As always, it’s about U.S. Thanksgiving as a mile marker for the NHL regular season. In the past couple of decades, teams in a playoff spot by the end-of-November Turkey Day holiday have roughly a 78 percent chance of making the playoffs that season. There are surprises every year and the odds vary much more wildly for teams right around the bubble of the eighth spot, but the numbers bear that out just about every season. It will be interesting to see that calculus put to the test this season with both the Maple Leafs and Lightning out of the playoffs if the season ended today.

Coaching changes can radically change the trajectory of NHL teams and fly in the face of the “U.S. Thanksgiving theory”, so things may look much brighter for the Maple Leafs if they can string together some winning streaks under their new coach. And the Lightning are actually in a decent spot, having games in hand on just about everybody else in the league while sitting a point away from a playoff spot.

Does anybody believe that the Canadiens and Panthers are going to hold on to playoff spots over the Maple Leafs and Lightning when it’s all said and done? This could be one of those years where the Thanksgiving picture for the Atlantic Division doesn’t really look all that much like it will at the end of the regular season when it really matters.

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