Prediction City - League Standings

USA TODAY Sports

How will things shake out in the NHL this season?

Over the last couple of days, I've profiled each of the four divisions. If you'd like a detailed look at the reasoning for each team, follow one of these four links:

Atlantic Division (+20 Goal Differential)
Metropolitan Division (+8 Goal Differential)
Pacific Division (-11 Goal Differential)
Central Division (-17 Goal Differential)

You'll notice from the numbers that I've got the balance of power shifting to the Eastern Conference this season, largely but not entirely because of Detroit's move East. Having said that, if the divisions actually end up this way, that will mean a league with much more parity than what we saw last season:

Northeast Division (+51)
Central Division (+49)
Atlantic Division (+39)
Pacific Division (+27)
Northwest Division (-76)
Southeast Division (-90)

Some of that narrowing is simply the move from six divisions to four, but some of it is the fact that my predictions don't have the same goal differential range as we usually see in an NHL season. Let's look at my predictions for the upcoming year:

Predictions

Now let's compare those totals to the average goal differential for the team that falls into each spot in the standings using data from 2005-06 to 2012-13:

Goal_differential_average

At both the top and the bottom, the numbers tend to be much higher and much lower respectively. I've predicted that the Oilers, for example, will have a goal differential of -34 and finish 28th overall. But according to this second chart, a goal differential of -34 is much more likely to see them land in 23rd or 24th. That's because the teams who finish with the best goal differential and the worst goal differential are usually both really good and really lucky or really bad and really unlucky. There's no point in trying to guess which teams will find Lady Luck, so I don't try to incorporate it into the model, hence the lower overall range.

As a result, I know going in that some of these predictions are going to be wrong even if I've perfectly judged each team. Even if the Oilers really are the 28th best team in the league, if they perform at their expected level, they're not actually all that likely to finish 28th; some of the teams above them are bound to get unlucky.

If you're not an Oiler fan, you can use the two charts above to check out where I've said your team is likely finish if they get average luck.

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