With the season being officially done thanks to COVID-19 and the NHL’s desire to get some postseason hockey in, the Central Division standings look like this:
The NHL determined playoff eligibility by point percentage, so the entire Central Division is in the playoffs like it’s 1989 or something (only here at least all of the teams are over .500). The three teams left off - San Jose, Anaheim, and Los Angeles, means that a little under half of the Pacific are gone.
Looking at the standings, it’s very similar to what a lot of pundits predicted - Chicago still rebuilding, Minnesota being meh, Winnipeg underperforming thanks to an AHL blueline. There were some surprises too - Nashville really had an off season by their standards, and the Stars performed really well.
How did the people paid to talk about hockey do? Back in September, Game Time did a roundup of some of the pre-season predictions. Most people were wrong.
The most wrong (other than myself, which I will get to) had to go to USA Today. They weren’t just wrong about the Central, they missed their mark on the Pacific Division, too. Hugely:
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
You can’t fault them for thinking the Sharks would be successful - they had made it to the Western Conference Final just a couple months before this came out. Expecting the Coyotes to finish above the Oilers and Canucks was a miscue. In the Central, a logjam at the top makes sense. The Blues in fourth place does not.
In another instance of the Predators messing up everyone’s sure bets, Sports Illustrated expected them to have a strong season, finishing first in the Central with the Avalanche and Blues close behind. “Too close to call” seems to be the trend with the division, and some of these folks could’ve gotten out of making predictions by just saying that and no one would’ve argued with it.
The Chicago Sun-Times were realists about the Hawks, picking Colorado to finish first overall. Had the season not ended early, they certainly could’ve - the Blues slip in the standings in January almost cost them the division lead. The Blues may’ve finished with the Central Division championship thanks to a shortened season. It prevented them from having to play the Avs one more time.
Honestly, the only outlet that was close to being correct was the hometown one. The Post-Dispatch picked the Blues to finish first, with the Preds and Stars behind them. They undersold the Avalanche, though. Underestimate the Avs at your own peril.
Me? Yeah, like I predicted I would be, I was wrong. Nashville first and Colorado third? Pfffft, what was I thinking?
I couldn’t even get last place right. Sorry, Blackhawks