Round, then there’s sure to be some interest in lacing up the skates for the Blue Jackets in the future.

Then again, it could be tank city until Korpisalo or Merzlikins becomes a legitimate starter and somebody becomes an 80-point scorer again.

It just takes some time… Oh and someone should probably re-sign Zach Werenski while you’re at it.

How would the Blue Jackets fail?

The Union doesn’t lose. Ok, if everybody leaves, then it might.

New York Islanders: Pros and Cons

Having Lou Lamoriello as your General Manager means some players are going to love him (if they’ve already been with him for many years before) and some players are going to be chased out of the city when they are told they are going in a different direction, but then don’t quite land who they think they’re getting, only to leave you once again for… well, Semyon Varlamov isn’t really an upgrade at this point.

But Robin Lehner’s gone after winning the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy with the Rangers Islanders last season after having a remarkable career-year in the face of addiction and other struggles.

New York’s only getting older and Anders Lee took a “hometown discount” to stay on Long Island.

Speaking of Long Island, is it too early to start construction on the Belmont Park arena yet?

Something has to distract everyone from the undercutting of several prospect’s development– whether they’ve rightfully had a chance to prove themselves at the NHL level or not.

Barry Trotz is a great head coach, but how much more can he do with a middle of the road team that gives up on prospects too early?

Get them back to the Second Round only to be crushed by a team that’s mixing youth, speed, skill, grit and actually playing 21st century hockey?

It’s almost as though the Islanders learned nothing from 1995-2006.

How would the Islanders fail?

It’s [the] trap!

Philadelphia Flyers: Pros and Cons

Flyers General Manager, Chuck Fletcher, actually hasn’t had that bad of an offseason– at least when it comes to tweaking his roster.

Sure Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun are both 32-years-old, but they’re decent top-4 defenders that should be able to lead from the back end with Shayne Gostisbehere as Travis Sanheim and Ivan Provorov come into their own.

Speaking of Provorov, he’s still an unsigned-RFA and Philadelphia has more than enough money (about $13.400 million in cap space) to get some sort of a deal done right now. Why wait until the last minute? What’s that? Travis Konecny needs a contract right now too? Oh never mind. Let’s make things complicated!

Besides giving Kevin Hayes a seven-year contract worth $7.143 million per season with a no-movement clause, the Flyers should have– a lot of explaining to do when their experiment doesn’t work out.

The Hayes contract is bad, but just how bad can things get with Hayes back on a team that’s coached by… Alain Vigneault!?!

Vigneault’s the real wild card here as the jury is still out on whether or not his style still fits the game or if the Rangers were just that bad in his final year with New York.

All things considered, Philadelphia should be back into playoff contention. Just not Cup contention in 2019-20.

How much more of this can Claude Giroux take?

How would the Flyers fail?

Alain Vigneault, Mike Yeo and Michel Therrien can’t figure out who is actually the head coach on a night-to-night basis even though Vigneault technically owns the job (Yeo and Therrien are assistant coaches for the Flyers, if you haven’t heard). Oh and goaltending if Carter Hart gets injured.

New York Rangers: Pros and Cons

The Rangers landed the biggest prize in free agency, signing Artemi Panarin to a seven-year contract worth $11.643 million per season.

Though they are still in a rebuild, Panarin’s addition to the roster helps make New York more of an attractive destination and speeds things up in the overall plan.

It doesn’t hurt that GM Jeff Gorton had the 2nd overall pick in this year’s draft too. Kaapo Kakko is ready for the limelight in Manhattan as Henrik Lundqvist’s reign is in its twilight days.

Lundqvist is under contract through the 2020-21 season and at 37-years-old– it’d take a miracle for the Rangers to win him a Cup at this point.

The Rangers only have one forward over the age of 30 (Matt Beleskey’s 31) and two defenders 30 or older as well (Brendan Smith, 30, and Marc Staal, 32).

Beleskey is likely to bounce around the organization between New York and Hartford (AHL), while there’s a good chance Smith could be buried as well.

But their “veteran presence” is valuable to time on ice management among the younger skaters that might not be quite as NHL ready as Kakko and friends.

Jacob Trouba is new to the Rangers and destined to anchor their new-age defense from the top pairing, while Kevin Shattenkirk joins the long list of buyouts in recent years by New York.

The Rangers are short almost $5.400 million in dead cap space thanks to Shattenkirk, Dan Girardi and Ryan Spooner’s buyouts around the league (Shattenkirk and Girardi were Rangers buyouts, but Spooner had retained salary and was bought out by the Vancouver Canucks this offseason).

Next year, New York faces almost $7.500 million in cap penalties from the trio of buyouts before Spooner comes off the books entirely and the number dips down to about $2.544 million from 2021-22 to 2022-23.

Also another Harvard product– Adam Fox– is the new Jimmy Vesey experiment, but on the blue line. And Vesey? He was traded to Buffalo.

Panarin and Kakko are worth watching this season, while the rest of the team remains to be seen.

How would the Rangers fail?

Henrik Lundqvist stops looking so good all of a sudden. That man is stunning.

Carolina Hurricanes: Pros and Cons

Though the forecast says otherwise, Carolina should actually be closer to playoff contention than you may think coming off their 2019 Eastern Conference Final appearance.

Hurricanes General Manager, Don Waddell, has weathered the storm this offseason. Actually, his job was made pretty easy when the Montreal Canadiens signed Sebastian Aho to a five-year offer sheet worth $8.454 million per season.

Considering the value Aho brings and the potential that’s still there– that’s a steal.

Though a little more than $21 million in signing bonuses through the first two years is considered a “hefty” price for an owner to pay, let’s remember that we’re talking about professional sports.

If Montreal really wanted to make things difficult for Canes owner, Tom Dundon, then they should’ve offered something with a larger cap hit, but that would’ve meant a steeper price to pay in compensation had Carolina not matched the deal. #AdvantageCarolina

Aho will be 27 by the time his new contract runs out, which means he’ll be a pending-UFA in 2024, but there’s plenty of time to worry about the next contract when the time comes.

Right now, the Hurricanes have added some much needed top-six/top-nine forward depth in Erik Haula (acquired from Vegas) and Ryan Dzingel (signed via free agency), while adding a 1st round pick in 2020 (or 2021 if Toronto’s 2020 1st rounder is a top-10 overall selection) and swapping Calvin de Haan with the Chicago Blackhawks for Gustav Forsling (there were other pieces involved, like Anton Forsberg going to Carolina too).

The average age of Carolina’s skaters? 25.

Considering how far the core went in 2018-19, that’s beyond impressive and it’s a testament to head coach, Rod Brind’Amour.

In July, Petr Mrazek re-signed with the Hurricanes on a two-year deal and James Reimer was acquired in a trade with the Florida Panthers as Curtis McElhinney signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Though Alex Nedeljkovic might be another year out from competing for the starting job, the crease is Mrazek’s to lose once again with Reimer looking to rebound from a dismal time in Florida.

Carolina is poised for another deep run, but how soon will it be given the fact that their emergence as a contender means that every other team wants to beat them that much more from night-to-night?

How would the Hurricanes fail?

The Canes have a strong analytics department, so the only thing that could naturally disrupt their plans? Regression (and no WiFi).

New Jersey Devils: Pros and Cons

The Devils won the draft lottery and procured Jack Hughes with the 1st overall pick in June.

New Jersey was third-to-last in overall standings last season.

Though they added P.K. Subban in a trade with the Nashville Predators in June, drafted Hughes and have Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier and Will Butcher on their roster, the Devils still need a lot of pieces to improve.

Hall’s a pending-UFA at season’s end. His next deal– whether it’s with New Jersey or not– determines the fate of this team.

Cory Schneider’s still under contract through 2021-22 and Mackenzie Blackwood is only 22-years-old.

Goaltenders are rarely superstars when they’re that young, so while Blackwood may be the starter heading into the season and goalie of the future for the organization– it wouldn’t be a surprise to see some ups and downs before the dust settles.

Now for the good news.

Nikita Gusev was acquired in a trade with the Golden Knights and Ray Shero doesn’t have a lot of no-trade clauses to deal with if the Devils look to sell at the trade deadline.

How would the Devils fail?

If they somehow lose the Taylor Hall trade a few years after winning it.

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NHL Nick's Net Previews Projected Stats Tracker

2019-20 Atlantic Division Outlook

As the entire hockey world awaits training camp action next month, let’s make some (un)educated guesses about the upcoming season that will totally pan out because everything always goes as expected. (It doesn’t.)

The projected standings below are only a forecast.

They are based on recent indications– as well as the last few seasons of stats– and cannot account for variations in roster construction (a.k.a. trades and free agency moves).

There’s a lot of variables that will turn the tables upside down, including transactions, injuries and otherwise. Anything can happen.

As always, it’s more important to remember 1) the spread and 2) the positioning.

Just how many points separate the projected division winner from the last wild card spot (the spread) and where a team is supposed to finish in the division standings (the position) can imply that things aren’t always what they seem.

A team that’s projected to win it all still has to play an 82-game regular season, qualify for the playoffs and go on to amass 16 wins in the postseason.

Projected Standings After ZERO Months

Atlantic Division

  1. p-Tampa Bay Lightning, 109 points
  2. x-Boston Bruins, 105 points
  3. x-Toronto Maple Leafs, 91 points
  4. Florida Panthers, 89 points
  5. Montreal Canadiens, 89 points
  6. Detroit Red Wings, 84 points
  7. Ottawa Senators, 78 points
  8. Buffalo Sabres, 71 points

Tampa Bay Lightning: Pros and Cons

The Lightning are annual favorites among the experts to win the Stanley Cup, so it’s no surprise, really, that they haven’t yet. There’s either too many expectations to live up to or there’s too much of a casual atmosphere from season-to-season.

You know what they say when you assume.

Just like the Washington Capitals and their 2018 Stanley Cup championship, it’s better for the Bolts if nobody is talking about them. Prior to the Caps winning in 2018, there was a “Cup or bust” mantra that just didn’t work.

Nothing is willed without hard work and humility.

That’s not to say Tampa doesn’t work hard or isn’t humble, but rather, they must lose on the big stage repetitively until everyone expects them to fail. That’s when they’ll go on a run.

They’ve managed to keep their roster together (granted, RFA center, Brayden Point, is still unsigned) while trimming the fat (gone are the days of Anton Stralman and Dan Girardi on the blue line) and are still Stanley Cup front-runners, but they likely won’t get back to the 60-win plateau in back-to-back seasons.

The Lightning will still get to 50 wins for the third season in-a-row, have Nikita Kucherov set the league on fire in scoring and yield out-of-this-world goaltending from Andrei Vasilevskiy before the real season starts– the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

How would the Lightning fail?

Everyone keeps talking about the Lightning as if they’re some godsend (too much hype, remember?). That, or General Manager Julien BriseBois blows up the roster and/or Jon Cooper is fired as head coach.

Boston Bruins: Pros and Cons

The Bruins core remains strong among their forwards and as long as they’re able to negotiate an extension with RFAs Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo without any bumps in the road, then their defense is pretty sound too.

Jaroslav Halak signed a two-year deal last summer, so the 1A/1B tandem of Tuukka Rask and Halak in the crease seems fine for another run in 2019-20.

Boston exceeded expectations in 2017-18 and went under the radar in 2018-19– though they managed to amass only 10 losses in regulation since Jan. 1st, which means they were actually pretty loud in the points percentage column.

Injuries come and go.

If the Bruins are able to stay healthy instead of dropping like flies to their 12th defenseman on the depth chart, they might actually pick up a few more points than they did last season.

With Bruce Cassidy as head coach, things should remain status quo in the regular season, but Boston still needs to address their top-six forward problem.

David Pastrnak can play on the first or second line, but on any given night that leaves one of their top two lines in need of a scoring winger.

General Manager Don Sweeney managed to patch a hole at the third line center– acquiring Charlie Coyle as last season’s trade deadline loomed– and Coyle was one of their better players in their 2019 Stanley Cup Final postseason run.

But with a couple of depth signings for bottom six roles in the offseason (Par Lindholm and Brett Ritchie), everyone getting another year older and David Backes’ $6.000 million cap hit through 2020-21 still on the books, Boston’s hands are tied.

How would the Bruins fail?

There’s enough bark in the regular season, but not enough bite for a deep postseason run. It’s harder than ever before to make it back to the Stanley Cup Final in back-to-back seasons– and that’s before you consider age, injuries and regression.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Pros and Cons

Toronto has Auston Matthews as their second best center. Yes. Second best. Why? Because John Tavares enters the second year of his long-term seven-year deal that he signed last July.

That alone will continue to keep the Leafs afloat with a strong 1-2 duo down the middle.

Regardless of the Mitch Marner contract negotiations (or lack thereof), the Maple Leafs are just fine with their forwards– having traded Nazem Kadri to the Colorado Avalanche and acquiring Alex Kerfoot in the process (Calle Rosen and Tyson Barrie were also swapped in the deal).

Patrick Marleau is gone and it only cost Toronto a conditional 2020 1st round pick (top-10 lottery protected) and a 2020 7th round pick in the process, but an affordable Jason Spezza at league minimum salary ($700,000) on a one-year deal for fourth line minutes will do just fine.

By puck drop for the 2019-20 season, the Leafs will save $10.550 million in cap space thanks to David Clarkson (yes, his contract’s back after a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights that sent Garret Sparks the other way) and Nathan Horton’s placement on the long-term injured reserve.

The stars are aligning for Toronto to still need to get past the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2004.

With Kadri gone, however, perhaps they will be able to do so with or without Boston in the equation.

How would the Leafs fail?

They don’t sign Marner and they lose in another Game 7 because of it. There’s a lot of turbulence ahead for Toronto General Manager Kyle Dubas considering the Leafs have one defender under contract after 2019-20. If the team doesn’t breakout in the postseason, it’s really just status quo until proven otherwise.

Florida Panthers: Pros and Cons

The Panthers are beginning to ripen with a mix of youth and experience among their forwards, plus a defense that quietly does their job.

They also added Noel Acciari, Brett Connolly, Anton Stralman and (most importantly) Sergei Bobrovsky to the mix.

While Acciari’s $1.667 million cap hit through 2021-22 is a slight overpay for a fourth line center, at least it could be worse. Connolly’s making $3.500 million for the next four years and even Stralman has a cap hit of $5.500 million through 2021-22 when he’ll be turning 36 on August 1, 2022.

Ok, so it was an expensive offseason for Florida– and that’s before you add the $10.000 million price tag for the next seven years of Bobrovsky in the crease.

Yes, despite landing one of the better goaltenders in the league in free agency, General Manager Dale Tallon managed to make matters complicated after, say, the fourth year of Bobrovsky’s contract.

Bobrovsky will be roughly 37-years-old by the time his contract with the Panthers expires and not everyone can be like Dwayne Roloson in the net forever.

At least they drafted Spencer Knight (in the first round– a goaltending prospect curse).

Though they missed the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs by 12 points for an Eastern Conference wild card spot, the Panthers are in a position to gain more than a few wins with new head coach (and three-time Stanley Cup champion) Joel Quenneville behind the bench.

How would the Panthers fail?

Florida’s already landed the biggest prize in head coaching free agency with Quenneville reuniting with Tallon in Sunrise. What could possibly go wrong (besides Tallon being replaced by a clone of Stan Bowman and then the Panthers go on to win three Cups without Tallon in command)?

Montreal Canadiens: Pros and Cons

Montreal didn’t get Matt Duchene or Sebastian Aho in free agency, so they got the next best thing– not overspending on July 1st.

That’s not to say Duchene and Aho aren’t quality players, but rather just an observation of cap concerns for the Habs with Max Domi as a pending-RFA in July 2020 and the rest of Montreal’s future core (Ryan Poehling, Nick Suzuki, Victor Mete, Cayden Primeau and Jesperi Kotkaniemi) to consider going down the road.

Granted, Aho could’ve sped the process up a bit if it weren’t for those pesky RFA rights and compensation in the CBA, right Montreal?

The Canadiens need a legitimate number one center, but General Manager Marc Bergevin has been preoccupied restructuring the defense in the meantime.

That’s not a bad thing.

Shea Weber is 34 and under contract through the 2025-26 season, though after 2021-22, his base salary drops to $3.000 million in 2022-23 and $1.000 million from 2023-26 (meaning he could be traded with ease in a few years, despite his $7.857 million cap hit).

But Karl Alzner and Jeff Petry are both over 30 and have no-trade and/or no-movement clauses in their contracts.

At least free agent addition, Ben Chiarot, is 28-years-old, but he also carries a no-trade clause as part of his three-year deal.

How would the Canadiens fail?

Claude Julien inexplicably reverts back to his old ways and doesn’t play the kids, Carey Price is injured for most of the season and/or Bergevin overcompensates in a trade because of his failure to secure a free agent center.

Detroit Red Wings: Pros and Cons

Steve Yzerman has come home and is rightfully the General Manager for the Red Wings, but as we’ve seen in Tampa, his masterplan takes a little time.

Detroit is four or five years out from being an annual Cup contender, but that doesn’t mean the Red Wings haven’t already sped things up in their rebuild.

Trading for Adam Erne isn’t a grand-slam, but it does make the average age of the roster a tad younger.

It also means that the Red Wings now have seven pending-RFAs on their NHL roster and roughly $37.000 million to work with in July 2020.

How would the Red Wings fail?

Having Yzerman in the front office at Little Caesars Arena is like adding all of the best toppings to a pizza. The only downside is that leftover pineapple is still on the pizza from all of the no-trade clauses delivered by the last guy.

Ottawa Senators: Pros and Cons

The Senators are looking to spend ba-by.

Just kidding, they don’t plan on being good until 2021, so does that mean starting with the 2020-21 season or the following year in 2021-22?

But they do have a ton of draft picks stockpiled including two in the 1st round in 2020, three in the 2nd round, one in the 3rd, 4th and 5th, a pair in the 6th and one in the 7th.

Plus they have roughly $15.600 million in cap space currently and eight players under contract for next season that aren’t on the injured reserve.

For some reason (Eugene Melnyk) current-RFA Colin White is still unsigned and 38-year-old, Ron Hainsey, was signed in free agency, but at least Cody Ceci is a Maple Leaf now.

Oh and former Leafs assistant coach D.J. Smith is Ottawa’s head coach now. That’ll show them!

How would the Senators fail?

More importantly, how would Ottawa succeed?

Buffalo Sabres: Pros and Cons

Pro: The Sabres will probably be better than last season.

Con: Ralph Krueger is Buffalo’s new head coach and nobody knows what to expect (he went 19-22-7 in the lockout shortened 48-game season with the Edmonton Oilers in 2012-13).

Pro: Only eight skaters are under contract next season.

Con: Only eight skaters are under contract next season, including Rasmus Ristolainen and nobody is sure whether or not the club is trying to trade him.

Pro: Marcus Johansson!

Con: Jimmy Vesey! (Only cost Buffalo two third round picks over three years to get him.)

Pro: The average age of the roster is about 26.

Con: Matt Hunwick is the oldest player at 34-years-old, followed by Carter Hutton at 33 and Vladimir Sobotka at 32.

Pro: Royal blue in 2020!

Con: It’s not until 2020.

How would the Sabres fail?

If Buffalo actually finishes last in the division, instead of any improvement whatsoever.

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Golden Knights Forecast NHL Nick's Net Numbers Game Projected Stats Tracker

Vegas Golden Knights 2018-19 Forecast Through 62 Games

Coming off a 3-2 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins on Wednesday, the Vegas Golden Knights (32-25-5, 69 points, 3rd in the Pacific Division) have 20 games remaining in the 2018-19 regular season.

These aren’t your father’s Golden Knights, as production is down from their inaugural season in just their 2nd season of existence.

Though Marc-Andre Fleury (29-18-5 record, 2.60 goals against average, .908 save percentage in 52 games played) remains Vegas’ starter on an almost nightly basis, backup goaltender, Malcolm Subban (3-6-0, 2.76 GAA, .912 SV% in 10 GP) has struggled to carry his own weight.

Despite bringing in Paul Stastny via free agency and Max Pacioretty via trade, the Golden Knights haven’t been immune to the injury bug this season.

Stastny and Pacioretty themselves have joined Reilly Smith and others throughout the lineup on the injured reserve or out of playing action for various points of the season.

While the Pacific Division title might be out of reach for Vegas this season, a divisional spot in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs is all but assured as long as the floor doesn’t fallout from underneath Gerard Gallant and his players.

Of note, the Arizona Coyotes are emerging once again with a late season push for the playoffs– and this time around, they’re doing it without their starting goaltender, Antti Raanta (out for the season due to injury).

Plus the Vancouver Canucks are still in contention and, well, that’s about it, realistically among Pacific Division teams that still have a chance for the last divisional spot and/or a Western Conference wild card berth.

Anyway, back to the Golden Knights.

Here’s a look at the latest Vegas forecast– keeping in mind there are many variables that can and will effect the final outcome, such as injuries and/or being called up, assigned, traded, lucky or unlucky.

This forecast is just an educated guess. It’s a glimpse of what could be or could’ve been by the end of the regular season.

As always, my degree is in communication– not math– and hockey is naturally steeped in context and holistic unpredictability. Nothing can account for sheer puck luck, the odd bounce or a blown call.

If a player reaches the expected outcome, they’ve met expectations. If said player exceeds the forecasted stats, they’ve exceeded expectations (naturally). Of course, if a player does not perform, then they did not live up to expectations.

On a game-to-game basis, whatever’s on the scoresheet can indicate general trends that can be further broken down into an educated forecast.

At best, it’s a guess. At worst, well, it doesn’t really matter– it’s not like Golden Knights General Manager George McPhee is reading this and making his roster decisions based on what’s here, right?

If he is, I’d like a job, please. Thanks.

Vegas Golden Knights Forecast Through 62 Games (20 Games Remaining)
WordPress, when are you going to make the ”gallery” option again (and actually make it good like how it used to be)?

Among forwards, Vegas’ consistent first line last season of Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson and Smith hasn’t had as much consistent luck and skill this season.

Though Smith has battled injury this season, Marchessault remains one of the Golden Knights most consistent performers expected to lead his team in goals (25) and points (54) with 25-29–54 expected totals.

Now what about Karlsson?

Good question, what about him? Things haven’t gone exactly as planned in terms of capitalizing on his breakout season last season with a new contract in the offseason and higher expectations for this season.

Karlsson’s bridge, one-year, extension last summer coming off the backs of a 43-goal season has only managed 18 goals thus far– including four goals in the last 22 games for the Golden Knights.

Given his current trend, Karlsson is expected to amass 21-23–44 totals. He’d be tied with Pacioretty for 2nd place in expected goals (21) and 3rd in expected points (44) on the roster, but nowhere near the emergent star in the making that he was last season.

While he very well could bounce back– similar to Smith in nature, following a good-year, bad-year, good-year, bad-year pattern– the phrase “what have you done for me yesterday” won’t help him in his next contract negotiation this summer unless McPhee gives him the benefit of the doubt.

Meanwhile, Alex Tuch is expected to finish the season with a career-high 20-33–53 expected totals.

That’s comforting to hear for a team that needs to rely on secondary scoring in the midst of a recession in primary production.

Tuch is expected to lead in assists (33), followed by Smith (30) and Marchessault (29), while Marchessault is destined to lead in points (54) over Tuch (53) and Karlsson (44).

On defense, Vegas’ blue line will finish off the season being led by Shea Theodore (11-21–32 expected totals), followed by Colin Miller (30 expected points) and Nate Schmidt (25 expected points despite missing the first 20 games of the season while serving a suspension for testing positive for a performance enhancing drug).

In net, Fleury looks like he’s bound to break under the weight of all the minutes he’s been playing and will play this season. A 2.74 expected GAA and .909 expected SV% is not starting goaltender material, unless we’re talking about Sergei Bobrovsky with the Columbus Blue Jackets or something.

But it’s not like Gallant can really count on his current backup to offset some of Fleury’s load. Subban’s expected 2.70 GAA and .912 SV% isn’t tremendous either.

If anything, it’s an indication that McPhee could help bolster his team with the acquisition of an extra goaltender by the trade deadline.

Someone like Ryan Miller, 38-years-old, could help steal some crucial points for the Golden Knights down the stretch if the San Jose Sharks aren’t already in the process of completing a trade for the goaltender with the Anaheim Ducks.

Growing pains are a fact of life– especially in sports– and Vegas is going through puberty already in its 2nd season. This season’s been full of highs, lows and awkward phases that hopefully will end in a glow up.

Otherwise we’ll all be looking back at this season shaking our heads at how it could pull off that much denim or something back in the day.

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Bruins Forecast NHL Nick's Net Numbers Game Projected Stats Tracker

Boston Bruins 2018-19 Forecast Through 60 Games

The Boston Bruins and the rest of the NHL are nearing the annual trade deadline. Through 60 games played, the Bruins are currently 2nd in the Atlantic Division with a 35-17-8 record (78 points) behind the Tampa Bay Lightning (46-11-4, 96 points).

Wednesday night, the B’s will play their 61st game of the season when they visit the Vegas Golden Knights (new forecast coming soon for that club too), but before they do that, here’s a quick review and a glimpse of what could be based on this latest forecast with 22 games remaining in the 2018-19 regular season for Boston.

After getting off to a quick start in October, despite a blowout on Opening Night, the Bruins fell into a bit of a lull in November and December.

Jaroslav Halak (15-9-4 record, 2.35 goals against average, .923 save percentage in 30 games played) helped carry the weight through November, before regressing towards the end of December into January. As long as the wins rolled in, the team was making progress.

Tuukka Rask (20-8-4, 2.45 GAA, .918 SV% in 33 GP) has not lost in regulation in his last 15 starts as the B’s carry a six-game winning streak into Vegas for Wednesday night’s matchup.

Though Halak is expected to start against the Golden Knights, Rask and his counterpart have formed a solid 1A/1B option for the Bruins all season long– considering league scoring is up and the B’s have allowed the 3rd fewest goals against (155) in the league, behind only the New York Islanders (138) and Dallas Stars (154).

The Bruins went 7-7-0 in December and improved to 6-3-3 in January.

Yes, I know that’s still a .500 win-percentage, but points percentage wise, that’s 14 out of 28 possible points in December and 15 out of a possible 24 points in January (progress!).

Yet, by the end of January and through all of February thus far, the B’s have been starting to reach another gear.

The first line has been consistent all year, while General Manager Don Sweeney is in search of the last missing piece among top-six forwards to complete the second line.

Meanwhile, Sweeney was working the trade deals on Wednesday, acquiring Charlie Coyle (10-18–28 totals in 60 games played this season, 91-151–242 totals in 479 career games) from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Ryan Donato (3-6–9 totals in 34 games, 11-7–18 totals in 46 career NHL games) and a conditional 2019 5th round pick.

If the Bruins advance to the Second Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, then the 5th round pick becomes a 2019 4th round pick (originally belonging to the New York Rangers, previously acquired by the Bruins along with Steven Kampfer in exchange for Adam McQuaid on Sept. 11, 2018).

Coyle will boost Boston’s third line and can play second line minutes if necessary, but isn’t the end-all, be-all solution for a Cup run.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s a look at the latest Bruins forecast– keeping in mind there are many variables that can and will change things, like injuries and/or being called up, assigned, traded, lucky or unlucky.

This forecast is a glimpse at expected outcomes.

If a player does better, then they exceeded expectations. If said player does worse, then they didn’t meet expectations (for one reason or another).

My degree is in communication– not math– and hockey is naturally steeped in context and holistic unpredictability. Nothing can account for sheer puck luck, the odd bounce or a blown call.

Whatever’s on the scoresheet every night can indicate general trends that can be deciphered to make educated guesses.

Boston Bruins Forecast Through 60 Games Played (20 Games Remaining)
I really miss the days of making a nice gallery, but WordPress messed around with that feature…

First, I know what you’re thinking, “but Nick, how come you still have Donato on the roster still and haven’t included Coyle?”

There’s two parts to my answer: 1) I ran this forecast after the conclusion of Monday night’s, 6-5, overtime win against the San Jose Sharks, so 2) the Coyle-Donato trade was made early in the writing of this post, so Coyle’s forecast will be reflected at a later date.

Second, I know you’re also looking at Jake DeBrusk’s expected stats saying “uh, there’s only 20 games left, he can’t possibly score 21 more goals and amass 16 more assists for a total of 65 points this season” and you’re right.

With DeBrusk’s recent scoring stretch over the last 20 games, his latest forecast gives a bit of a look at what could have been if he hadn’t been going through streaks like he has.

The same can be applied to David Pastrnak’s expected 32-37–69 totals. Prior to getting injured, Pastrnak’s last forecast had him around the 40-goal plateau.

After his left thumb surgery– in addition to having missed the last few games, as well as his recent decline in goal scoring over the last 20 games– his numbers are more in line with what to expect when he returns, whenever that is.

At best, Pastrnak misses the “at least” two weeks he was supposed to miss, makes his return and picks up as close to where he left off as possible.

At worst, he only scores a few more goals this season after returning later than expected (in the best-case scenario), but is back to being his normal self in a postseason run.

Anyway, Boston’s offense looks like it’ll be led by Brad Marchand with 85 points on the season. Marchand also looks to lead the team in assists with 58 expected apples, topping Patrice Bergeron (49 expected assists), Torey Krug (48) and David Krejci (47).

In goal scoring, Pastrnak remains supreme with 32 expected goals, leading Bergeron (28 expected goals), Marchand (27) and Krejci (16).

On defense, Krug (9-48–57 expected totals) dominates the two-way aspect of the game from the blue line, despite missing a chunk of time due to injury earlier in the season.

Meanwhile, Charlie McAvoy (7-22–29 expected totals) and Matt Grzelcyk (2-18–20 expected totals) continue to be vital assets alongside their captain and anchor, 41-year-old (soon to be 42-years-old on March 18th), Zdeno Chara (5-11–16).

In goal, Rask is destined to settle in with a 2.37 GAA and a .921 SV%, while Halak backstops the team to a 2.40 GAA, as well as a .921 SV% himself.

That’s some consistent goaltending in the crease and plenty to smile about if Sweeney can add more offensive prowess in secondary scoring and perhaps add a depth blue line asset for the playoffs.