A few weeks ago, we introduced SB Nation’s network-wide FanPulse project, which seeks the opinions of the most knowledgeable sports fans on a variety of topics throughout the season (if you didn’t sign up then, you still can now).
The first two questions posed to new members of the program dealt with the 2020 post-season. Fans of all NHL teams were asked how they saw the standings changing from a season ago when the St. Louis Blues went all the way to a Stanley Cup.
The first asked you which two teams that finished outside of the playoff picture last spring will make it to the post-season at the end of the current campaign. With respondents choosing two teams each, these were the most common selections:
Finishing just two points out of the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference last year, the Montreal Canadiens were found on one of every five ballots as a significant portion of the NHL fanbase thinks the team is one of the more likely to keep playing beyond April 4, 2020.
There’s a general opinion that the Atlantic Division got stronger in the off-season, with three of the top five vote-getters coming from the Canadiens’ section. It’s virtually a dead heat with the Florida Panthers, while an incredible start from the Buffalo Sabres that has them in first place in the NHL also sees them as one of the top two choices to make the playoffs, which the franchise hasn’t achieved since 2011.
The most faith/hope is for the Edmonton Oilers, who play in what is a weakening Pacific Division, and saw significant off-season changes among the off-ice personnel. They’re sitting at the top of the division, and not far off the league lead, so perhaps Connor McDavid’s team is finally beginning to put things together — or maybe it’s all just about McDavid himself.
On the flipside, you were also asked which two teams who made the 2019 post-season will miss out in 2020. These are the teams many think are on the downslope:
Not surprisingly, the Columbus Blue Jackets, who went all-in for a post-season run then lost their deadline acquisitions and some of their top stars to free agency this summer, were the most common choice, tagged by three of every five fans as a team who won’t replicate last season’s performance. Many of those people would perhaps be surprised to see Columbus just two points out of a wild-card position, but the general view is that that position won’t hold.
Over a third of ballots featured the New York Islanders, which may be a bit of a shock for a team that swept the Pittsburgh Penguins on their way to the second round (before getting swept in turn by the Carolina Hurricanes). The loss of Robin Lehner, last year’s Masterton Trophy-winner and third-place finisher in Vezina Trophy voting, likely played a big role in that, but Semyon Varlamov and Thomas Greiss have been making a very effective tandem so far.
As for the Western Conference teams, the Winnipeg Jets, Dallas Stars, and San Jose Sharks are all outside of post-season positions, so it’s possible these early-season predictions will come to pass in the end.
A new poll will be heading to members who have signed up to be part of the FanPulse project soon. If you are already signed up, look for that in your email. If you haven’t yet joined, you can do so right here.