Adam Pyde

Checking Up On Predictions: NHL Metropolitan Division

Checking Up On Predictions: NHL Metropolitan Division

As we reach the unofficial midway point of the NHL season with the All Star Weekend in Columbus, its as good a time as any to go back in time and check back in on my pre-season predictions.

I said I was going to be 100% right at the time and as time has told, I sure wasn’t. However, I wasn’t totally out to lunch either. Goes to show that I’m just about as good at this kind of thing as all the fancy people making big money in the mainstream media.

Actually, I’m a bit better because I’m willing to admit I’m wrong instead of throwing a temper tantrum and blocking 100 people on Twitter.

By: Adam Pyde – @Adam_Pyde

So first lets take a look at how I had the Metropolitan shaking out, where the team actually is, what I thought about them in the pre-season, and what I think of that team now.

Carolina Hurricanes
Pre-season ranking: 8
Current ranking: 8 (31 points)

What I said then:

There is some cautious optimism for the ‘Canes. Progress of youth and new coach/GM points will help. More Khudobin and less Ward will also help. But a largely unchanged roster, key injuries already and a lot of teams to jump past will make things difficult.

What I say now:

They’re bad. Worse than last year. Cam Ward has been better than expected but with all the injuries that hasn’t made much of a difference. They’ll probably climb themselves out of Oiler level bad and up to Flyer level bad.

They have players coming back from injury like Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner should be back soon. But the defence is still basically 3 players and you just can’t get anywhere without at least 5 steady defenders.

This team still has the pieces around the edges, but is missing the big ones. Kind of like Minnesota pre-Suter/Parise, but I don’t see a Ryan Suter on their horizon. Maybe Eichel or McDavid can be that elite level player.

Philadelphia Flyers

Pre-season ranking: 7
Current ranking: 6 (41 points)

What I said then:

They only squeaked into the playoffs last year, and that defensive group doesn’t inspire hope. With the improvement around them in their division I feel they’ll lose just enough ground to be on the outside looking in.

What I say now:

I love being right. That defence is miserable. Depending who is healthy on which night, the Flyers have $25 million  locked up on defence. That’s not bad. Then you see the personnel that make that up.

Mark Streit Braydon Coburn
Andrew MacDonald Nicklas Grossmann
Shayne Gostisbehere Luke Schenn
Michael Del Zotto Nick Schultz

Move some parts around, but that’s their top 8. You should be able to pay like 15-16 million to get that. And Andrew MacDonald plays his defence like this…

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Could you imagine how bad this team would be if they were without Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds?

Columbus Blue Jackets

Pre-season ranking: 6
Current ranking: 5 (39 points, no wildcard)

What I said then:

This is more reliant on Johansen. While he did have a career year and is likely to regress once he plays again, he’s still likely a capable top-six center at worst. That’s not easy to replace and really leaves Columbus a step behind without him. If he comes back soonish they’ll be fine. If this drags, this season could be in trouble.

What I say now:

Well Johansen hasn’t taken a step back and the team is getting a career year out of Nick Foligno, but injuries have just decimated this team. At one point they were missing 9 players that would be regulars for them.

Nathan Horton may never come back. Ryan Murray can’t stay healthy enough to validate being the #2 selection in the draft a few years ago. Boone Jenner, Artem Anisimov and Jack Skille are missing. Sergei Bobrovsky, Scott Hartnell, Matt Calvert, Fedor Tyutin, Brandon Dubinsky and Mark Letestu are other key players that have missed at least 5 games due to injury. Many of them missed 10+ games.

Only three players have played all 40 games this season!

It’s really hard to evaluate if the team is really any good or bad. They’re a little too far back in the standings to make the playoffs no matter how healthy they get. Another “maybe next season” in Columbus, but at least they get the All Star Game this year.

New York Rangers

Pre-season ranking: 5 (wildcard)
Current ranking: 4 (52 points)

What I said then:

They won’t make a repeat run to the Finals, but they’re still a pretty good team. Stepan’s injury complicates things but you can’t count out a team with Lundqvist in net. The powerplay can be improved and they still boast depth on paper.

What I say now:

They’ve stayed healthy and I’m suprised at how well their forward corps has done this season. Much better than I had anticipated and Rick Nash looks like the kind of guy worth his contract with 26 goals and 41 points on the season.

Henrik Lundqvist is doing his thing in net. Which means he’s being absurdly good.

The biggest cause for concern on the roster is on defence. They haven’t really got anyone driving things on the powerplay on the back-end. Ryan McDonagh isn’t quite living up to the “greatest defenceman in the NHL” hype he picked up last year and Dan Boyle has been a disappointment with only 9 points on the season.

I don’t think they’ll find themselves on the playoff bubble but I still don’t like their chances for a deep playoff run.

Washington Capitals

Pre-season ranking: 4 (wildcard)
Current ranking: 3 (54 points, wildcard)

What I said then:

They employ the hockey equivalent of a nuclear bomb on their powerplay, and a surprisingly solid roster. They missed the playoffs by only three points last year and they should benefit from new coach voodoo points in the standings, and a stiffer defensive system should lead to better numbers in net.

What I say now:

They’re pretty well exactly where I thought they would be. I am so smart. Ovechkin’s goal totals are bit low but he’s still on pace for about 45. Nik Backstrom is having a heck of a year and has been a big part, although not as big as Ovi, of their 4th ranked powerplay.

The defence has kind of come and gone this season. The penalty kill is a little low at sub-80% but Braden Holtby has rebounded with a strong season and they’re in the top half for fewest shots against and goals against per game. Nice improvements over previous seasons and they’re still a strong possession team. John Carlson has really emerged as a legitimate top pairing player that deserves to be in the conversation with a number of other great-but-not-elite defenceman.

From what I’ve seen this year, only about 6-7 games, they look like they’re having a lot more fun this year compared to last. Small sample and everything, but they don’t look as beaten up and that always makes things more fun.

I’m real curious to see how they fare in the playoffs with their improved defence and new system and, barring any collapse, we’ll get to find out.

New York Islanders

Pre-season ranking: 3
Current ranking: 1 (57 points)

What I said then:

I mentioned this division is basically a crapshoot, right? I think the Isles additions are good enough to help them bridge the gap. Plus, I think the franchise will try to make their last season at Nasseau memorable and I see GM Garth Snow picking up a defenceman by Christmas.

What I say now:

I feel pretty good about this one too. This team is legitimately good and they managed to add not one, but two quality defenceman at the expense of some picks and prospects. It was a little steep to pay, but ultimately it has paid off. For the first time in years the Islanders boast an actual defence corps that isn’t a “Who’s that?” of no-names.

Ryan Strome and Brock Nelson have both emerged as quality players and the additions of Nik Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski have provided them with some legitimate depth to compensate for injuries, but also just make them plain good and able to roll four lines.

Jaroslav Halak is having a solid “down” year on the up year of his up and down career trend with a .914 that places him firmly in the middle of the league. Considering the goaltending that the Islanders got last year, he alone is enough to have them in a wildcard spot this year.

I don’t know if there is a Cup in their immediate future, but a home playoff date and a second round appearance will probably close off their time in Nassau.

New Jersey Devils
Pre-season ranking: 2
Current ranking: 7 (38 points)

What I said then:

This is a surprisingly good hockey team. They play such strong systems that they’ll always be in the game and more Cory Schneider is a good thing. A combination of a better shootout record and no more Martin Brodeur handing out free wins is enough to get them into the playoffs with ease.

What I say now:

You win some, you lose some. I really thought that this team was going to defy the logic of aging and keep winning and doing things that win games well. Figured that mixed with improved goaltending because Schneider > Brodeur would have meant a bunch more wins.

I saw savvy pickups like Martin Havlat and Mike Cammalleri would be problem solvers for their offence as they add a dash of speed and are pretty good in the shootout.

Unfortunately it appears father time has finally caught up with a number of players. Then they had to mix in injuries to Cammalleri, Havlat and other players like Henrique. Scott Gomez of all people was their #1 center for a while.

Unfortunately I don’t see the playoffs in their future and I feel like we shouldn’t see much Lamoriello in their future either. Their contract situation isn’t great, their drafting isn’t great, and their asset management has been poor. Might be time for them to shake it up.

Pittsburgh Penguins
Pre-season ranking: 1
Current ranking: 2 (56 points)

What I said then:

This team looks as good as any team the Penguins have had since they won the Stanley Cup. They’ll run away with the division again and go at least two rounds deep in the playoffs. The only thing that could prevent it is Marc-Andre Fleury.

What I say now:

This team is still really good. They’ve been hit hard by some injuries and might not run away with the division, but the team is still really good. Fleury is holding his own in net and having his best season in a few years.

They’ve started to get some players back from injury and they added David Perron in a trade. Anytime you can add a top-six winger at less than $4 million against the cap you’ve done well. When you give up a low first rounder (probably not gonna turn into anything) and a fourth liner, you’ve done even better.

The depth additions like Comeau, Spaling, and Downie have been good to great. The young defence prospects that have had to fill in for injuries have played well also. Unfortunately, Olli Maatta is out for the season. They can survive without him, but it would be nicer to have him back.

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are bothing having pretty ho-hum seasons for them at a measly 44 points in 38 for Sid and 47 points in 41 for Geno. Can’t imagine how scary this team will be if those guys really get going.

I really want to see what this roster can do healthy over a long stretch.

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