Here is how I see standings for the 2021-22 NHL season, which began Tuesday night.
1. Colorado Avalanche (110.2 points)
They’re the class of the league and the favorites to win the Stanley Cup, but they still have to prove themselves in the playoffs.
2. Vegas Golden Knights (104.3 points)
Vegas used Marc-Andre Fleury as a crutch last season, but they’re still the class of the Pacific Division for now.
3. Tampa Bay Lightning (104.1 points)
Tampa Bay’s quest for a three-peat begins, but the Lightning are not as deep. Still, if any team can do it, the Lightning can.
4. Toronto Maple Leafs (103.1 points)
The Maple Leafs are a very good team, and they might even win the division. But the playoffs are a different story.
5. Boston Bruins (100.5 points)
Will Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman thrive in place of Tuukka Rask? Maybe. Maybe not. This point total is neither the ceiling nor the floor.
6. Florida Panthers (100.5 points)
Chris Driedger’s play in goal was a big part of the Panthers’ success last season, and it will be up to 20-year-old Spencer Knight to fill the void now that he’s gone. Sergei Bobrovsky is not a good bet to rebound.
7. New York Islanders (99.6 points)
The window is still wide open for the Islanders to achieve their ultimate goal, and they have the goaltending and the personnel to do it. But it’s not going to be easy.
8. Edmonton Oilers (98.3 points)
Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl will probably lead the league in scoring, but can they get it done in the playoffs? The answer is probably yes. Whether the goaltending and defense can keep up is the big question.
9. Carolina Hurricanes (98.2 points)
This is a different team without Dougie Hamilton with some big question marks in goal after making wholesale changes at the position. But the talent is still there to compete for a division title and a Stanley Cup.
10. Dallas Stars (96.5 points)
The Stars faded somewhat into obscurity after coming within a couple of wins of the Stanley Cup, but their top guns are healthy now. Braden Holtby could cause problems, though.
11. Washington Capitals (96.2 points)
Same old team. The Capitals could take a step back this season, but I said that last season and they almost won the division.
12. Pittsburgh Penguins (95.3 points)
If Sidney Crosby doesn’t return soon, this projection could end up looking really bad as Evgeni Malkin is supposed to miss a few months recovering from offseason surgery.
13. Calgary Flames (95.3 points)
Let’s see what the Flames can do with Darryl Sutter at the helm for a full season. Look under the hood and you’ll see this is a pretty good team.
14. New York Rangers (95.2 points)
I fell out of love with the Rangers after some questionable changes were made to the roster. There’s still a lot to like about this team, though, starting with a very good goaltender and a scary offense.
15. Winnipeg Jets (95.1 points)
With an improved blue line and already great goaltending, the Jets are in good position to separate themselves from the crowd in the Central Division.
16. Minnesota Wild (94.9 points)
The Wild took a big step forward last season, but they were safe within the confines of the West Division. It doesn’t look like any of their high-profile prospects will make an impact anytime soon.
17. St. Louis Blues (94 points)
Adding Brandon Saad and Pavel Buchnevich should really help this team, but there’s still a lot of work to do.
18. Seattle Kraken (90.5 points)
The league’s newest team is in a weak division, so it’s allowed to have hope. But on paper, this is an average team at best.
19. Montreal Canadiens (90.3 points)
A lot has changed in Montreal, and the Canadiens are now on the outside of the playoff picture looking in.
20. Philadelphia Flyers (90.1 points)
Carter Hart will probably bounce back and provide the Flyers with better goaltending than he did last season, but this team is as mediocre as they come and doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt.
21. Chicago Blackhawks (89.3 points)
Marc-Andre Fleury and Kevin Lankinen are maybe the best goaltending tandem in the division, and the Blackhawks should rebound on offense. I’m not quite sure it will be enough to get them into the playoffs, though.
22. Vancouver Canucks (88.7 points)
The addition of Conor Garland is huge, and Jaroslav Halak is a big upgrade in goal over Braden Holtby. An elite forward group should remind everyone just how fun this team was a few seasons ago.
23. Nashville Predators (88.7 points)
This team had no business making the playoffs last season, but it did because of Juuse Saros. He’s a great goaltender, but getting this team over the hump will be very hard. Give him the Vezina Trophy immediately if he does it.
24. Los Angeles Kings (86.6 points)
Viktor Arvidsson and Phillip Danault are great additions to a roster that is budding with young talent. The core group still has some gas left in the tank as well. The Kings are a team to watch.
25. New Jersey Devils (86.2 points)
Dougie Hamilton is a huge piece added to the puzzle, but this is still a very young team with a long way to go. The Devils are getting too much love from the betting public.
26. San Jose Sharks (85.7 points)
The Sharks improved their goaltending, but this team is still trending downward.
27. Detroit Red Wings (81.4 points)
Detroit now has a starting goaltender in Alex Nedeljkovic, but the Red Wings lost arguably their best forward, Jakub Vrana, to injury. That probably will keep them from taking a big step forward.
28. Ottawa Senators (80 points)
This young team will offer value in the right situations, but goaltending and defense are probably going to be a huge problem once again.
29. Columbus Blue Jackets (77 points)
John Tortorella is out, and this team has a long road ahead if it wishes to get back to the playoffs.
30. Anaheim Ducks (75.6 points)
John Gibson hasn’t been good in two years, and it’s a lot harder to see him bouncing back now. The Ducks do have some promising young players, though, and there is potential for them to improve.
31. Arizona Coyotes (70.6 points)
Arizona is embracing the tank, and rightly so. This team doesn’t have a chance in the Central Division after tearing down its roster.
32. Buffalo Sabres (69 points)
The Coyotes might be eyeing last place, but the Sabres will have something to say about it. This team might end up being the worst in history.