A new National Hockey League season is upon us, and that can mean only one thing: wild, absolutely baseless predictions on the fate of the 30 NHL teams. It’s the time of year when every hockey fan can be an expert, and a small percentage of them can look back in eight months and say, “Wow, look at how smart I am, everybody!”–simply because somebody has to be right.
Analysts and “experts” love using lineup projections, advanced stats, and their fancy-pants logic to create their prophecies, but I’ve got something better in mind …
I’m going to pull a hat trick of my own by placing scraps of paper in my dirty, grimy Rangers cap and pulling out the names of the teams one-by-one. The first team drawn places first in the conference and so on in that order, and then I’ll do standard playoff seeding. Before I even get into the picks based on my methodology, I have a feeling that Edmonton is going to do very well this season.
Not only will this be the most effective means of correctly guessing how this season goes, it also requires me to do absolutely no work and no research.
So without further ado, here are the final standings for the 2016-17 NHL season.
(Note: I did NOT alter these results in any way. The teams were drawn completely at random.)
Bold = Division champ (1st seeds)
Italics = Division runner ups (2nd and 3rd seeds)
Asterisk * = Wild card team (4th seeds)
- Leafs (1st – East/Atlantic)
- Bruins (2nd – Atlantic)
- Flyers (1st – Metro)
- Hurricanes (2nd – Metro)
- Capitals (3rd – Metro)
- Rangers* (Wild Card 1)
- Penguins* (Wild Card 2)
- Sabres (3rd – Atlantic)
- Red Wings
All right, let’s address the elephant in the room: the Wings missing the playoffs for the first time in 25 seasons. A quarter-century is just too long, and Detroit will be haunted by the ghost of Pavel Datsyuk’s contract.
Moving on to less surprising matters, the Leafs will eviscerate the entire league, going a dominating 81-0-1. Of course, that charge will be led by their up-and-coming superstar, Jhonas Enroth, who will pitch 42 shutouts and post a save percentage of .999 after facing 57 shots per game. Toronto will set an NHL record of 81 consecutive wins before suffering a devastating shootout loss in the last game of the season. As a result, fans and the media will freak out and accuse Leafs players of mailing in the season, severely demoralizing the team. They’ll get swept in the first round of the playoffs, and first-overall pick Auston Matthews will immediately demand a trade.
No surprise elsewhere, with the Rangers weaseling their way into the playoffs on the broad, provocative shoulders of Henrik Lundqvist, only to birth yet another picture of sad Hank after they get bounced because they’re actually not a good team.
The defending Stanley Cup champs as a wild card team? This will pave the way for the Pens to have yet another miraculous postseason for the hockey lords to trumpet for all time. After struggling and going 4-5-51, the Pens will fire coach Mike Sullivan mid-season and hire a recently liberated Barack Obama, who will not only turn their season around but become the first black head coach and first former U.S. president to lead a team to a Stanley Cup.
Some might be surprised to see the Habs near the bottom. Is it because of the loss of PK Subban? Will Shea Weber tank? Does Carey Price miss games while leading a search party to find the missing Alexander Radulov? Will Tomas Plekanec’s turtleneck grow too large and swallow the entire team? The answer to all these questions is “yes.” It’s Montreal, after all.
And obviously the Blue Jackets will finish dead last. Not much to discuss there, unless you want to talk about how half the Columbus roster will get arrested for actually conspiring to kill John Tortorella.
- Canucks (1st – West/Pacific)
- Ducks (2nd – Pacific)
- Wild (1st – Central)
- Kings (3rd – Pacific)
- Stars (2nd – Central)
- Oilers* (Wild Card 1)
- Sharks* (Wild Card 2)
- Jets (3rd – Central)
The Canucks are the clear favorite in the West. The Sedins are in their prime, the team’s got tons of depth, they have one of the best goaltending duos in the league in Luongo and Schneider, and … oops, sorry, the last Google results yoking “Canucks” and “good” is from 2011.
Honestly, you shouldn’t be too surprised at the list here. The biggest shock is the Blackhawks’ failure to make the playoffs. They haven’t missed since the 2007-08 season and have won three Cups in that span. They always seem to be great. Anytime I’m asked to make a conscious decision on who I think will win the Cup, I usually just say “Chicago.” But after finding true happiness last year, Captain “Jonathan Toews” Serious loses his competitive edge and spends NHL games lollygagging and just genuinely having a good time.
The Oilers will make the playoffs because, eventually, they have to. Adam Larsson is the first real defenseman Edmonton has had since Paul Coffey, and Connor McDavid is essentially Sidney Crosby.
The Wild will have a surprising season and take command of a weak division, but they’ll get reverse-swept in the first round and lose a seemingly unlosable Game 7 thanks to the legendary coaching of Bruce Boudreau.
Poor Flames. After finally putting together a decent season, they’ll fall victim to the strange playoff format.
The Predators finishing at the bottom seems surprising … but is it? The Habs apparently knew what they were doing when they traded star showboat PK Subban. After scoring Nashville’s first goal of the season, PK begins the longest goal celebration in sports history, including starring in a bull-riding tournament and undertaking a four-month world tour with country singer Jewel. The ensuing chaos results in a 99 percent drop in attendance as Preds fans, along with most of the team, decide to follow PK’s crazy new life instead.
On the basis of the playoff teams from this experiment, I simply drew winners at random for each conference and then a Cup winner from that pair. The results are … familiar.
So there you have it. The Leafs and Canucks win the regular season, and the Penguins repeat their Cup win behind the stalwart leadership of a former POTUS. It’s a tale as old as time.
We’ll check back here when the season’s over to see how well my magic hat did. Will my results be close? Hockey is filled with so much parity and surprise, who knows? But one thing is certain: I’ll be closer than whatever Barry Melrose says.
Massachusetts-based hockey writer Scott Finger is on the lookout for deep-pocketed investors for his next-gen approach to forecasting. You should follow him on Twitter.