The most interesting race this year in the western conference will likely happen at the bottom of the standings. While the East has gone all guns blazing this year with an all-out brawl involving all 15 teams, in the West there are five teams that aren’t really looking at the playoffs. That’s despite a weaker competition than in the East to get in the playoffs. With no cut-throat competition at the top, the Tank Wars is on for the next wonder kid.
Once again, the Kings of tanking will be hard to dethrone as they have succeeded once again at building a most awful. They have been awarded the medal for both the worse offense and defense (on paper!). The Wild have not been able to gut their roster as much as LA, partly due to signing decent UFAs, but are still in the running for best draft lottery odds. The other teams bound to miss the playoffs are the Stars, the Oilers and the Canucks, although none are zen enough to suck as much as the Yoga master and run for best of the worse.
With so much tank action going on, this means eight out of the ten other teams will in all likeliness get some post-season action. The best team in the league on paper, the Avs, should finish either first or fourth, and that’s only because the Flames could beat them out for the first place in their division. These teams being virtually assured of making the playoffs, the other eight teams should fight for their division titles.
While the best two teams in the West should be from the Northwest division, the Central division will be the toughest. The Hawks are starting their uptrend which means that all five teams will duke it out for the division and a playoffs spot. With no bottom feeder in the division compared to the Pacific or Northwest, the points will be harder to pick-up in that division.
All that being said, here is the evaluation of the teams in the West, divided into different categories with a ranking depending on team performance.
Each category was assessed through analytics. The high/mean/low rankings were done using a normal distribution curve with the high and low reflecting a difference of one standard deviation.
The Avs get the best overall ratings in the league and their only competition will be the Flames. Then the Ducks, Sharks, Predators, Wings, Blues, Hawks, Blue Jackets and Coyotes will play for the remaining playoff spots in the West.
Considering that the Coyotes will play more games against the Stars and the Kings than the teams in the Central division, it would not be surprising to see them over perform in the standings and finish 6th or higher.
In the Central, everything’s up for grabs as all teams are within half a standard deviation variation. Those teams will have to fight tooth and nails if they don’t want to be falling behind and missing the playoffs. On the other hand, should two teams in the Pacific falter amongst the Ducks, Sharks and Coyotes, then it’s possible that all five teams in the Central make the playoffs.
While there will be action to make the cut in the Central and the Pacific, the race that should get plenty of attention is a five horse one that will conclude at the draft lottery. Not as exciting as the race in the East, but more rewarding for those involved when they get to the draft table.