Welcome to Part Two of this three part series that compares the pre-season predictions of three very well respected hockey publications – The Official NHL Yearbook, The Hockey News Yearbook, and McKeen’s Hockey Pool Yearbook. Before continuing on to part two, you may want to check out Part One before resuming with Part Two.
“The kids are all right, sure, but losing is really getting tiresome.” A quote from NHL Yearbook and it seems to be dead on. In fact, both McKeen’s and the NHL yearbook hit this one dead on, but the THN crew might have given a bit less credit to this young group. With three consecutive numero uno picks, the Oilers are stacked with blue chip forwards, yet what about the back-end? With Khabibulin in his contract year, he performs the best in those (funny how that happens), we can see a slight jump in the standings compared to last two years. It will be interesting to see what these guys will say about them this year.
NHL Yearbook 2012 – Winner
McKeen’s - Winner
All of the experts here thought this would be a bottom-dweller team, finishing way out of the playoffs and continuing to be the “bad team” in Florida. THN said “Dave Tallon’s rebuild of the franchise is in full swing. The influx of veterans will help the Cats, but not enough to secure a playoff spot”, and McKeen’s was singing a similar tune – “Its going to be a while yet before there is major progress in Florida even with all the money they’re throwing around.” Well how about a Southeast division championship instead? Whoops! The truth is that this was a pleasant surprise for Florida hockey fans. The race was tight, but give credit to Florida. They were extremely strong at home (21-9-11), and managed to pry the title away from the Washington Capitals. The title must have tasted extra delicious since they were able to prove the experts wrong. Love it.
McKeeen’s - Winner
LOS ANGELES KINGS
Well the story has been written and the Kings are kings in NHL this year. Most experts pegged them to do just that. The Kings really struggled to score which was a shock to everyone. NHL guys said, “After years of building toward the future, this could be the season when that future arrives for the Los Angeles Kings.” Imagine the “could be” was replaced with “will be” and that quote could have had been epic. The more bold prediction came from McKeen’s with, “It should translate into a possible crowning season.” Bravo! Still the experts expected LA to be very dominant, but in the regular season. They were good in the regular season, but were dominant in the playoffs, when it really mattered. So the experts got it right that the Kings were serious contenders, but LA took a little longer than they thought to prove it.
The Hockey News 2012 Yearbook – Winner
The fun part about the experts is that they can spot trends and the trend for the wild is that they could not score goals. Heatley was thought to be the solution. I must say I really couldn’t see him solving much of anything, and similarly the experts doubted he would be the answer either. The guys at THN agreed; “Two new guns will help, but there are still holes throughout the lineup that will hurt Minnesota in the long run.” There is a bright future for this team and we saw a glimpse of it last season when for a brief moment the Wild were running the town in the West. The team crashed down the standings faster than NASDAQ during the recessions. All of the experts were almost dead-on and it will be interesting to see where they peg them to finish this year.
A good example of how the Wild ‘s season went:
NHL Yearbook 2012 - Tie
The Hockey News 2012 Yearbook – Tie
McKeen’s - Tie
The Canadiens disappointed everyone including the experts, and including our own, Ben Kerr. Condolences, Ben. The loss to Boston was still fresh in the minds of the writers when they were doing these rankings. “Gomez does not have to be the comeback player of the year, but he must improve on horrible totals.” Boy, was this an understatement-of-the-year award candidate or what? Poor guy had a website made to track when he would score again, and with a seven million dollar CAP hit, he seems to be the most expansive bag of donuts on the market. Well the problems were everywhere except the 1st line. Let us see if the experts get fooled again next year.
NHL Yearbook 2012 – 11th in the East – Winner
Unappreciated and underestimated. This team has had awesome defensive system and it is easier to stay consistent when you have a solid defensive core. Experts recognize this as well with THN saying “Always ‘D’ Day…Recipe for success remains the same.” NHL Yearbook really hammers the point home with this bit – “The Nashville Predators, with little star power and obscure almost by definition, would come to town, exhibit on ice passion in the utilizing a system that made it clear they were a very well-coached team, and leave the assembled fans and media admiring how the visitors played the game.” The truth is that, while not the most exciting team, the Predators play solid, consistent hockey. Betting on them to be in the mix every year is as sure a bet as any.
NHL Yearbook 2012 – Winner
NEW YORK ISLANDERS
It is a funny thing, predictions and expectations. The fact is that all the experts predicted the exact same thing and they were all wrong. While young talent can pay off and help you win quickly, sometimes the young talent only takes you so far and some seasoning is required. “Things are slowly coming together on Long Island,” said NHL gurus, while The Hockey News squad was a bit harsher – “You see where GM Garth Snow is going with this young group, but do you see them being better than any divisional rival? Us neither.” The truth is that even with those somewhat harsh words, they expected a bit more from the Captain Highliners. The bright side here is that there is really nowhere to go but up.
NHL 2012 Yearbook - Tie
The Hockey News 2012 Yearbook – Tie
McKeen’s - Tie
NEW JERSEY DEVILS
When is the right time to say that a franchise is rebuilding or is going to take a year off? The Devils are a franchise similar to the Red Wings where they make playoffs and keep on winning. The time is ticking on Martin Brodeur and no one can get it exactly right, so long as he keeps on winning. THN said “With a lack of top-notch talent and with Marin Brodeur another year older the Devils don’t have enough to content.” Oops. I guess they had enough to get to the post-season, and even had enough to go all the way to the Stanley Cup final. McKeen’s seemed to have had more faith in the Devils – “This team is good enough on paper to get back into the playoffs. Whether that translates to the ice, will depend on Deboer,” but still ranked them out of the playoffs. NHL Yearbook asked a question that will be repeated for a while by the media and fans alike – “Brodeur: Is it time to start thinking about a time when he won’t be there?” This year will not be any different.
NHL 2012 Yearbook – 9th in the East – Winner
NEW YORK RANGERS
The Broadway show was lots brighter than most people expected. A healthy Gaborik lit it up, the King was being fabulous, and a shut-down duo blossomed at the Garden. While McDdonagh is a household name now, last year everyone was talking about Del Zotto. No one could have predicted such a solid season from the Rangers, no one except loud and proud New York Ranger fans, right (and how annoying are they? Just kidding, but not really)? THN states the obvious “The addition of Brad Richards will improve the Rangers offense, but the Blueshirts defense will remain their calling card.” The defense was good, top five in the NHL good, but lack of goal support for Henrik Lundqvist was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Having said that, the Rangers were a bit undervalued in last year’s rankings, and seeing as this year’s addition has that Rick Nash guy, the magazines will not have them ranked anywhere but 1st place.
NHL 2012 Yearbook – 6th in the East – Winner
Let’s stop here, 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 Three of this three-part series. Are you keeping score between the magazines (part one)? Don’t worry, I’ll tally it up and give the final verdict on Wednesday at the conclusion of Part three, where we will crown a winner and determine which magazine you should give your hard-earned coin to.
Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter – @LastWordOnNHL, as well as my other column, “NHL Happy Hour“, where I compare hockey players to one of my other passions in life – vodka.
Feel free to leave your comments below.
Which magazine do you buy, and how much stock do you put into their prediction?