NHL season preview: 5 bold predictions for the 2019-20 season

St. Louis Blues (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
St. Louis Blues (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
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Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images /

The 2019-20 NHL season is finally upon us. Here are five bold predictions for how things will play out.

The 2018-19 campaign was one of the most unpredictable and thrilling in the history of the NHL. Obviously, nobody saw the St. Louis Blues winning the Stanley Cup after a miserable first half, but here they are getting ready to defend their title.

On top of that, it was hard to give the New York Islanders much of a chance after losing their franchise player in 2018 free agency. But mastermind head coach Barry Trotz guided them to the number two seed in the Metropolitan Division, which led to him winning the Jack Adams Trophy.

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Other surprises included the Carolina Hurricanes, who went from “Bunch of Jerks” to the Eastern Conference Final. And the Tampa Bay Lightning, who recorded 62 wins and 128 points, couldn’t even salvage a playoff win against the eighth-seeded Columbus Blue Jackets.

Well, we’re in for plenty of more surprises ahead of 2019-20. There are some playoff teams from last year that figure to regress quite a bit, while a handful of non-postseason teams look ready to finally break through this year.

So which teams will disappoint us? Which coaches will fail to make it through the entire year? Who will win the prestigious awards, and most importantly, who’s taking home the Stanley Cup? Here are five bold predictions for the 2019-20 NHL season.

5. Pittsburgh Penguins Playoff Streak Ends

The Pittsburgh Penguins currently have the longest NHL playoff streak, having made it every year since Evgeni Malkin‘s rookie 2006-07 season. That’s 13 consecutive years of making the playoffs, highlighted by Stanley Cup championships in 2009, 2016, and 2017.

But for the first time in the Sidney Crosby era, it strongly appears that Pittsburgh’s playoff window is closing rapidly. Sure, Sid The Kid is still a top-two player in the NHL, even at the age of 32. But Malkin (33) isn’t getting any younger, and you have to be worried about his recent injury history.

And sure, general manager Jim Rutherford had no choice but to deal away sniper Phil Kessel, but replacing a reliable 20-30 goal-scorer and 80-point player is easier said than done. Alex Galchenyuk, whom the Penguins acquired from the Arizona Coyotes in the Kessel trade, is going to have a tough time producing the same stats as “Phil the Thrill.”

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But the vastly improved Metropolitan Division and the Eastern Conference as a whole will make it even harder for Pittsburgh to maintain its playoff streak. The Philadelphia Flyers will be better after hiring Alain Vigneault as head coach.

The New York Rangers landed the prized 2019 free agent in Artemi Panarin. Trade acquisition Jacob Trouba and rookie Kaapo Kakko will also make huge differences on Broadway. And finally, the New Jersey Devils drafted Jack Hughes first overall before landing All-Star blueliner P.K. Subban.

An aging core, the loss of Kessel, plus a rapidly improving division will lead to the end of Pittsburgh’s playoff streak.