The All-Star game was yesterday. I hope you all did something else while that was on. What a complete waste of time that game is. The NHL hypes how great the 3 on 3 worked last season…it didn’t. The John Scott story made it great. It really goes to show you how incompetent the league is when they have all those top 100 players in town and they don’t have the foresight to do a draft and game with all of them. It was important to do a game involving Justin Bieber, but not do alumni game featuring the top 100 players of all time? You could have even added guys like McDavid and Matthews to the game, maybe had a line of Gretzky, Crosby and McDavid, but hey I’m sure the great minds in the NHL offices could figure out why that wouldn’t make money…
Anyway, the league is pretty poorly run, this is not news. But while we hate the league, we still love the game and we have our favourite teams. So with that being said, let’s take a look at where those teams are at going into their final 36-30 games.
Standings based off teams points percentage, which is the way everyone should be viewing the standings.
3rd in the Pacific
They’ve been under the radar this season. In the mix with the Sharks and Oilers fighting for 1st in the Pacific, but they really haven’t made much noise. Not a bad thing at all. But they really aren’t giving anyone much to talk about to this point.
7th in the Pacific
I’m starting to worry about the mix in the desert. Dave Tippett can coach veteran players who are willing to play a 200 foot game. The last two seasons though the Coyotes have gone really young, and they have been a tire fire. Sure, they started good last season, but it was a pretty massive fluke. They’re awful. They have a ton of talent on the ice, yet they’re being coached to play 2-1 hockey. That just doesn’t work. The one great thing that’s happened for them this season is Mike Smith has been excellent. This is great for the Coyotes in the sense that they now may have a chance to get that salary off their books should he agree to waive his NTC. Calgary? Dallas? NY Islanders? St. Louis? Winnipeg? They’ll have options.
4th in the Atlantic
Nothing new here that you haven’t heard me say a lot since they fired Peter Chiarelli. It’s a big mess in the front office there, it’s trickling down to the ice, it’s pretty clear that Claude Julien now isn’t getting along with people in the front office, they blame Chiarelli for everything that has gone wrong, they’re on their way to becoming a joke.
6th in the Atlantic
The Eichel injury really set them back this season, but they still shouldn’t have been as bad as they were to start the season. I have not been quiet about being a Tim Murray detractor, and I think the media is about to catch up. In the past it’s been “man I love Tim Murray, I got a story about him doing something funny…” Great, and how is he as a GM? Gave up what turned into Colin White for Robin Lehner. Made a terrible deal for Evander Kane. I can’t honestly think of the move he’s made where I’ve gone “that really helped the Sabres out”. Best thing for this team in my opinion would be to finish near the bottom of the East and let Terry Pegula clean house. However seeing Pegula operate the NFL’s Bills, who knows if he can stir this ship in the right direction.
6th in the Pacific
I’m shocked at what’s gone down of late in Calgary. I knew this team had a lot of question marks going into the season, but they’ve proven that when they simply get good goaltending, doesn’t have to be great, they’re a good hockey club. But they have simply lost all their confidence. They were fine until nine days ago, and that seemed to open the flood gates. Chad Johnson got the start and was awful, and it was the Oilers, at home, which set them nine points back of the Oil, and they now have just a one point lead on both the Kings and Canucks who both have three games in hand. The one red flag that I’m noticing which nobody else seems to be talking about is that Johnny Gaudreau has started to take a BEATING this season. He took at least one big hit in every game against the Oilers this season, obviously the Komarov hit last week was brutal, and I’ve seen him take a lot of others. This slump might be more physical than mental. On top of all that as I wrote about last week, there are concerns over Brad Treliving perhaps being on his way out, which would likely trigger another coaching change, and literally in a matter of a week things have gone from looking great moving forward to being a mess. The train hasn’t gone off the tracks just yet, but the concern is that it’s about to. Hopefully the win in Ottawa get things pointed in the right direction for them again.
7th in the Metropolitan
They were VERY quietly moving up the standings after a bad start. But then they ran into a buzz saw the last five games which saw them go pointless against Columbus (x2), Pittsburgh, Washington, and L.A. I had them making the playoffs this season but it looks like that’ll be wrong. They’re really well coached, and have a lot of young talent. The biggest challenge they face is being in the toughest division in hockey. No coincidence that four of those last five loses came against the top three teams in the Met. But if they want to take this rebuild to the next level, they’re going to need guys like Elias Lindholm and Teuvo Teravainen to raise the level of their games offensively.
2nd in the Central
Meh. It wouldn’t be “meh” for anyone else, but it is for the Hawks. This team is on cruise control. They’re going to the playoffs, I would guess they’ll end up playing the Preds in the 1st round, and just like two years ago I would expect a hell of a series once again. But really, they don’t give you much to talk about during the regular season because they’re that damn good.
7th in the Central
Well, I’ve written about them already, so there really isn’t much more to be said. It’s a shit show, as Edmonton Oilers fans are sympathetic to. It’s going to be a fire sale from the sounds of it, though I would guess that much of the heavy lifting won’t happen until the offseason. But this team needs more than just a fire sale. Joe Sakic needs to step down, bring in a new GM, new coach (not a fair shake at all for Jared Bednar but you have to clean house), and you have make sure the blueline is overhauled. This team is what the Oilers would be had they not won McDavid, don’t forget that Oilers fans.
2nd in the Metropolitan
They became the talk of the league on their 16 game streak. But I really think this team is going to come crashing back to earth, if they aren’t already in the process of doing that. Watch for them to have a rough end to the season. Not saying they’ll miss the playoffs, but their schedule gets brutal in the last seven weeks of the season where they’ll play three games in four days once a week. Seven sets of three games in four days, that’s tough. They also have to start to get injuries at some point, Bobrovsky has started to cool off, guys like Atkinson, Gagner, Wennberg, and Foligno won’t all shoot above 15% for the rest of the season either. They’ve just simply had everything go their way. About damn time for the fans of this franchise, they’ve won two playoff games in 15 seasons! I think they’re a playoff team, but truthfully I think by the time the playoffs roll around they’ll be a bit of an afterthought.
5th in the Central
It’s funny, nobody is really surprised at their drop off this season. I know I picked them to get the 2nd wild card spot, and I GUESS they’re in the race for it. But I don’t think they’re getting it. Goaltending is too shaky, and I feel they went too young with their blueline this season. It wasn’t great last year, but they were much more experienced. Heading into last season everyone was raving about the offseason they had in 2015, yet I wasn’t a fan. And then they had a great season finishing 1st in the Central, yet I still wasn’t a fan. It was and still is a talented yet poorly constructed team. Seguin and Spezza are two great offensive centres, but they’re perimeter guys who aren’t good away from the puck. I think in time Seguin can become that player because of his speed but he isn’t there yet. Also, Jamie Benn is the only physical/gritty forward they have in their top six. Combine those things with a very young blueline and bad goaltending and you see why they are where they are.
7th in the Atlantic
Pretty sure that my call of them missing the playoffs is going to happen and if they want to get back to being a contender soon then they should start missing the playoffs. This organization is weak on the blueline moving forward, weak down the middle moving forward, and they need to reboot. I’ve said before, I don’t think it would take them very long because they have drafted well and do have some good assets, but as I’ve heard and seen some of their fan base and media contingency suggest, what difference does it make whether you miss the playoffs or get bounced in an extra five games?
2nd in the Pacific
Tied for the most points in the Pacific at the All-Star break. I knew this was possible and wrote about it in my season preview, but we’ve thought the Oilers were about to turn a corner a lot in the last seven years or so and they always fell flat on their face. Going into the break we’ve seen their most impressive hockey of the season, and I really believe this team has yet another gear. They’re big, tough, fast, and McDavid carrying the team has taken a lot of pressure off a lot of guys and allowed them to develop. Now we are seeing RNH and Eberle playing really good 200 foot games and their offence is now coming around, and that’s in large part thanks to McDavid carrying the team through their struggles. Next season they’ll add a much improved Jesse Puljujarvi to the mix. They can still stand to improve a lot at the deadline however. I believe the needs would be a 3rd line centre, a RH shooting offensive defenceman, a top 9 RW, and possibly a backup goaltender (we’ll see how Laurent Brossoit fares). I highly doubt they would pay big for rentals, but some cheaper ones along the lines of Radim Vrbata, Michael Stone and Thomas Greiss I could perhaps see happening. Playoffs this season, and I hope you’re ready for Cup expectations next season Oilers fans.
5th in the Atlantic
Injuries have been the big problem with this club. No Barkov, no Huberdeau, no chance. They’ve actually done ok considering who is in their lineup most nights. The problem for this team will be moving forward and the concern about going too heavy on analytics. I don’t know how that’ll go, it’s never been done. I’m a person who believes if you lean too heavy in any direction in life you’re likely setting yourself up to not so much fail, but avoid success (like that?!)
4th in the Pacific (2nd wild card)
They’re just quietly moving along. They’ll get Jonathan Quick back in a month, and the big one which nobody is talking about is Anze Kopitar has yet to bust out. He will, make no mistake. He’s not finishing the season with 10 goals, probably around 20. And probably above the 60 point mark. While I really wish I had my pick back of them shocking the world and winning it all again this season, a lot can change in a few months and I did suggest at the time that they would start slow and finish strong. However, being an Oilers fan I really don’t like the possibility of playing the Kings in the 1st round…
1st in the Central
Welp…I’ll brag again. I picked them to win the Central before the year in my season preview, I threw $20 bucks on it which will turn into $200 in April, and this is just a typical Bruce Boudreau team. He is the best regular season coach in NHL history. Yep, I’m saying that. He can’t win for shit in the playoffs, but if you need a culture change like the Oilers needed or the Avs need now, you hire Bruce Boudreau. Regular season, the man just wins. Playoffs, especially in game 7’s, different story. But for now Minnesota Wild fans shouldn’t care about that. This has been a rejuvenating season for the Wild both in the standings and in the organization with a lot of prospects developing very nicely.
1st in the Atlantic
I’m not too high on the Habs even though I do think they can go relatively deep in the playoffs. Carey Price elevates the team simply by being in goal. He’s played bad by his standards over the last month, but as we seen last season his presence is just massive. Now, a Matt Duchene deal goes down, that would change my tune on things, and I do think they have the pieces to get that deal done. But until that happens this team is just too thin up the middle. What if they play Boston in the playoffs? Likely won’t, but if they did the Bruins can run Bergeron, Krecji and Backes against them and anyone of those guys could be a brutal matchup for a kid like Galchenyuk over a seven game series.
3rd in the Central
They’re coming on strong now. They’ve taken a while to get their act together, but now they’re healthy, Jusse Saros is starting to see more games in goal (I believe he’ll be their starter come playoff time), and they’re going to be a problem for the Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs if that’s who they get. At the moment they look like a team who could win the West, and I’m not as down on the West as most are, I think this Preds team is THAT good. This blueline hasn’t been healthy for a while now. Obviously Subban is great, I can’t believe how good Ryan Ellis has become, and Roman Josi is their top guy. Three guys capable of logging number one minutes, and Ekholm is a number two or three guy. If Ryan Johansen plays to the level I believe he’s capable of, this team is going to be difficult for anyone to handle.
8th in the Metropolitan
I never shut up about it, but I have to say it again here: they got crushed in the Hall/Larsson swap. They won the value, but their blueline was already shaky with Larsson. Without him, they’ve been terrible. I GUESS you could make the argument that they’re in a playoff race, but I don’t see them being much of a factor down the stretch. This is a very bare organization and as a big Taylor Hall fan I fear he’s going to be stuck with mediocrity or less for the next three and a half seasons.
6th in the Metropolitan
The coaching change has helped recently, and they seem to be making a push. But I have my doubts they can sustain it, and I’m not sure it’ll make a big difference long term. Much like the Devils, their prospect pool doesn’t look that good, they still have trouble drawing UFA’s despite a new arena, it’s not a good situation in Brooklyn at the moment. And if you’re John Tavares, do you really believe you can win a Cup there? Good for the Islanders and their fans if he does, but from the outside looking in I believe they’re never going to be much better than what they’ve been the last three seasons because they haven’t done too good developing their kids. If Tavares isn’t willing to sign an extension come July 1st, I believe the Islanders have to move on, as difficult as that would be to stomach.
4th in the Metropolitan (1st wild card)
I’m not really buying them as anything of a threat in the East. I guess they always are based on Henrik Lundqvist, but this team has got 21 goals out of Michael Grabner. You really think that’s going to hold up? Nick Holden has given them 24 points. It’s just like Columbus in that they aren’t winning fluky, but they’re getting too good of seasons from too many guys. That’s not to piss on what they’ve done either. They’ve had a great season to this point and I wonder when people are going to notice that Alain Vigneault is an elite head coach in this league? There are maybe three or four of them and he’s one of them. But while it’s been a great season for the Rags, I just don’t see them getting out of the Metro. It’s the Pens and Caps world, they’re just living in it.
2nd in the Atlantic
You talk about under the radar. The Sens season without Craig Anderson and riding Mike Condon has been amazing, and is getting absolutely zero recognition in this country thanks to the Leafs and Oilers having break out seasons. But top to bottom this team is just real solid and while I have my worries about Guy Boucher as head coach long term, he’s now turned around two different organizations. If they’ve been this good with Condon between the pipes, I would guess that they’ll be even better with Anderson back in goal soon. I’m getting really amped about the possibility of the battle of Ontario returning this April after an 11 year absence.
5th in the Metropolitan (2nd wild card)
That 10 game streak, which had them see seven backup goaltenders and only one true number 1 goaltender, helped them fool people. This isn’t a good team. They’re well built moving forward, one of my favourites moving forward. But right now they just aren’t that good. Shaky goaltender, the blueline is going to be good but right now it’s a bit of a shit show. Dave Hakstol has done a very good job in his year and a half there of getting a lot out of such a flawed team. Playoffs are obviously possible, just like all the teams in the East, but I wouldn’t bet on them and if they do get in I can’t see them going anywhere barring trading for a top end goaltender or something along those lines.
3rd in the Metropolitan
They’ve just cruised all season haven’t they? A little under the radar, which is helpful. I think of them the same way as I thought of the 09 Red Wings. They were the defending Cup champs, and basically flew under the radar all season despite maintaining their spot near the top of the standings. I would say right at the moment I’d have them as my Cup favourites.
1st in the Pacific
They’ve really surprised me this season. I really expected a drop off, and it could still come, but they’ve been great since a rocky start. I believe they’ll cruise to top spot in the Pacific. The Oilers are playing great, but they’re due for a drop off, I still trust the Sharks a lot more. Martin Jones has somewhat quietly become one of the top goaltenders in the league. I always assumed he was another guy who was a product of the Kings system and would be horribly exposed in San Jose. WRONG! Very, very, VERY WRONG! Definitely one of the favourites out of the West this season, look like the best bet in the Pacific come playoff time. I wonder if now isn’t the time for Doug Wilson to make a big move which could possibly get this team over the hump?
4th in the Central (1st wild card)
This team is slowly fading, and by the end of the season they might be on the outside looking in at the playoffs. Jake Allen is the big issue, as he is proving to be a guy who can’t hack it as a number 1 goaltender. Now, maybe they go get a guy like Mike Smith as I suggested a week ago? Doug Armstrong had him in Dallas. But I wonder/worry for them that they’re going to stick with Allen no matter what this season. To me, it was evident in the series against the Wild in 2015 that Allen wasn’t the answer long term, yet here we are with the Blues giving him another shot. If they can shed Allen’s deal though, it would open up the possibility of Smith, Ben Bishop, Marc-Andre Fleury, some real solid options. Other than between the pipes, nothing much to talk about. Solid team top to bottom, just not in goal.
8th in the Atlantic
I’m shocked at how big of a drop in play they’ve had since Stamkos went down. Playoffs are still possible, but it sure is looking bleak at the moment. Erik Erlendsson who covers the Lightning has hinted at the possibility of a coaching change in the last few weeks. I believe Yzerman is using the Nikita Nesterov trade to Montreal as a bit of a test run for the team. Maybe they respond with better play, maybe they quit, but at least Yzerman will get his answer which is more important this season than others seeing how Ben Bishop is gone after the season no matter what. If they aren’t going to see the playoffs, Yzerman better get something for him. It’s crazy though, this team even without Stamkos is far too talented to miss the playoffs.
3rd in the Atlantic
You might hate them, but for me personally I’m getting really amped at the idea of the Leafs getting in the playoffs, and I’m saying they will. I’ll never back off the point that I want all seven Canadian teams to make the playoffs. Doesn’t mean I’ll pull for all of them once they’re in, but the playoffs are much better when Canadian fans are packing the buildings. I said it last year pre draft that I felt Matthews and Marner would be the Leafs version of Toews and Kane and so far that looks to be pretty spot on. I don’t believe Mike Babcock gets enough credit with the job he’s done with these kids. He’s the best coach in the league and it might not be close. Think about this: it looks pretty good for the Leafs to meet the Sens in the 1st round of the playoffs. Even better than that, it’s possible we get Habs v Leafs in the Atlantic division final. That wouldn’t suck! This team could stand to upgrade the blueline before the trade deadline. The current group have really overachieved to this point in the season, but adding a couple of guys like a Michael Stone and/or Fedor Tyutin could be massive additions.
5th in the Pacific
I can’t believe this team is legitimately in the hunt for a playoff spot. Willie Desjardins to this point has to be a Jack Adams candidate. Man, the goaltending looked weak, the blueline looked far too young, the Sedins looked to be fading and they hardly had anything else up front. Yet here we are, granted in a Western Conference which is really down this season, but they’re in a playoff spot! I can’t see them going anywhere should they get there, but as I laid out in the fall, this team won’t do a full on rebuild because their fan base has proven to be fickle in the past. It’s a recipe for mediocrity, but it’s what they’re stuck with.
1st in the Metropolitan
They’re back in top spot, and while that’s never a bad thing there is clearly something flawed with this club. I’ve maintained that I believe a big upgrade at centre is needed, and with Matt Duchene available I would be looking to bring him in if I were GM Brian MacLellan. This would allow them to move Kuznetsov to the wing and if the playoffs showed us anything last year it was that Evgeny Kuznetsov couldn’t handle either one of Crosby or Malkin. Duchene is a 1st line centre. Doesn’t mean you have to play him with Ovechkin, but they need a guy like him to finally take the next step in Washington. You don’t want to build specifically just to beat one team, but I think the Caps have to do something big like this to give themselves a fighting chance against the defending champs. Anyway, they probably won’t and I’m saying all of this for nothing.
6th in the Central
I’m not sure why so many in the Canadian media figured the Jets were going to the playoffs. It’s as if we see a team making good moves and assume that good moves mean that a team is good. The Devils won the value end of the Hall/Larsson trade, so they’ll make the playoffs. They still aren’t good up front, they’re now really bad on the blueline, but they’re making the playoffs? The Flames got Brian Elliott for cheaper than we thought he would be, had Matt Tkachuk fall to them in the draft, so they’re making the playoffs. They’re still really thin up front and it’s been proven that Ken Hitchcock’s system makes the goaltender not the other way around, but they’re making the playoffs? That was the Jets. And it wasn’t even a move Cheveldayoff made, it was just simply winning the chance to pick Patrik Laine. “PLAYOFFS!” Why? Their goaltending was a massive question mark and has proven to be weak, they’re extremely young, and they’re in a very tough division. This team is going to be damn good in a few seasons, and I think they’ve played good thus far! They just need to stay the course.
*wild card winners
1. San Jose
*4. Los Angeles
*4. St. Louis
Western Conference Playoffs
San Jose vs Los Angeles
Edmonton vs Anaheim
Minnesota vs St. Louis
Nashville vs Chicago
San Jose vs Anaheim
Nashville vs St. Louis
San Jose vs Nashville
*4. Tampa Bay
3. NY Rangers
5. NY Islanders
8. New Jersey
Eastern Conference Playoffs
Montreal vs Columbus (I have heard mixed reports on how this sets up if four teams from each division get in, but the last wild card team isn’t in the same division as the top seed, which is how I believe this will play out this season, amazingly it has yet to happen)
Ottawa vs Toronto
Washington vs Tampa Bay
Pittsburgh vs NY Rangers
Montreal vs Toronto
Pittsburgh vs Tampa Bay
Pittsburgh vs Montreal
Stanley Cup Final
Pittsburgh vs Nashville
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