Monday, June 7, 2021

Revisiting the good, the bad and the outright embarrassing from my oddly specific 2021 predictions

Predictions are high on the list of any sportswriter’s favorite things. They make for relatively easy content, the kind that doesn’t require a ton of research or inside information. You just figure out what you think will happen, toss in a couple of bonus picks that you don’t actually believe but will get a reaction, and you’re good to go. If you know what you’re doing, you can even keep everything vague enough that nobody can really accuse you of being all that wrong.

That last bit is the part that always trips me up. As long-time readers know, I have an annual tradition of making a single prediction for each team in the league. But I don’t do vague. I steer hard in the other direction, and go into way too much detail. Forget about who’ll be the leading scorer – exactly how many points will he get? Don’t tell me a team will improve their record – let’s hear exactly how they’ll finish. Oh, somebody’s going to score a goal? Let’s hear the exact date it’s going to happen.

It’s the Oddly Specific Prediction. I just think it’s more interesting that way. But there’s an obvious downside: I’m pretty much always wrong. Often, embarrassingly so. Call me Erik Gudbranson, because I’m shooting about 3% for my career.

Does that mean I should make the predictions at the start of the season and then never speak of them again? It absolutely does, but that’s no fun. So today, we’re going to look back at the 32 oddly specific prediction I made on the day the season started in January, and see how I did. Spoiler alert: Not great! But also… not awful?

Tier 1: Not just wrong but painfully wrong

It’s one thing to miss the target. It’s another to look back and realize you were aiming in the wrong direction entirely.

Buffalo Sabres – After calling back to one of my worst predictions – picking Casey Mittelstadt to win the Calder back in 2018 – I went back to the Sabres’ rookie well by picking Dylan Cozens as a Calder finalist this year. He had 13 points. Next year’s oddly specific Sabres prediction will not be about the Calder Trophy.

Dallas Stars – I said they’d beat the Lightning eight times over the regular season and playoffs combined. They went a rotten 2-5-1 against Tampa during the season, and as for the playoffs… oof.

New York Rangers – I predicted big things for Alexis Lafreniere, including a 45-point season that would put him in the mix for the most successful teenaged rookie runs in Ranger history. Instead, Lafreniere had a disappointing season, and his 21 points was under half of what I promised.

Colorado Avalanche – I said the Avs would take part in the longest shootout of the season. They didn’t give me much to work with, appearing in just one all year, and that one ended after five shots.

Columbus Blue Jackets – With rumors of a Pierre Luc-Dubois trade swirling, I pencilled him in to match last year’s scoring pace. That would have been about 40 points; he was barely half that, finishing with a career-low 21.

Edmonton Oilers – I picked Connor McDavid to win the Art Ross, which he did, but that doesn’t even count as a worthwhile prediction. So I went one further and said he’d finish the year with exactly 87 points. That would indeed have been enough to win the Art Ross, but McDavid blew by the total by a mile; he was over 87 with weeks left in the season.

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