It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Leaves are changing, fall is here, and the puck drops tonight; officially ending the longest offseason in sports. It’s time for our 2019-20 season predictions.
Before we get to our predictions, we’d first like to tell you about the future of HFFA, and some things that are coming down the road. Every team will have an equal number of articles on the site before the playoffs, and our database will be extended from 2014-2019 to 2008-2019 during that time span as well. As a result of this data, we will be looking at events in hockey retrospectively, such as contract results, trades, and the monetary structure of the league over the past decade. This won’t divert from discussing events in today’s leagues they happen; however, we feel as if the new data we have will provide an interesting perspective on past events. Over this course, we will also attempt to solve various problems with our methodology and answer some questions we’ve had since the inception of this website. These include the effect coaching has on players’ AB scores and determining the true value of a replacement player. Also, we are introducing a new statistic called the Career AB score, where we find every player’s average AB score for their career. We hope that this new data will provide you with interesting content and will help us be more knowledgeable about the landscape of this league that we all know and love.
Now that all the housekeeping is out of the way, let’s get down to business. This offseason, we kept track of all moves made and determined how many AB points a team went up or down. This article will discuss our thoughts on our projected playoff teams offseasons as well, then list the remaining teams in order of finish following the 8 playoff teams of each conference.
Calgary Flames (1st in Pacific, 1st in West)
Calgary didn’t have the greatest offseason. Trading James Neal (-1.58) for Milan Lucic (-5.18) may have saved them a couple bucks, however, we are believers that the change of scenery for James Neal will be exactly what he needs to return to the James Neal we are all used too. Playing with Connor McDavid will certainly help with that. According to our offseason tracker, Calgary actually dropped 11 points (Zach Rinaldo and Alan Quine combined=-11 pts); however, neither of these players actually made the opening day roster according to Cap Friendly Depth Charts. They signed Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Bennett to team-friendly deals which were the hardest challenge for Brad Treliving this offseason. The Flames cup window is still open, and we believe that they will make a run in the playoffs this year.
St. Louis Blues (1st in Central, 2nd in West)
The defending Stanley Cup Champions went down by only a point this offseason, and with the exception of Patrick Maroon leaving for Tampa Bay, this is essentially the same team just with Justin Faulk instead of Joel Edmundson (which is an improvement of 5pts to the defense.) Doug Armstrong did a great job of extending the role players in the offseason (Sammy Blais, Oskar Sundqvist, Zach Sanford, Ivan Barbashev) and we think the defending champions have what it takes to repeat. However, if Jordan Binnington regresses and isn’t the elite goalie he was from January to June last season, they may not go as far as we think.
Las Vegas Golden Knights (2nd in Pacific, 3rd in West)
Despite losing Colin Miller, and PE Bellemare, we believe Vegas actually improved the roster this offseason. The emergence of Mark Stone as a bonafide superstar is what makes this team so intriguing to us. Mark Stone has one of the highest AB scores in hockey with a +6.08 and led the league with 122 takeaways last season. We believe he is only continuing to get better and are expecting even bigger things from him this season. We are also expecting a bounce-back year from Max Pacioretty, who had a few good nights of pre-season. As long as the goaltending is solid and this team stays healthy, they could be fighting for the Pacific Division title again and will be a tough out in the playoffs (as they’ve been for their entire existence.)
Colorado Avalanche (2rd in Central, 4th in West)
Colorado had a tremendous offseason and shot up 36 points in AB by cutting some of their liabilities and by making smart trades all summer. Joonas Donskoi is the most underrated deal of the summer, but he has a +4.48 AB score and will have the chance to play with some talented players. The Central Division is going to be very close, and we believe the trade deadline will make the most impact on who wins this division. The young defense the Avalanche have assembled made Tyson Barrie expendable. Nazem Kadri is going to put up serious points and be the veteran leader that young team needs. If Grubauer can be the true #1 goalie there this year, expect Colorado to have a big season.
Nashville Predators (3rd in Central, 5th in West)
Nashville had another extremely successful offseason according to our work. Every player David Poile moved or elected not to re-sign had a negative AB Score (Subban, Simmonds, Di Giuseppe, Boyle, Rinaldo, McLeod) and the only negative player he brought in (Steven Santini) didn’t crack the opening night roster. Matt Duchene was one of the best acquisitions of the summer (and they only had to pay him 500k more than Kevin Hayes lol). As long as this is a good Pekka Rinne year and Duchene fits with their current core, we see Nashville being very successful and competing for a division title with St. Louis and Colorado come playoff time.
San Jose Sharks (3rd in Pacific, 6th in West)
The cup window is closing in San Jose with its current core. They may have just re-signed Logan Couture and Timo Meier which will keep them in the hunt, however; the defense isn’t getting any younger. With $26.5 million tied up to paying Burns. Karlsson, and Vlasic until they’re 40 this team may be in a cap-crunch soon. We believe they still make it this year, but the way the young teams in the west keep getting better like Arizona, Vancouver, and Chicago, San Jose will have to do some serious work to stay competitive. We wouldn’t be completely shocked to see them fall out of a playoff spot this year either, but we think they’ll at least get a wild-card spot, for now, worst-case scenario.
Vancouver Canucks (4th in Pacific, 7th in West, 1st WC)
And here is the biggest surprise of our predictions so far. This team has tremendously improved since last season’s promising showing. Elias Petterson is the real deal, and GMJB even got Boeser to sign a team-friendly deal. Although Tyler Myers doesn’t have a positive AB score, he was 4 points better than Ben Hutton, who they elected not to re-sign. J.T Miller coming on to play with potential captain Bo Horvat (expected to be confirmed tonight), and Tanner Pearson makes for a perfectly serviceable 2nd line. The biggest story of the season will be Quinn Hughes. Hughes is without a doubt, an elite level talent who is ready to compete at hockey’s highest level. If he is serviceable and doesn’t have a drastically low score by the end of the year, there is no doubt in our minds that Vancouver is a playoff team.
Dallas Stars (4th in Central, 8th in West, 2nd WC)
Dallas had an outstanding offseason getting Corey Perry, Andrej Sekera, and Joe Pavelski, and certainly improved from last season. However, everyone else improved too and we think they are still on the lower end of the playoff teams. We think they will have a fine regular season, but we don’t see them making a run like they did last season. This team rides on Ben Bishop and if somehow, he got injured, we don’t think they stand a chance. However, the west is significantly weaker than the east in our opinion and the difference between the 8th and 9th place team here will be pretty significant.
- Winnipeg Jets
- Chicago Blackhawks
- Arizona Coyotes
- Minnesota Wild
- Edmonton Oilers
- Anaheim Ducks
- Los Angeles Kings
Tampa Bay Lightning (1st in Atlantic, 1st in East)
Surprise, Surprise. Tampa actually got worse this offseason due to trading J.T. Miller for cap concerns, losing Dan Girardi to retirement, and losing Anton Stralman to the Panthers. They brought in Patrick Maroon and Kevin Shattenkirk who are both significant downgrades from the players they had before. Signing Brayden Point to that team-friendly contract was a huge win for Breisbois and his group and they are still way ahead of the rest of the eastern conference in terms of team AB score. However, with Point sidelined until at least mid-November, we don’t expect the record-breaking season from last year to occur again. We could see them get off to a slow start in the earlier months of the season, then pick it up when it counts. We think this is the year that Tampa goes on their inevitable playoff run and makes it out of the first round at least.
Toronto Maple Leafs (2nd in Atlantic 2nd in East)
Speaking of a team that needs to make it out of the first round, the blue and white look primed to do just that. Kyle Dubas delivered on his “we can, and we will” promise, as William Nylander, Mitch Marner, and Auston Matthews are signed long term and are in the opening night lineup all-together this time. Despite the off-ice issues and the probability that he won’t be named captain tonight, we are expecting an MVP season out of Auston Matthews. We think John Tavares is capable of scoring 40 goals again, and we are expecting a bounce-back season from William Nylander. This team has tremendously improved on defense with Tyson Barrie and Cody Ceci (even though Ceci is not one of our favorites, we understand the cap situation the Leafs were in, and understand why this move had to be made) and with rookie Rasmus Sandin cracking the opening night lineup. This team has all the pieces to compete with the leagues best, and the training wheels are officially off. Expect a big season from the Leafs this year and expect them to reach the 2nd round of the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
Boston Bruins (3rd in Atlantic, 3rd in East)
The defending eastern conference champions essentially have the same team, with Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy returning on team-friendly deals. The Bruins have all the pieces to make another deep playoff run, as their big line of Marchand, Pasternak, and Bergeron has proven to be nearly unstoppable when it matters. The Top 3 teams in the Atlantic are the best 3 teams in the Eastern Conference in our opinion, and they could really end up in any order and we wouldn’t be surprised. It’ll be about the moves made at the trade deadline and the injuries that occur throughout the season that will impact our final decision on these teams come playoff time.
Carolina Hurricanes (1st in Metropolitan, 4th in East)
This team took the league by storm (see what we did there) last season and we expect them to be competitive again this season. Despite losing Justin Williams, a key leader on the team, they were able to get some solid pieces to join the club. These include Ryan Dzingel, Erik Haula, and Jake Gardiner. The real question with the Caniacs this year is goaltending. If Petr Mrazek can be a #1 goalie, this team will for sure win the division and go for another deep run this season. We still think they will make the playoffs if Mrazek is solid, however, the Metropolitan is going to be tight this year and every point will count.
Montreal Canadiens (4th in Atlantic, 5th in East, 1st WC)
We are extremely fascinated with what is going on in Montreal right now. The youth movement is in full swing, and their best prospect, Nick Suzuki had a very impressive preseason and will make the team out of camp. Cary Price is 100% healthy, and the Claude Julien changed his coaching style last season. The team plays a fast, entertaining brand of hockey and will be in every game. We see this team as a sure playoff team with the potential to make some noise.
Washington Capitals (2nd in Metropolitan, 6th in East)
Washington still has an interesting team, and they still have most of the pieces from their Stanley Cup team a few years ago. This team has depth, and we think that they have a chance to go for a deep playoff run again this year. Despite all the off-ice issues with Evgeny Kuznetsov, we expect him to have one of his best seasons as a professional and lead the Caps to another playoff berth, and potentially make a playoff run again.
Pittsburgh Penguins (3rd in Metropolitan, 7th in East)
This is the first time in a while that Pittsburgh will be a true fringe playoff team. After getting swept in the first round by the Islanders last season, they got rid of some players will very low AB scores and brought in some depth guys who are very underrated. Some criticize Jim Rutherford’s massive contract to Brandon Tanev, however, we believe he will be perfectly serviceable and will live up to the expectations. We believe the Pens made a great deal moving Oli Maata to Chicago, and Dominik Kahun had the 2nd best AB score on the Hawks last season. Perhaps Pittsburgh is still using a metric similar to ours after all. We expect the locker room chemistry to be better after they dealt Phil Kessel to Arizona. This team will win games, but Matt Murray needs to be strong in order for this team to go on a real run.
Florida Panthers (5th in Atlantic, 8th in the East, 2nd WC)
Sergei Bobrovsky is a game-changing talent. He is a goalie that makes every player on the team better than what they really are. We are going to see that in effect in Columbus this year. We believe Bobrovsky will increase everyone’s plus minus by at least +4 on his own, and the signing of Anton Stralman will certainly help a young defense learn from a seasoned veteran. Florida has a group of extremely talented forwards and Barkov is getting better and better every year. If Bobrovsky can adjust to his new home, we believe Florida can make some noise this season.
- New York Islanders
- New York Rangers
- New Jersey Devils
- Philadelphia Flyers
- Buffalo Sabres
- Columbus Blue Jackets
- Detroit Red Wings
- Ottawa Senators
We are excited about the future of this website and we hope you will continue your support. Much more to come, stay tuned.