We continue with our crystal ball predictions for the 2019-20 NHL predictions. This time around, we take a close look at the Western Conference, which produced last season’s Stanley Cup champions in the St. Louis Blues.
The Blues aren’t in the Top 3 favorites to even win their conference next season. At +700, there are three other teams who are more fancied than them in the Western Conference next season.
This is the current odds board for the 2019-20 NHL Western Conference winner. Odds were taken from Bet365 as of 6/28/19:
|Vegas Golden Knights||+350|
|San Jose Sharks||+650|
|St. Louis Blues||+700|
|Los Angeles Kings||+4000|
The Vegas Golden Knights finished third in the Pacific Division and 7th in the Western Conference with a 43-32-7 record last season. The Golden Knights faced the San Jose Sharks in round one of the playoffs. Vegas took a 3-1 series lead only to let the Sharks come from behind and steal it from them with the help of a bad call in the deciding Game 7 of the series. Jonathan Marchessault led the Golden Knights with 25 goals while William Karlsson had 24 goals during the season. Karlsson was the hottest free agent this summer but the Golden Knights kept him with an 8-year deal. However, because the Knights are strapped by the salary cap and have to shed some contracts to go under the cap. Their first move was to send Erik Haula to Carolina for a prospect. They are still $4.7M over the cap so expect more moves from Vegas.
The Colorado Avalanche finished 5th in the Central Division and 8th in the Western Conference team standings with their 38-30-14 record last season. The Avalanche made the playoffs and faced the Calgary Flames in round one of the postseason. They defeated the Flames in five games and went on to face the San Jose Sharks in the second round. Colorado lost in seven games to San Jose but despite that, the Avalanche’s series win over the Flames was their first since 2008. Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Mikko Rantanen are as good as any top line in the NHL while the defense led by Tyson Barrie and Sam Girard is definitely underrated.
The San Jose Sharks finished 2nd in the Pacific division and also 2nd in the Western Conference team standings during the 2018-19 NHL season. The Sharks got the benefit of a bad call that helped them win Game 7 against the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round of the playoffs. In the second round, San Jose went on to defeat the Colorado Avalanche in another seven-game series. The win put them through to the Conference Finals where they were eliminated by the eventual champions St. Louis Blues.
The St. Louis Blues were the story of the 2018-19 NHL season. They were at the bottom of the team standings on January 3, 2019, but they went 30-10-5 since then and finished the season with a 45-28-9 record, good for 3rd in the Central division and 5th in the Western Conference. In the postseason, they defeated the Winnipeg Jets, Dallas Stars, and San Jose Sharks to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals where they were NHL betting underdogs to the Boston Bruins. They ended up winning their first ever Stanley Cup by beating Boston in seven games.
There are a lot of things that can still happen when free agency starts on July 1. And the NHL is one of the most unpredictable leagues in pro sports. The previous season’s playoffs were a good example as all of the top seeds were knocked off in the first round, including the record-breaking Tampa Bay Lightning who won 128 regular season games. The St. Louis Blues who won the Stanley Cup last year, was the worst team in the league on January 3, 2019, but managed to rally to make it to the playoffs and then pulled off some big upsets to win their first ever title. But they aren’t even among the Top 3 to win their conference next season.
The Vegas Golden Knights have salary cap issues. The Avalanche look like a team on the rise but I’m not sure if they can really go all the way next season. San Jose showed grit and composure in the playoffs but struggled to advance in the first two rounds. I don’t think the Blues will repeat as champions. But as far as winning the West, which I think is a wide open race, I’ll go with the team who have been there before. Prediction: St. Louis Blues