About a month ago I was struck with the idea that the Oilers were probably not going to be a top 5 team in the NHL this season. The real question I had was regarding how predictive the early results would be in determining the eventual finish of the club. I had heard a quote from an NHL GM, Ken Holland, put forth in an Eric Duhatscheck story. The thought mirrored my own when I was teasing an answer from the 'common sense' department of my brain regarding predictability of final results from early ones: teams generally show their mettle fairly early in a season. Certainly enough that we can have a rough idea of the top and bottom of the league.
Charts and analysis in the linked article.