SBNation FanPulse NHL, Week 1: Who’s Out and Who’s In

Fans from around the league weigh in on which teams are likeliest to have their playoff fortunes change.

With SBNation just getting FanPulse off the ground for fans of the NHL, the first few weeks and months are going to be about laying some groundwork with leaguewide questions as everyone gets themselves oriented. If you missed weighing in on the first couple of questions, it’s not too late to sign up for next week’s! We’ll have more Central Division and eventually Nashville Predators content as SBNation gets more sign-ups.

But for now, let’s talk about the 2020 playoffs. Sure, it’s only October, but it’s never too early.

The Columbus Blue Jackets, who clawed their way into the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs under the weight of a spectacular gamble by GM Jarmo Kekäläinen, are the most popular choice to miss by far. More than three out of every five voters (just over 61%) predicted that the Jackets would miss.

David Poile and the city of Nashville—with its thriving music industry, its beautiful surrounding countryside, and, yes, its pedal taverns—get some credit for the Jackets’ predicted slump. Kekäläinen’s big bet was to go all in on that postseason, stocking up on rentals instead of trading his own pending UFAs for picks, and all of those players left over the summer.

Matt Duchene came to Nashville, where, when healthy, he’s centering the unofficial first line. Ryan Dzingel, picked up from the Senators at almost the same time as Duchene, has joined the Carolina Hurricanes. And longer-tenured Jackets players Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky have taken off for the east coast—Panarin to the Rangers, and Bobrovsky to the sunny shores of Florida.

The Blue Jackets have made the playoffs only once without Bobrovsky, who won both his Vezina trophies in net for them, and that appearance was back when they were still in the Central Division. Panarin was a dazzling player for them for the couple of years since he left the Blackhawks in the second Brandon Saad trade, but Bobrovsky was a lot more of a fixture.

So yeah, it’s not looking particularly rosy in Columbus. As our colleagues at the Cannon have pointed out, it’s unfair to expect players to be loyal to teams when teams aren’t loyal to players, but that doesn’t solve either the Jackets’ offense or their goaltending, both of which are a little worse than average right now.

The Central, meanwhile, is an interesting place to be—there’s not much confidence in either the depleted Jets or the faltering Stars right now. The Predators have a fair amount of fan confidence in them, with only 2.7% of fans believing they’ll miss the playoffs this year, but that seems fairly relative—the Avalanche (2.5%) and Blues (1.6%, exactly tied with the Boston Bruins) both have still more confidence.

I may have been a little overoptimistic about the Stars in my preseason predictions, but at some point I do think they’re probably either going to score a goal or get a save. It could happen.

The Oilers are the big predicted turnaround story of the West, and of the NHL in general. About 9% of people thought the Coyotes would make it in, and that’s the next-closest thing to a consensus. The Panthers are clearly benefiting from some optimism about new additions Bobrovsky and head coach Joel Quenneville—who’s looking like he wasn’t the problem in Chicago, shocker.

Speaking of Chicago, 7.4% of people did think the Blackhawks would make it in this April; they’re the Central Division team more popular to make the jump. The Minnesota Wild have considerably less fan confidence, with only 1.9% of people predicting they’ll make it in—third-fewest in the league and second-fewest in the West.

But if you take anything away from this for your Monday, it should be this: 0.68% of respondents to this first poll think the Ottawa Senators will make the playoffs this year. Find someone who believes in you like those fans believe in the Senators, and run with it. Take that confidence for yourself and conquer this workweek.

You can do it!