Compared to this time last year there’s definitively more hope for the Vancouver Canucks long-term. For the upcoming season however, you might say that expectations have never been lower.
Hey, some of you are still clinging onto that early October optimism. For those of you in that category,all the power to you! Cling onto that optimism and squeeze it until it bursts like an over-inflated balloon. Chances are you’re optimism will crumble sooner rather than later, so there’s no need to let that looming wave of negativity swallow you up.
If you do fall into that category, you might want to stop reading.
I’m certainly not going on on a limb and saying the Canucks will make the playoffs, but I’m curious what others think. Does anyone predict that the Canucks won’t finish last in the division for the second time in three seasons? I saw that a few of you had them at seventh (!) over on our Game Day Preview thread. Bold move.
foolproof foolhardy predictions on how the standings will play out this season. For the record, last season I had the Canucks finishing with 78 points, they finished with 73. If my prediction this year is five points too optimistic, then it could be a looooong season in Vancouver.
2018-19 NHL Standings Prediction
Y - Tampa Bay Lightning - 108
X - Boston Bruins - 105
X - Florida Panthers - 102
X (WC1) - Toronto Maple Leafs - 99
Buffalo Sabres - 86
Montreal Canadiens - 77
Detroit Red Wings - 75
Ottawa Senators - 60
Total predicted points: 711. Total points in 2017-18: 701
Y- Pittsburgh Penguins - 105
X- Philadelphia Flyers - 101
X- Washington Capitals - 100
X (WC2) - Carolina Hurricanes - 93
New Jersey Devils - 90
New York Islanders - 77
New York Rangers - 75
Total of predicted points: 733. Total points in 2017-18: 737
Eastern Conference Takeaways
Probably the biggest leap of lack (or lack thereof) I’m making here is having the Leafs finish as a Wild Card team in the division. They’re likely to be the most entertaining team in hockey with their high-octane offence, but I’m not sold on their defence at all. This would be a nightmare scenario for the Leafs if they faced the Tampa Bay Lightning in Round One.
I’m taking Panthers (aka, the most miserable team this century) to finish ahead of the Leafs in the Atlantic. On paper they lack the offensive depth of Toronto, but their defence is certainly better.
The Buffalo Sabres are another team that I think can get on the cusp of the playoff picture. I think of them similarly to the Canucks, although they’re a bit ahead of the curve. The Rasmus Dahlin impact will be felt this season, it just won’t equate to a playoff birth.
In the Metro, the surprise team I have making the playoffs in the Carolina Hurricanes. That’s ot an outrageous suggestion by any means since they have been a dark horse favourite for a couple of years. They have a number of exciting young players on offence that will make them fun to watch. Their defence is also solid, and I have a hard time believe Scott Darling will be as bad as last season.
I have Carolina ahead of the Devils who lack depth compared to the Canes. Columbus is also a team I have marked as one to disappoint. The looming UFA situations of Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin are hanging over the team like a black cloud. If those situations aren’t resolved, Columbus could struggle.
Z - Nashville Predators - 113
X - Winnipeg Jets - 112
X - St. Louis Blues - 99
X (WC1) - Dallas Stars - 95
Minnesota Wild - 88
Colorado Avalanche - 85
Chicago Blackhawks - 78
Total predicted points: 670. Total points in 2017-18: 689
Y - San Jose Sharks - 106
X - Vegas Golden Knights - 102
X - Edmonton Oilers - 101
X (WC2) - Arizona Coyotes - 93
Anaheim Ducks - 89
Calgary Flames - 88
Los Angeles Kings - 84
Vancouver Canucks - 72
Total predicted points: 735. Total points in 2017-18: 712
Western Conference Takeaways
Good news: I have the Canucks at 72 points, giving them a 13.5% chance of landing the first overall pick. A lottery win would really define a successful season in Vancouver, along with the development of their young core.
Speaking of teams with young cores, I’m firmly hopping on the Arizona Coyotes bandwagon. Antti Raanta was one of the best netminders in the league when healthy last season, and he’s playing behind a decent blueline. Clayton Keller should take another step forward, they added Alex Galchenyuk, and Dylan Strome could start making an impact as well. It’s a stretch to suggest they can jump from 70 points to 93, but that’s my bold assertion for the division.
I’m also banking on the Edmonton Oilers to have a better season, although their defence still scares me. Hopefully, they’ve learned their lesson about overplaying Cam Talbot, and he should improve if that’s the case. There’s also no chance that this power play finishes dead-last overall. With Connor McDavid leading the way, this team should be in the playoffs.
Many will pick the Calgary Flames ahead of the Oilers in the standings, but there’s still cause for concern in Calgary. You could argue that their defence got worse with the subtraction of Dougie Hamilton, and perhaps Travis Hamonic doesn’t solidify that top-four like everyone predicted.
While that defence is stronger than Edmonton’s, their goaltending will likely be weaker, and they don’t have a Connor McDavid leading the charge. They also brought in a coach who hasn’t made the playoffs in four seasons, and they’re sticking prized free-agent acquisition James Neal on a like with Derek Ryan and rookie Dillon Dube. Something to me feels off about Calgary, even if most will be penciling them in for a playoff spot.
There’s lots to chew on in a confusing Pacific Division. In the Central, not so much.
The Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets are not only the two best teams in the division, but two of the best teams in the league. I have them finishing 1st and 2nd overall in points, with the Predators reclaiming the President’s Trophy. The Chicago Blackhawks are still the division’s worst team in my eyes, especially without Corey Crawford.
For the remaining four teams, I have them switching spots in the playoffs. Dallas should be a much more exciting team under Jim Montgomery, while the St. Louis Blues can roll Ryan O’Reilly, Brayden Schenn, Tyler Bozak and Robert Thomas as their four centreman. Goaltending will be a big story line in both cities, especially in St. Louis.
Now that I’ve made these predictions, watch for everything I said to be false. Bet your money on Ottawa and Vancouver playing in the Stanley Cup Final, while Nashville and Tampa duke it out for Jack Hughes.
How do you see the season playing out, and where do you see the Canucks finishing? The road to answering these questions starts tonight, so happy October to everyone waiting for puck drop.