A series of ten detailed playoff simulations in Franchise Hockey Manager 3 has identified the Montreal Canadiens and Minnesota Wild as the most likely candidates for the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. The simulations, with up-to-date rosters, player ratings, and injuries, were run in FHM’s state-of-the-art game model, and showed Montreal and Minnesota as clear-cut favorites over the rest of the league; only the Washington Capitals dependably provided serious competition to them.
Aside from those three teams, the only team to win a simulated Cup were the defending champion Penguins, who otherwise had difficulty getting past the first round.
The teams, sorted in order of their overall average performance, fared as follows:
- Minnesota – Reached the finals six times, twice more than their nearest competitor, and won three times
- Montreal – Four-time finalists, but won every final they appeared in, largely on the strength of Shea Weber’s play
- Washington – Three finals appearances, winning twice
- Calgary – Never reached the finals, but only failed to make it out of the first round once, thoroughly dominating Anaheim in their opening series
- Ottawa – One finals appearance, a loss to Minnesota, and a pair of semifinal trips
- San Jose – Made it out of the first round seven times, but had only one trip to the finals, losing to Pittsburgh
- Pittsburgh – Only defended the Cup successfully once, and typically struggled with Columbus in the first round, getting eliminated in their opening series half of the time
- St. Louis – Two finals appearances, both losses, but usually lost to Minnesota in the first round
- Chicago – Usually made it out of the first round, but only went farther than that once
- Edmonton – One finals appearance, a loss to Montreal, but usually lost to San Jose
- Boston – A single finals appearance, losing to Minnesota, but had trouble with Ottawa in the opener, losing seven times
- Toronto – A pair of semifinal appearances, but only one other series win besides those
- Columbus – Took out the Penguins half the time, but never advanced beyond that
- Nashville – usually lost against Chicago, and didn’t go farther than the second round even if they did win
- New York – Dominated by Montreal, only managed to get out of the first round twice
- Anaheim – Very disappointing showing for the Pacific Division champions, only beat Calgary once in ten tries
1) Eastern Conference teams dominated, winning in seven of ten simulations; Minnesota was the only Western team to win in the finals (but did it three times)
2) The St. Louis-Minnesota first round series produced a Cup finalist 80% of the time
3) Half of the finals pitted two American teams against each other
4) There was only one all-Canadian final, in which Montreal defeated Edmonton
5) However, at least one Canadian team made it as far as the semifinals in every simulation
6) The Conn Smythe Trophy winners as playoff MVP were: Montreal’s Shea Weber (three times) and Max Pacioretty, Washington’s Kevin Shattenkirk (twice) and Alex Ovechkin, Minnesota’s Nino Niederreiter (twice), and Pittsburgh’s Justin Schultz.
The individual simulation that matched the overall average results most closely saw the playoffs end with a dramatic game 7 overtime victory for Montreal over Minnesota. Canadiens rookie Artturi Lehkonen scored five minutes into overtime to cap a three-point night, spoiling a 36-save Devan Dubnyk performance that had kept Minnesota in the game. Shea Weber vindicated the offseason trade that brought him to Montreal by turning in a Conn Smythe-winning performance in the playoffs – one of three simulations that saw him win the Smythe en route to a Cup.