The first polls conducted for SB Nation’s network-wide FanPulse project (which you can still sign up for) was a question about the changes we would see in the post-season teams from last year to this.
Initial results (which you can see as the second image in the galleries below) had the Edmonton Oilers as the favourite from last year’s draft lottery participants to make the playoffs, with three Atlantic Division teams, including the Montreal Canadiens, also pegged as good options.
Things have changed since those early results, and two eight-game losing streaks have significantly reduced fans’ confidence in the Canadiens to make it. When the initial results were published on October 30, over 20% of respondents had Montreal as one of the five most likely newcomers this April. With the team now 13th in the Eastern Conference, only about 4% of panellists see Montreal as a top option to make it.
The Arizona Coyotes have had a major turnaround in their season, getting rewarded for their strong play and now right in the thick of a tightly contested Pacific Division battle. Three of the top five teams in this week’s results are involved in that fight.
It’s going to be hard for all of them to make it, and right now the most faith is in the team that vaulted into first place in the section last night, now three points up on the sixth-place Vegas Golden Knights.
On the flipside, there was a question about which of the 16 teams that made it in 2019 wouldn’t be back for 2020. At the end of October, the Columbus Blue Jackets were the runaway favourites to get an early start on the golf season, but now people aren’t so sure. The team is knocking on the door of a wild-card spot, surprising given how much talent left the team in the off-season. As expected, they’re not scoring many goals, but the defence has been strong enough to compensate.
The main disappointment is now the San Jose Sharks, There was some hope that the big-name players on the roster could get things turned around, but it’s becoming apparent that the aging team isn’t going to march up the leaderboard. Nearly two-thirds of voters had them on their list of teams who won’t have repeat playoff appearances.
Just 3% of those polled had the Nashville Predators missing out two-and-a-half months ago. Now that number has crept up to nearly 50%. They’re still the best Central Division team in the wild-card race, positioned to pounce when divisional matchups begin to separate the clubs in the Pacific. Even then, there’s a feeling that their run of post-season appearances could be about to end at five.
If you would like to have your voice heard in polls like this in the future, be sure to sign up for NHL FanPulse, with new questions sent out to participants every few weeks on various topics.