So we're getting closer and closer to training camp, so I thought I'd prognosticate the standings for the Western Conference this year. I'm not going to bother with the East, since I'm not nearly as familiar with that one.
My reasoning for any changes in the standings can pretty much be summed up as:
Standings are largely determined by goal differential.
Teams will revert to the mean.
Looking at goal differential there were generally three groups:
1. Vancouver, San Jose and Chicago with around +50 or more.
2. Edmonton, Columbus and Minnesota with less than -27
3. the rest, clumped around +20 to -17.
In addition, Phoenix had a ridiculous record in shootouts, and should lose points to that.
I think that Vancouver, San Jose, Chicago, LA and Detroit (who were seriously impacted by injuries last year) will be the top five in the conference, with Chicago dipping a bit, San Jose and Vancouver saying pat, and Detroit moving up slightly. I think Vancouver won't see the Sedin twins as crazy as they were last year, but their defense should be improved, and I think Luongo will be a bit better.
Edmonton, Columbus and Minnesota are likely to be celar dwellers again, although Edmonton won't suck as badly. Still, Edmonton should be pretty scary in about 3-4 years if they can rack up some high draft picks.
So the bubble teams will be Phoenix, Nashville, Colorado, Calgary, St. Louis, Anaheim and Dallas, all fighting for three playoff spots.
I think with Halak, St. Louis will be improved enough to make the playoffs. Phoenix, while dropping should remain high enough to still remain in a playoff spot. Unfortunately for the Dallas crew, I don't see where Dallas has made enough improvements to get them back into the playoffs. Similarly for Anaheim.
So I think the fight for the last playoff spot will be between Nashville, Calgary and Colorado. Nashville has lost a good player in Hamhuis, and they were the worst goal differential to make the playoffs last year, so I think they slip far enough back to miss. It's a tossup between Calgary and Colorado...but I think it'll end up being Colorado by a squeaker.