With the National Hockey League season on pause, there’s no better time than now to flog yourself in public.
Let’s take a look back and audit our 31 bold predictions from September, where some have reached final verdicts while others are still pending with varying levels of confidence.
There was certainly some good (St. Louis), some bad (San Jose) and some just plain ugly (Edmonton) preseason picks:
1. ANAHEIM - With fans expecting a retooling season, the Ducks will be one of the surprise teams in the West.
Verdict: Swing and a miss
Editor’s Note: This bet looked pretty good for the first three weeks of the season with Anaheim off to a 6-2 start. Brighter days are ahead for the Ducks with Trevor Zegras on the way, a lottery ticket in the first round, plus an extra first-round pick from the Ondrej Kase deal near the deadline.
2. ARIZONA - The Coyotes will miss the Stanley Cup playoffs for the eighth straight season.
Verdict: Right on
Editor’s Note: The Coyotes’ season has been confounding. Without Taylor Hall: 19-12-4. With Taylor Hall: 14-17-4. Yes, No. 1 netminder Darcy Kuemper was out, but the Coyotes were consistent in goals against with and without Kuemper. A rocky summer could now be in store for GM John Chayka, currently without a first-round pick from the Hall trade, along with a serious investigation looming on Arizona’s alleged illegal physical testing of draft prospects.
3. BOSTON - Torey Krug will remain with the Bruins past TradeCentre but walk as a free agent on July 1.
Confidence Level: Not particularly high
Editor’s Note: Even with the salary cap remaining flat, there is a path forward for the Bruins to keep Krug. Getting Anaheim to take $4.5 million of David Backes’ cap hit for next season was the key. Jake DeBrusk is due a new deal and Matt Grzelcyk will probably double his pay, but the B’s should have enough room.
4. BUFFALO - Jason Botterill’s future as Sabres GM will be up for debate after Buffalo doesn’t come close to the playoffs for the third straight season on his watch.
Verdict: It’s up for debate
Editor’s Note: The heat has been turned up on both Botterill and the Pegulas in Buffalo. There have been pluses (Ralph Krueger) and minuses (Jeff Skinner’s contract) for Botterill in the last year, more pluses than minuses in fact, which will probably allow him another year to right the ship.
5. CALGARY - Kiss goodbye those dreams of another 100-point season, the Flames are taking a step back this year.
Verdict: Spot on
Editor’s Note: The Flames hit the pause on pace for 93 points over a full 82-game season. There have been some rocky stretches, but considering the spot they were in on the night Bill Peters’ racial slurs came to light (11-12-4), Calgary has handled a tumultuous season – one with playoff expectations and a number of free agents – really well under interim coach Geoff Ward.
6. CAROLINA - Can I get an encore? The Canes want more. They’ll get it as they return to the Eastern Conference Final for the second spring in a row.
Verdict: So, you’re saying there’s a chance?
Editor’s Note: Watch out for the Hurricanes if the NHL resumes. They’ve got one of the youngest forward corps in the league (read: should be back in shape quickly) and they’re likely to be healthy for the first time in a long time with Dougie Hamilton and Sami Vatanen ready to return. Brett Pesce (shoulder) is on track to return next season.
7. CHICAGO - Robin Lehner will continue to author one of hockey’s best stories as he carries the Blackhawks back to the playoffs after a two-year hiatus.
Editor’s Note: Does it count if Lehner continues to author that story in Vegas instead of Chicago? No, probably not. The Hawks hung in the mix most of the season, teasing fans by hovering around four points out most of the postseason. But it seems like the only way Chicago gets in is if the NHL expands to a 24-team playoff, which is unlikely.
8. COLORADO - The Colorado Avalanche will hoist the Stanley Cup for the third time in franchise history.
Confidence Level: As good a Cup pick as any
Editor’s Note: The argument for the Avs chance to win the Cup this season is the same one might make for Nathan MacKinnon to win the Hart. After MacKinnon, almost all of Colorado’s key contributors have missed significant time: Mikko Rantanen (28 games), Nazem Kadri (19), Gabriel Landeskog (16), Andre Burakovsky (12), Cale Makar (eight) and starter Philipp Grubauer (one month).
9. COLUMBUS - The Blue Jackets will slide back into no-man’s land, but it won’t be because of GM Jarmo Kekalainen’s gamble on inexperienced goalies Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins. It’ll be because Columbus won’t generate enough scoring.
Verdict: Half right?
Editor’s Note: Columbus was far from no-man’s land. Shame on me. They’re unlikely to make the playoffs if qualifiers are decided by points percentage or 68-game rollback. But it has been a serious struggle to score. Only the Red Wings, one of the worst teams in the salary cap era, have scored fewer goals that the Blue Jackets in the East this season.
10. DALLAS - GM Jim Nill will take home the GM of the Year Award.
Verdict: He’s in the mix
Editor’s Note: Nill didn’t finish in the top three in the PHWA’s Midseason Awards voting. Joe Sakic took the prize there – and he may well again when it’s all said and done – but Nill is certainly deserving of consideration. The Stars will be a tough out in the playoffs, if they happen, because Nill has built his team based on a blueprint for the postseason’s style of play.
11. DETROIT - #APrayerForLafreniere. The Red Wings will win the 2020 Draft Lottery and pick No. 1 overall for the second time (Joe Murphy, 1986) in the entry draft era.
Confidence Level: 18.5 per cent
Editor’s Note: Indeed, the Winged Wheel will finish 31st and earn an 18.5 per cent shot at Alexis Lafreniere. What I didn’t account for in this prediction was that the Senators would have a better likelihood – potentially at 25 per cent – as a combination of their own pick (13.5) and the Sharks’ pick (11.5), because I didn’t see San Jose finishing 29th.
12. EDMONTON - Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl will see a drop in points, but the Oilers will be better for it this season, hitting the 90-point mark.
Verdict: Public humiliation
Editor’s Note: Draisaitl was only on pace for one of the best individual scoring seasons in the salary cap era and McDavid was right behind him at 97 points. Hey, at least the Oilers were on pace to be north of 90 – and in the playoffs!
13. FLORIDA - Despite spending to the cap, signing Sergei Bobrovsky and hiring the best coach of his generation in Joel Quenneville, the Panthers will still miss the playoffs.
Verdict: Yes guy
Editor’s Note: It’s difficult to say with certainty in year one because of the position, but Bobrovsky’s contract may go down as one of the big-money mistakes of the salary cap era. Now, after likely failing to make the playoffs for the eighth time in 10 seasons, GM Dale Tallon could well have run out of chances with owner Vinnie Viola.
14. LOS ANGELES - Breakout star Jack Campbell will become an NHL starter this season, if not with the Kings, then elsewhere. Campbell will become quite the trade chip for GM Rob Blake.
Verdict: Close, but no cigar
Editor’s Note: Campbell was traded to the Maple Leafs on Feb. 5 along with Kyle Clifford in exchange for Trevor Moore, a third-round pick and a conditional third-round pick. He provided much needed stability in the backup position for Toronto, going 3-2-1 with a .915 save percentage. It’s just that he won’t be a starter, at least not in Toronto, and he’s signed to an extension that pays him a manageable $1.65 million for each of the next two years.
15. MONTRÉAL - Claude Julien will win the Jack Adams Award for the second time in his career as coach of the year. The playoff-bound Habs will become the most exciting team in the NHL to watch.
Editor’s Note: Wrong on all counts. GM Marc Bergevin said in March that Julien is not in danger of losing his job, but that tells you how much he had a shot at the Jack Adams. The Habs will miss the playoffs for a franchise record-tying third straight spring, but brighter days are ahead with Nick Suzuki here and Alexander Romanov on the way.
16. MINNESOTA - It won’t take long for rookie GM Bill Guerin to realize that the Wild require seismic changes. Guerin won’t be afraid to make them.
Verdict: Oooooh man
Editor’s Note: Guerin was *this close* to making a seismic change on TradeCentre before his deal to send Zach Parise to Long Island fell through. The story goes that the Wild and Islanders just couldn’t work out the finances. But unloading one of his $98 million twin pillars in Parise would have been seismic, with Guerin already looking toward the future after getting a first-round pick, Alex Galchenyuk and prospect Calen Addison back for Jason Zucker.
17. NASHVILLE. Hear that sound? It’s the Stanley Cup window slamming shut for the Predators, who have been going in the wrong direction since their 2017 Stanley Cup Final appearance. The Preds will be in a dog fight for a wild-card spot.
Verdict: Mostly accurate
Editor’s Note: The Preds are in the dance in most post-pandemic playoff scenarios – including points percentage – but it was a grind to get there. John Hynes replaced Peter Laviolette behind the bench in January. Nashville avoided a sell-off at the deadline. But with one of the older lineups in the NHL, a bevy of long-term contracts, and a thin prospect pipeline, the pied piper will eventually need to be paid.
18. NEW JERSEY - Taylor Hall will ink a massive eight-year, $88 million extension with the Devils in the first month of the season, putting aside the Trade Bait talk early.
Verdict: I award you no points and may God have mercy on your soul.
Editor’s Note: The Devils were never competitive enough to warrant Hall’s attention on an extension. Hall was traded to Arizona on Dec. 16 before the NHL’s holiday roster freeze. Coach John Hynes was fired on Dec. 3, GM Ray Shero was fired on Jan. 12, and the Devils still have both an interim GM and interim coach. Hey, they’ll always have the 2018 Hart Trophy.
19. NEW YORK ISLANDERS - The Isles will still be the same stingy team under Barry Trotz, but they won’t be able to keep last season’s magic alive. They’ll fall short of a playoff spot.
Editor’s Note: This looked incredibly foolish at U.S. Thanksgiving. The Islanders were off to a 16-3-1 start. Their slide since then, with a 19-20-9 mark and an 0-3-4 tumble into the pause, avoided a lot of league-wide scrutiny. The Islanders just squeak in with the eighth spot in the East on points percentage, but who knows if those last 14 games are played?
20. NEW YORK RANGERS - Going up against two Hughes (Jack and Quinn), Kaapo Kakko will capture the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year.
Verdict: No guy
Editor’s Note: At least I had the good sense to mention Quinn Hughes in the Calder Trophy conversation. Kakko’s 18-year-old season was paused with 10 goals and 13 assists for 23 points, definitely underwhelming number. There is much to learn, but Kakko does have more goals (by three) and points (by two) than Jack Hughes, his cross-Hudson rival and the player picked one spot ahead of him last June.
21. OTTAWA - The Sens will not finish last in the Eastern Conference.
Verdict: Better cash than trash
Editor’s Note: Admittedly, the bar wasn’t exactly high here, not with Steve Yzerman’s long-term plan that has a few years to run in Detroit. But these Sens were a scrappy, competitive bunch – one that could be back in the playoff mix as soon as next season. Ottawa has arguably the deepest prospect pool in hockey and it’s about to get a lot better with two top-five picks in the Draft – and maybe even Alexis Lafreniere.
22. PHILADELPHIA - Carter Hart will win the Vezina Trophy after leading the Flyers back to the playoffs.
Verdict: Worth a try
Editor’s Note: The better and bolder prediction would have been Alain Vigneault for the Jack Adams Award. Vigneault may be the front-runner. Hart has been pretty darn good (24-13-3, .914 save percentage) in his sophomore season as a 21-year-old. But he was exceptional just before the pause with a 9-2-0 record and .934 mark, a big reason why the Flyers hit the break as the NHL’s hottest team.
23. PITTSBURGH - Evgeni Malkin is a monster again. He’ll take home the Hart Trophy for a second time.
Verdict: An apple a day keeps the doctor away
Editor’s Note: Malkin just hasn’t been healthy enough to be in the mix. With 74 points in 55 games, Geno was tied with Nathan MacKinnon for fifth in the NHL in points-per-game (1.35). That’s a 110-point pace over 82 games. Not too shabby. The time Malkin – and other key Pens – have missed is part of Mike Sullivan’s case for the Jack Adams.
24. SAN JOSE - The Sharks are still a playoff team, but they’ll be taking a step back from last season’s trip to the Western Conference Final.
Editor’s Note: There are no words.
25. ST. LOUIS - There will be no Stanley Cup hangover for the Blues, who have as strong a chance to repeat as any champion in the salary cap era.
Confidence Level: I’d make that bet
Editor’s Note: The Blues have been a machine; probably the NHL’s most consistent team – even more consistent than the Bruins. They’ve had one three-game losing skid and three winning streaks of at least seven games. Now, the best in the West will have plenty of rest after playing deep into last June. Who’s betting against them?
26. TAMPA BAY - After owning their historic first-round failure, Tampa Bay is ready to move forward. The loaded Lightning, who bolstered their roster with battle-tested players, will get back to the Stanley Cup Final.
Confidence Level: Pretty, pretty, pretty good
Editor’s Note: Tampa Bay is all-around tough. They are tough to out-skill, tough to out-skate, and just generally tough to play against. Now, they seem mentally tough, too. A wobbly start to the season, coupled with last year’s epic collapse, could have broken the Bolts. But they’re a toss-up with Boston for the top team in the East – and a second-round matchup with the Bruins would be an epic battle.
27. TORONTO - Stuck between the Bolts and Bruins, it’s going to be more of the same for the Buds. Another first-round exit is on the horizon. There is no doubting the Leafs’ firepower and motivation this season (Auston Matthews will hit 50 goals), it’s the lack of depth on defence (Nos. 4-7) that makes breaking through to the other side of the Atlantic Division bracket a real challenge.
Confidence Level: Sounds about right
Editor’s Note: So, the Leafs appeared to finally avoid the Bruins in the first round. Their reward: Tampa Bay. Yes, Toronto was 2-1 against Tampa this season, but the Buds would still enter as considerable underdogs against the Bolts. Another bad break in the pause: Matthews was on pace for 55 goals, one better than Rick Vaive’s club record of 54. It would’ve been a fascinating Rocket Richard race.
28. VANCOUVER - Elias Pettersson will notch his first 100-point season, joining the conversation among the Top 10 players in the game.
Verdict: Not quite
Editor’s Note: ‘Petey’ already matched his Calder season point total, in three fewer games, but he was still a bit of a way off from the Century Club. With 66 points in 68 games, Pettersson was on track to finish with 79 in 81 games. Seems like it’s only a matter of time now.
29. VEGAS - Powered by one of the best duos in hockey in Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty, the Golden Knights will win the Pacific Division for the second time in three seasons.
Verdict: Show me the money
Editor’s Note: With an impressive bounce-back season for Pacioretty (66 points) and Stone’s (63 points) continued excellent two-way game, they were definitely among the top duos in the NHL this season. They owned more than 60 per cent of the shot attempts when they were on the ice together, over 735 minutes. Oh, and the Golden Knights – even with their struggles and coaching change – are still the class of the Pacific.
30. WASHINGTON - The “Great Eight” will now be the “Third Nine,” as Alex Ovechkin will tie Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy with a record ninth career 50-goal season.
Verdict: Awarded on goals per game
Editor’s Note: This has to count, right? Yet again, Ovechkin was pacing the league with 48 goals. At 34, Ovie was on track for 57 goals, which would have been the second-highest total of his illustrious career. If the NHL season never resumes, we will wonder if Ovechkin was robbed from his ninth 50-goal season because of a one-game suspension for sitting out All-Star weekend.
31. WINNIPEG - The Jets will fail to make the playoffs, regardless of whether Dustin Byfuglien decides to return or hang up his skates. Even with him back, the Jets don’t have the defence corps to make it through the murderous Central Division alive.
Verdict: Technically right, feels wrong
Editor’s Note: If the season resumes, and it’s a 16-team playoff, the Jets are likely to miss any way you slice it. But that would sell short one of the best stories of the NHL season. The way Winnipeg battled – through the Byfuglien saga, through injuries, through schedule adversity – was something to behold. They entered the pause winners of four straight and in a playoff spot in the standings. Maybe they will remain there, forever frozen in time, if hockey isn’t to be played again in 2019-20. And then I'll be wrong, again.
Contact Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @frank_seravalli