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Revisiting some 2019-20 NHL predictions

Did the crystal ball point in the right direction?

Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Islanders Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images

It’s the bye week, so a good time to look back and check on those pre-season predictions. Focusing on the Metropolitan division, since that’s the most important given the playoff setup, here’s how the crystal ball has shaken out.

Washington Capitals

Preseason prediction - 1st

Actual position - 1st

On Pace for: 120 points

The Caps are just a good and reliably solid regular season team. They’re deeper up front than most of the league and if there’s been a surprise it’s probably more that it’s been about rookie backup Ilya Samsonov carrying the mail in net and performing much better than franchise staple Braden Holtby. Overall though, the Capitals just keep chugging along, like they do most seasons.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Preseason prediction - 2nd

Actual position - 2nd

On Pace for: 110 points

After a summer of hemming and hawing the moves the Pens did (and didn’t) make, their team ended up meshing well. There would have been a lot less consternation if it was known that the Pens would side-step the Gudbranson contract with ease and have a top-four defender in John Marino already in place that no one knew about. Also, while injuries have hit the team hard, it did make sense that the team was deeper up front and would get a better performance out of Evgeni Malkin and the bottom-six would be improved by shuffling in some new faces. That’s all come to pass!

Carolina Hurricanes

Preseason prediction - 3rd

Actual position - 5th

On Pace for: 100 points

Carolina is currently two points out of third place, so I feel pretty good about the accuracy of this one still to come. Most years a 100 point pace would surely be good for about third place! But still, Carolina is just 8-7-1 in their last 16 games and now has a season-ending injury to Dougie Hamilton to deal with, their situation could be a bit precarious. It doesn’t feel like they’re in a steady position right now, because they’re not, but they should be right there at the end of the season for a playoff spot.

Philadelphia Flyers

Preseason prediction - 4th

Actual position - 6th

On Pace for: 98 points

I predicted Philadelphia would make the playoffs, and they’re right there in the mix so far on a 98 point pace that could be riiiight on the border of making/missing the playoffs in the Metro. I was probably going out a bit on a limb thinking they would get some of the better of the possibility/range of results, and that’s still potentially on the table.

New York Rangers

Preseason prediction - 5th

Actual position - 7th

On Pace for: 85 points

This is the first one I can say wasn’t a good pick. I did not have NYR as a playoff team, so at least that over-arching prediction will be true. Still, I thought the Rangers would be a step or two ahead of where they are. They wanted to reload quickly and compete this year, but the process is going to have to be more of a slower rebuild.

New York Islanders

Preseason prediction - 6th

Actual position - 3rd

On Pace for: 105 points

As usual, I sleep on the Islanders because they really shouldn’t be so good. And, as usual for a Barry Trotz team, they continue to defy conventional wisdom and outperform reasonable expectations. HOWEVA, since Christmas NYI is just 6-6-2. Go back a bit further and since December 1st they’re 12-10-3. They’re giving up almost 3 goals a game in this stretch, the improbable goaltending and defense finally failing. Are the wheels starting to fall off? We shall see. They’ve probably built enough with the long early season win streak though to out-perform my season expectation though.

New Jersey Devils

Preseason prediction - 7th

Actual position - 8th

On Pace for: 72 points

Many people in pre-season were buying into Jersey’s sweeping changes and predicting they would make some progress. I was not one of them. I saw the 2005-06 Pens in this Devils team, a jumbled mess that was either too old or too young to be a cohesive and competitive team. That is basically what has happened. That Pens’ team ended up getting their coach and GM fired, so the parallels with the 2019-20 NJD team grow even further being as Hynes and Shero have already been replaced.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Preseason prediction - 8th

Actual position - 4th

On Pace for: 100 points

By far the biggest miss of my predictions was leaving CBJ for dead, just figuring they wouldn’t be all that competitive and putting them at the bottom of the heap and really not spending too much more thought about it. Instead, they’ve fought, battled and are on course to either make the playoffs for a fourth straight season, or at least make a heck of a run to it. Kudos to them, they’ve done way better than I would have ever imagined.

Other predictions:

  • 6 of the 8 teams out West I said would make the playoffs are currently in a playoff position, which I’m pretty proud about! The only misses are huge ones though, since I had San Jose and Nashville both as No. 2 seeds in their respective divisions, and neither are playoff-bound currently. But I’ll brush that off as saying more about their unexpected debacles of a season (both have fired their coaches) more than anything that could have been predicted in early October.
  • My Atlantic predictions were pretty accurate too (easy to see DET and OTT weren’t going anywhere but I also nailed BUF and MTL as mediocre). I did have Florida AND Toronto both making the playoffs, which might not happen for one team in the wild card hunt. I probably like TB and TOR a slight bit more than they are and under-rated BOS a bit, but nothing too big there.