Predicting Every NHL Team's Points Total for the 2013-14 Season
Journalists and magazines everywhere are publishing their NHL projections for the 2013-14 season, so what makes ours different?
This year's projections come exclusively from a new system created in my latest book, Rob Vollman's Hockey Abstract. It uses a two-step process to objectively project the standings.
Since no personal opinions are involved, it doesn't always follow the mainstream consensus, which can lead to some interesting results.
Here's how it works:
1. Take last year's standings, and remove all the temporary and somewhat random variables that can affect the standings. That includes things like injuries, team records in overtime and shootouts, and unusually high or low shooting and save percentages. For more insight on this step, play with the Hockey Abstract Team Luck tool.
2. Next, all the personnel changes are taken into account, both additions and subtractions. This includes any trades made late in the previous season, and any offseason free agent signings.
In the end the standings wind up squished together, leaving it to the fortunes of the hockey season to spread them out by the usual margin.
Keep in mind that this novel new approach is best used in conjunction with picks made in the traditional fashion, not as a stand-alone replacement. It can help confirm some projections, while bringing others into question for a closer look. Like, for example, the rather unexpected selection for the President's Trophy, the Ottawa Senators.
All advanced statistics are via writer's own original research unless otherwise noted.
Projection: 105 Points
Key Additions: Bobby Ryan, Clarke MacArthur, Joe Corvo—and a healthy Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza and Craig Anderson
Key Departures: Daniel Alfredsson, Sergei Gonchar, Jakob Silfverberg
Don't Forget: They have excellent coaching and a depth of young players
Don't be so surprised! The Ottawa Senators could very well have won the Eastern Conference last year with a little more luck.
Imagine what they could have achieved with a healthy Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza and Craig Anderson. They were also 5-10 in regulation games that were decided by a single goal, so if the bounces go their way this year, watch out!
The Senators might not be one of the NHL's best-kept secrets for long. Already some publications, like the Sports Forecaster, have also placed the Senators on top in their 2013-14 predictions. One look at their roster and you'll see all that young talent for yourself, all trending up.
This is what teams look like before they break out.
The only things that can derail Ottawa would be further injuries, or if their hot 2013 goaltending comes crashing a little too far down to the earth.
New Jersey Devils
Projection: 105 Points
Key Additions: Cory Schneider, Jaromir Jagr, Ryane Clowe, Michael Ryder
Key Departures: Ilya Kovalchuk, David Clarkson, Henrik Tallinder
Don't Forget: They were Stanley Cup finalists in 2012!
It may be surprising for a non-playoff team to be so high on the list, but the Devils did have the best shot differential in the league in 2013, and were Stanley Cup finalists in 2012.
Fundamentally New Jersey let in too many goals last year, posting a team save percentage of just .894 behind two of the league's oldest goalies. General Manager Lou Lamoriello responded boldly to this weakness, and traded the ninth overall selection for Vancouver goalie Cory Schneider.
Schneider's key appeal is his 69.4% quality start percentage over the past six years, the best in the league. Quality starts replace wins as a way to determine when a goalie plays well enough for his team to emerge victorious in a way that's independent of the team's offense, or how many shots they allow. And quality starts are indeed Schneider's specialty.
This one goaltending upgrade alone (along with perhaps an overtime/shootout record better than 3-10) might be enough to immediately correct this great team back into Stanley Cup contention.
Detroit Red Wings
Projection: 103 Points
Key Additions: Daniel Alfredsson, Stephen Weiss and a healthy Mikael Samuelsson and Todd Bertuzzi
Key Departures: Valtteri Filppula, Damien Brunner, Ian White
Don't Forget: Were up on Chicago three games to one in the Conference semi-finals
Despite their reputation as a superb and well-coached possession team, having the Wings this high raises eyebrows. On the other hand, if Game 7's overtime with Chicago had gone slightly differently, there's a decent chance that the eyebrows would have been raised for having the defending Stanley Cup champions so low.
There are some legitimate concerns about Detroit's blue line, but it held together surprisingly well last year despite the absence of Nicklas Lidstrom for the first time since 1990-91. That's perhaps a testament to Jimmy Howard, one of the league's most underrated goaltenders. Indeed, the greater concern might be what the Wings would do if something should happen to him, with virtually no backup and very little cap space.
The depth Detroit may lack in goaltending and on defense is made up for up front. Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss join a deep group of veteran two-way forwards, most prominently featuring Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. Behind them is one of the NHL's most enviable collections of younger forwards and upcoming prospects.
Yes, the Wings were Stanley Cup contenders last year, remain so this year, and likely for several more years to come.
New York Rangers
Projection: 98 Points
Key Additions: Coach Alain Vigneault
Key Departures: Marian Gaborik and coach John Tortorella
Don't Forget: Finished second overall in 2011-12.
The Rangers are largely the same team as last year, but with potentially a radically new coaching approach. Alain Vigneault likes to match lines, and tilt the ice in their favor, and it led to multiple Art Ross and Hart Trophy seasons from the Sedin twins.
Could the same thing happen in New York? He certainly has the versatile forward depth to work with, and can potentially re-ignite the careers of Brad Richards and Rick Nash. Special teams are another area where the Rangers could experience significant improvement.
Their top three of Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi and a healthy Marc Staal playing in front of potentially the league's best netminder Henrik Lundqvist could make New York exceptionally hard to score against.
If Vigneault is the right man for the right job, the Rangers should be right in the thick of things next May.
Projection: 96 Points
Key Additions: Vincent Lecavalier, Mark Streit, Ray Emery
Key Departures: Ilya Bryzgalov, Daniel Briere
Don't Forget: 209 combined points in 2010-11 and 2011-12, third in the NHL
If the Philadelphia Flyers struggle in 2013-14, it won't be from lack of spending. Even with the offseason buyout of goalie Ilya Bryzgalov and Daniel Briere, the Flyers are still a little over the salary cap limit.
Given Claude Giroux's new contract, which will start carrying a cap hit of $8.275 million per season starting in 2014-15, there's not much cap relief in sight. Along with Vincent Lecavalier, a 33-year-old free agent signed to a five-year contract this offseason, the Flyers have five forwards carrying cap hits of at least $3.5 million through the end of the 2017-18 season.
The investment in their blue line is even greater. With a cap hit of $3.5 million per season, Nicklas Grossmann is actually the lowest-paid of their six defensemen, a position in which crazy injuries somehow resulted in their using 13 different players in the 48-game 2013 NHL season.
The Flyers are clearly not a team that's afraid to make considerable offers for the right players, nor to reload quickly if things don't work out. Assuming their bargain-priced tandem of Ray Emery and Steve Mason hold up in net, expect Philadelphia's huge investments to work out (this year, at least).
Los Angeles Kings
Projection: 96 Points
Key Additions: Cosmetic changes only, like John Mitchell, Matt Frattin and Ben Scrivens
Key Departures: Jonathan Bernier, Rob Scuderi, Dustin Penner
Don't Forget: Stanley Cup champions in 2012, final four in 2013
Los Angeles, one of the league's best puck possession teams, finally had their postseason potential unleashed by head coach Darryl Sutter late in the 2011-12 season after two prior seasons that averaged around 100 points. Yet the team still doesn't get the same credit as Pittsburgh, Boston and Chicago as one of the NHL's strongest teams and top Cup contenders.
The Kings have everything they need for another Stanley Cup. They have 2012 Vezina runner-up Jonathan Quick in nets, one of the best defensive blue lines in the NHL led by superstar Drew Doughty, and one of the league's best top six up front led by Anze Kopitar.
Add it up, and Los Angeles is as safe a pick as Chicago (or any other team) to finish atop the Western Conference this year.
Projection: 95 Points
Key Additions: Daniel Briere
Key Departures: Michael Ryder, Tomas Kaberle
Don't Forget: Montreal finished fourth in the NHL last year
What if Carey Price bounces back this season, potentially all the way to Vezina form?
What if Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban puts up a repeat performance, potentially alongside another full season from Andrei Markov?
What if Alexander Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher continue to break out this season?
What if Michel Therrien truly possesses the key to unlocking Montreal's considerable potential?
Answer: the Montreal Canadiens will be a powerhouse and (dare to dream) threaten to hoist Stanley Cup No. 26.
Projection: 95 Points
Key Additions: Rob Scuderi, Jussi Jokinen
Key Departures: Matt Cooke and last year's trade deadline acquisitions Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow
Don't Forget: They won the Eastern Conference despite Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang missing a combined 42 games
Should the Penguins finish with just 95 points, it will actually be their lowest finish since Sidney Crosby's rookie 2005-06 season (other than the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign, of course). Indeed, if the Penguins get full seasons out of Crosby, Malkin and Letang, they'll almost certainly contend for the President's Trophy.
Unfortunately Pittsburgh is hardly a powerhouse when those superstars are out of action. Forwards like James Neal, Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis are far more mediocre in their absence. Their goaltending tandem of Marc-Andre Fleury and Tomas Vokoun is merely adequate, their blue line lacks depth, and they lack the cap space to do anything about either situation.
There's no question that Pittsburgh is one of the NHL's most dominant forces when their lineup is fully intact. Since that's not usually the case, they're more likely to be merely one of many strong contenders.
St. Louis Blues
Projection: 94 Points
Key Additions: Jay Bouwmeester, Derek Roy, Maxim Lapierre, Magnus Paajarvi
Key Departures: Andy McDonald, David Perron, Kris Russell
Don't Forget: St. Louis tied for second overall in 2011-12
Fans of the St. Louis Blues have been waiting three seasons now for their expected postseason breakout, and may very well have enjoyed it last year if not for the misfortune of facing Los Angeles in the opening round.
When their goaltending is on, the Blues truly have it all. At the disposal of one of the league's best coaches is the NHL's best collection of young, fast, versatile two-way forwards. Their blue line is anchored by Alex Pietrangelo, who will be a legitimate Norris contender after a full season alongside Jay Bouwmeester.
The Blues are one of the league's best puck possession teams and the only thing holding them back now is that uncertainty in net.
Projection: 94 Points
Key Additions: Loui Eriksson, Jarome Iginla
Key Departures: Tyler Seguin, Nathan Horton, Jaromir Jagr, Rich Peverley, Andrew Ference, Anton Khudobin
Don't Forget: Swept the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final with a defensive effort that completely shut down Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin
There's essentially no question that the Boston Bruins are the best defensive team in the league, having shut down Crosby and Malkin in last year's Eastern Conference Final.
Led by Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron, both arguably the best defensive players at their respective positions, and having sewn up an elite goalie (making Tuukka Rask the league's highest-paid netminder), there's potentially no NHL team the Bruins can't shut down.
The only concern in Beantown is with their offense. Having lost most of their power play, the pressure will really be on newcomers like Loui Eriksson and Jarome Iginla to fill that offensive void.
Assuming they can still score, the Bruins are otherwise the real deal, and could make the Stanley Cup Final for the third time in four seasons.
Projection: 93 Points
Key Additions: Err...Nikolai Khabibulin?
Key Departures: Viktor Stalberg, Michael Frolik and David Bolland
Don't Forget: A team so incredibly talented that losing just seven games in regulation time was too many for Joel Quenneville to win Coach of the Year
If it wasn't for the reality of the salary-cap era, the Chicago Blackhawks would most certainly be a dynasty. After their last Stanley Cup in 2010 they lost Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg and Antti Niemi, to name just a few. Once again, cap-space limitations meant losing their entire third line this past offseason.
Obviously the Chicago Blackhawks can't be expected to win 75% of their games again, nor stay on pace for 132 points. They had a lot of things break in their favor in 2013, finishing 8-3 in one-goal regulation time games, 11-5 in overtime and shootouts and missing only 98 games to injury—in contrast, Florida lost 325.
Corey Crawford and Ray Emery also had career seasons, something that isn't likely to be reproduced in 2013-14, especially with 40-year-old Nikolai Khabibulin as Crawford's new backup.
Everybody will be keying in on Chicago this year, especially against their young secondary lines. Unless the bounces keep going their way in tight games, and they once again largely avoid any critical injuries, the odds are against the Blackhawks winning the President's Trophy again in 2014.
San Jose Sharks
Projection: 92 Points
Key Additions: Role players like Raffi Torres, Tyler Kennedy and Scott Hannan
Key Departures: Role players like T.J. Galiardi, Douglas Murray, Scott Gomez and Ryane Clowe
Don't Forget: No team has more points than San Jose over the past six seasons combined
The window may be closing on the San Jose Sharks, but they still remain one of the league's better teams. Their top defenseman Dan Boyle is 37, their top forwards Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are 34, and last year only four games were played by anyone younger than 24-year-old Logan Couture.
That being said, the Sharks were still a team with enough talent to finish with the seventh-fewest goals against, and also in the top seven in both power play and penalty killing percentage. They also had enough talent to sweep the Vancouver Canucks in the first round, and to push the Los Angeles Kings to a Game 7 decided by a single goal.
Pressed up against the cap ceiling with an aging roster, the San Jose Sharks are doing a great job staying competitive, and should continue to do so for at least another season.
Projection: 92 Points
Key Additions: Anton Khudobin in net, Ron Hainsey, Andrej Sekera and Mike Komisarek on defense
Key Departures: Jussi Jokinen, Joe Corvo, Jamie McBain, Dan Ellis
Don't Forget: Carolina outshot their opponents 1545-1538 last season
The Carolina Hurricanes boast one of the league's most underrated top lines in Eric Staal, Alexander Semin and Jiri Tlusty, as well as one of the most underrated checking lines in Jordan Staal, Jeff Skinner and Patrick Dwyer.
Unfortunately the Canes missed the postseason with an underachieving blue line and sub-standard goaltending. Both situations have been addressed this offseason with Anton Khudobin replacing Dan Ellis as Cam Ward's goaltending partner, and tight defensive veterans Ron Hainsey, Andrej Sekara and Mike Komisarek toughening up the blue line.
Some teams might start the season looking past the Carolina Hurricanes, but by midseason it should be obvious to everyone that they're capable of making a surprising return to the postseason mix.
Projection: 90 Points
Key Additions: Coach John Tortorella, a healthy Ryan Kesler
Key Departures: Coach Alain Vigneault, Cory Schneider, Mason Raymond, Derek Roy, Maxim Lapierre
Don't Forget: Back-to-back President's Trophies in 2010-11 and 2011-12
The Vancouver Canucks are a team on the decline. The Sedin twins are turning 33 on the 26th, they have no proven backup behind demoralized goalie Roberto Luongo and their blue line is basically just four men deep.
That's not to say that the fun is over in Vancouver, who posted back-to-back President's Trophy seasons going into last season. New coach John Tortorella could be just the man to get the most out of the still-competitive roster, perhaps by getting far more out of the secondary lines than Vigneault could last season.
Furthermore, the Canucks do have a little bit of cap space to work with, and are no doubt looking to impress the Sedins in their final contract year. There may be yet another deal in the works, one that pushes Vancouver back up into contention.
Projection: 88 Points
Key Additions: Kris Versteeg back from injury, rookie Aleksander Barkov
Key Departures: Jack Skille, T.J. Brennan, Filip Kuba, Jose Theodore, Stephen Weiss
Don't Forget: A young team, won its division in 2011-12
The Florida Panthers went from first in their division to worst, but should bounce back somewhere in-between in 2013-14.
Part of 2013's frustrations were from losing 325 man games to nine critical injuries, the most in the league, including their two top forwards Stephen Weiss and Kris Versteeg. Instead their offense relied on rookies, like Drew Shore and Rookie of the Year Jonathan Huberdeau. Not only will those two continue to develop, but with Aleksander Barkov the Calder Trophy may wind up staying in Florida.
Florida's bad luck didn't end at injuries, however. They scored on just 7.8% of their shots, and yet their opponents scored on 10.9%, resulting in the biggest gap in the league.
Upgrading their goaltending situation and staying healthy will go a long way towards them clawing their way back into postseason contention.
Projection: 87 Points
Key Additions: Devin Setoguchi, Matt Halischuk, Michael Frolik
Key Departures: Nik Antropov, Kyle Wellwood, Alexander Burmistrov, Ron Hainsey
Don't Forget: Posted best record since their only postseason appearance in franchise history (2006-07)
The Winnipeg Jets are a team on the rise, and will be looking for results this season. In Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom they have a great offensive one-two punch on the blue line, backed up by the defensive prowess of Zach Bogosian.
Their forward corps is composed of underrated players like Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little and Evander Kane, now joined by Devin Setoguchi, Michael Frolik and rookie Mark Scheifele.
If goalie Ondrej Pavelec can bring it all together by reaching his potential, the Winnipeg Jets have all the tools they need to make that final step into the postseason. But it won't be easy.
Projection: 87 Points
Key Additions: Mike Ribeiro, backup goalie Thomas Greiss
Key Departures: Raffi Torres, Boyd Gordon, backup goalies Chad Johnson and Jason LaBarbera
Don't Forget: Last season was the first time the Coyotes missed the postseason with coach Dave Tippett
Every year the Phoenix Coyotes defy the odds and make the postseason with a roster that's inferior to some that missed. Until last season, that is.
The Coyotes spent the offseason securing star goalie Mike Smith, and adding some legitimate offensive punch in playmaker Mike Ribeiro. The only truly significant loss is that of Boyd Gordon, who actually formed one of the league's best checking lines with David Moss and Rob Klinkhammer last season.
Still, Phoenix's reputation for employing predominantly defensively committed forwards is well-founded and should be able to cover that loss.
The Coyotes blue line also has some strength. They have a potential Norris Trophy contender in Oliver Ekman-Larsson, one of the game's better puck-movers in Keith Yandle, and defensive specialist Zbynek Michalek.
Despite these assets, the Coyotes only barely have the roster strength of a playoff caliber team, so it will once again come down to their true specialties: goaltending and overachievement.
Projection: 87 Points
Key Additions: Matt Cullen, Eric Nystrom, Viktor Stalberg, Filip Forsberg, Seth Jones
Key Departures: Martin Erat, Matt Halischuk, Jonathan Blum
Don't Forget: Nashville averaged over 100 points a season prior to 2013
The Nashville Predators are deeply committed to their team's success, regularly prepared to pay top dollar for the secondary players that they feel will best complement their team. This offseason was no exception, as they doled out $3 million for 36-year-old Matt Cullen, $10 million over four years for 30-year-old checking-line winger Eric Nystrom, and $28 million over seven years for top-four defenseman Roman Josi.
Obviously the stars of the team are elite goaltender Pekka Rinne and captain Shea Weber, who is arguably the game's best defenseman, and they are surrounded with four solid lines of gritty two-way forwards. Unfortunately they're a little too young and thin on the blue line and currently without a proven backup for Rinne.
While there's a general consensus that Nashville has officially fallen to bubble team status, management is clearly committed to doing whatever it takes to stop that bubble from being popped.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Projection: 85 Points
Key Additions: Marian Gaborik, Nathan Horton
Key Departures: Vinny Prospal, Derick Brassard
Don't Forget: Missed the postseason on a tiebreaker
In Marian Gaborik and Nathan Horton the Columbus Blue Jackets have added some serious firepower up front. They also re-signed last year's Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky to a two-year deal. The problem is unfortunately what's in between.
The Blue Jackets have potentially serious defensive deficiencies on the blue line. Fedor Tyutin is solid, Nikita Nikitin has been effective, but Jack Johnson, James Wisniewski and the handful of youngsters behind them have proven quite beatable.
Unless Bobrovsky puts up another Vezina season, last year's near miss might be as close as they come to the postseason for at least one more season.
Projection: 82 Points
Key Additions: Jason Pominville, Matt Cooke, Jonathan Blum, Nino Niederreiter
Key Departures: Devin Setoguchi, Matt Cullen, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Tom Gilbert, Cal Clutterbuck
Don't Forget: Last year was their first postseason appearance in five years
The Minnesota Wild have subscribed big-time to the team model of securing as many elite players as they can, and filling the rest of their roster with lower-cost talent.
Their top defenseman Ryan Suter, for example, is paid more than their other six defenseman combined. Their top three forwards, Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley, make millions more than their other ten forwards (including Jason Pominville) combined.
While this approach does give them incredible top-line talent, it unfortunately also meant letting most of their quality secondary players leave during the offseason.
Whether or not their elite talent is enough and/or their new secondary talent can step up will determine if Minnesota will make the postseason again this year.
Projection: 81 Points
Key Additions: Mikhail Grabovski, Martin Erat
Key Departures: Mike Ribeiro, Wojtek Wolski
Don't Forget: They started last year 12-16-1
The Washington Capitals have won their division in five of the past six seasons, enjoy the services of last year's Hart Trophy winner Alexander Ovechkin, and had the NHL's best power play last season. Based on that, it's hard to imagine an 81-point season.
The truth is, the Capitals were not even close to postseason qualification until a late tear salvaged the season. They got hot at the right time, and went 14-2-2 down the stretch. Can they sustain that level of success over an 82-game season?
To continue their postseason tradition, Washington will have to get another fantastic season out of youngster Braden Holtby in nets, overcome a lack of blue-line depth and, above all else, score on almost 11% of their shots once again.
New York Islanders
Projection: 80 Points
Key Additions: Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Cal Clutterbuck, Peter Regin
Key Departures: Brad Boyes, Mark Streit, Keith Aucoin
Don't Forget: They suffered only a single key injury in 2013
The days of being in the draft lottery may be over, but the New York Islanders have another few steps to take before permanently establishing themselves as a legitimate playoff team.
The first step they've already taken by assembling a young, effective and versatile collection of forwards. The top line features Hart finalist John Tavares and underrated Matt Moulson; their second line of Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo and Joshua Bailey is one of the league's most underrated; and their three offseason value signings have given them the veteran depth they required.
The next two steps are a little harder. First, they need to build a blue line. At $1.5 million, Matt Carkner is actually their third-highest-paid defenseman. Next, they need to find a reliable backup for their 38-year-old starting goalie Evgeni Nabokov.
Until the Islanders take those last two steps, they will continue to rely on John Tavares and a complete absence of injuries in order to keep their noses above water.
Projection: 79 Points
Key Additions: Coach Patrick Roy, Joe Sakic, Alex Tanguay, Nathan MacKinnon, Cory Sarich, full season from Ryan O'Reilly
Key Departures: Chuck Kobasew, David Jones, Ryan O'Byrne, Shane O'Brien
Don't Forget: 26th in goals for, 27th in goals against, 29th overall in 2013
Colorado probably wasn't as bad as the standings made out last season, but it sure didn't hurt to get the first overall pick anyway, Nathan MacKinnon. Add it to their existing collection of talented young forwards, and the Avalanche could very well have the greatest depth of potential 20-goal scorers in the entire NHL.
Unfortunately Colorado's blue line could be one of the league's very worst! Erik Johnson can be solid, and re-signing Matt Hunwick was wise, but Jan Hejda gets consistently buried, and there's not much either their youngsters or newly acquired 35-year-old Cory Sarich will be able to do about it.
Semyon Varlamov and Jean-Sebastien Giguere would probably work as a serviceable goaltending tandem in front of almost any blue line in the league, but not this one. This team needs one more year.
Projection: 78 Points
Key Additions: Jakob Silfverberg, Dustin Penner
Key Departures: Bobby Ryan, Toni Lydman, Radek Dvorak, Mark Fistric
Don't Forget: 26th overall in 2011-12. Not a single key injury in 2013
How did the Anaheim Ducks go from one of the league's worst teams to third overall? Incredible coaching, a surprise Norris-contending season from Francois Beauchemin, arguably the league's best checking line (Saku Koivu, Daniel Winnik and Andrew Cogliano), which allowed their elite top line to return to form, and a complete absence of even a single key injury.
Everything may not fall together quite as nicely for Anaheim in 2013-14. Viktor Fasth may not post a .921 save percentage again, the team may not score on 10% of their shots, they may not go 7-2 in regulation one-goal games, and they may not make it through an entire season injury-free.
If one or more of those are the case they might fall almost all the way back to 2011-12's 26th-place finish.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Projection: 77 Points
Key Additions: Valtteri Filppula, Ben Bishop, Jonathan Drouin
Key Departures: Vincent Lecavalier, Benoit Pouliot, Cory Conacher
Don't Forget: They've made the postseason once in the past six seasons.
When looking only at their top players Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, Teddy Purcell, Victor Hedman and Matt Carle, it's hard to imagine Tampa Bay as a non-playoff team. But all you need to do is look beyond them.
Other than those five, the highest-scoring players to return this season are rookie Alex Killorn (19), 39-year-old defenseman Sami Salo (17), Tom Pyatt (16) and Nate Thompson (15). Teddy Purcell's 11 goals were actually third on the team. And in net they're relying on Ben Bishop and Anders Lindback, who have a combined 117 games of NHL experience.
Just like the similarly constructed 2011-12 Anaheim Ducks, Tampa Bay has strong top line talent, but not enough secondary talent.
Projection: 76 Points
Key Additions: GM Jim Nill, Coach Lindy Ruff, Tyler Seguin, Sergei Gonchar, Rich Peverley, Erik Cole, Shawn Horcoff
Key Departures: Jaromir Jagr, Loui Eriksson, Derek Roy, Brendan Morrow, Michael Ryder, Reilly Smith
Don't Forget: This is essentially a brand-new team.
The 2013-14 Dallas Stars are essentially a brand-new team, from top to bottom. Which is good, because last year's team wasn't very good. They were outshot by 223 shots, or over 4.6 shots per game. Even though they scored on 10% of their own shots, they were still outscored by 12 goals.
That's not to say that there aren't a lot of things to get excited about in Dallas. Jamie Benn is one of the league's best-kept secrets, and Stephane Robidas is one of the most underrated defensemen since the 2005 lockout. Last year he played with Brendan Dillon, one of last year's Calder voting oversights.
Valeri Nichushkin could have the same kind of rookie impact in 2013-14.
It will nevertheless be an uphill climb for new GM Jim Nill, coach Lindy Ruff and the all-new Dallas Stars. Their success will depend on how quickly their new team can jell.
Projection: 73 Points
Key Additions: David Perron, Andrew Ference, Boyd Gordon, Jason Labarbera
Key Departures: Magnus Paajarvi, Ryan Whitney, Shawn Horcoff, Mark Fistric, Lennart Petrell, Nikolai Khabibulin
Don't Forget: They WILL break out sooner or later
With Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Nail Yakupov and Justin Schultz (just to name a few), the Edmonton Oilers will break out. Especially with underrated Devan Dubnyk in net. It is inevitable, and could even be this season.
Working against them has always been their weak secondary lines, which will hopefully be improved with the addition of Boyd Gordon. Still outstanding is the problem of defense, which probably won't be appreciably improved by adding 34-year-old Andrew Ference, nor the return of Denis Grebeshkov from the KHL.
All that being said, eventually their incredibly talented forwards will become so potent that it will overcome both deficiencies, propel the Oilers into the postseason, and possibly to a Stanley Cup some day within a couple of years. But probably not for one more season.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Projection: 73 Points
Key Additions: David Clarkson, David Bolland, Jonathan Bernier, Mason Raymond, and a healthy Joffrey Lupul
Key Departures: Clarke MacArthur, Mikhail Grabovski, Cody Franson, Matt Frattin, Leo Komarov, Ben Scrivens
Don't Forget: They were outshot by 5.8 shots per game in 2013
The Toronto Maple Leafs were the luckiest team in the NHL in 2013. There, it's been said.
They were outshot 1543 to 1264 but still made the playoffs because they scored on 11.5% of their shots, while their opponents scored on just 7.9% of theirs. That's actually the largest gap in recent NHL history, gaps that very rarely last 82 games, nor persist from one season to the next.
Getting massively outshot and playing in their own zone 32% more often than in the opposing zone are not recipes for consistent success. Buying out skilled, possession-based players like Mikhail Grabovski while signing physical players like David Clarkson or those riding hot percentages like Tyler Bozak to long-term pricey deals is no way to improve the situation.
There is no better example of the clash between traditional hockey analysis and statistical hockey analysis than the Toronto Maple Leafs. Where the Leafs finish the season will go a long way to indicating which approach is being undervalued.
Projection: 72 Points
Key Additions: Jamie McBain, Henrik Tallinder, a healthy Ville Leino
Key Departures: Jason Pominville, Andrej Sekera, Jochen Hecht, Adam Pardy, Nathan Gerbe, Jordan Leopold
Don't Forget: Outshot by the third widest margin in 2013. Tyler Ennis' ten goals were third on the team.
The Buffalo Sabres took some chances with some big contracts, they didn't work out, and now they are embracing a full-on rebuild. Virtually any player with any trade value whatsoever has been shipped off, and any unrestricted free agent that won't be of service to the team in a few seasons was let go.
The result is a team devoid of any real offensive threat, at least beyond Tomas Vanek and whoever earns the privilege of playing alongside him. Defensively they're without any particularly strong shutdown players either.
In the end they have the type of lineup that's going to leave fans constantly looking down at their programs (and away from the scoreboard).
Projection: 71 Points
Key Additions: Brian Burke, Kris Russell, T.J. Galiardi, David Jones, Shane O'Brien
Key Departures: Jarome Iginla, Jay Bouwmeester, Miikka Kiprusoff, Alex Tanguay, Roman Cervenka, Blake Comeau
Don't Forget: Have advanced beyond the first round only once since their 1989 Stanley Cup
After years of struggling to remain competitive, the Calgary Flames have finally embraced the rebuild. That being said, they've already done much to replenish their pool of prospects from among the worst in the league to easily one of the top ten.
Though without a goalie or any real star power up front, the Calgary Flames still have quite a few players to watch. New captain Mark Giordano is finally getting a trial as a No. 1 defenseman, and T.J. Brodie a well-earned shot as a top-four blue liner.
Up front Mikael Backlund and Sven Baertschi may both have opportunities for breakout seasons. Also, Lee Stempniak is one of the league's most underrated players, and actually led the team with 113 shots last season.
However, the most exciting day in Calgary this season might be next year's entry draft.
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