31 Thoughts on 31 Teams – 2018-19 NHL Season Edition

Erik Karlsson San Jose SharksIs it me or did the 2018-19 NHL pre-season seem to have been busier than normal?  There seems to be a number of transactions and movement going on.

  • We’ve already had games in Japan between Boston and Calgary
  • We’ve seen Max Pacioretty move on from Montreal heading to Vegas
  • We’ve seen the Ottawa Senators implode culminating in the trade of all-star defenseman Erik Karlsson to the San Jose Sharks and the placement of Zack Smith on waivers
  • We’ve seen Philly’s new mascot take a spill on his opening night on the ice

Hockey Fanatic: 31 Thoughts on 31 Teams – 2018-19 NHL Season Edition

Anaheim Ducks

This is one of those teams that when we expect them to have a great season they stumble and when we expect them to stumble they have a great season.  What to expect with this team this season? This hockey fanatic is not sure what to make of the Ducks this season.  It’s quite possible that the team might struggle offensively as Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf have their best years behind them.  Not sure if this team has the top-end forwards needed to compete night in and night out.  The Ducks have consistently been a solid team, having won the Pacific Division title in five of the last six years but that could be due to the fact that the division has been a little weaker overall.  For years I’ve said that Corey Perry was a step or two behind the rest of the league which is why he takes dumb penalties (or in some cases makes desperate plays that should result in a penalty but do not).  Quite honestly karma needs to hit this team for the extremely fortunate breaks (and calls) they got in playoffs two years ago against Edmonton.  There is no way Anaheim won that series.  Thank the officials for that one.  The best thing going for the Ducks this season?  Probably their retro third jersey.

Playoff Hit or Miss?  Miss. This is a team that could make the playoffs but we would not be surprised if they missed entirely.  We’re leaning to miss for the Ducks.

Arizona Coyotes

I’ve always liked the Yotes.  This team has assembled some great young talent.  It would sure be nice for Dylan Strome to have a breakout season wouldn’t it?  The Desert Dogs will be in tight this year, but I don’t think that the playoffs are that far off of the horizon.  The addition of Alex Galchenyuk slotting into the second line centre position does not suck.  Last season when the pressure was off down the stretch, the Coyotes were a pretty solid team.  If they get off to a great start and build some confidence, you just never know.

Playoff Hit or Miss?  Miss.  Arizona could finish as high as sixth in the Pacific Division, but more likely in seventh.  Stanley Cup odds: 80-1

Boston Bruins

This is another team that I feel gets a little too much hype.  Are the Bruins really as good as they think they are?  Or is it simply a result of being in a Division with the Detroit Red Wings, Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators who will be cellar dwellers this season?  The Bruins have a few holes in their lineup with the number three centre position being one in question.  Expectations are high in Boston after the young kids performed well last season, but we’re not sold on their goaltending and Zdeno Chara is no spring chicken either.  Brad Marchand is also due for a slight regression. Having said that, in all fairness the Bruins are a playoff team and do have some great young talent. Look for Jake DeBrusk to have his best season of his early NHL career.

Playoff Hit or Miss?  Playoff bound again.  Third in the Atlantic.

Buffalo Sabres

It’s time for the Sabres to be much better than they have been in previous seasons.  The Sabres have made some strong moves in the off season.  In case you’ve forgotten:

  • They added Jeff Skinner in a trade with Carolina
  • They drafted Rasmus Dahlen with the first overall pick in the draft in June
  • They acquired Conor Sheary from the Pens to bolster the left side
  • They upgraded in net with the addition of Carter Hutton

Lots of good hockey moves,  however probably not enough to get them into the playoffs… just yet.  This is an up and coming team though.

Playoff Hit or Miss?  Miss.  Look for the Sabres to finish fifth or sixth in the Atlantic.

Calgary Flames

The Calgary Flames did arguably more than any other team in their division to significantly improve their roster heading into the 2018-19 season, that is until the Sharks got Erik Karlsson and the Vegas Golden Knights nabbed Max Pacioretty from the Canadiens.  These guys are typically a hard working team, with some solid defense and added Noah Hanifan on the backend.  I also like the addition of James Neal and Elias Lindholm which should help the Flames improve from being 26th in the league in goals for.  The one area of concern for me is between the pipes.  Mike Smith can win a few games, but he can lose a few as well.

Playoff Hit or Miss?  Hit. Hmm on paper the Flames should be in the post season.  Barring injuries, we could see them finishing third in the Pacific and making the post season as a wildcard team.

Carolina Hurricanes

This team will be hard pressed to score.  Lots of room for rookies to shine on the Canes this season.  New coach Rod Brind’Amour will demand a lot of his players, but it won’t be enough. Don’t look for their playoff drought to end yet.  Carolina has only made the post-season just once since winning the Stanley Cup in 2006 (still think that the Oilers deserved it more).  This season marks 10 years since their last playoff appearance, look for that to extend and oddly enough become longer than the playoff futility record that the Oilers had. The Canes did add some goaltending depth by acquiring Curtis McElhinney off of waivers from Toronto just prior to the season starting.


Playoff Hit or Miss?  Miss.  We see the Hurricanes sitting in eight in the Metropolitan Division this season.

Chicago Blackhawks

They’ve won their Cups and now the Blackhawks enter rebuild mode.  78-1 odds to win the Stanley Cup this season.  The team missed the playoffs for the first time in ten years last season.  A number of players had disappointing seasons last year including Brandon Saad and captain Johnathan Toews.  Look for both to bounce back this year.  With the longer than normal offseason for the Blackhawks, we can see them getting off to a slow start this season.  Corey Crawford’s health is still in question and there is no way Cam Ward is going to win 30 plus games this season.  So with questionable goaltending and a potential lack of offense, Chicago will be hard pressed to make the playoffs in a division that includes Nashville and Cup-favorite Winnipeg Jets.

Playoff Hit or Miss?  Miss.

Colorado Avalanche

The Avs surprised a lot of folks (and teams) last year.  That won’t happen this season.  Teams will be better prepared to play the Avalanche and teams such as the Predators, Jets, and Blues will ice competitive lineups each and every night.  Nathan MacKinnon is a star no question, as he proved by being an MVP finalist last season.  Scoring should not be a problem but we’re not sold on goaltending.  While they could prove us wrong, we are expecting the Avs to regress this season.

Playoff Hit or Miss?  Miss.  Fifth place in the Central Division.

Columbus Blue Jackets

A lot of hockey writers are high on the Blue Jackets.  Not us.  The potential contract issues and future uncertainty with goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and forward Artemi Panarin may pose a distraction.  Seth Jones is quickly becoming one of the best defenseman in the NHL and will continue to improve.  Expectations are high in Ohio as the Jackets have their sites set on winning the Stanley Cup.  I just cannot see this team putting together a deep playoff run.  It would be an accomplishment if they won a single round.  The regular season is long and the Blue Jackets could be every bit as good as they think they are, but on the other hand they could miss the playoff all together.  We think they are closer to the later.  It will be interesting to see the season that Pierre-Luc Dubois has.

Playoff Hit or Miss?  Hit due to a weaker Metropolitan Division.

Dallas Stars

The Stars and Stripes are big and bright… deep in the heart of Texas.  I really like the idea of bringing in a younger coach in Jim Montgomery who had a great quote: “I think you look at the championship teams that have won in the NHL. The teams play a certain way. There’s structure to their game, but there’s creativity and flair to it, too. You have to let horses run… everyone should play to their strengths.” – we need more coaches with this mentality.  Promote player creativity.  I think that Ben Bishop will have a tremendous season.  Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza should all see improved numbers this year.  Dallas is a good team that should make the playoffs this season.  Will they have a deep run?  Probably not, but you never know if you can ride a hot goaltender.

Playoff Hit or Miss?  Hit as a wildcard playoff team.

Detroit Red Wings

Anyone else think that Stevie Yzerman will be returning to Mo-Town in the near future?  I like Ken Holland, but could Yzerman make his return to the Red Wings organization after this season and his obligation to the Lightning are finalized?  We think there is a good chance of that happening.  The Wings lucked out in getting Filip Zadina at the draft and we expect Dylan Larkin to have a better season, but goaltending and defense on this team is lacking.  Look for lots of rookies to earn spots and playing time with the Red Wings this season.  Furthermore the Wings will miss the leadership of Henrik Zetterberg relying on a young Dylan Larkin to lead the team’s offense.

Playoff Hit or Miss?  Miss with a seventh place finish in the Atlantic Division.

Edmonton Oilers

Boy oh boy where to start with the Oil? Connor McDavid is entering his fourth season with the Oilers and he seems as driven as ever.  However Peter Chiarelli has not done enough to surround McDavid with a supporting cast.  The team lacks a strong right-hand puck moving defenseman, although Evan Bouchard fits that role providing he makes he team out of camp.  Oilers fans pull no punches when it comes to the trading of star wingers in Jordan Eberle and current Hart trophy winner Taylor Hall.  The defense is missing a few pieces and if Cam Talbot cannot rebound this team could be in trouble quickly.  Factor in some overseas travel and a brutal start to the schedule and this team could be also rans by mid-November.  The Pacific Division got a lot tougher this off-season and the Oilers were one of the teams that did not make a lot of moves, when they probably needed to.  Add to that a brutal schedule to start the season and this could be another one to forget for the Oilers.

Playoff Hit or Miss?  Miss.  The Oilers could finish top three in Pacific but realistically they will most likely finish in fifth place in the Pacific behind San Jose, Vegas, Calgary and Los Angeles.

Florida Panthers

I like the Panthers this season.  They have a young core and with new captain Aleksander Barkov starting to come into his own this is a team on the up and up. There are three pending issues with the Panthers.  First is that they are in the Atlantic Division which boasts teams such as Tampa Bay, Boston and Toronto.  Second they are coming up to some salary cap issues and third their backend and goaltending is aging.

Playoff Hit or Miss?  Perhaps a wildcard team otherwise most likely no post season activity for the Panthers. Miss

Los Angeles Kings

I really don’t like the Ilya Kovalchuk signing.  I feel that he doesn’t respect the NHL game.  However the Kings needed help with scoring and he has been known to score a few goals.  The main strength of Los Angeles is their defense and goaltending.  The allowed the fewest goals last season with a mere 202.  Drew Doughty is signed, sealed and delivered who put up 60 points last season.  The kings will be hard to play against and hard to score on again this season.  Expect a decline in numbers for Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar and quite honesty I cannot see Kovalchuk getting more than 20-25 goals this season.

Playoff Hit or Miss?  Could see the Kings battling with the Flames for the third position in the Pacific Division this season.  They are one of the teams I am on about making the playoffs, but they should get into the post season if they stay healthy.

Minnesota Wild

Devan Dubnyk has been one of the top performing goaltenders over the past three seasons in the NHL.  Don’t look for that to change this year.  His play alone might be the reason the Wild make the playoffs in consecutive seasons, however we do feel that this is a season where the Wild regress.

Playoff Hit or Miss?  Miss.

Montreal Canadiens

If it wasn’t for the craziness of the Ottawa Senators this off-season, you just might think that the Habs are set for a total downward spiral. Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk are out and Max Domi and Tomas Tatar are in as the Canadiens still look to find an identity and a top line centre.  The addition of Joel Armia was a nice pickup however but he’s no game breaker.  Shea Weber is out most likely until the new year and you have to wonder where the scoring going to come from on this team.  Carey Price is expected to have a bounce back season but it won’t be enough to get the Canadiens into the playoffs.

Playoff Hit or Miss?  Miss.

Nashville Predators

Along with the Winnipeg Jets and San Jose Sharks, the Predators should be the class of the Western Conference this season.  Still a very solid team with a great defensive core, strong goaltending and some young forwards.  A healthy lineup will mean good things for the Preds this season.

Playoff Hit or Miss?  Hit.  Second place in the Central Division.

New Jersey Devils

Some may say that the Devils overachieved last year.  We’d like to think that the efforts of Taylor Hall were a strong reason why the Devils made the post season.  Hall is the reigning MVP of the NHL so New Jersey is in good hands up front.  For us, there are questions around the goaltending and defense for the Devils.  The blueline still looks questionable for us.

Playoff Hit or Miss?  Miss.  A lot of things went right for the Devils last season, can’t see them having the same luck this year.

New York Islanders

Wow, the obvious question is how do the Isles recover from losing John Tavares to the Toronto Maple Leafs via free agency for nothing?  Well Matt Barzal is a good start, so is Cup-winning coach Barry Trotz who is as good as they come.  There was a lot of turnover with the Islanders this off season with the team losing Tavares, Clavin de Hann, Jaro Halak and Nikolay Kulemin replacing them with Valtteri Filppula, Leo Komarov, Matt Martin and Robin Lehner in goal.  The projected top line of Anders Lee, Barzal and Jordan Eberle looks solid but after that goals will have to come by committee.

Playoff Hit or Miss?  Miss.  We have the Islanders finishing 7th or 8th in the Metropolitan Division.


New York Rangers

The Rangers are in full-blown rebuild mode so this could be a bit of a long season for Rangers fans. The good news is that there is some good young talent ready to step up and assume key roles with the team with Vladislav Namestnikov, Jimmy Vesey and Pavel Buchnevich as well as rookies in  Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil.  Henrik Lundqvist can still win games by himself so the Rangers should be competitive, but will not win as many games as in previous seasons.  Their forwards are average at best and the defense is not what it used to be.  This team could be in the Jack Hughes sweepstakes by the time the season comes to an end.

Playoff Hit or Miss?  Miss.  Like their New York rival in the Islanders, we see the Rangers finishing 7th or 8th in the Metropolitan Division.

Ottawa Senators

With an “Us vs. the World” mentality will the Sens be as bad as everyone says?  I think that the Sens will play hard, but will not be in the playoff race come January.  Having said that, I also don’t think that they will be bad enough that Colorado will have as strong of a chance at landing highly coveted Jack Hughes as Ottawa deferred their first round draft pick for 2019 to Colorado in the Matt Duchesne deal.  The Avalanche own the Senators’ first-round pick.  Ownership has not made it easy for the Sens this season having traded away franchise player Erik Karlsson to the Sharks.  They must think highly of Brady Tkachuk as they opted not to pass on him this past June at the draft.  Goaltending is an issue, but I have a feeling that the Sens will win more games than people expect.  That still won’t be many games, but its time for the Senators to turn the page in all of off-ice drama that has transpired over the past six to nine months.  The young players will have something to prove and hockey players are a proud bunch.

Playoff Hit or Miss?  Miss.  The Sens will still most likely finish 8th in the Atlantic Division.

Philadelphia Flyers

I always feel that the Flyers will be better than they should be.  They have some good young talent, can score goals and still play a somewhat rough and tumble game.  In a weak Metropolitan Division, Philadelphia should be able to earn another playoff berth and see some post season action.  Injuries might be the only thing that slows this team down.  In fact and early season injury to newly acquired James van Riemsdyk will hurt some of the early season scoring.  Every year people knock the goaltending of the Flyers, but Philly has a great up and comer in Carter Hart and added some goaltending depth by acquiring Calvin Pickard off of waivers from Toronto just prior to the season starting.

Playoff Hit or Miss?  Hit.  Barring injuries, the Flyers should finish 4th in the Metropolitan Division and earn a wildcard spot for the playoffs.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Oh the Pens.  A lot of people are high on the Penguins.  They sit at 12-1 odds to win the Cup this year.  They are only one season removed from back-to-back Stanley Cup Championships, but I’m not entirely sold on this team.  They have a pretty strong top six and they have tweaked their blueline with the addition of Jack Johnson (whom I’ve always liked).  The Metropolitan Division has been strong but the fact is that should the Pens make the playoffs, they are most likely playing Washington or Columbus in the second round.  Also a first round matchup with the Flyers could be a physically long series.  Are the Pens strong enough on the wing?  What about goaltending? Is Matt Murray the guy?  I feel that should the Pens make the playoffs a first round playoff exit is likely.

Playoff Hit or Miss?  Hit.  The Pens finish second or third in the Metropolitan Division but will draw a tough first round playoff opponent.

San Jose Sharks

I sensed that Erik Karlsson would be traded to the Pacific Division, if not Vegas then the San Jose Sharks.  Sure enough on September 13, 2018, he was dealt to the Bay area Sharks making them a favourite in the Pacific Division.  Two Norris trophy winners on the same team.  Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski and Evander Kane should benefit from the puck moving skills of Karlsson.

Playoff Hit or Miss?  Hit.  Sharks are my pick to finish atop the Pacific Division in 2018-19.

St Louis Blues

A lot of moves by the Blues this offseason.  I love the addition of Patrick Maroon.  If they use him properly he could again be a 20-25 goal player.  This team is deep down the middle and even deeper on the blueline.  The Blues added Ryan O’Reilly, Tyler Bozak and David Perron.  Some good players there.  the Blues missed the playoffs by one point in 2017-18, they won’t miss this year.  The one area that we are not sold in is goaltending.  Jake Allen has been somewhat inconsistent and doesn’t have Carter Hutton to bail him out this season.  Chad Johnson is a nice replacement for Hutton, and the defense is strong, so the Blues should be in good shape.  Love Brayden Schenn and expect him to have another strong season and possible career best.

Playoff Hit or Miss?  Hit.  Third in the Central Division behind the Jets and the Preds.  Could be a little higher if the Jets or Preds stumble out of the gate.

Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning might just be the team to beat in the Atlantic Division.  This team has looked good for a number of seasons and has a lot of tools to have a deep playoff run.  This could also be the year that we see Steven Stamkos return to being a 40-goal man.  Nikita Kucherov will be near the of the league in points and Victor Hedman should turn in another Norris trophy caliber season.

Playoff Hit or Miss?  Hit.  First in the Atlantic Division.

Toronto Maple Leafs

The Leafs won the John Tavares sweepstakes.  That alone should make them better.  They could use an upgrade on defense, but nonetheless, there is a lot of hype around the team from the center of the universe.  The Leafs have a strong core of forwards and should score their fair share of goals. I look for another strong campaign from Mitch Mariner and Auston Matthews.

Playoff Hit or Miss?  Hit. The Leafs should compete for second or third in the Atlantic and be poised for at least two rounds of playoffs this season.

Vancouver Canucks

There is some good up-and-coming talent in the Canucks organization but they are a few years away from being competitive.  Brock Boeser, who scored 29 goals and 26 assists (55 points) in 62 games last season and Bo Horvat, who finished right with 22 goals, 22 assists and 44 points last season will be looked to provide to lion’s share of the team scoring.  Add in Elias Pettersson who has looked good in pre-season and a least there is something to look forward to in Van-City.

Playoff Hit or Miss?  Miss,  we are expecting the Canucks to finish near the bottom of the Pacific Division.

Vegas Golden Knights

Vegas has a solid team, and while a lot of people are saying they will regress this season, don’t expect them to fall that far back in the standings.  While it will be difficult to replicate last season, the addition of Max Pacioretty and Paul Stastny should help replace the offensive output from James Neal.  The areas where the Golden Knights may take a step back are in net even thought they used 5 different goalies last season) and on the blueline.

Playoff Hit or Miss?  While I want to say that the Golden Knights will miss the playoffs (I do feel that there is a strong chance of that happening), their team is just a little too strong.  They should finish second or third in the Pacific Division.

Washington Capitals

You have to think that The Capitals are one team that may suffer a Stanley Cup hangover… literally.  Have you seen the video footage of Ovie and team?  They are probably still celebrating as we speak.  I think it was great for the Caps and Alexander Ovechkin to win the Cup.  I think it was great for hockey that they won.  They deserved it.  Fast forward to the 2018-19 season and there is one thing that will have a direct impact on the performance of Alex Ovechkin, that person is Sergei Ovechkin, Alex’s new son who was born to the Great Eight on, get this: 08/18/2018.

Playoff Hit or Miss?  Hit.  The Caps should finish first or second in the Metropolitan Division.  Will they repeat as Stanley Cup champions?  Slight chance.

Washington Capitals Raising Stanley Cup Banner

Winnipeg Jets

The Winnipeg Jets have assembled a very nice team and should be competing  for the Stanley Cup come spring.  Barring injury this team should be atop of the Central Division.  A nice mix of youth with veteran leadership.  Patrick Laine could push for 50 goals this season.  Big Buff will continue to be an effective workhorse and physical beast. Goaltending is still a question mark as I don’t feel that Connor Hellebucyk can make the big save when needed the most.  This team has too much talent to not succeed.  Management has done a great job building this team (take note Edmonton).

Playoff Hit or Miss?  Hit.  We feel the Jets will finish first in the Central Division.

The season has already started with a bunch of crazy high scoring games, The Vegas Golden Knights are off to a one and four start… heck Joe Thornton even shaved off his beard.  Enjoy the season hockey fans.