I’m going to tell you right now, that the title of this post is completely tongue in cheek. That said, I can say confidently that there is no team to beat in the modified Stanley Cup Playoff of 2020. Thats because even the 9th best team in the West could reasonably make some noise.
The playoffs are weird, and they always have been. There is a “curse” on the winner of the President’s Trophy, but thats just because of the ever present puck luck of the NHL, and the fungibility of roster make up after a long season. The team that was crushing the league in December is going to be fundamentally different than the team that arrives in he playoffs in the spring.
This time around, however, teams are going to be nearly fully healthy. This means that not only will the battered and bruised teams that were the best in the season will be fully healed, but so to will the teams that muddled through the first few months, and perhaps were finding their footing late in the season. Now, they have chemistry and health and might be able to step up.
That takes us back to the Jets. They are only a couple seasons removed from making a run to the Western Conference Final, and they still have the same stars in place. Their biggest stars, like Mark Schefele and Patrick Laine are still on an upward trajectory, while Connor Hellebuyck is just as capable of having a hot streak as any team, and veterans like Dustin Byfuglien are rested and patched together.
Of course, Winnipeg is a difficult road venue during the season, and especially the post season, but the Jets wouldn’t have that advantage during this playoff. No team will, per the way things are going to be organized. It isn’t a long leap to say that there will be no advantages for any team based on how they did during the season. This will be a pure measure of talent and that pesky puck luck, with all those other variables stripped away.
Truly, the only teams for which the regular season had any real bearing, at this point, are the Los Angeles Kings and Ottawa Senators of the world. The Jets have just as good a shot at winning this thing as any of the other 23 teams left standing.