As fans we've never really gone in to a season expecting anything less than a playoff contending Avalanche team. After last year, that's all going to change going in to the 2009-10 season. And believe me, going in to training camp season everyone and their grandmother is going to depress you. It's NHL prediction season! But, from an unlikely source I've gained perspective...thank you Down Goes Brown.
Yahoo's Puck Daddy has been running an ongoing theme called "Five reasons I love hockey". One that caught my attention was Down Goes Brown's reason number 4, entitled "...the 1999 Leafs came out of nowhere to go to the conference finals":
The 1999 Leafs were expected to miss the playoffs for a third straight year and perhaps challenge for last place overall. Instead they lead the league in scoring by a mile and went to the final four.
In the 2002 playoffs, the Leafs roster was so broken down by injuries that half the squad was made up of AHLers and Alyn McCauley(notes) was the first-line center. On paper, they shouldn't have been able to win a game. But they won two rounds (before all the injured players came back, and they lost).
In January 1992 the Leafs were a brutal team going nowhere. And then Cliff Fletcher worked out a trade with the Flames that changed everything.
And here's the beauty: the Leafs aren't special. In the NHL, this stuff happens all the time.
Every year the experts unveil their predictions for the coming season. Every year they cut-and-paste last year's standings, move a few teams up or down one spot, and call it in-depth analysis. And every year they're completely, staggeringly wrong.
Remember this time last year, when the Habs were Cup favorites, the Bruins were doormats, the Blackhawks were slowly rebuilding and the Blues were going to finish last in the West? Nobody knows anything.
The NHL isn't the NBA, where you know the home favorite is going to win even if the referees have to start taking jumpshots themselves. In the NHL, you never know. No matter how bad your team is -- and Leaf fans know a little bit about bad teams -- you still just never know.
"You never know" may not be much. But for some of us, it's all we have.
Could it be true? Are the predictions that predictable? Could there actually be some kind of hope for our heroes of the unipron? I called the research department and this is what they gave me. I'm not sure what it all means but I'm pretty sure it means everything... or nothing. I leave that for you to decide.
You've got to visit that link to appreciate it. Note how many picked Pittsburgh to win the cup (between 1 and -1). Montreal, Dallas and the NY Rangers predicted to win the cup?! Could DGB be right? Let's take a look at first, at the previous year result and see if they truly did "cut-and-paste last year's standings, move a few teams up or down one spot".
As you can see, DGB is largely correct. For example, Montreal finished first in the East the previous year and every single pundit selects them to win their division and several to take the Eastern Conference finals. No one picked Boston to win the division let alone blow Montreal out of the water. In the NW division these same experts picked everyone from Minnesota, Edmonton and Calgary to win the division. The reality is that Vancouver won and not a single expert thought they would.
Buccigross 2009 predictions:
I'm a John Buccigross fan. Despite his ramblings on music and the homogenized nature of hockey analysis for the ESPN faithful. But, he knows hockey and he loves the sport. That's an excellent combination. So, he's a guy when he makes predictions he actually puts some thought in to it and rationlizes his selections. See his detailed predictions below:
In summary, the 2007-08 true results:
1 Detroit Red Wings
2 San Jose Sharks
3 Minnesota Wild
4 Anaheim Ducks
5 Dallas Stars
6 Colorado Avalanche
7 Calgary Flames
8 Nashville Predators
9 Edmonton Oilers
10 Chicago Blackhawks
11 Vancouver Canucks
12 Phoenix Coyotes
13 Columbus Blue Jackets
14 St Louis Blues
15 Los Angeles Kings
1 Montréal Canadiens
2 Pittsburgh Penguins
3 Washington Capitals
4 New Jersey Devils
5 New York Rangers
6 Philadelphia Flyers
7 Ottawa Senators
8 Boston Bruins
9 Carolina Hurricanes
10 Buffalo Sabres
11 Florida Panthers
12 Toronto Maple Leafs
13 New York Islanders
14 Atlanta Thrashers
15 Tampa Bay Lightning
Buccigross prediction / My snark:
1 Detroit Red Wings 0 / Close, finished 2nd to San Jose by 5 points.
2 Dallas Stars +3 / Um, not even close. Worst of his predictions by far.
3 Minnesota Wild 0 / finished 9th and out of the playoffs.
4 Chicago Blackhawks +6 / The best of his predictions as the Hawks did in fact finish 4th.
5 San Jose Sharks -4 / Wouldn't be that far off except San Jose was clearly the best regular season team, not just a 95 pt team
6 Anaheim Ducks -2 / Not too far off as they finished 8th. But no huge risk in prediction either.
7 Edmonton Oilers +2 / Way off, 11th and not close to playoffs
8 Calgary Flames -1 / Finished 5th. Strong season considering the 6th seed had six fewer points which is like NHL dog years in significance.
9 Nashville Predators -1 / Finished 10th, pretty close to prediction of bubble playoff team.
10 Columbus Blue Jackets +3 / Finished 7th and made playoffs. This was a pretty safe prediction for a team that's never made the playoffs.
11 Colorado Avalanche -5 / The most significant drop from previous year, who could have predicted a -9 drop :(
12 Phoenix Coyotes 0 /Finished 13th
13 St Louis Blues +1 / St. Louis finished 6th blowing this prediction out of the water.
14 Vancouver Canucks -3 / About as far off as you can get. Won the division, 100 points, 3rd in conference.
15 Los Angeles Kings 0 / Close but finished a good 10 points ahead of the God awful Avalanche, 10 POINTS!! yeesh.
1 Montréal Canadiens 0 / Not even close, barely made playoffs with 93 points beating tie breaker with Florida for playoff spot.
2 Pittsburgh Penguins 0 / Pitt finished 4th, in the ballpark but no risk in the pick.
3 Washington Capitals 0 / Finished 2nd, again a safe pick.
4 New York Rangers +1 / 7th, close to missing playoffs at 95 points. Not nearly as strong as predicted.
5 Philadelphia Flyers +1 / Picked it on the nose. Blind Squirrel or brilliant prediction?
6 New Jersey Devils -2 / 106 points and 3rd in conference, much stronger than predicted.
7 Boston Bruins +1 / 116 points and first in the East. Way off from the bubble playoff team prediction.
8 Ottawa Senators -1 / Way off, 83 points and never in playoff contention.
9 Tampa Bay Lightning +6 /Not quite. Secondworst record in the NHL with 66 points. They win the Hedman sweepstakes.
10 Buffalo Sabres 0 /Spot on, finished 11th.
11 Florida Panthers 0 / Close, finished 9th with 93 points, one point out of playoff spot.
12 Carolina Hurricanes -4 / Nope, way off. Strong season with Carolina finishing 6th in the east and 97 points.
13 Toronto Maple Leafs -1 / Close, finished 12th same as the year before.
14 Atlanta Thrashers 0 / Same deal, Atlanta is horrible as predicted with 76 points, but still 10 points better than Tampa? Ouch.
15 New York Islanders -2 / Some things are easy to predict. Went in to the season with 12 mil in cap room and Guerin as their top forward... yeesh.
So, the lesson here is that Buccigross is inept and Down Goes Brown is a brilliant observer of what should have been obvious to me. How do these guys get away with this? It's not going to prevent them from doing the exact same thing this year. No one is going to predict Tampa Bay to finish 5th in the East because it doesn't fit the prediction formula, even though that formula is broken.
Could the Avalanche defense bounce back by scoring more goals and playing a strong game in front of improved goaltending? Could Stastny stay healthy all year? Could Duchene and Stoa not only make the team but be contenders for Calder consideration? Could the powerplay improve? Could the penalty kill possibly be worse? Could Stweart and Jones improve their numbers in what largely amounts to sophomore seasons in the NHL? How about that Galiardi kid? Hey, I'm not saying the Avs are going to jump back up to 90 points BUT unlike every expert and their in depth analysis is about to tell you, I don't think it's impossible. They have no better idea than anyone else when it comes to predicting the NHL season.