NHL Yearbooks: Comparing Last Year’s Predictions to Actual Results (Part One)
I subscribe to a few magazines that range in interests – PC stuff, science, and hockey. The Hockey News is my main source of, well, hockey news, but I do enjoy buying all kinds of books that preview each NHL season. The mags call them “Yearbooks” while I just call them “good reads” and leave it at that. The thing about these magazines is that they all have experts – people who have watched, read, and wrote about hockey for the better half of their lives. They clearly know what they are talking about. We trust these guys because they are experts. Experts who give us an overview of our teams and while you may agree and disagree, they get paid for it and you do not.
Until now I have hardly ever really questioned their thoughts and recommendations, and have never thought to return to past seasons and see if they really are any good at giving predictions in the first place. Have I been reading these blindly accepting what they tell me, or do they actually have the ability to predict the standings better than you or me? So let’s take a look back and compare three books to see who did a better job predicting a team’s position.
For this three-part series, I have decided to compare three very respected sources of hockey predictions – the Official NHL Yearbook, the Hockey News Yearbook and McKeen’s Hockey Pool Yearbook.
With my favorite quote from The Hockey News “Caps will take Cup…really. No fooling us, the red is ready”, here we go…
Anaheim Ducks – 13th in the West
This was a disappointing season for the Duck fans. The big three did not perform up to par and Bruce Boudreau could not right the ship fast enough. The Ducks had a decent second half of the season (22-14-6), but the abysmal start caused them to sink. Both of the magazines overestimated the Ducks, and rightfully so. No one would have predicted the epic mess that was the start of the season. I would not have predicted this team to sink instead of fly, and no one would have really. All three magazines predicted playoffs for the club, but one can say NHL staff saw the trouble that loomed a bit better.
NHL 2012 Yearbook: 8th in the West – Winner
The Hockey News 2012 Yearbook: 6th in the West
McKeen’s – 5th in the West
Boston Bruins – 2nd in the East
Well this was as safe a bet as you can get, really. With no major roster changes after winning the cup, the Bruins were poised to make another run at the cup. The downside to winning the Stanley Cup is the extended amount of games you have to play and all of the celebrating that takes a toll on a team. Would the Bruins avoid this pitfall? They certainly took a while to find their groove, finishing October going 3-7. They rebounded, however, and looked almost unbeatable during the month of December going 14-1. That one loss was not even a real loss. They lost to the Red Wings in a shootout. None of the magazines did too poorly here.
NHL 2012 Yearbook: 3rd in the East – Tie
The Hockey News 2012 Yearbook: 3rd in the East – Tie
McKeen’s – 4th in the East
Buffalo Sabres – 9th in the East
This team was praised by all three magazines for the money they flashed going into last season. Between Derek Roy being touted as a point-per-game player, and Ville Leino’s big contract (oops!), the expectations were high. Added to that an all-world goalie, and no one could have expected less. The ship came crashing down with the team being unable to win on the road (18-20-3 away, 21-12-8 at home). Lack of offense and a rather poor first half of the season by Miller caused all kind of headaches (no pun intended) and the results were a bit ugly. But the experts expected big things and no winners here, but I give the slight edge to The Hockey News.
NHL 2012 Yearbook – 4th in the East
The Hockey News 2012 Yearbook – 5th in the East – Winner
McKeen’s – 2nd in the East
Calgary Flames – 9th in the West
So we had a major split of opinion here. The NHL guys expected the Flames to make the playoffs and make it with authority. The quote “This will likely be the season when the Calgary Flames either make the playoffs and make some noise or change direction into rebuilding mode for next year and beyond” and pretty much none of this happened. THN had a different opinion and expected the flames to finish out of the playoffs. They did not buy the way the Flames capped of the 10-11 season and saw through the thin depth chart. McKeen’s also had it right, citing similar reasons as did THN. Hands down the winners here were The Hockey News and McKeens.
NHL 2012 Yearbook – 6th in the West
The Hockey News 2012 Yearbook: 10th in the West- Winner
McKeen’s - 10th in the West – Winner
Carolina Hurricanes – 12th in the East
The club missed the playoffs by losing the last game of the season in 10-11, but none of the magazines expected much from them last season. Each saw a bright future for this rather young club, however. The expectation will surely rise this coming year after this summer’s offseason acquisitions. The defense was the real question last season, and this season seems no different. NHL magazine offered up this explanation; “The simple answer could be just time”. This probably says it all and still holds true this year. The THN guys were slightly more optimistic here and it cost them. While McKeen’s was most skeptical and had the Canes pegged the best.
NHL 2012 Yearbook – 10th in the East
The Hockey News 2012 Yearbook – 9th in the East
McKeen’s - 11th in the East – Winner
Chicago Blackhawks – 6th in the West
Well this was one of those no-brainer playoff teams. They have a stacked offensive unit that can pile on numbers. The problems were in the net and as some fantasy owners can attest, there were plenty of them. THN, were off a bit in their assessment of the Hawks’ goaltending. THN: “With the goaltending sorted and talent up and down the lineup, it will be hard to keep the Hawks down in the Central”. The big let down here was for poolies who picked Crawford or kept him as a rookie. McKeen’s felt that “”Impoving a penalty killing unit that finished 25th in the league will go a long way to getting the Hawks into the playoffs next spring.” Unfortunately the 25th ranked pk unit would fall to 27th and the big climb in the standings didn’t happen. The NHL guys predicted a bit less from this Hawks squad and they got it right. Lesson learned here is that rookie and sophomore goalies tend not to be trusted for good reason.
NHL 2012 Yearbook – 5th in the West – Winner
The Hockey News 2012 Yearbook – 3rd in the West
McKeen’s – 3rd in the West
Colorado Avalanche – 11th in the West
These magazines were all over the map in regards to where the Avs would finish, yet all got it right by predicting them not to play in the post-season. One predicted the team to be the bottom of the bottom, another expected them to be a bubble playoff team, and the third somewhere in between. In fact the Avs finished between the good and the bad, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say they were ugly. They have a young team that just needs to score a bit more and give up a bit less; story of most teams, I know. The NHL Yearbook preview reads like a death sentence with quotes like, “Avs won just once between Jan 26th 2010 and March 17th 2010″ and “No puck stopper will escape the statistical curse of playing goal on the NHL’s worst defensive team…” Harsh to say the least. In the end, they landed smack between McKeen’s prediction and THN’s.
NHL 2012 Yearbook – 15th in the West
The Hockey News 2012 yearbook – 9th in the West – Winner (tie)
McKeen’s – 13th in the West – Winner (tie)
Columbus Blue Jackets – 15th in the West
All three magazines were generous and hopeful for last year’s Blue Jackets’ season as well as the team’s future. My, what a difference a year makes. All of these generous hopes did not come true and forced the trade of the only true franchise player – Rick Nash. NHL experts said, “A culture of change will undoubtedly take hold for the Columbus Blue Jackets this season as they work toward one simple goal: the team has to be better”, and THN said “Despite major additions to the roster, much of the Jackets’ hopes rest on Steve Mason.” Both of these statements were true. The Blue Jackets did need Mason to step up and the team did need a culture change. Too bad the team did not get better and Steve Mason did not provide much hope last season nor for the near future. Meanwhile McKeen’s said “The Changes should translate into a jump in the standings, though getting back into the playoffs would be a tall order” while winning the prediction contest by placing the Jackets furthest down the standings of the three.
NHL 2012 Yearbook – 10th in the West
The Hockey News 2012 Yearbook – 12th in the West – Winner
McKeen’s - 12th in the West – Winner
Dallas Stars – 10th in the West
Well, this is another club that proved difficult for the magazines to predict as there was quite a range in predicting their final result. McKeen’s was far too kind, seemingly, going into the season, while conversely The Hockey News was a bit harsh with “They just don’t have the big horses to run in the West”. I doubt you will hear the same this year. Benn and Eriksson have risen to very near elite status and certainly would be considered big horses. While Dallas certainly was not a goal scoring powerhouse, they were no Minnesota in that regard. The NHL Yearbook did not give much more credit to the younger, better, faster Stars, but still had them finishing slightly better than THN. NHL Yearbook and McKeen’s, were each two off the mark, but we’ll give it to NHL on the tie breaker that they had the team missing the playoffs while McKeen’s had them making it.
NHL Yearbook 2012 – 12th in the West – Winner
The Hockey News 2012 Yearbook – 13th in the West
McKeen’s - 8th in the West
Detroit Red Wings – 5th in the West
Certainly the mighty Red Wings are not as mighty as they once were and some could argue that they are en route for a rebuilding phase. Still, not one magazine dared to peg them to miss the playoffs, and rightfully so. You can always count on a Swiss made watch and you can always count on the Red Wings to make the playoffs – it just works that way. THN said “The Wings are a little bit older and greyer this year, but still have more than enough talent to vie for a home-ice playoff berth” and boy were they dead on. Not only guessing the playoff spot but the exact position the Red Wings would end up. NHL Yearbook guys have a slightly higher regard for the aging Wings, what might have been a stretch.
NHL Yearbook 2012 – 3rd in the West
The Hockey News 2012 Yearbook – 5th in the West – Winner
McKeen’s – 6th in the West
Let’s stop there, take a breather, and re-group tomorrow where we look at the next group of teams and see where these magazines had them finishing in the standings in Part Two of this three-part series. Are you keeping score between the magazines? Don’t worry, I’ll tally it up and give the final verdict on Tuesday at the conclusion of Part three.
Picture for easy tracking of the winners and losers.
Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter – @LastWordOnNHL, and feel free to leave your comments below.
Which magazine do you buy, and how much stock do you put into their prediction?