Projecting the playoff race
Using GROSEK to project the post-deadline standings
With the trade deadline now in the rear-view, it is time to strap in for the final 20 games of the season. The questions is, what kind of ride are Sabres fans in for? With the Maple Leafs in sight, and the rest of the NHL now having their cards on the table, only 16 teams will have enough chips to earn their bid for the postseason. So who will hold ‘em and who will fold ‘em? Let’s again turn to GROSEK.
If you are not familiar with GROSEK, I first introduced it here. We also had quarter-season and mid-season updates to these projections as well. This final update as always includes all player acquistions, injuries, and the strength of each team’s remaining schedule.
BOLD - Divisonal Playoff Team
Italics - Wildcard Team
[Current division standings in brackets]
- Vegas Golden Knights, 102 pts. (Floor 101 - Ceiling 104) 
- Vancouver Canucks, 98 pts. (Floor 90 - Ceiling 100) 
- Edmonton Oilers, 93 pts. (Floor 82 - Ceiling 93) 
- Calgary Flames, 90 pts. (Floor 82 - Ceiling 90) 
- Arizona Coyotes, 89 pts. (Floor 88 - Ceiling 92) 
- Anaheim Ducks, 70 pts. (Floor 65 - Ceiling 70) 
- San Jose Sharks, 67 pts. (Floor 62 - Ceiling 70) 
- Los Angeles Kings, 66 pts. (Floor 63 - Ceiling 70) 
The weakest division in the NHL isn’t going to be one short of storylines. Vegas projects to win the Pacific despite firing their coach mid-season. Budding stars Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes should get their shot on the big stage. Edmonton has a low floor, but, as the lineup is currently constructed, Connor McDavid should be able to carry the team forward with the help of new linemates Tyler Ennis and Andreas Athanasiou. Calgary and Arizona will likely be in the wildcard race, and Anaheim, San Jose, and Los Angeles are all battling to stay out of the cellar.
- St. Louis Blues, 111 pts. (Floor 105 - Ceiling 116) 
- Colorado Avalanche, 107 pts. (Floor 97 - Ceiling 115) 
- Dallas Stars, 104 pts. (Floor 101 - Ceiling 107) 
- Nashville Predators, 94 pts. (Floor 91 - Ceiling 99) 
- Minnesota Wild, 91 pts. (Floor 89 - Ceiling 97) 
- Winnipeg Jets, 88 pts. (Floor 78 - Ceiling 91) 
- Chicago Blackhawks, 82 pts. (Floor 76 - Ceiling 84) 
St. Louis, Colorado, and Dallas should coast to divisional playoff spots. Nashville has been a disappointment all season, but has steadily crept back into a playoff position. Minnesota certainly isn’t the team expected to steal the last wildcard bid, however, their strong defense and more steady goaltending could vault them ahead of the inconsistent Winnipeg Jets. Chicago sold some pieces at the deadline and is expected to fall back in the standings.
- Boston Bruins, 118 pts. (Floor 109 - Ceiling 122) 
- Tampa Bay Lightning, 116 pts. (Floor 108 - Ceiling 120) 
- Toronto Maple Leafs, 99 pts. (Floor 91 - Ceiling 101) 
- Florida Panthers, 92 pts. (Floor 79 - Ceiling 92) 
- Montreal Canadiens, 90 pts. (Floor 87 - Ceiling 93) 
- Buffalo Sabres, 86 pts. (Floor 80 - Ceiling 88) 
- Ottawa Senators, 65 pts. (Floor 57 - Ceiling 63) 
- Detroit Red Wings, 36 pts. (Floor 34 - Ceiling 46) 
Boston and Tampa Bay are running away with the division as expected. Sorry Sabres fans, but it does not seem like the swap of Conor Sheary and Evan Rodrigues off the roster for Wayne Simmonds and Dominik Kahun will be enough to leapfrog Montreal and Florida, let alone Toronto. The Leafs are just too talented up front and the Sabres difficult remaining schedule should cool their hot play as of late. The quality Metropolitan division will likely claim both wildcard teams, and there is potential for Florida to drop off significantly, as the Vincent Trocheck trade seems to be a step back. Ottawa and Detroit will focus on shining their 7-irons for the next month.
- Washington Capitals, 112 pts. (Floor 109 - Ceiling 118) 
- Pittsburgh Penguins, 108 pts. (Floor 102 - Ceiling 110) 
- Philadelphia Flyers, 103 pts. (Floor 99 - Ceiling 105) 
- New York Islanders, 98 pts. (Floor 90 - Ceiling 101) 
- Carolina Hurricanes, 97 pts. (Floor 92 - Ceiling 98) 
- Columbus Blue Jackets, 94 pts. (Floor 90 - Ceiling 100) 
- New York Rangers, 87 pts. (Floor 83 - Ceiling 91) 
- New Jersey Devils, 79 pts. (Floor 71 - Ceiling 78) 
The Metropolitan division race should be the most fun to follow. Washington and Pittsburgh will battle it out for the top spot, while the Flyers, Islanders, Hurricanes, and Blue Jackets will jockey for what is likely three available playoff spots. The Rangers were on a promising run, but the injury to red-hot goaltender Igor Shesterkin is a setback. New Jersey will bring up the rear after selling some of their top assets.