Wednesday, July 20, 2022

The prediction contest results are in, and wow you all did terrible

OK, that was more like it.

Last year’s debut of the super-easy prediction contest was a lot of fun. I’d give you a handful of “simple” questions, you gave me the obvious answers, and every right answer would score you points – but only if you didn’t get any wrong. That was the twist that made it challenging, and it was, as only a single entry out of 800 was perfect (and that one didn’t win). The other 799 of you had at least one of your oh-so-obvious predictions turn out to be wrong. Most of you had lots. And of course, that was the whole point.

But I’ll be honest – last year’s contest was tough, but it didn’t turn out to be quite as tough as I’d hoped. When I came up with the idea, I figured that a typical NHL season has so many unexpected twists and turns that we’d see zeroes everywhere. I wanted to prove a point about how all the obvious stuff is only obvious in hindsight, and when you force people to spell it out in advance they don’t look as smart as they think they are.

In other words, I didn’t want you guys to struggle – I wanted to see you get wiped out. And it didn’t really happen, because the 2020-21 playoff and non-playoff teams went pretty much according to plan, there weren’t any stunning coach or GM changes, and the biggest MVP favorites all lived up to expectations. Alexis Lafreniere took down most of you on the Calder question, and the goalies were tough, but it was possible to navigate last year’s entry reasonably well. It was bad. Just not that bad.

Which brings us to this year.

With an expanded field of almost 1,600 entires, this was more like the contest that I’d had in mind, because the preseason wisdom of the crowds turned out to be filled with bad assumptions. The Golden Knights were playoff locks. So were the Islanders. The Kings were still a few years away. Cole Caufield would run away with the Calder. Nathan MacKinnon was a lock to contend for the Hart. And surely, if we could count on anything at all, it was that coaches like Joel Quenneville, Bruce Cassidy and Barry Trotz couldn’t possibly be fired.

Yeah, none of that turned out to be true. And then the best GM in the league, one with universal respect and completely untouchable job security, got promoted upstairs with days left in the contest.

You guys are so screwed.

Mix in the new bonus question, which was designed to implode your entry no matter what you did anywhere else, and this year’s winner was really going to need to earn it. So who pulled it off? Let’s find out.

(A monster thank you to readers Joe and Mike, both of whom created automated tools I could use to track the results rather than doing it all by hand like last year.)

To recap the rules of this year’s contest, there were nine standard questions and one bonus that we’ll get to at the end. For the standard questions, entrants had the option of giving anywhere from one to five answers to each and would receive one point for the first correct answer, two for the second (for a total of three), all the way up to five points for the fifth answer (for a maximum of 15 points for a 5-for-5 answer). But even one wrong answer hit you with a zero for that question, so you had to decide how far you wanted to push. Play it safe and bank a few easy points, or go for more but add to your risk with each new answer? It was up to you.

For the first two questions, you simply had to know which teams would and wouldn’t make the playoffs.

1. Name up to five teams that will make the playoffs this year.

And right off the bat, it’s carnage. Of the 1,583 entries, almost 1,500 listed the Golden Knights as a sure thing to make the playoffs. They weren’t dumb, as just about every preseason prediction agreed that the Knights were an absolute lock in the Pacific. With no other truly good teams in the division, a stacked lineup on paper, and rumors of a Jack Eichel trade on the way, the Knights were an absolute sure-thing, right up until they weren’t.

To make matters worse, about 900 of you also had the Islanders listed, including most of the 100 entries or so that managed to dodge the Golden Knights. In all, only 17 entries got points on question one, with 13 getting the max 15 points and four more going conservative and settling for less.

We’re one question in, and we’re already looking at a 99% failure rate. Oh, and this might not even have been the hardest question.

2. Name up to five teams that will not make the playoffs this year.
After a brutal start, the group did significantly better here. The Kings were a surprise, and they took out about 50 entries, as did the Predators. But for the most part, this was a safe question, with over 1,400 of you banking some points and about 1,300 getting the max 15.

For a while, it looked like it wouldn’t turn out that way. The Ducks spent the first half of the season in the playoff mix, even holding down top spot in the Pacific for a while, and they were aming a lot of you nervous when we did our midseason check-in before fading down the stretch. They showed up on almost 1,200 entries, so if they’d made it then they’d have done some serious damage. But they didn’t, so most of you were fine.

By the way, because they represented the extremes of the contest, the first two questions turned out not to matter all that much. At this point, there’s an overwhelming chance that your entry was sitting at 15 points on the nose, having whiffed on the first question and aced the second. It would be how you could navigate the rest of the way that would determine your chances.

3. Name up to five coaches who will not be fired or otherwise leave their job before the first day of 2022 free agency, NOT including any coach who was hired to their current job after Oct. 1, 2020.

Oh no.

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  1. In next year's contest, could you make a shoot-the-moon option?

    It has to be done right. A shoot-the-moon winner would need to be spectacularly and consistently and intentionally wrong. Chicago bad, not three-points-out-of-the-second-wildcard bad.

    The biggest problem is that some of the questions are too easy to be intentionally wrong. You could pick a bunch of 2022 seventh-rounders and Alex Ovechkin as your 2023 Calder finalists. But I think your readers include the sorts of weirdos who could figure out a good point system.