The All-Star break is over and the stakes are going to start to ramp up from now until the end of the season. It’s the stretch drive with eight playoff spots available to each conference — some more contentious than others.
The East presents an actual playoff race which is a welcome surprise after last year’s half-season dud. Out in the Wild West, things are more wide open than I’ve ever seen. It’s going to be a fascinating final 30-or-so games.
Every day we have an updated look at each team’s odds and where they stand, but sometimes it’s wise to dig deeper to understand why each team lands where it does, with the All-Star break serving as a perfect time for that. That’s the goal here with a focus on the West (you can find the East here).
I’ve separated the league into seven tiers based on the following probability ranges.
- Basically in: Above 95 percent
- Safe shots: 85-95 percent
- Likely bets: 65-to-85 percent
- The bubble: 35-to-65 percent
- Unlikely bets: 15-to-35 percent
- Long shots: 5-to-15 percent
- Basically out: Below 5 percent
Here’s how each team in the West stacks up.
- Dallas Stars: 99 percent
- Seattle Kraken: 97 percent
Raise your hand if, at the start of the season, you figured the top two playoff locks in the West would be Dallas and Seattle. No one?
Dallas hit “playoff lock” status in early December and the Stars were a decent bet to start the year, too. But Seattle is a big surprise with a massive turnaround. This year’s Kraken are much closer to what the nerds expected last season and now they’re already very close to punching their playoff ticket. There’s still room for a collapse, but it would need to be a monumental one with the ground Seattle has on the rest of the West.
- Edmonton Oilers: 93 percent
- Minnesota Wild: 87 percent
- Colorado Avalanche: 85 percent
Edmonton, Minnesota and Colorado haven’t quite punched their ticket yet and the West is looking like it’ll be very competitive this year — but in terms of safety, these three look a little closer to the finish line. It’s hard to imagine the Oilers, Wild and Avalanche outside the dance.
Colorado has the worst record, but it also arguably has the best team … when healthy. The time when the Avalanche are finally fully healthy is coming and they should rack up the wins shortly after. They already have been of late and having the fifth easiest schedule going forward should also help. It’s the same story for the Oilers who also have seven wins in their last 10 and the fourth easiest schedule going forward. These two teams represented the West last season in the conference finals and while they’ve taken a step back this season, the talent is there for another run. When healthy, the model believes these two are the teams to beat in the West.