FanPost

Standings Predictions at the 20 Game Mark

So we are at the 20 game mark, which many consider a good time to look at how the season is going.  So I am going to do just that by posting three things.  First my preseason predictions (as an image with a time stamp (I already posted them on FB) if I feel like it I could find the FTB where I also posted them)).  I will then look at the current point per game of each team and prorate it to a full season (glove tap to Daoust for the idea).  Finally I will look at how I think the rankings will look at the end of the year, then I will compare and contrast the three.

 

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via sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net

So the current points/game for the East prorated to a full season are:

East

Place

Team

Division

Points in 82

Wins in 82

1

Philadelphia

ATL

112

52

2

Washington

SE

112

52

3

Montreal

NE

105

51

4

Boston

NE

104

47

5

Tampa Bay

SE

102

47

6

Pittsburgh

ATL

97

45

7

NY Rangers

ATL

93

45

8

Ottawa

NE

82

39

9

Carolina

SE

82

37

10

Atlanta

SE

82

35

11

Florida

SE

78

39

12

Toronto

NE

78

33

13

Buffalo

NE

71

30

14

New Jersey

ATL

55

23

15

NY Islanders

ATL

49

16

 

My analysis:

I think Philly and Washington are both playing where they should be:
In regards to skater depth I personally think Philly is the best in the league.  With three historical point per game threats in Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and Danny Briere and 4 players capable of putting up 25 goals and/or 65+ points in Claude Giroux, Ville Leino, Scott Hartnell, and Nikolai Zherdev (who has had a poor start but is still on a 28 goal pace) they have a top 7 offense that is just explosive.  Add to that fact that 3 of them are noted high-end checkers in Richards, Carter, and Giroux (he's on pace for 11 (ELEVEN) short handed goals this year) and there is no lack of defensive acumen there.  There bottom 5 isn't incredible, but it certainly isn't terrible either.  They have high-end prospect James Van Riemsdyk (2nd overall 2008), capable hockey player and top-end shit disturber Dan Carcillo, good defensive forward Blair Betts (Sjostrom's old line mate.  I'd love to have him), capable 3rd-4th liner Darrel Powe, decent prospect Andres Nodl, and fighter (because its clearly necessary) Jody Shelley.

On the defensive end they have a top two defensive pairing to rival the best in the league in Kimmo Timmonen and Chris Pronger (up against Keith/Seabrook and Lidstrom/Rafalski IMHO).  Followed by good number 3/4 in Matt Carle and Brayden Cobourn.  They spent money this summer to bolster their bottom two in Andrej Meszaros and Matt Walker from Tampa Bay and UFA signing Sean O'Donnell.  With rookie Sergei Bobrovski having a great start to his season they seem a legitimate contender for the presidents trophy.

Washington as last years presidents trophy winners don't need much explanation.  Simply they have top end offensive talent from forwards and defense, have bolstered there defense some and have good goaltending prospects/young goaltenders.

I think Montreal and Boston are a little out of order.  Montreal should drop some and Boston will probably take their place.

Montreal is riding incredible play from Carey Price who while a very good goalie I believe will regress somewhat to the mean.  While that is still quite good I can see it dropping them a few games.  In addition they are having strong scoring from Jeff Halpern which can't last at this rate and Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez have been virtually invisible.  With Andrei Markov out for the season I can't see them keeping up this level of play.

Boston on the other hand I can see keeping it up and with Montreal dropping they'll take the top spot.  They have TWO top end goal tenders a great forward unit, but are weak on defense.  I expect a trade to go through soon to deal with their cap issues and address their D weakness.

I think Tampa will drop some and Pittsburgh will rise:

Tampa is riding an unsustainable pace from Stamkos.  While he will probably have a very good year I can't see him maintaining a near goal per game pace.  If he regresses to a 55 goal season that means that they'll lose a nearly half a goal a game for the rest of the season.  They don't have very strong goal tending (it is decent) and while their depth forwards are playing well I believe they may be a weakness in the long run.  Expect this team to drop a tad.

Pittsburgh on the other hand started the year with terrible play from MAF (who I do think is overrated) and weak play from Evgeni Malkin.  With them picking up their game (as they have) and Jordan Staal (eventually) returning from injury look to them to improve a fair bit.  GM Ray Shero decided to spend this summer on defense and I think he did a good job.

NY Rangers to Toronto are only 4 points apart yet account for 7th-13th.  Thats 7 places for two wins!  Simply put I don't think there is the statistical power to extrapolate this fine a difference at this point in the year.  Those 7 spots are for now a crap shoot.  But to quickly look at each of the 7 teams:

NYR in my opinion may very well be the best of the bunch.  They have some strong pieces on defense (Del Zotto, Gilroy/Girardi (honestly I get confused which one is which), Staal, and Roviszal (who while over paid is still a legitimate second pairing defenseman)).  On offense they have elite forward Gaborik, who, if he can stay healthy can score a ton of goals.  With development from Callahan, Dubinsky Anisimov, and rookie Derek Stepan and UFA signing Alexander Frolov they have a decent forwards corps.  Add to that one of the best goaltenders in the game in king Henrik and a legitimate 1a/1b goaltender playing back up in Martin Biron and to me this equals a playoff team.

Ottawa has two inconsitent goal tenders who can play very well when they are on their game.  Add to that a defense that is weak defensively and a lack of depth and aging forward corps and I think they'll be on the outside looking in.

Carolina is always one of the hardest teams to predict.  Their defense isn't strong and their forwards aren't deep.  But they have elite talent in Eric Staal and elite-capable Cam Ward.  With strong youngins in rookies Jeff Skinner and McBain and sophomores and older in guys like Sutter they can do decent.  They tend to surprise but I still think they'll be on the outside looking in too.

Atlanta is my dark horse team.  I like Pavelec (I really hope that feinting was just dehydration and he is okay) and they have some good pieces to build around on their defense in Enstrom, Bogosian, and Byfuglien.  With decent veterans Hainsey, Oduya, and Sopel supporting them this is a solid (though not special) defense core.  On offense I really think they are building nicely for the future.  While it may not be awesome this year they have a handful of high potential youngsters in Little, Burmistov, Kane, and Bergfors.  Add to that the solid top 6 veterans in Antropov and Peverly (??) and they have a forward corps with potential.  I of course have to mention their new captain Ladd who is playing a career year.  While I believe he will regress some, he is a VERY good defensive forward with goal scoring ability.  They will be right on the bubble

Florida is nuking their team this year.  There is best player without a doubt is Tomas Vokoun (who may very well be the best goaltender in the league) who will be out the door either via trade or free agency at the end of the year.  Florida fans can feel okay that they have top goaltending prospect Markstrom behind him but this is a tanking year.  Sorry guys.

Toronto. You all know the leafs and I won't go far into detail here, but if Gus can play the way he has played since last February I think we are a legitimate bubble team (we just need to score more!!)

Buffalo just shouldn't be this bad.  Myers will improve some and if/when Miller gets healthy that will help tons.  They have a decent forward corps, but there defense is a little weak.  Look for them to push their way into a playoff spot.

NJ should improve some because they are playing so terrible,  but with injuries to Parise and now Brodeur don't expect much improvement.

NYI. Between injuries and extreme youth this is another team expect to tank.  But they will be growing and developing so there is hope for the future on the Island.

So my prediction for the end of the year?

1 Washington
2 Philladelphia
3 Boston
4 Pittsburgh
5 Montreal
6 Tampa Bay
7 NYR
8 Buffalo
9 Toronto
10 Atlanta
11 Ottawa
12 NJ
13 Carolina
14 Florida
15 NYI

Comparing this prediction to my preseason prediction leads me to the following thoughts:

  • NJ has truly shat the bed this season.  They have dropped 10 spots in my predictions
  • On the playoff side: Washington, Boston, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia are all playing more or less where I predicted them
  • On the non playoff/bubble side: NYR, Ottawa, Toronto, Atlanta, Carolina, Florida, and NYI are playing more or less where I predicted them
  • Buffalo is playing worse then expected (likely based on regression of Myers and injury to Miller)
  • Montreal is playing better than expected (likely based on stronger than expected play by Price)

 

 

This has taken me WAY longer than expected (I have been at this for about 3 hours thus far), so I will add my analysis of the West tomorrow or this weekend.  For now here is there prorated points/game:

West

Place

Team

Division

Points in 82

Wins in 82

1

Detroit

CEN

128

59

2

Los Angeles

PAC

107

53

3

Colorado

NW

103

49

4

Columbus

CEN

112

56

5

St Louis

CEN

108

47

6

Phoenix

PAC

105

43

7

Minnesota

NW

95

43

8

San Jose

PAC

95

39

9

Vancouver

NW

94

41

10

Dallas

PAC

91

43

11

Nashville

CEN

91

39

12

Chicago

CEN

86

39

13

Anaheim

PAC

82

36

14

Calgary

NW

70

33

15

Edmonton

NW

57

21

My analysis:

Detroit and LA  are both playing well and more or less where I think they should be.

Last year Detroit played poor to start the year but it was due to enormous amounts of injuries.  Once healthy they played well enough to improve to 5th in the West and to make the higher ranked team (Phoenix) in fourth place be the underdog.  They beat them and went down in the next round.  While there forwards are aging it is no problem for today or even tomorrow (maybe a few tomorrows).  There top 3 forwards Datsyuk, Zetterberg, and Franzen are 32, 30, and 30.  While you can't expect more development you shouldn't expect any regression for a couple years either, these guys are solidly in their prime.  Franzen is a consistent 60 point, 35 goal threat.  Zetterberg is a point per game, 40 goal threat player.  Finally Datsyuk IMHO is the most all around forward in the game.  He routinely is near the top in the league in points (example was #3 in points in 08/09) while consistently being the best defensive forward in the game (how many Selke's does this guy have?).  Last year he had ~ 30% more takeaways then the player with the second most (Kesler IIRC).

While they have the best all around forward (again IMHO) in the league, they also have the best all around defenseman of the GENERATION (IMHO) in Nicklas Lidstrom.  While age is a concern here, he is playing at an above point per game pace and 24 minutes/game.  Still at 40 he may disappear at some point.  Him and Rafalski lead one of the best 3, top 2 pairings in the league.  With very strong depth behind that in Brad Stuart (a good number 3), Kronwall (also a good number 3), Ericksson (a beast developing well), and Ruslan Salei (a passable #4, good 3rd pariing).  Add to that strong prospect Jakub Kindl and you have a defensive corps that will take a huge hit soon with loss of the generational Lidstrom, but can still come out strong.

The reason I had them ranked in 3rd (and not going to the cup), is because they are riding a sophomore goalie.  I have ZERO confidence in sophomore goalies.  Goalies can be streaky creatures and also have good first years (see Raycroft and S Mason).  So I had him as a question mark this year and refused to draft him fantasy (haha).  But you can easily say he has stifled those doubts.  He has adequate numbers with a 2.62 GAA 0.908 SV% and 1 shutout.  That being said his winning record is incredible.  He has an 11-2-2 record and has only lost TWICE in regulation in the last 30 games played!  So leave it to say, I believe that Detroit is the class of the west AND the class of the league.

LA: a team so easy to love.  They have a great young goalie tandem in Jonathan Quick and top prospect J Bernier.  Many were calling that Bernier would push Quick out of the top spot.  How does he respond? With a 1.90 GAA and a 0.931 S% after putting up 39 wins last year.  Their forwards are quite strong (though many believe they need one elite winger to go over the top).  They have one elite player in Anze Kopitar.  A 6'3", 222 lb point per game, 30 goal, 23 year old center? YES PLEASE!!!  Behind him he has good hard nose wingers (some would call power forwards) in captain Dustin Brown and Ryan Smyth.  Both are 30 goal threats, but Captain Canada (Smyth for those who don't know the nickname) has injury issues.  There are other top 6 forwards?  The band-aid Justin Williams, who can never stay healthy but seems to play well on LA and the well rounded (but not high-end offensively) Jarret Stoll.  Add to that solid hard-nosed youngin Wayne Simmonds (not playing well this year), good two-way center Handzus, former leaf Ponikarovski, and high end prospects Brayden Schenn and Andrei Lotkinov.  Yeah, I'm jealous of their offense.

Their defense is also great.  Lead by Drew (I want to be the next generational defenseman) Doughty, and Jack (I am finally playing to my potential, that me and my dad have been douche bags to GMs about) Johnson there should be no worries.  While it is not as good from then on, it is certainly not weak.  Following that they have top 2 (in regards to defense), or #3 defenseman Willie Mitchell who seems to be coming back nicely from a concussion-marred season and slightly overpaid but good #4 defenseman Rob Scuderi.  Their depth beyond that is a little questionable and short on NHL experience but they are playing well and they have top end prospects.

I have mentioned some players to build TEAMS around (in no particular order): Bernier, Quick, Kopitar, and Doughty.  But none of these independent players is the teams biggest strength.  Neither is it the fact that they have this team and enough money to bring in an elite winger to play in that top 6.  No that honour belongs to the fact that they have one of the TOP prospect pools in the LEAGUE (ranked number 2 by hockey's futures).  So while I would say they are top 2-4 in the West this year (due mostly to lack of defensive depth and questionable depth in there top 6 forwards (William's health)) I think they will be top in the league for YEARS TO COME.

Colorado and Columbus are two very interesting teams.

I really like Colorado.  While I love Colorado (don't worry I know ONE TEAM, Toronto is MY TEAM) I figured this would be a year of regression for them.  They lost a lot of their D corps and what was left was looked to be a few good pieces without much depth.  Captain Adam Foote was an incredible defenseman, but he is nearing the end of his career and I don't really know what he can provide.  They had  a decent second pairing defenseman in Scott Hannan but I am not a big fan.  They also had Kyle Quincey who seemed to have really developed over the last few years.  Rounding out the top 4 they had JM Liles who used to be their shining young defenseman (hence his nice contract), but who Colorado had become disillusioned with leading them to try to shop him last year.  Add to that a decent sophomore in Kyle Cumisky and a high end prospect in Shattenkirk.  This defense has certainly proven my preseason thoughts off base.  JM Liles has followed a couple seasons of subpar play with a career year leading D-men in points, assists and tied for third in goals playing above point per game with a plus 11.  Foote and Hannan have provided solid if unremarkable play, while Quincey has actually regressed (0 points) and then got injured witha concussion.  This injury (as well as a slew of others on the back end) gave lots of opportunities to their youngins and they are seeing good play from Cumiskey, Shattenkirk, and Ryan Wilson.

In regards to forwards they have a lot of young high end talent and Milan Hejduk.  Leading the way is the only (thus far) point per game player first line center Paul Stastny.  Playing his wings they have Hejduk, the oldest guy in their top 6, who is in the top 10 of goal scoring over the last decade.  Add to that Christ Stewart who exploded half way through last year and has never looked back, and (to Colorado-faithful) potential-Joe Sakic replacement Matt Duchenne.  With balanced scoring also coming from the likes of Brandon Yip, TJ Gallardi, Matt O'Reilly, and David Jones, Colorado has 2 first rounders and 3 second rounders all under 25 on their offense.  This is all with late season acquisition Peter Mueller sidelined since the preseason with a concussion. (Interesting tidbit 9 of the 16 forwards who have played for them this year were drafted by Colorado/Quebec dating back to Hejduk in 1994).

Finally their goalie.  I am a big Anderson fan and was one of the few people to call his break out season last year.  I was watching him the year before in Florida where he had actually taken the job away from Vokoun at points.  The only question was weather he could handle the number of games of a full season. Well he has proven that.  After losing in a hard fought first round series against the Sharks last year he was serenaded with a good 5 minutes of "ANDY" chanted to him from the crowd for carrying them.  Home grown Peter Budaj has also proven a good back up over the years for Colorado as long as he doesn't have to be the starter.

So Colorado I think can maintain their level of play, BUT I think Vancouver is better (later) who I think will over take them for the division.

Columbus I simply think can't keep this up.  I base this on their goalies.  Steve Mason was a great Calder trophy winner in 08/09 and hasn't done much to prove consistency since.  Hence my distrust of goalies who are good rookies (you need more than one season for me to trust you).  Mathieu Garon is carrying this team right now and looking at his career he simply can't keep these numbers (1.33 GAA, 0.95 S%) up.  Not only are they ludicrously high for ANY goal tender (I have never heard of a goal tender playing more than 30 games being any where NEAR there), but in 247 NHL games he has a 2.79 GAA and 0.906 (thats including this year raising it).  With him regressing the team will regress too.  They are currently 14th in goals for and 3rd in goals against. So with out that they are a middle of the pack team.

Quickly the rest of Columbus:  They have some high end youngins in Filatov, Brassard, and Voracek.  Add in good veterans Huselius (injured), Vermette and Umberger and of course All Star Rick Nash and you have some good offensive skill.  They have some solid depth, toughness and defensive accumen behind that (but no youth) in Pahlsson, Clark, and Ethan Moreau (weird fact: two of them are former captains).  So they have a pretty good forward corps with a lot of youth (and potential) and some veterans in the top 6 and some oldies on the bottom 6.  For me that would be a concern they are a little old in the bottom 6.

There defense is par at best, but has some decent defenseman in Methot, Klesla, Tyutin, and Commodore.  They also have former Leaf, Stralman who is a decent second PP quarterback and Kris Russel who I am a fan of.

Over all they have impressed me (way more than in the preseason) and I would say that once their goaltending regresses to the mean they will be a late playoff team.

St Louis is a young team and hard to predict.  That being said they have a great goalie pair in last years playoff hero Halak, and (IMHO) the best back up goalie (who doesn't try to be more) around in Ty Conklin.  They have a lot of youth on the front end with upside in Perron, Oshie, and Berglund and some solid veterans in Boyes, McDonald, and Backes.  On D they have some young elite talent/prospects in Pietrilangelo and Chris Johnson mixed with some solid veterans in Eric Brewer, Barret Jackman, and talented band aid Carlo Coliacovo.  Look for them to have an inconsistent year with so much youth, but finish near the bottom of the playoff picture.

Phoenix is a defensively oriented team with little fire power.  They have a coaching system that works for them and a strong goalie in Bryzgalov.  With some good back end contribution in youngin Yandle and veterans Morris, Aucoin, and Jovanovski they have a solid but not spectacular blue line.  Their forwards play smart hockey and they have balanced scoring with their biggest offensive threats being 36 year old Ray Whitney and Wojtek Wolski (who appears to be disliked by the coaching staff).  They of course also have twitter star Biz.Nasty.  With a lack of offense, but a smart team they are a VERY hard team to predict.  There has been a lot of analysis that shows that OTL and OTWs are not predictive of future success and that is where they tend to get a lot of their points.  They are going to have luck and ability to play tight games play a major factor in their season.

Minnesota has a very good goal tending tandem in Backstrom and Theodore and a top forward (Mikko Koivu) and top defenseman (Brent Burns).  Unfortunately behind them the elite talent stops.  On forwards they have Havlat (who could probably be a perennial all star with better health), an old Brunnette and solid depth scorers in Miettenen and Cullen.  They have some good bruisers and grinders but I will only point out Cal Clutterback whom I am a big fan.  A healthy Latendresse and Bouchard could do a lot for this teams offense.  On the back end they have offense coming from Burns (previously mentioned) and Zidlicky.  As well as a solid defender in Schultz.  They also have Cam Barker who doesn't appear to be panning out.  If they don't get Bouchard and Latendresse I think they'll be on the outside looking in come April.

San Jose is an elite team who simply should be better.  There current ranking really makes you wonder how much of an impact Blake and Nabokov had on this team.  Regardless now that there goal tending seems to have settled down after a weak start they should be fine and move back to the middle of the pack if not the top of the conference.  There offense is just so stacked its kind of funny and their D corps is solid.

I won't do any more commentary because of time constraints so here is my end of year (predicted) rankings:

  1. Detroit
  2. LA
  3. Vancouver
  4. San Jose
  5. Colorado
  6. Chicago
  7. St Louis
  8. Columbus
  9. Phoenix
  10. Nashville
  11. Anaheim
  12. Dallas
  13. Minnesota
  14. Calgary
  15. Edmonton
So some notes comparing my preseason rankings and my end of season rankings:
  • Detroit is awesome
  • Colorado and Columbus are playing better than I expected
  • Alberta is not a winning province

 

 

***Addendum at the end:

After just ONE night the rankings in the East have changed to this.  So just keep in mind the limits to prorating this early in the season:

East

Place

Team

Division

Points in 82

Wins in 82

1

Philadelphia

ATL

114

53

2

Washington

SE

114

53

3

Montreal

NE

108

52

4

Boston

NE

107

49

5

Tampa Bay

SE

104

48

6

Pittsburgh

ATL

100

46

7

NY Rangers

ATL

89

43

8

Atlanta

SE

86

37

9

Ottawa

NE

78

37

10

Carolina

SE

78

35

11

Toronto

NE

78

33

12

Florida

SE

74

37

13

Buffalo

NE

68

29

14

New Jersey

ATL

60

26

15

NY Islanders

ATL

49

16

PensionPlanPuppets.com is a fan community that allows members to post their own thoughts and opinions on the Toronto Maple Leafs and hockey in general. These views and thoughts may not be shared by the editor of PensionPlanPuppets.com.

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