The NHL has an 82-game regular season but it can feel like an 820-game slog. There's no point in overreacting to anything that happens in the first month. Heck, you can probably even extend that notion to two months.
Think about last season, when the Anaheim Ducks won their division despite registering one victory in October and the Montreal Canadiens were out of playoff contention long before mid-April after staring the season 9-0-0 and 18-4-2. Over the course of six months, the breaks balance out, talent rises to the top and unexpected injuries can change a team's fortunes, so there's no point in abandoning any preseason predictions less than two weeks into the season.
The following are seven predictions I am now abandoning less than two weeks into the season.
The prediction: The Los Angeles Kings are winning the Pacific Division.
Why the change: Jonathan Quick is not the best goaltender in the NHL, despite what people on your TV may say any time they mention his name. The dropoff between the true best goaltenders—Carey Price, Braden Holtby, Henrik Lundqvist—and Quick is massive, but so is the dropoff between Quick and Jeff Zatkoff. Now that Zatkoff is hurt, the Kings are down Peter Budaj and a garbage can draped with a Kelly Hrudey jersey.
Quick out three to four months shouldn't be a season killer because the Pacific Division isn't very strong but it's going to be nearly impossible to compete with the San Jose Sharks when all you have is sub-par goaltenders. The Kings are still an elite possession team—Puck On Net has them listed as third (56.6 percent) in score-adjusted Fenwick as of Monday—so as long as Darryl Sutter drops the Hrudey garbage can in the crease, the Kings should still be a playoff team.
The prediction: The Edmonton Oilers are missing the postseason.
Why the change: It's partly to do with the Kings being weakened in an already weak division but I'm ready to say it after five games—I'm sold! They're a little bit above 50 percent in SAF (small sample size, sure) and they have Connor McDavid. And I know a bunch of players were mad when McDavid capitulated to coach Todd McLellan and agreed to practicing on a CBA-mandated off day but I think that could be the thing that rallies the group.
Plus, the defense is a little better. The forwards were always good. They get to play Calgary and Arizona a bunch. The stars were always potentially aligning for a team to come from nowhere to grab the third spot in this division and that nowhere is Edmonton. Wait, that's not what I mean. I'm not saying Edmonton is nowhere. I mean, in terms of relevance in the NHL. I'm sure Alberta is wonderful country. Please don't email me about this.
The prediction: Sidney Crosby will win the Hart Trophy.
Why the change: This one is obvious. One day after I settled on predictions, it was announced that he had another concussion. Is he talented enough to come back, have 85 points in 60 games and win the award? You betcha. Am I going to bet on that? Obviously not. This is one of the things I'm flipping on.
Once again, this is tied to the previous prediction flip-flop, as this is going to McDavid. He's off to an incredibly nice start after six games with nine points and if the Oilers make the playoffs, McDavid is running away with the Hart. He's on pace for about 55 goals and 123 points, so the Oilers can just come close to the postseason and he's going to get it.
The prediction: Willie Desjardins will be the first coach fired this season.
Why the change: The dumb Canucks are still not very good but starting 4-0-0 buys anyone time. Yes, they've lost two straight since that start, but one was in a shootout and in the NHL, if you can scrounge points while you're losing, you can survive for way longer than you should.
I'm changing my pick to Claude Julien. Why choose one of the best coaches in the NHL? The Bruins are just due to do something dumb managerially. They gave Brad Marchand an excellent long-term contract so firing Julien, something that feels more overdue than cancelling Big Bang Theory, has to be coming. GM Don Sweeney is probably waiting for the team's first three-game losing streak to fire Julien and install Cam Neely as head coach.
The prediction: The Chicago Blackhawks will reach the Stanley Cup Final.
Why the change: They have so many rookies that look like rookies (unlike Artemi Panarin last season, who was totally a rookie and deserved the Calder but come on he was old) and the back end looks dicey behind Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson. They're in the red in SAF and just don't look right.
Is it possible they'll figure all this out between now and April? Sure, but we're bailing on predictions here, not using intelligent thought to project into the future. What am I? A nerd calculator? So who will represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Final? Honestly, I have no idea. I just don't feel good about Chicago anymore. I'll say St. Louis. Nail Yakupov! This is a very pro-Oilers piece of content.
The prediction: The Winnipeg Jets will make the playoffs.
Why the change: They're getting demolished at 5-on-5 through six games and are last in the league in SAF at 43.3 percent. Their goaltending has been bad. Jacob Trouba doesn't want to play there anymore. Everyone in the division is a better team. Sometimes these explainers don't need a second paragraph.
The prediction: Shea Weber will reach between 55 and 60 points and the PHWA will give him the Norris Trophy because the Montreal Canadiens returned to the playoffs in the first year after the PK Subban trade.
Why the change: Because with five points in five games, that puts him on pace for 82 points, which means, much like Erik Karlsson, he's now too offensive to ever win an award meant for a rugged defenseman like Drew Doughty. Hopefully, GM Marc Bergevin can engineer a Weber-Doughty trade next summer.