Are the California teams for real?
All offseason long, there was one thing that hockey fans seemed united on: the Pacific Division was going to be a disaster. With only the Vegas Golden Knights and Edmonton Oilers seemingly assured spots in the playoffs and the Calgary Flames, Vsncouver Canucks and Seattle Kraken evidently lacking the talent to hang in the top tier, the biggest anchor was the once-considerable trio from California.
But the San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks finished last season in 25th, 26th and 30th place, respectively, in the shortened season and there was little indication that they were going to vault up the standings this time around.
Standings Projections: Pacific Division— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) October 8, 2021
Here's how predictive models, oddsmakers, and fans project the 2021-22 Pacific Division standings: pic.twitter.com/KvsGLLaVwn
But that’s not what has happened in the first month of the season. All three teams are over 0.500 and competing for a playoff spot. None are embarrassing themselves and they’ve each enjoyed winning streaks where they looked like they legitimately turned a corner.
As a statistical analyst, my job is clear: be a fun-sucking vampire ruining the party. So that’s what I’m here to do: dig through the stats and assess whether this early and unexpected glow-up is real or illusory and whether we might see a Californian team in the playoffs for the first time since 2019.
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