Trying to predict the NHL standings before the season begins is a fool’s errand and every year I play the fool.
This season I was more foolish than usual in underestimating the strength of a handful of teams, particularly the Vegas Golden Knights.
Mostly based on history of expansion teams, I projected the expansion Golden Knights to be the NHL’s worst team and they ended up owning the league’s fifth-best record.
A few other misses also fall in the whopper category. I predicted the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers would finish second-to-last and last in the Metropolitan Division, respectively. They both qualified for the playoffs.
I believed the Flyers’ talented young defensemen needed another season before they came together, and that the Devils had too many inexperienced players in general.
I also misread the Edmonton Oilers, failing to see they were incapable of sustaining their 2016-17 success. I could see the Winnipeg Jets were on their way to being exceptional, but didn’t see it happening this season.
I was miles off the mark on my Colorado Avalanche prediction, but honestly who saw their success coming? Maybe Joe Sakic, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t.
I did have some situations figured out, including identifying the Nashville Predators and Tampa Bay Lightning as the winners of their division. I was on the money with my forecast that the Anaheim Ducks would finish with 44 wins, and was a point off on my predictions for the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues.
I had the Dallas Stars finishing with 95 points, and they finished with 92. I had the Vancouver Canucks projected at 75 points, and they ended with 73. I had the Los Angeles Kings pegged accurately as a rebounding team.
I predicted the Detroit Red Wings would rank 26th in the NHL and they landed 27th.
My faith in Arizona’s improvement also looked misplaced, although I would argue that the Coyotes’ strong showing over the final two months of the regular season suggests they are a better team than their record indicated.
It’s this time of year when I remember that it’s probably easier predicting the impact of a tropical storm than forecasting what’s going to happen in an NHL season. But I will forget all of that by next fall when it is time to again embark on another fool’s errand.