2014-15 NHL Standings Projections

steve laidlaw




Rob takes his crack at the inexact science of projected standings.


Projecting the standings is the first step in preparing for a fantasy draft, but it’s the hardest thing to do. With injuries, roster changes, coaching decisions, rising rooking, declining veterans, and whole lot of puck luck, anything you read in early October is bound to be out of date by November.


Last year, for example, I tracked the predictions of 26 experts of all different types, from well-established mainstream journalists to trusted bloggers, and from those who don’t use stats at all to some of the leading names in the field. The results? As I summarized in Hockey Abstract 2014, "As a group, we "experts" haven’t figured out how to project the standings. At various points in the season, not a single set of projections was more accurate than simply using last year’s standings. In the end, half of the analysts beat last year’s standings, but negligibly in all but three cases (The Hockey News, Chris Morgan, and NBC‘s James Neveau)."


Even though predicting the standings is admittedly a near-futile exercise, I’m going to summarize the popular expert opinion for each division, and then weigh in with my own convictions. My own opinion is based on an interpretation of the team’s player usage chart, and an analytic study of over a dozen factors, including possession, shootout, goaltending, power play, penalty kill, the scoring line, the shutdown line, the forward depth, the top pairing, the second pairing, defensive depth, coaching, and NHL-ready prospects.


As for the popular opinion, I’ve only found 12 experts that have posted their 2014-15 predictions so far, including the Hockey News, the Hockey Forecaster, the official NHL yearbook, Sportsnet, McKeen’s magazine, and several others. Nevertheless, some patterns are already becoming obvious, and very reasonable ones at that.


Don’t look for a definitive ranking, but rather an approximate view of where each team ranks. Almost half of the NHL teams have at least one expert predicting the division crown, for example, and about the same number have at least one expert calling for a last-place finish. One team actually falls into both categories, the Washington Capitals!


Overall, there’s no team that’s an absolutely consensus pick for a particular position in the standings, and there are only three that are within two positions –  Boston and Anaheim are expected to finish top two in its divisions, and Winnipeg bottom two in the Central. The other 27 teams have spreads of at least three positions in the standings.


Despite how wide these ranges are, we can actually expect 8 of the 30 teams to fall outside them. Quoting again from last year’s study: "Even with a group this size, there were quite a few teams that everybody got wrong. For instance, nobody had Colorado or Anaheim as high as 1st, Tampa Bay 2nd, or even Calgary 6th. Similarly, nobody predicted Chicago or Los Angeles as low as 3rd, nor the Oilers 7th and the Islanders 8th. That’s 8 of 30 teams finishing outside the range defined by 26 experts."