We’re a week into the 2016-17 NHL season. Time to make some much too early predictions based on what we’ve seen so far. Here’s a division by division breakdown.
The Metropolitan was the only division to have four teams with at least 100 points. It also had the Stanley Cup winner and the team with the top record in the league. The Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins hockey teams did not make many moves in the off-season, but they still appear to be two of the best teams in the NHL. While they did not have a good preseason, the New Jersey Devils look like a vastly improved team thanks to the additions of Taylor Hall and Ben Lovejoy. This should help the Devils compete for a playoff spot this year. The loss of Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen is going to hurt the New York Islanders, so it would not be surprising to see them miss the playoffs.
The weakest division in the NHL last year is filled with teams that greatly improved in the off-season. Detroit, Florida, Boston, Buffalo and Toronto all made key additions that should help improve their team. Montreal should also be much better team with a healthy Carey Price the entire season. It’s hard to see Florida, Tampa Bay or Detroit missing the playoffs this year, so Boston and Montreal may be battling it out for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Both teams have looked great in the preseason, but the advantage goes to the Canadians since they have the best goalie in hockey.
The Central Division has routinely been one of the most competitive in the NHL, and it does appears that will not change this season. The Central Division was dominated by Dallas, St. Louis and Chicago last year, but all three of these took a step back in the off-season. Adding P.K Subban and Yannick Weber to the defense should help the Nashville Predators compete for the division title. While Colorado is one year removed from an amazing season and the only undefeated team this preseason, it is hard to trust them after a chaotic off-season. Look for the same five teams to make the playoffs out of the Central Division as last year.
The top-heavy Pacific Division should see very little change from last year. There were not many changes made by Anaheim, San Jose and Los Angeles this off-season, so they should be able to continue their dominance of the Pacific Division. Edmonton and Arizona should see an uptick in their win totals, but they are still too young to compete for a playoff spot over a long season. If there is one team to surprise in this division, it will be the Calgary Flames. Brian Elliot will help solidify the goalie position that has plagued the Flames the last few years. If Elliot plays the way he did with the Blues, then the Flames have a chance to steal the last playoff spot in the Western Conference.