Why I’m refraining from making predictions for this NHL season.
Every year around this time, NHL pundits and bloggers make their predictions for the upcoming season.
Usually it’s where the thirty teams will finish in the standings, but some will also speculate on who’ll win the scoring race, or the individual player awards. Some are bold enough to even offer up their picks for the Stanley Cup champions.
It’s something I used to do, especially when I wrote for Foxsports.com.
This year, however, I’m not bothering with predictions.
To be honest, I’ve never particularly enjoyed making predictions for a season. In fact, it’s been one of my least favorite tasks covering the NHL.
I know, it’s supposed to just be for fun, most folks don’t really take them that seriously, and apart from a few trolls, few folks would remember, or even care, how many you got right or wrong.
But my heart’s never been in it. Sure, whenever I had to make those past predictions, I took it seriously. After all, it was my job, and I didn’t want to do it half-assed, but it was always something I found a thankless chore.
Even when we do the predictions on The Face Off Hockey Show, my co-hosts (who have the patience of saints with me, I must say) probably find it’s like pulling teeth to extract one from me.
Every fall, they ask for my predictions of the Cup Finalists, and after much humming and hawing and grumbling and snarling, I’ll usually make my best guess and hope to move on quickly to another topic.
The reason I hate making season predictions is I fail to see the sense of attempting to foretell a hockey season stretching from the first weekend of October to the first full weekend in April.
So many things can happen during that period that can alter the course of a player’s or a team’s destiny. Injuries. Slumps. Illnesses. Fatigue. Coaching changes. Trades. Personality clashes. Family issues. An unheralded rookie can turn into a pleasant surprise. A once-great star can fade. The pressure to play up to expectations can take its toll.
Sure, some predictions can be easy. The Detroit Red Wings, for example, are almost always a sure bet to finish among the top teams in the Western Conference, while the Florida Panthers for the past ten years were pretty much assured of missing the playoffs.
Otherwise, most predictions tend to go by the wayside as the course of a season unfolds.
For example, at this time a year ago, who would’ve predicted Sidney Crosby would suffer a season-ending, career-threatening injury? Or that Alexander Ovechkin would have his worst season statistically since joining the NHL?
Apart from die-hard Boston fans, how many fans, pundits and bloggers accurately predicted the Bruins would win it all? Or that the New Jersey Devils would miss the playoffs for the first time in fifteen years? Or that the Tampa Bay Lightning would not only make the playoffs, but come to within one game of advancing to the Stanley Cup Final?
Who predicted Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks winning the Hart Trophy? Or Michael Grabner scoring 34 goals with the NY Islanders? Or Dustin Byfuglien being switched to defense and having his best offensive season?
It’s not the same thing with playoff predictions. Yes, the same issues which occur in the regular season can also take place in a playoff series, but when one is talking best-of-seven games, one has a more realistic change of correctly picking a series winner, compared to guessing where teams will finish during a six-month season.
Playoff predictions are also more fun, because the games are more important and thus more exciting.
I’m sure some folks will consider me a bit of a coward for not making season predictions, or perhaps a hypocrite for doing so in the past as a Foxsports columnist but not now on my site.
It’s simply an unwillingness to do a task I’ve long considered pointless. Now that I don’t have an editor asking me for season predictions, I choose not to bother.
One thing I’ve learned over the years watching the NHL as a fan, blogger and pundit is to expect the unexpected, and not stress out trying to guess where each team will finish in the standings, which players wins awards, and which team wins the Cup.
I’m just going to let things unfold, enjoy the pleasant surprises and bemoan the ugly ones that inevitably arise over the course of a long NHL season.
I will, however, bend and make one prediction: I predict we’re all happy another hockey season has begun!