Random Thoughts On The First Half Of The 2022-23 NHL Season
I have been right on some things and wrong on some things, let's talk about it, as well as some mid-season Award picks and teams to watch for in the second half.
With the NHL officially in its All-Star break let’s take a look back at the first half of the season and a look ahead to the second half.
1. Some teams I have mostly been right about
I am not talking the obvious teams here, either. I think everybody had a pretty good idea that teams like Carolina, Tampa Bay, and Toronto would be good and teams like Chicago, Arizona, and Montreal would be very bad. And they have been.
But one pick I remain happy with is Dallas continuing to emerge as a contenders in the Western Conference. I have been high on them for a couple of years now, and they look like they have a chance to really emerge as a serious threat in the Western Conference.
It’s hard not to like them. They have all of the ingredients you want to see a contender, from a dominant trio of stars at the top of the lineup (Jason Robertson, Joe Pavelski, and Roope Hintz), an outstanding No. 1 defenseman in Miro Heiskanen, and an emerging game-changer in goal in Jake Oettinger. They also have significantly better depth than a year ago thanks to the bounce back years from Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, as well as new-comers to the lineup like Mason Marchment and Wyatt Johnson.
I seriously think they could win the Western Conference this year, especially since there is no truly dominant team out there this year.
They enter the All-Star break with the best points percentage in the West. They are legit.
Nashville’s down year is also not much of a surprise for me.
The Predators needed every single thing to go right a year ago, from starting goalie Juuse Saros playing like an MVP, to almost all of their veteran, big-money players have huge bounce back years with their shooting percentages. Even with all of that they still barely snuck into the playoffs and that got completely obliterated in the first round against a much better team. That was an easy team to see regressing, and they have.
At this point the Predators would be wise to just start re-tooling for the future because they have hit their peak as currently constructed.
The Blues were another team I saw a big fall from after a brutal offseason that saw them lose David Perron and Ville Husso and be stuck with the loose cannon that is Jordan Binnington in goal. I still thought they might have enough to sneak in as a Wild Card or the last playoff team in the Western Conference, but their decline has been swift and it is probably not going to get better if and when they trade Vladimir Tarasenko or Ryan O’Reilly.
The Rangers were another team I had lukewarm thoughts on. I feel like there was a perception across the league that they would take a huge step forward after reaching the Eastern Conference Finals a year ago, but they have mostly been about what I expected: A very good, but very flawed team that relies on its top few players and a franchise goalie to carry them.
They remain a massive boom-or-bust team for me.
I also did not buy into the Islanders’ plan of running back the same mediocre team and hoping a new coaching change would make it better. Maybe Bo Horvat’s addition makes them more interesting in the second half of the season? They still have a long way to go in the Eastern Conference Playoff race.
2. Some Teams I have been mostly wrong about
As Smooth Jimmy Apollo likes to say, “when you’re right 52 percent of the time you’re wrong 48 percent of the time.”
So let’s get into some teams I have mostly been wrong about.
The most significant miss: The New Jersey Devils.
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