Monday, February 20, 2023

Weekend rankings: Ryan O’Reilly to the Leafs, Wild worries, and are these rankings cursed?

One of the things that happens when you do a power rankings, especially one that’s limited to a few teams, is that fans get mad at you. Where’s my team? Why aren’t they higher? Do you even watch them? It’s part of the deal, and up to a point it even adds to the fun.

Then you have these rankings, and readers who have a different question: How much would it cost us to bribe you to never mention us again?

It happened again last week, when I wondered if the Oilers were becoming a Western force. Full disclosure, I wrote most of that take on Sunday morning, assuming they’d be able to handle the Habs later that day. They lost that game, by a lot, and then lost to the Red Wings too. Message received, Oilers, I won’t bother you again.

Look, I think I do a pretty good job with these rankings. At the end of the year, when we look back on them, they almost always hold up well. I like that we try not to get caught up in short-term swings, and I think it helps us paint a more realistic picture. I stand by my work.

But also, yes, there does seem to be a disturbing trend of teams that are playing well getting a pat on the back in this column, and then immediately forgetting how to hockey.

Let’s just put it on the table: These rankings might be cursed. We should dig into the evidence.

Top five times these rankings cursed a team (maybe)

5. Dallas Stars, January 2After being hesitant on the Stars on year long, I finally put them in the top five as part of a New Year’s shakeup. They debuted at a lofty number three, partly on the strength of a four-game win streak. They immediately Kings and Ducks(!), and have lost 11 of 18 since that ranking.

4. Maple Leafs, December 13The Leafs didn’t just crack the top five, they got a whole section explaining why. (You have to do this when so many fans have made complaining about a team their entire personality.) They’d won four in a row and nine of ten. They immediately lost their next two, and five of nine.

3. Sabres, January 30I didn’t put them in the top five, but I did pump their tires pretty hard, and made that the case for why you should bandwagon their playoff push. Did you listen? I hope not,  because they got crushed 5-1 in their next game and Tage Thompson left with an injury. They’d end up losing four straight, seeing their playoff hopes dwindle back down to long shot territory.

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