Monday, September 24, 2018

2018-19 season preview

For​ the last few​ years,​ I’ve​ done​ in-depth​ season​ previews for​ various sites, in​ which I would​ divide​ the NHL into​​ four divisions. But not the four divisions that the NHL itself used. Instead, I would use my own versions that seemed to capture the spirit of the thing a little better: The Bottom-Feeder Division, The Middle-of-the-Pack Division, The Contenders Division, and my personal favorite, the Your-Guess-Is-As-Good-As-Mine Division.

A full preview isn’t really necessary this year. If you’re a subscriber, you’ve already seen plenty of in-depth preview work from The Athletic’s various writers, including Dom Luszczyszyn’s epic team-by-team series. So I’m off the hook.

But I’m not sure I want to be. I think anyone who covers the NHL should have to make a few predictions, if only to keep us honest once the season starts and things inevitably go sideways. One of the most frustrating subplots of last year’s miracle Vegas Golden Knights season was the eventual emergence of voices who swore the whole thing was rigged and they knew it was coming all along. No they didn’t. None of us did. But if you don’t put your thoughts in writing before the season, you can convince yourself you’re a lot smarter than you really are.

When it comes to predicting the NHL, I’m not smart and never have been. But the least I can do is be honest about it. So for this year’s preview, we’ll strip away the key stats and storylines and players to watch and all the other pieces that others can do better. But we’ll keep the four divisions, if only so we can all look back and laugh when I’m proven wrong in eight months. Fine, two weeks.

Within each division, the teams aren’t listed in any particular order. Let’s start from the basement and work our way up.

The Bottom-Feeder Division

These teams are all sure-things to be terrible next year. You know, like the Avalanche, Devils and Golden Knights last year.

Ottawa Senators

Last season: 28-43-11, 67 points, missed playoffs.

Offseason report: They’d rather not talk about it.

Why they’re here: Because just about everyone thinks it’s a lock that they’ll be the worst team in the league. Even Avalanche fans, who know a thing or two about unexpected turnarounds, seem to already be debating who to take with next year’s top-four pick.

Is there any reason to think that everyone is wrong and the Senators might actually be passable? Not really, at least based on a roster that’s already underwhelming and figures to get even worse as the rebuild sees veterans shipped out for futures. If anything, it’s all starting to feel like a little too much of a sure-thing and we know how those typically end up in today’s NHL. If the Senators do pull off a miracle and make a run at the postseason, or at least to .500, remember that I was the only one who thought there was any chance of it happening. Just not enough of one to move them out of this section.

Montreal Canadiens

Last season: 29-40-13, 71 points, missed playoffs.

Offseason report: They finally acquired that #1 NHL center they’ve been chasing for years. No, just kidding. They did trade away Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk though, so there’s that.

Why they’re here: The Canadiens seem like such a mess that it’s easy enough to forget that they were the Atlantic champs as recently as 2017. But with a rebuild underway and Shea Weber missing at least the first two months, there doesn’t seem to be a path to the playoffs that doesn’t involve Carey Price morphing back into MVP mode.

>> Read the full post at The Athletic

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