The NHL season is winding down, with just about four weeks of regular-season games remaining. There is still much to be determined in the standings, but as winter turns to spring it's hard not to look ahead to the playoffs.
But the end of the season means it's also time to look back. We at The Hockey News make a lot of predictions during the summer and fall before the season begins. Sometimes they're solid, sometimes they're way off.
These are our worst pre-season predictions:
"THE BLUE JACKETS WILL WIN THE METRO DIVISION"
Yeah, I fell for the Blue Jackets. But I swear it wasn't just because they finished the past season so strong…OK, that didn't help my judgement. But the Metropolitan Division appeared to have so much parity and Columbus was coming into the year healthy with some pretty good weapons. Anything could happen, right? Sergei Bobrovsky was in net – aka a guy who can steal games. Ryan Johansen was the top-line center, with the surging Nick Foligno on one wing and new gun Brandon Saad on the other – that's a big line!
Perhaps I overlooked the quality of the defense, but a big part of me wanted this to be the year Ryan Murray would finally go injury-free and live up to his potential as the mobile, two-way defender we all thought he was when the Jackets took him second overall in the 2012 draft. Then they tanked out of the gate, fired coach Todd Richards and replaced him with John Tortorella. So my prediction was doomed before the calendar even hit November. (Ryan Kennedy)
"RYAN GETZLAF WILL WIN THE HART TROPHY"
The 2014-15 Anaheim Ducks had the 11th-best offense in the NHL. In the post-season, when goals are often even harder to come by, the Ducks had the league’s best offense, scoring 3.56 goals per game over 16 games. The Ducks’ ability to fill the net was mighty impressive, and it led me to believe this was a team that would be an offensive juggernaut in 2015-16 and that Ryan Getzlaf would lead the way.
Getzlaf is leading Anaheim with 10 goals and 52 points, but Anaheim has the sixth-lowest goals per game. The Ducks are winning not by blowing other teams out of the water but with puck possession and solid defense. Getzlaf doesn’t rank in the top-25 in points and he’s not even scoring at a point per game pace. Those aren’t the only qualities that make an MVP but without finishing anywhere close to the top of the league in scoring, he won’t come close to the conversation for the Hart. (Jared Clinton)
"THE FLAMES WILL FINISH SECOND IN THE PACIFIC DIVISION"
I'll heap additional boos on myself with a lame pun: I got burned badly by my Flames prediction. Calgary had me believing entering the 2015-16 season. They had bad possession numbers last year, which suggested a regression was in store. But I figured the progression of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett et all would offset the bad possession numbers, that they would become better two-way players as they matured. I also figured Michael Frolik and Dougie Hamilton, two off-season additions who had good possession stats, would remedy the problem. Nope.
The Flames turned out to be the NHL's annual turn-into-a-pumpkin team, taking the torch from the 2014-15 Colorado Avalanche. Despite great puck-movment skill on their blueline, they continue to allow far more shot attempts than they generate. A league-worst save percentage of .894 compounds the problem. I had Calgary finishing second in the Pacific, ahead of Los Angeles. That's embarrassing. (Matt Larkin)
"NASHVILLE WILL FINISH LAST IN THE CENTRAL"
My rationale was the Central would become by far the league's strongest division. Chicago and St. Louis were and are powerhouses. I called for Dallas to make a huge step forward and jump from sixth last year to third. I liked Minnesota and Winnipeg as young, up-and-coming teams getting stronger. And I projected Colorado to have a big bounce back from a terrible 2014-15 and be a solid sixth-place team.
I looked at Nashville's age down the middle and a rough year from Pekka Rinne and I saw things breaking down there – despite a potent defense led by Shea Weber. Hence, last place. I did couch it a bit saying the Preds should be as high as 20th overall, finishing better than at least three teams in each of the other three divisions. (Brian Costello)
"THE BRUINS WILL MISS THE PLAYOFFS"
Woof. I was so sure Boston would slot in behind Tampa, Detroit, Montreal and Florida in the Atlantic, and lose out on the wild card to a Metro team that I placed a cash-money wager prior to the season's start. I even thought Claude Julien was a good bet to be the first coach fired this season. I figured the downfall of Zdeno Chara's game would come as a deluge, rather than a trickle, and they'd miss Dougie Hamilton a lot more than they have.
And who would have guessed the forward corps would all stay relatively healthy and produce at a high level? Certainly not me. AND wasn't Tuukka Rask starting to fray at the edges? Obviously not. The B's are leading their division and are a lock to make the post-season. I can just hear the always… er…effervescent Jack Edwards telling me to not poke the bear. (Edward Fraser)
"WINNIPEG WILL FINISH SECOND IN THE CENTRAL"
After making the playoffs and being among the league leaders in possession last season, Winnipeg looked like a money pick to take the next step. With very little turnover ensuring continued chemistry, and adding Nikolaj Ehlers into the mix, the Jets couldn’t possibly go anywhere but up, right?
Ugh. That prediction gets uglier by the day. Analytics are predictive, but they’re not perfect. They’re like making passes up the middle: most of the time they work, but when they don't, the results aren't pretty. (Ronnie Shuker)