Pre-season predictions are nearly never right; pre-season predictions that try to ballpark points are even less so. No one can predict the future. No one knows what players will get injured and when, or how a goaltender will play, or if some outside problems will strike a club. The best hockey pundits can do is either depend on the law of averages or guestimate based on where a team finished the previous season.
But what about trades? What about off-season unknowns? How do you compare what basically is tantamount to two different teams across two different seasons playing against basically totally different squads? You can’t. Pre-season predictions are just a shot in the dark. They’re for entertainment purposes only.
Sometimes, they’re inexplicable.
Listen, I don’t think that the Blues are going to win the Central (I’m leaning towards Nashville again), but I would think their second half performance and the fact that the Stanley Cup Champions are a bit improved (Justin Faulk is an improvement over Joel Edmundson) would be worth a bit more than fourth place in the Central. Only one OTL?
Here's how we see the 2019-20 NHL season unfolding: https://t.co/XQfQfuuprh pic.twitter.com/rmbjDBOgFi— USA TODAY Sports (@usatodaysports) September 26, 2019
On the other hand, sometimes they may overshoot a bit. From The Athletic (subscription required), Dom Luszczyszyn has the Blues finishing fourth overall in the League with 101.4 points and an 89% chance of the playoffs, with an 8% chance of repeating as Cup champions. He crunches the numbers; he doesn’t play hunches. The Blues even caused him to completely rejigger his calculations thanks to their unexpected Stanley Cup run.
Sports Illustrated takes a pragmatic approach to the meat grinder that the Central Division is going to be this year, picking the Blues to finish third behind the Nashville Predators and improved Colorado Avalanche in a tight battle. The Central Division is almost always a nightmare, and a three-way battle for the top of the division isn’t outside of the realm of possibility.
The Chicago Sun-Times and St. Louis Post-Dispatch have two slightly different takes on the division. The Sun-Times is a little less homer-tastic with theirs, picking Colorado to finish first, the Blues second, and the Predators third. They may have the homer-blinders on with the Blackhawks being the second wild-card, but them finishing fifth in the Central above Winnipeg and Minnesota seems doable if the Jets’ off-season defensive departures catch up to them.
The Post-Dispatch, on the other hand, goes full homer in picking the Blues to finish the division, with the Preds and Stars rounding out the top three.
There’s a couple of themes within these predictions. First off, no one thinks that any team but the Minnesota Wild will finish last in the division, so that’s rough but also probably accurate. The other one is, for the most part, a top three finish of St. Louis, Nashville, and Colorado. What order? Who knows. A three way race in early April doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility.
The official Game Time prediction for this season?
Ok, this is the unofficial prediction, because it’s just mine:
- Nashville Predators
- St. Louis Blues
- Colorado Avalanche
- Dallas Stars
- Chicago Blackhawks
- Winnipeg Jets
- Minnesota Wild
Don’t hold me to this, because I am (literally) never correct.
Ed note: this round-up will be updated as more outlets through their hats in the ring