2021/22 NHL Preview

Atlantic Division 

  1. Toronto Maple Leafs 110
  2. Tampa Bay Lightning 108
  3. Florida Panthers 104
  4. Boston Bruins 96 (Wild Card)
  5. Montreal Canadiens 90
  6. Detroit Red Wings 82
  7. Ottawa Senators 76
  8. Buffalo Sabres 64

The Toronto Maple Leafs are splashy with high-scoring stars that assure success in the regular season but come playoff time; they lack the toughness to make a big run; look for another disappointing spring after a strong winter for the Maple Leafs. The Tampa Bay Lightning know what it takes to win, but no team has won three straight Stanley Cups in nearly 40 years. They will be hard to beat, but the wear and tear will catch up this spring. The Florida Panthers are a team on the rise, but it is hard to see them making a big postseason run as long as they have to fight off the Lightning. The window is closing on the Boston Bruins, Tuukka Rask is unsigned, and there are more questions than ever, but a team that is willing to deal could make a run from the Wild Card. The Montreal Canadiens go only as far as Carey Price can take them. With their star goalie in the NHL Assistance program, they are a longshot for the postseason. The Detroit Red Wings are improving but at least two years away from being a playoff contender. The Ottawa Senators are spinning their wheels, while the Buffalo Sabres are a giant mess that would be better off starting over as an expansion team.

Metropolitan Division

  1. New York Islanders 108
  2. Washington Capitals 104
  3. Carolina Hurricanes 100
  4. New York Rangers 98 (Wild Card)
  5. Pittsburgh Penguins 94
  6. New Jersey Devils 88
  7. Philadelphia Flyers 86
  8. Columbus Blue Jackets 74

The New York Islanders have a tough start playing their first 14 games on the road before UBS Arena opens on November 20th. If the Islanders can thread water, they will be in a position to be among the top teams in the NHL after nearly beating the Lightning the last two seasons. The Washington Capitals still have that dynamic offense, but their ability to make a deep run will depend on their ability to keep the puck out of the net will determine if they can make a postseason run. The Carolina Hurricanes will miss Dougie Hamilton, but their offense should carry them back to the postseason. The New York Rangers have some good young players and Artem Panarin leading the offense; they should sneak into the postseason. The Pittsburgh Penguins looked old last season and start the season with Sidney Crosby recovering from wrist surgery; if they are to make the playoffs, they will need to get some young energy. The New Jersey Devils appear to be on the rise, with Jack Hughes growing into an NHL star, but are likely a year away from a return to the playoffs. The Philadelphia Flyers continue to be Helter Skelter; they can put it together some weeks and fall apart the next. With the division improving en masse, this means more frustration, as the Columbus Blue Jackets are starting from scratch. 

Central Division

  1. Colorado Avalanche 116
  2. Minnesota Wild 106
  3. Dallas Stars 102
  4. Winnipeg Jets 100 (Wild Card)
  5. Chicago Blackhawks 98 (Wild Card)
  6. St. Louis Blues 96
  7. Nashville Predators 86
  8. Arizona Coyotes 70

The Colorado Avalanche have the most talent in the NHL, but can they put it together to win the Stanley Cup. They have the President's Trophy and winning divisions figured out, but can they win when it matters? The Minnesota Wild became one of the more exciting teams in the NHL, with Kirill Kaprizov winning the Calder Trophy; expect more greatness as his energy lights up the State of Hockey. The Dallas Stars went to the Stanley Cup Final in the bubble in 2020 but had more COVID issues than any other team last season; expect them to bounce back and make noise in the playoffs. The Winnipeg Jets have made some upgrades on defense that should help Connor Hellebuyck take the Jets into the playoffs. The return of Jonathan Toews and the addition of Seth Jones and Marc-Andre Fleury should help the Chicago Blackhawks contend for the playoffs. The St. Louis Blues still have pieces of the 2019 Stanley Cup team, but their overall decline will have them on the wrong side of the playoff bubble. The Nashville Predators will struggle in a competitive division, after losing Pekka Rinne to retirement. Meanwhile, the Arizona Coyotes have been evicted from Glendale and look to roam the desert in despair. 

Pacific Division

  1. Vegas Golden Knights 106
  2. Edmonton Oilers 102
  3. Calgary Flames 94
  4. Vancouver Canucks 92
  5. Los Angeles Kings 90
  6. Seattle Kraken 86
  7. Anaheim Ducks 82
  8. San Jose Sharks 80

The Vegas Golden Knights moved on from Marc-Andre Fleury but remain a powerhouse in the West. The Edmonton Oilers have some of the best offensive players in the NHL, led by Connor McDavid, but their defensive woes will keep them from reaching the next level. The Pacific Division is the weakest in the NHL, with a jumble likely for the third playoff spot, with the Central likely to get both Wild Card spots. Expect the Calgary Flames to get that spot with  Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk leading the way. The Vancouver Canucks, have a few good players but lack the depth of a playoff team. The Los Angeles Kings can make a run if everything goes right but rarely does everything break right. The NHL has come to Seattle, but the Kraken will not repeat the success of Vegas, as they fall short of the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks are a shell of their former selves and will miss the postseason again. 

Playoffs

First Round

Bruins over Maple Leafs in 7
Islanders over Rangers in 6
Hurricanes over Capitals in 6
Panthers over Lightning in 7

Avalanche over Blackhawks in 6
Golden Knights over Jets in 5
Wild over Stars in 7
Oilers over Flames in 6

Second Round

Islanders over Hurricanes in 6
Bruins over Panthers in 6

Avalanche over Wild in 5
Golden Knights over Oilers in 4

Conference Finals
Islanders over Bruins in 6
Avalanche over Golden Knights in 7

Stanley Cup
Avalanche over Islanders in 7 
Conn Smyth Trophy Winner: Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche

Awards

  • Jack Adams Award Winner (Best Coach): Gerard Gallant, Rangers
  • Art Ross Trophy (Leading Scorer): Connor McDavid, Oilers
  • Calder Trophy Winner (Best Rookie): Trevor Zegras, Ducks
  • Selke Trophy Winner (Defenisve Forward): Aleksander Barkov, Panthers 
  • Norris Trophy Winner (Best Defenseman): Cale Makar, Avalanche
  • Vezina Trophy Winner (Best Goalie): Andrei Vasilevskiy, Lightning 
  • Hart Trophy Winner (MVP): Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs