Upward and Downward Trends in the NHL
Just a few years ago the Colorado Avalanche looked as if they would always be on top of the league. Today, it wouldn’t be very far-fetched to predict the Avs to be in bottom 8 in the West at the end of next years season. On the other hand, the Anahiem Ducks are by most considered cup contenders for next season, possibly battling teams like Nashville, Pheonix, or even Minnesota in the opening round of the playoffs. It is clear that times have changed in the NHL.
A new era is upon us. Teams that have traditionally been bottom-feeders are now showing that they are to be taken seriously (see the NY Rangers, Buffalo Sabres, Anahiem Ducks, etc.), and teams that have traditionally (as in, over the past few year) been on the top of the league are showing signs of weakness (see Colorado, Vancouver, etc.).
So what? you might ask…
Well, as all of us know, this sort of thing is perfectly normal and even to be expected in the NHL, and even more so in the “new” NHL, where talent is being spread out more than it ever has been before.
The question is, “Which teams are going in which direction?”
This of course to a certain degree is just a matter of speculation, although in some cases it is pretty obvious where a team is headed.
The Anahiem Ducks:
This team is definitely on an upward trend. They are deep in every position, have a great mix of youth and veteran players, a solid core of prospects, and are a pretty safe pick to finish high up in the standings in the West.
This same thing (IMO) could be said about Carolina, Calgary, San Jose, NYR, Buffalo, and Edmonton, while teams like Nashville, Pheonix, Atlanta, Boston, Toronto, and maybe even Minnesota and St. Louis are at least showing signs of entering into an upward trend.
On the other hand, consider teams like Colorado, Vancouver, and Tampa Bay. Will any of these teams even make the playoffs next season? Each of these clubs are almost definitely experiencing a downward trend and will most likely finish lower in the standings for the next couple seasons at least.
Then there are the teams that for the most part seem to be staying at the same level. In this group I would probably include Dallas, Montreal, Detroit (although I could see them losing ground this year), New Jersey, Philly, and Ottawa (even though most would agree that they took a definite step back in terms of overall talent with the loss of Havlat, Chara, Smolinski, and Hasek).
So my question to you all is this:
What trends do you see/predict in the NHL in the next few years and why?