WHO’S THE BEST TEAM IN THE CENTRAL?
IAN SHEPPARD: I’ve been standing behind the Winnipeg Jets all year and I won’t stop now. They’ve fallen into a bit of a funk lately but I still see them as the best team. Nashville makes it close but again in the long stretch, I see Winnipeg coming together for a deep playoff run. From top to bottom I saw them as one of the deepest teams in the NHL, and that was before they acquired Kevin Hayes.
The Jets have a +30 goal differential which is third best in the West and they have two goaltenders who are very hot right now. I will continue to give them the edge until they are eliminated from the playoffs.
WYATT ZIEGER: Best in the Central is an easy one for me, when I look at Nashville they have everything you look for in a Stanley Cup contender. Scoring and grit was an issue so they grabbed Granlund and Simmonds in deals at the deadline.
Offensively they still do fall short to the firepower of Winnipeg but they win in both the goaltending and defensive categories. They’ve tasted defeat in the last few years making it to the Cup final as well as the Western Conference final last year. Look for them to be hungry and win the Central.
TYLER YAREMCHUK: It’s down to the Predators or Jets and you can make a really good case for both. The Jets have a much more dynamic group of forwards, but I really like the Preds back end. Goaltending is close, but I’ll give Nashvillethe slight edge this year because Rinne has a little more experience.
You need goals to win and I think the gap in the forward groups are large enough for me to say the Jets are better.
WHO’S THE BEST TEAM IN THE PACIFIC?
IAN SHEPPARD: It pains me to say it but its Calgary. San Jose has played better as of late but I still Calgary as the better team right now. They are having some issues with goaltending but in the long run, I just see the Flames outlasting the Sharks. Calgary has the younger roster and more firepower to me.
The deciding factor for me is Calgary’s ability to fight back. Countless times this year they’ve found themselves down in a game before coming back to win in the final period. For this, I give them the edge.
WYATT ZIEGER: The Pacific is much more of a crap-shoot when trying to find the best team, Calgary, San Jose, and Vegas have clearly separated themselves from the pack but even Arizona is trying to make a late push.
But its the Golden Knights who take the cake for me. They made the biggest acquisition at the deadline and are coming off the taste of defeat from last years cup final. Marc-Andre Fleury is the backbone and you can always ride a hot goaltender in the playoffs.
TYLER YAREMCHUK: This is one where you could make a really strong case for any one of San Jose, Calgary, or Vegas. I like San Jose’s forward depth a little more and I actually like their defence more than the other two teams. Their goaltending is suspect and there’s no doubt Vegas has the best goaltending in the division. Vegas also has the second best forward group. I’ll say San Jose is the best of the three, but Vegas is a close second. Calgary has an inconsistent forward group and sub-par goaltending so I think they’re third.
ARE YOU OKAY WITH A NON-PLAYOFF PLAYER WINNING THE HART?
IAN SHEPPARD: I am ok with it if he’s had a tremendous season or has clearly carried a team. Being surrounded by a bad team or a group that isn’t succeeding shouldn’t nullify one player’s contribution. I’m not saying it should happen all the time but if it were to happen every once in a while to a player who is clearly an MVP and has had a significant impact on his team despite their overall success then I have no issue with that player being recognized with the Hart Trophy.
WYATT ZIEGER: I am okay with it if it is an outstanding season but this year with what others have done it’s hard to give it to a player that doesn’t make the postseason. As much as you don’t want to admit it a success in the NHL is based upon whether or not you make the playoffs.
Players will tell you that individual awards don’t matter as much anyway so let’s give it someone who actually makes the dance.
TYLER YAREMCHUK: I’m more than okay with it. The award isn’t for “player who was most valuable to his team making the playoffs” it’s just the teams most valuable player. Nikita Kucherov has been great this year, but would the Lightning be a damn good team without him? Absolutely.
Would the Oilers be anywhere close to where they are right now without McDavid? Nope, and that’s saying something. Would the Blackhawks be anywhere close to a playoff race without the production of Patrick Kane? Not a chance in hell. Patrick Kane is your MVP and I don’t care if they make the playoffs or not.