2019 NHL Predictions: Western Conference Winners, Losers, Surprises, and Disappointments
Who will wear the Central crown? Will any Pacific team make it as a Wild Card? The DBD crew gives their picks.
The 2019-20 NHL regular season is here, which means it’s time for everyone’s favorite annual tradition — predicting the final season standings! Sure, they’re almost always going to be horribly wrong once some teams inevitably defy expectations (see: the 2018-19 St. Louis Blues any given month), but that’s what makes it so awful fun!
Earlier today, the Defending Big D staff broke down our predictions for the Dallas Stars’ season. We’ll finish off with the rest of the Western Conference, where nearly everyone agrees on the Pacific. The Central? Eh...
Here are everyone’s individual predictions:
Taylor: The margins between Central teams is going to be razor thin at the end of the season. Once again, the Pacific will fail to kick the Central out of either Wild Card spot.
Robert T: Colorado may be in my head by this point. They looked so good for stretches last year, and the Nazem Kadri trade really does seem like it could be massive for them. The defense is dynamic, young, and dangerous, which pairs perfectly with a very solid top-six forward corps. And if Dallas could win the Central in front of a declining Kari Lehtonen four years ago, then darned if Colorado can’t do the same for Philipp Grubauer. Also, the Blues will have goalie issues again. Just saying.
Logan: With Andre Burakovsky, Nazem Kadri, and Joe Pavelski now in the Central, the division just got even harder. St. Louis will battle their Stanley Cup hangover for most of the season, while the Predators and Jets will struggle due to defensive detractors, and Chicago struggles with the high salary cap hit but low return from their once unstoppable core. The Wild are the surprising team, with a healthy (albeit aging) core and the addition of Mats Zuccarello proving to be the magic answer to finishing dead last the previous season.
Derek: The Blues have all the firepower needed to continue their winning ways, and they’ll have the passion and drive, too. Spunky Colorado will be the big surprise, however, using their high-flying offense to run up the goals column. Behind them, Dallas, Nashville and Winnipeg will be neck-and-neck-and-neck the whole season and all squeeze into the playoffs.
Tyler: The Central has the potential to be the toughest division this year not because the best teams are so good, but because no single team is particularly bad. Nashville and Winnipeg each take a big step back due to goaltending/defensive issues while Chicago and Minnesota are better than everyone gives them credit for.
Wes: This division is going to be brutal. Major storylines will be Bennington’s regression, Nashville’s offense still sputtering, and the absolute implosion of Winnipeg’s backline. Chicago might strike gold if Robin Lehner can remain elite, while Dallas and Colorado are coming quickly, but still possess significant holes.
Ann: The Blues didn’t do anything to get weaker this summer, and the Avalanche added enough pieces that they’re gonna break the top three. Dallas might have gotten older and slower but they’re still solid in net and defensively. When they find their scoring mojo again they’re going to be a force to be reckoned with. The Predators and the Blackhawks get by because the Pacific is that bad.
Rob M: The Blues and to a lesser extent, the Predators remain the class of this division. The Jets seem to have regressed and the Wild and Blackhawks will be bad, but pesky teams for the playoff contenders. Colorado is extremely dangerous and will be the reason why the Central sends five teams into the postseason.
Mark: Nashville’s second line adds needed scoring punch, while Minnesota makes one more playoff appearance with their aging core. Winnipeg falls off the cliff. Central takes both wild card spots.
Taylor: It’s hard seeing a team in the Pacific that’s poised to be better than the Central teams enough to kick them out of taking both Wild Card spots again this season. Vegas Golden Knights are the team to beat, and the San Jose Sharks will still hang on in the top three of the division.
Robert T: This is a terrible division and ought to be ashamed of itself. None of the middling teams did enough to prove that the Central won’t grab both wild cards for what seems like the millionth time. Get your act together, you big, dumb ocean.
Logan: San Jose struggles with the loss of Joe Pavelski, while Vegas and Calgary storm out ahead of the pack. A healthy Connor McDavid somehow doesn’t end up on the IR from carrying the struggling Oilers on his back and the team somehow finishes in a playoff spot. Arizona makes a valiant effort but even the addition of Phil Kessel can’t get them into a playoff spot — they finish ahead of only Vancouver and Anaheim.
Derek: San Jose, Vegas... and then everyone else. Calgary will be a good regular season team once again before repeating their playoff struggles from last year. Connor McDavid will carry the Oilers are far as he can, but ultimately, he can still only do so much, creating even more drama and despair in Edmonton.
Tyler: Phil Kessel finally helps Arizona get over the hump, while Calgary comes back down to Earth a little after a strong 2018-19 regular season. San Jose fails to win the regular season division title, but goes on to represent the West in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Wes: If Calgary could find quality goaltending, they’d be a Cup favorite. Edmonton too if they had more than two good players. Vancouver will regret the Myers deal, Los Angeles is headed to stinksville, and John Gibson might be the only player in the league doing more to prop up a crap team than Conor McDavid. Give him the Vezina and a Cold War-style defection to a decent team. San Jose needs either mediocre goaltending or a healthy Erik Karlsson to be great, and despite two excellent seasons, Vegas still makes me nervous.
Ann: I see no reason that any of the teams after the top three will be able to grab a wild card spot. Oh and the top three are clearly the Golden Knights, Sharks, and Flames. The Oilers might have McDavid but they’re still the Oilers. McDavid will be playing on a line with James Neal. Like, good luck with that. Phil Kessel adds some spark in Arizona but it’s not enough to crack the playoffs.
Rob M: Calgary seems poised to follow up their superb regular season performance, but will have some stiff competition from Vegas and San Jose. The Oilers are a dumpster fire until proven otherwise and the Kings are in their full rebuild. The Ducks are intriguing but we all know whose coming out of the pacific come April.
Mark: Vegas is motivated and ready for another deep run. Calgary and San Jose grab the other two playoff spots. Young Ducks make surprising playoff run, but it falls just short. Kings challenge Ottawa for league worst record.