By: Dylan Webb, Sports Editor
Hello readers of The Peak sports section,
My name is Dylan Webb and I’m this week’s host for the Peak Sports Mailbag. Our topic this week is NHL Hockey.
Thanks so much to all of our readers for submitting their NHL Hockey-related questions, and my apologies if your question didn’t make it into this week’s edition. Usually, the Mailbag host will only answer three or four questions. Don’t worry though, as all questions submitted count for an entry into the raffle draw whether or not they are addressed in the Mailbag. Now, onto the questions!
Question 1: If you had to make a prediction, what do you think the NHL playoff bracket will look like at the end of this season? – Brad
Answer: I’m more than happy to make an early NHL playoff bracket prediction. For the Atlantic division, I’ve got the Tampa Bay Lightning finishing first, the Toronto Maple Leafs second, and the Boston Bruins third. The Florida Panthers and Montreal Canadiens will be fighting to the end for a wild card spot, and, while this is a tough one to call, I’ve got the Panthers squeaking in. The Buffalo Sabres haven’t improved enough to enter this conversation and the Ottawa Senators and Detroit Red Wings are pretty far away from competing.
For the Metropolitan division, I also have four teams making the playoffs. The Washington Capitals should have enough to claim the division again, while the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers will round out the top three. The New York Islanders will fall to a wild card spot and the New Jersey Devils will narrowly miss the playoffs due to goaltending concerns that outweigh the variety of other improvements they’ve made. The Philadelphia Flyers, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Carolina Hurricanes have all failed to improve enough to make the playoffs this season (though at the time of this writing the Hurricanes are off to a scorching hot start and are primed to prove me wrong).
Over in the Western Conference, I’ve got four playoff teams coming from the Central division. The Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues, Dallas Stars, and Colorado Avalanche will make the playoffs this year, finishing in that order, with Colorado squeezing in via a wild card spot. The Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks will narrowly miss the playoffs, while the Winnipeg Jets will crash down to the basement of the Central due to their inadequate defensive pairings. I wanted to pick five teams to make it from this division, but I think the strength of the division will prevent this.
Finally, in the Pacific division, we’ll see the Vegas Golden Knights claim the division title with no other team coming close to their point total. This division is perhaps the hardest to predict due to its weakness. I’ll take the Calgary Flames to finish in a distant second, after they lost Mike Smith and James Neal, with the Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks scraping into the last couple playoff spots due to the general weakness of the division. Controversially, I’ve got the San Jose Sharks missing the playoffs alongside the other two Californian teams. The Arizona Coyotes are problematically left out here, and this is probably the most likely error in my predictions here. Yes, I’m a Canucks homer.
Question 2: Will Jacob Markstrom be the starting goalie for the Canucks over the next few years or do you think the team is eyeing Thatcher Demko for this role? – Devon
Answer: In my opinion, Jacob Markstrom will be a better NHL goaltender than Thatcher Demko. This opinion is based on what I’ve seen of the two goalies over the past couple seasons. I just think that Markstrom has more tools to succeed, both physically and mentally, while I’ve seen a few gaps in Demko’s game. Of course, Demko is younger than Markstrom and can theoretically improve more than Markstrom from this point forward, but I’m sticking to my position that Markstrom has demonstrated the capacity to improve by leaps and bounds whereas Demko has shown some clunkiness in play behind and around the net. Whether or not the Canucks agree with my assessment will be determined by the wealth of analytic and scouting data the organization possesses. I’m sure they’ll make a better decision than I would.
Question 3: With the Canucks lacking scoring in a big way over their first few games, do you think they will call up Baertschi and Goldobin anytime soon, since they are both skilled players that can score? – Graham
Answer: I don’t believe we will see Sven Baertschi or Nikolay Goldobin in a Canucks uniform again until there is an injury to a forward from the top three lines. In other words, I don’t see the Canucks continuing to struggle to score enough to encourage the front office to send someone down and call either of these players up. Even if their scoring struggles did continue, I just don’t see either of these players being viewed as the solution by the organization. Having said that, injuries will happen and this is the only circumstance where I can imagine either of these players being recalled this season. We will see both of these players in a Canucks uniform again, but it will more than likely be due to injury more than the minor league performance of either individual.
If you would like to participate in future editions of the Peak Sports Mailbag and be entered in a raffle for an end-of-semester prize, here’s what you can send to email@example.com:
- Sports-related questions that our weekly host will answer
- Weekly theme ideas to guide our questions
Or: sign up to host the Mailbag (and get paid)!
Thanks to all of you SFU sports fans for blowing up my inbox!
Next week’s theme is: Volleyball
Next week’s host is: Juztin Bello
Send in your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.