Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Oddly specific 2019-20 predictions for all 31 teams

As the days until the season openers counted down, everyone who talks or writes about hockey for a living has spent the last week making their predictions. You can find a big batch of them from The Athletic’s hockey writers going up later today. A more in-depth look that’s based on the numbers is here. My attempt to make sense of everything is here. And every other site you read, podcast you listen to or insider you follow is doing the same thing. So many predictions.

Spoiler alert: They’re all wrong.

OK, almost all of them. The sheer volume of predictions that have been put out into the world over the past few days all but guarantees that at least one or two will be bang on. Blind squirrels and all that. But for the most part, we’ll all be wrong, because the modern NHL is just a Thunderdome of parity and chaos and randomness. Nobody knows anything.

Well, as longtime readers know, I have a personal philosophy that I stand by: If you’re going to be wrong, be really wrong. So every year, I make a list of predictions for the coming season that are way too specific. I’m not just going to be wrong, I’m going to be wrong down to a specific number or date or moment. Let’s really steer into the skid here.

Have any of these predictions ever turned out to be right over the years? Yeah, actually, a few times – check out last year’s picks for the Leafs, Canadiens and Blue Jackets. That’s always cool, and I try very hard not to look surprised when it happens. But the miss rate is running somewhere north of 95 percent. Which is to say, pretty much the same as everyone else. Let’s do this.

New Jersey Devils – There’s so much hype about Jack Hughes that you might think he’s the next Mario Lemieux. But that’s obviously ridiculous; Lemieux was dominant from his very first shift in the NHL, when he famously scored against the Bruins. Hughes should be great, but he’s not in that tier. So instead, let’s predict that he scores his first goal on his second shift.

Buffalo Sabres – By the end of October, the Sabres will have played 13 games. The NFL’s Bills will have played seven. Which team will have more wins? Trick question, they’ll both have five.

Colorado Avalanche – If we pencil in Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko as the two obvious Calder finalists, who gets the last slot? Voters might find the brother vs. brother storyline irresistible and give the nod to Quinn Hughes or it could be a dark horse like Nick Suzuki or Dante Fabbro. But the fact that I’m mentioning this in the Avs section might tip my hand that I’m calling it for Cale Makar. And I’ll go one further: He finishes second, not third.

Florida Panthers – We tiptoed around it in yesterday’s post, but let’s go there: The Panthers beat the Lightning in back-to-back games to open the season, sending a message to the league that they may or may not actually deliver on.

Calgary Flames – Last year, I picked Mike Smith to score the second goal of his career. He let me down, and the Flames ran him out of town because of it. (Shut up, that was totally the reason.) I’m still not over it, though, so here’s this year’s Flames pick: They get scored on by a goaltender, for the first time in franchise history.

Washington Capitals – Can Tom Wilson make it through an entire year without getting suspended? He sure can! A calendar year, that is, as Wilson manages to escape 2019 unscathed before picking up his first suspension of this season in January.

Ottawa Senators – The Senators had the fewest shootouts in the league last year, with just one. The Leafs had the second fewest, with two. Neither team managed a shootout win all year. You know where this is headed: Tonight’s Leafs/Sens game goes to a shootout.

Vegas Golden Knights – The schedule serves up a home-and-home with the Sharks to start the season. The hockey gods love to twist the knife, so let’s say the Knights take a five-minute major in one of those games. (And it goes without saying that they kill it off.)

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