We’re back for yet another look at the upcoming NHL season! These predictions are, as always, completely accurate and correct, and should definitely be relied on as gospel truth.
Shaun made a bold move in predicting Not The Tampa Bay Lightning to win the Atlantic in the regular season, but after last postseason we’ve got a little more variety in the predictions for the Stanley Cup winner. The Golden Knights, meanwhile, are the standout top pick for the Pacific. Remember when we all thought they’d be terrible?
The Predators are well-represented among the possible winners (homers? us? never!), while the Lightning and the Bruins round out the other possibles. There’s a lot of sunbelt love in the Final, as the Sharks, Golden Knights, and Hurricanes are also well-represented—Laura, Eric, Bryan, and Shaun even offer us an all-sunbelt final.
We also predicted some individual award-winners.
There’s a lot of love among the OTF staff for Mark Stone (alas) and Aleksander Barkov, with almost everyone optimistically suggesting that one of those two players will win the Selke. Eric and Shaun, perhaps more dialed-in to the PHWA mindset, suggested a classic Patrice Bergeron victory instead.
We haven’t quite written off Alexander Ovechkin for the Rocket Richard, but it’s not seen as his to lose this year. Laura and Bobby have the Art Ross and the Hart going to the same player, while the rest of the staff spread out their votes a little more, with John Tavares coming in for a surprising number of Hart nominations.
Bryan has chosen to honor John Gibson for his consistently excellent work in net for the Ducks, as every GM in the league—including the Anaheim Ducks’ GM—has opted out of doing for the last two years running. Shoutout to Bryan, and also to Gibson.
The Hot Takes
Which team is going to be surprisingly good this year? Surprisingly bad?
Laura: NJ surprisingly good and San Jose surprisingly bad.
Rachel: Dallas is going to be surprisingly good, but St. Louis is going to be a tire fire.
Eric: I think Philadelphia has to be better; Dallas will be the overhyped, off-season champions once again.
Nick: Other than the obvious picks (Florida, Colorado, etc.), I think Detroit has the tools to be a surprise team this year, especially if their key guys play as well as they did towards the end of last season. Pittsburgh may be on the decline... they’re one injury away from disaster.
Tucker: The Rangers’ rebuild is way ahead of schedule, and they’ll fight their way back into the postseason. The Hurricanes, however, take a step backwards.
Hayley: Philly has some potential to be a surprise come-up this season. Meanwhile in the central Dallas and St. Louis will compete for worst in the league.
Sarah: Surprisingly good: Detroit. The return of Steve Yzerman and the fact that the Red Wings appear to have their future in place point to promising things for the team. Also Chicago (don’t mob me). They’re still rebuilding on the fly and it won’t work forever but, for now, surrounding Toews and Kane with young talent will be enough to get them back in the playoffs. Surprisingly bad: St. Louis: Post-cup slump.
Bryan: Good: Colorado—yeah they aren’t bad anymore, but they have tons of space, they’ll sign Rantanen [ed.: they did, obviously], but they’re gonna make a BIG move at the deadline I bet. Bad: The Jets fall completely apart, and one of Kyle Connor or Patrick Laine will want out.
Shaun: I know this is a Preds blog and I’ll sound like a homer, but I think they’re being slept on due to failure to meet expectations for two seasons.
Bobby: Hype is a great way to forget about problems. The New York Rangers have zero depth outside of their top line. Moreover, outside of Jacob Trouba, they might as well ice five AHL’ers on defense. Don’t come crying to me when they finish last in the Metro. Meanwhile, the Columbus Blue Jackets return 15 players from their core that earned 108 points three seasons ago before Artemi Panarin was on the team.
What new trend do you think people start seeing in the successful teams, whether that trend is causing the success or not?
Laura: Goalie tandems in the playoffs as well as regular season.
Rachel: I think we will see fewer slapshots in 2019-2020 than any previous season.
Eric: Teams will start using their top-end forwards as penalty killers more.
Nick: The return of the classic “power forward”.
Sarah: The return of the grind lines. They pop up every few years, frustrating fans of stats and big numbers, but coaches love them and the rest of the fans feel endeared to the scrappy guys.
Bryan: Pulling the goalie earlier. Like a LOT earlier—and there’s research to back it up.
Shaun: Scoring more goals than their opponents more often. This is almost always the difference maker.
Bobby: As I detailed in my report card on Zac Rinaldo, we will continue to see the evolution of the enforcer role and see more Tom Wilson-esque players enjoy success.
Predict how the 2019-2020 season goes for the Preds. Do they make the playoffs? Miss the playoffs? Hang more banners? Hope for a lottery pick?
Laura: All the way!
Rachel: Nashville has been heartbreak city lately. Since early first-round exits against the powerhouse Blackhawks to the last two seasons of incredible regular season performance followed by playoff flops, it’s about freaking time for a Cup. Win it for Pekka Rinne.
Eric: Finish just behind St. Louis for the Division and make it to the Conference Finals before losing to San Jose in seven games.
Saros and Rinne split the season pretty evenly with the expectation that Saros is the starter in 2020-21.
Nick: The division streak ends, but they’re still a playoff team. They have a good postseason run before falling to Colorado in a close one. The team also releases a new third jersey featuring a mean-looking catfish on ice skates. It’s widely ridiculed and Pekka Rinne retires out of pure shame for the franchise. Ryan Hartman gets the most emotional tribute package upon his return to Bridgestone.
Tucker: GET READY FOR PARADE SZN FOLKS
Hayley: Nashville over everybody.
Sarah: The Preds will definitely make the playoffs, but it’ll end up being a disappointing season for the talent they have on the roster. Though they’ll put up great numbers, they’ll end up falling to third in the conference in a close race with Dallas and exit the playoffs in the second round. But this will be the year they begin to rebuild the farm system, trading players for draft picks.
Bryan: Nashville is a playoff team, but finish likely second in the Central behind Colorado. The lack of depth scoring is going to be a killer, and we’re going to see them call up players before they’re ready. Bonino or Turris will be gone by the deadline, but it won’t be a good deal for either—there’s probably going to be retained salary, especially if it’s Turris. The special teams will be better (because it has to be), but still middle of the pack. I think Nashville rides the new-look top six to the second round again, but they’re going to meet Vegas at some point, and that will be the end of it. Laviolette and company are gone, save Dan Lambert.
Shaun: They will win the whole damn thing.
Bobby: When the times get tough, do the Predators succeed or fold? They’ll go deep in the playoffs, but their leadership group post-Fisher has proven time and time again that they are not mentally tough enough to carry the Predators across the finish line. Outside of Mattias Ekholm, their leadership core consistently fails at inspiring the team after a bad bounce or call. If that can change and the proverbial house of cards doesn’t collapse, they could win a cup. However, I’m not giving them the benefit of the doubt.
BONUS: Random hot take. Go.
Laura: Rinne and Saros win the best goalie tandem. (Jennings?)
Eric: Both the Rangers and the Devils make the playoffs.
Nick: Kyle Turris has a 50+ point bounceback season.
Tucker: Roman Josi is about to have the contract year of all contract years, and we shall pay for it dearly.
Hayley: The power play will be unstoppable.
Sarah: McDavid is gonna have a disappointing season. Toronto is going to be a dumpster fire despite the talent on the team. Detroit is on the verge of returning to being an NHL powerhouse.
Bryan: One of Turris or Bonino gets traded, but so does either Järnkrok, Smith and/or a prized prospect as well.
Shaun: That thing you are dreading—it will happen on Tuesday the fifteenth of October.
Bobby: Matt Duchene is the best center on the Nashville Predators. Before the end of the season, his play will outgrow his role and break up the first line of Johansen, Forsberg, and Arvidsson.
[Before the start of the season, maybe? We started these predictions a while ago.]
What do you think, everyone? We’ll be back tomorrow with predictions about the Preds’ season.