Part 4: WAR! What Is It Good For? Projecting the Pacific Division Standings by Expected WAR Standings Point Projections


Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

In part four of our series on projecting the 2019-20 NHL divisional standings by the “WAR” statistical metric, we’ll be taking a look at the Pacific Division.  If you missed the first three parts, here are the Atlantic , Metropolitan, and Central division standings projections. For more information on how WAR is calculated, visit Hockey-Graphs.com’s series of blog posts here. If you want to play around with Charting Hockey’s WAR lineup creator/projection tool used in this article, you can access it here

The Pacific Division is certainly weaker than the Central Division in the Western Conference. In this series of standings projections, the Golden Knights finish fourth in the Western Conference, but first in the Pacific Division. The Central is also poised to take five playoff spots in the Western Conference, while the Pacific looks like it’s only going to get the top three divisional spots in the playoffs.

Let’s get into the projections now, so we can get a little more context into each team in the Pacific. After that, we’ll look at where the Caps stack up to the entire NHL.

1. Vegas Golden Knights (96 points, 23.68 Team WAR)

Based on WAR projections, Vegas is poised to make the playoffs again as the Pacific Division champions for the second time in their three year existence. Coming off of a disappointing first round exit in the playoffs against the Sharks, partly due to a controversial five-minute major and match penalty on former Cap Cody Eakin.

Vegas is a strong team on the ice, but they’re already running into cap space issues three years into their existence as a team. This is mainly due to adding high caliber players in Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty via trade, and signing center Paul Stastny.

These cap issues resulted in Vegas needing to trade Colin Miller to the Buffalo Sabres, which really impacts the depth of the Golden Knights’ defensive corps. Their bottom pairing is just below replacement level, so that’s a spot to pay attention to as the season progresses.

Expected lines:

LW C RW Projected WAR (as a line)
Jon Marchessault William Karlsson Mark Stone 8.1
Max Pacioretty Paul Stastny Alex Tuch 3.6
Brandon Pirri Cody Glass Reilly Smith 4.0
William Carrier Cody Eakin Ryan Reaves 0.8

 

LD RD Projected WAR (as a pairing)
Brayden McNabb Nate Schmidt 3.8
Shea Theodore Nick Holden 2.7
Jon Merrill Deryk Engelland -0.1

 

Goaltenders Projected WAR
Marc-Andre Fleury 4.0
Malcolm Subban 0.0

 

Total WAR by position:

Forwards WAR Defense WAR Goalie WAR Team WAR
13.23 6.50 3.96 23.68

 

2. Calgary Flames (95 points, 23.37 Team WAR)

The Flames were a really impressive team last year, but were bounced out in the first round of the playoffs against an upstart Colorado team. There’s a bevy of talent on this team, between Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm, Mark Giordano, and Matthew Tkachuk.

The biggest questions coming into the season for Calgary are signing restricted free agent Matthew Tkachuk, and their goaltending situation. David Rittich had a solid season last year, posting a .911 save percentage and a 2.61 goals against average in 45 games, compiling a 27-9-5 record in his appearances. However, the Flames lost Mike Smith, who was a strong 1A/1B level goaltender for them, and replaced him with Cam Talbot, who had a disappointing year last year.

The Flames also turned a lot of heads by trading James Neal to Edmonton for Milan Lucic. This is an interesting move because both teams are trading-out large, long-term deals for veteran wingers who have been underwhelming. It’ll be interesting to see how Lucic fits into this lineup, especially since it’s an offensive system predicated on speed.

All in all, the Flames still have enough talent on the ice to get them into the playoffs. Keep an eye on the two young defensemen in Juuso Valimaki and Rasmus Andersson this season. They’re both touted young players who could make the next step into being very good players.

Expected Lines:

LW C RW Projected WAR (as a line)
Johnny Gaudreau Sean Monahan Elias Lindholm 7.7
Matthew Tkachuk Mikael Backlund Michael Frolik 3.5
Andrew Mangiapane Mark Jankowski Sam Bennett 3.2
Milan Lucic Derek Ryan Austin Czarnik 1.0

 

LD RD Projected WAR (as a pairing)
Mark Giordano TJ Brodie 5.7
Noah Hanifin Travis Hamonic 1.7
Juuso Valimaki Rasmus Andersson 0.3

 

Goaltender Projected WAR
David Rittich 3.7
Cam Talbot -0.4

 

Total WAR by position:

Forwards WAR Defense WAR Goalie WAR Team WAR
12.38 7.68 3.30 23.37

 

3. San Jose Sharks (85 points, 17.98 Team WAR)

San Jose will be a really interesting team to watch this season. General Manager Doug Wilson started off the Sharks’ off-season by extending defenseman Erik Karlsson to an 8 year, $11.5 million cap hit, which in turn forced the Sharks to move on from their captain Joe Pavelski. Adding in Karlsson’s new contract, the Sharks are spending a whopping $32,940,000 on their defensive group, including $26.5M for Karlsson, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Brent Burns until 2024-25, and $18.5M in 2025-26 for Karlsson and Burns. It’s also notable to add that Karlsson is signed until he’s 37, Burns is signed until he’s 38, and Vlasic is signed until he’s 39. The Sharks have considerable cap tied-up in veterans in the defensive group, which meant losing out on Joonas Donskoi and Joe Pavelski.

The Sharks also have goaltender Martin Jones signed through 2023-24 on a $5.75M cap hit. He’s going to have to perform better this season to get the Sharks into the playoffs. Ultimately, as Jones goes, so do the Sharks. 

Kevin Labanc took a sweetheart one year deal as a restricted free agent, coming back this season for a $1M cap hit. Look for the Sharks to bring back the legendary Joe Thornton for perhaps his final run in the NHL.

Expected lines:

LW C RW Projected WAR (as a line)
Timo Meier Logan Couture Kevin Labanc 5.6
Evander Kane Tomas Hertl Alex True 5.2
Marcus Sorensen Dylan Gambrell Barclay Goodrow -1.3
Lukas Radil Antti Suomela Melker Karlsson -0.7

 

LD RD Projected WAR (as a pairing)
Marc-Eduoard Vlasic Brent Burns 2.2
Brenden Dillon Erik Karlsson 7.1
Radim Simek Jacob Middleton 1.3

 

Goaltender Projected WAR
Martin Jones 0.8
Aaron Dell -0.5

 

Total WAR by position:

Forwards WAR Defense WAR Goalie WAR Team WAR
7.11 10.51 0.36 17.98

 

4. Vancouver Canucks (83 points, 16.98 Team WAR)

Vancouver makes the jump to the next level after a few years of a rebuild. They’re not quite contenders, but they’re not quite rebuilding anymore, either. In their efforts to contend, they added JT Miller in a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Additionally, their prospects are starting to make the NHL roster and contribute, and they have one of the best young centers in the game in Elias Pettersson. They also added rough-and-tumble power forward Michael Ferland in free agency, who should add some protection and space for Vancouver’s skilled top six. On top of that, we’re expecting to see Quinn Hughes make the NHL this year, likely seeing time in the top four. 

Touted goalie prospect Thatcher Demko and Jacob Markstrom round out the goalie tandem. Markstrom had a solid season last year, starting 60 games and going 28-23-9 on a rebuilding Canucks squad. He posted a .912 save percentage and a 2.77 goals against average. These aren’t elite stats by any means, but his goals allowed percentage (which measures goals allowed percentage relative to the league average) was better than league average.

Demko appeared in 9 games last year, posting a 5-3-1 record. His save percentage was at .913, and his goals against average was at 2.81. The Canucks will be an interesting team to watch this year. They won’t quite make the playoffs, but Canucks fans should be happy about seeing meaningful hockey games later in the season then they’ve seen the past few years.

Expected Lines:

LW C RW Projected WAR (as a line)
JT Miller Elias Pettersson Brock Boeser 9.4
Sven Baertschi Bo Horvat Michael Ferland 2.5
Tanner Pearson Adam Gaudette Jake Virtanen -3.5
Loui Eriksson Jay Beagle Brandon Sutter -0.6

 

LD RD Projected WAR (as a pairing)
Alex Edler Troy Stetcher 3.2
Quinn Hughes Tyler Myers -0.6
Jordie Benn Chris Tanev 2.1

 

Goaltender Projected WAR
Jacob Markstrom 4.9
Thatcher Demko 1.1

 

Total WAR by position:

Forwards WAR Defense WAR Goalie WAR Team WAR
10.23 3.41 8.04 21.67

 

5. Anaheim Ducks (73 points, 12.02 team WAR)

Anaheim is an interesting team to slot-in at fifth in the Pacific Division. After a woeful 2018-19 campaign, the Ducks decided to move on from Corey Perry and bought out his contract. The Ducks have a mix of solid veteran leadership, stemming from Ryan Getzlaf and Adam Henrique, as well as young talent making their way from the minors in Max Comtois, Max Jones, Sam Steel, and Troy Terry.

It’d be surprising to see the Ducks end up this high in the standings in the Pacific, especially above Arizona. If they were to have a rebound season, it’d be because John Gibson puts the entire team on his back and carries them for an extended period of time. The top line of Rakell, Getzlaf and Ondrej Kase is also something to watch as the season progresses.

All in all, the fifth spot in the Pacific is probably the ceiling for the Ducks. It’d be hard to foresee them making the playoffs, let alone cracking 80 points. They’ll need a lot of bounce back performances from their top contributors to make that happen.

Expected Lines:

LW C RW Projected WAR (as a line)
Richard Rakell Ryan Getzlaf Ondrej Kase 4.1
Maxime Comtois Adam Henrique Jakob Silfverberg 2.7
Max Jones Sam Steel Troy Terry 1.8
Nick Ritchie Devin Shore Daniel Spring 0.3

 

LD RD Projected WAR (as a pairing)
Hampus Lindholm Josh Manson 0.9
Jacob Larsson Cam Fowler -0.2
Josh Mahura Brendan Guhle -4.5

 

Goaltender Projected WAR
John Gibson 7.5
Ryan Miller 1.2

 

Total WAR by position:

Forwards WAR Defense WAR Goalie WAR Team WAR
7.07 -3.82 8.77 12.02

 

6. Arizona Coyotes (73 points, 12.31 Team WAR)

Arizona made some waves this off-season, making the trade of the summer to acquire Phil Kessel from the Pittsburgh Penguins for Alex Galchenyuk and Pierre-Oliver Joseph. Kessel adds a legitimate goal scoring threat to a Coyotes roster that has been starved for goal scoring. The downside here, though, is that these projections are showing them out of the playoffs this season.

It seems that Arizona will likely end up better than these projections. Some of the main contributors to this roster have been dealing with injuries this past season, and that likely has implications on the players’ WAR value. Having an offensive threat in Kessel and getting Nick Schmaltz back and healthy should lead the Coyotes to a playoff spot.

Arizona will need to hope that both Antti Raanta and Darcy Kuemper remain healthy and perform at a high level. If they both can stay healthy and contribute, the Coyotes will be in good shape with a better scoring attack.

Expected Lines:

LW C RW Projected WAR (as a line)
Christian Dvorak Derek Stepan Phil Kessel 0.8
Michael Grabner Nick Schmaltz Clayton Keller 0.0
Conor Garland Carl Soderberg Vinnie Hinstroza 2.9
Lawson Crouse Brad Richardson Christian Fischer 0.2

 

LD RD Projected WAR (as a pairing)
Oliver Ekman-Larsson Jason Demers 0.1
Jakob Chychrun Niklas Hjalmarsson 1.6
Alex Goligoski Jordan Oesterle 1.3

 

Goaltender Projected WAR
Antti Raanta 3.0
Darcy Kuemper 3.1

 

Total WAR by position:

Forwards WAR Defense WAR Goalie WAR Team WAR
3.16 2.99 6.16 12.31

 

7. Los Angeles Kings (61 Points, 6.36 Team WAR)

The Kings are in the first couple of years of a rebuild after winning Stanley Cups early in the decade. The once dominant Kings have aged, and their once suffocating possession-based system is starting to get outclassed by younger teams with faster-paced offensive attacks.

The Kings certainly still have a lot of talented players on their roster, most notably perennial Norris contender Drew Doughty, perennial Selke Trophy finalist Anze Kopitar, and all-world (when healthy) netminder Jonathan Quick. The Kings surprisingly signed former all-star Ilya Kovalchuk last off-season, who didn’t exactly perform to expected levels. The Kings also have some younger players like Alex Iafallo and Carl Grundstrom, who should be contributors for the next few years at least.

The Kings are poised to be one of the worst teams in the entire NHL this season, with some of the worst positional WAR ratings in the league across the board. Interestingly enough, they aren’t quite bad enough to finish last in the Pacific Division. Look for the Kings to sell off some assets this year, like Tyler Toffoli, who should get a nice package in a trade near the trade deadline. Derek Forbort and Alec Martinez could also be on their way out, as more teams look for solid top four defensemen to inject into their lineup. The Kings also may make some interesting decisions in net this season, with three NHL-ready goaltenders in Jonathan Quick, Jack Campbell, and Cal Petersen.

Expected Lines:

LW C RW Projected WAR (as a line)
Alex Iafallo Anze Kopitar Dustin Brown 1.2
Ilya Kovalchuk Jeff Carter Tyler Toffoli -0.4
Austin Wagner Adrian Kempe Carl Grundstrom 1.4
Kyle Clifford Michael Amadio Trevor Lewis 1.2

 

LD RD Projected WAR (as a pairing)
Alec Martinez Drew Doughty 0.8
Derek Forbort Matt Roy -0.6
Mikey Anderson Paul LaDue 0.6

 

Goaltender Projected WAR
Jonathan Quick -1.8
Jack Campbell 4.6

 

Total WAR by position:

Forwards WAR Defense WAR Goalie WAR Team WAR
2.64 0.89 2.83 6.36

 

8. Edmonton Oilers (60 Points, 5.81 Team WAR)

It seems as if another year of Connor McDavid’s prime is going to go to waste this season. The Oilers were unable to add any wingers of much value to the roster, and it seems the Oilers may have to go with another top heavy line where Leon Draisaitl and McDavid will pair up again to put forth a formidable scoring line. The team is essentially in shambles after some head-scratching trades made by former general manager Peter Chiarelli. The Oilers are going to end up rolling with the relatively unproven Mikko Koskinen (who was extended this past season for a hefty $4.5M cap hit over the next three seasons) and Mike Smith.

The Oilers’ defensive group isn’t much better. They have good players in Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse, but their top six won’t be good enough to make up for a lack of goal scoring outside of Draisaitl and McDavid. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is a solid player, but he’s not exactly going to be playing on a line chock full of talent. The Oilers took a flyer on James Neal in a trade for Milan Lucic in a move to trade out a bad contract for another to help add scoring. If Neal plays with Draisaitl and McDavid, he could have a rebound season.

The Oilers are also having issues with former lottery pick Jesse Puljujarvi. He is discontent with the situation in Edmonton, and has publicly asked for a trade. For the purposes of this projection, we’re going to assume that the Oilers and Puljujarvi mend their relationship and sign him to a short-term prove-it deal.

Overall, the Oilers have not had a great track record of developing talent outside of Nugent-Hopkins, McDavid, and Draisaitl. McDavid didn’t require a lot of developing entering the NHL essentially as a superstar, either.

The Oilers may take this season as hopefully the last of an extended and painful rebuild. They have a lot of money coming off the books next season, and that may make them a player in free agency to bring in some more scoring and defensive talent.

Expected Lines:

LW C RW Projected WAR (as a line)
Leon Draisaitl Connor McDavid James Neal 5.0
Alex Chiasson Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Zack Kassian 1.4
Sam Gagner Markus Granlund Jesse Puljujarvi -2.6
Joakim Nygard Jujhar Khaira Josh Archibald 1.2

 

LD RD Projected WAR (as a pairing)
Oscar Klefbom Adam Larsson -1.7
Darnell Nurse Evan Bouchard 0.9
Kris Russell Matthew Benning 0.3

 

Goaltender Projected WAR
Mike Smith 1.0
Mikko Koskinen 1.3

 

Total WAR by position:

Forwards WAR Defense WAR Goalie WAR Team WAR
4.05 -0.53 2.29 5.81

 

Recap:

The Pacific Division is most likely the weakest division in the NHL. There isn’t a far and away Stanley Cup favorite in this group, but Vegas is close. Each of the other three divisions have a bona-fide contender for hoisting the Cup at the end of the season, but that isn’t exactly the case here.

Outside of these projections, expect the Coyotes to finish higher than where they were projected here. The downside of these projections are that it looks at player performance for a season, and the Coyotes really suffered through a bevy of injuries, likely dropping their overall WAR projections considerably. The Coyotes are probably the dark horse candidate to snake the division title away from Vegas.

LEAGUE SUMMARY

Now that we’ve projected out the standings for each of the divisions in the NHL, let’s take a look at how the Capitals stack up in context of the entire league:

Team Projected Points Team WAR Forwards WAR Defense WAR Goalie WAR
Tampa Bay – p 126 38.68 17.63 15.08 5.97
St Louis Blues – z 110 30.84 11.32 12.42 7.11
Boston – x 110 30.59 14.81 9.9 5.89
Washington – y 107 29.1 13.22 11.04 4.84
Toronto – x 106 28.49 15.86 6.94 5.68
Columbus – x 98 24.91 17.48 7.69 -0.26
Chicago Blackhawks – x 97 24.09 9.86 4.94 9.29
Dallas Stars – x 97 24.08 6.16 7.16 10.76
Vegas Golden Knights – y 96 23.68 13.23 6.5 3.96
Calgary Flames – x 95 23.37 12.38 7.68 3.3
Pittsburgh – x 92 21.8 10.84 6.33 4.63
Colorado Avalanche – x 92 21.67 10.23 3.41 8.04
Montreal – WC1 91 21.44 11.35 6.2 3.9
Nashville Predators – WC1 91 21.09 9.15 4.21 7.72
Carolina – WC2 91 21.07 8.83 8.21 4.02
Florida 89 20.22 11.39 6.18 2.64
Winnipeg Jets – WC2 86 18.45 8.6 1.77 8.09
New York Islanders 85 18.13 8.82 1.97 7.57
San Jose Sharks 85 17.98 7.11 10.51 0.36
Vancouver Canucks 83 16.98 6.25 4.75 5.99
New Jersey Devils 82 16.6 9.95 3.04 3.62
Minnesota Wild 81 16.3 6.99 6.61 2.69
Philadelphia 78 14.51 9.46 0.11 4.93
New York Rangers 74 12.75 5.2 2.65 4.9
Arizona Coyotes 73 12.31 3.16 2.99 6.16
Anaheim Ducks 73 12.02 7.07 -3.82 8.77
Buffalo 71 11.06 7.22 1.14 2.7
Ottawa 69 10.4 4.43 5.44 0.53
Los Angeles Kings 61 6.36 2.64 0.89 2.83
Edmonton Oilers 60 5.81 4.05 -0.53 2.29
Detroit 56 3.81 3.26 -4.06 4.62

PLAYOFF MATCHUPS

And here’s what the projected playoff matchups look like:

Western Conference

1C: St Louis Blues

WC2: Nashville Predators

2C: Chicago Blackhawks

3C: Dallas Stars

1P: Vegas Golden Knights

WC1: Colorado Avalanche

2P: Calgary Flames

3P: San Jose Sharks

Eastern Conference

1A: Tampa Bay Lightning

WC2: Carolina Hurricanes

2A: Boston Bruins

2B: Toronto Maple Leafs

1M: Washington Capitals

WC1: Montreal Canadiens

2M: Columbus Blue Jackets

3M: Pittsburgh Penguins

By Justin Trudel

About Justin Trudel

Justin is a lifelong Caps fan, with some of his first memories of the sport watching the team in the USAir Arena and the 1998 Stanley Cup appearance. Now a resident of St. Augustine, FL, Justin watches the Caps from afar. Justin graduated with a Bachelor's of Science in Political Science from Towson University, and a Master's of Science in Applied Information Technology from Towson University. Justin is currently a product manager at a non-profit in Jacksonville, FL. Justin enjoys geeking out over roster construction and cap management.
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4 Responses to Part 4: WAR! What Is It Good For? Projecting the Pacific Division Standings by Expected WAR Standings Point Projections

  1. Dennis says:

    Bs ranking who made this crap must be American that doesn’t know anything bout hockey

    Like

  2. Day One Caps Fan says:

    Thanks for the excellent WAR analysis, Justin T!

    It would be a fun exercise to taste-test these numerical rankings when the season ends. Would you please do a post-mortem at the end of the regular season? Thanks!

    Heavy-duty analytics have their place in the sun. The really good pro franchises use the “New Numbers” as much as they can. Intuition and experience are important factors too. But if the millions of salary dollars at risk belonged to MY corporation, I would employ the new numericals — nothing but the best!

    You can bet that the Orioles’ MLB franchise had listened to their “numerical analysis” guys in 2016. The “analytics” pointed to a declining superstar, and the GM was prepared to act on both the numbers and his intuition. Instead, the brilliant team owner bypassed both, saddling the team with that $161 million catastrophe. —- And look at all the “buyouts” in the National Hockey League over the past five years. I would trust my analytics. Wait til we see the many NHL “busts” coming up this season

    Like

  3. Pingback: The Biggest Question Facing Each NHL Team This Season | NoVa Caps

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