Kevin Brown

In The Crease

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Fearless Predictions Revisited

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

With only a week to play in the regular season, it's a good time to begin looking back on the year that was and assessing what we have learned. Prior to the start of the season, each of the Rotoworld hockey writers submitted a set of predictions about this campaign. I thought it would be a good idea to use this space to write about my biggest hits and misses.

Hart Trophy – Sidney Crosby

I don't consider this pick a failure, since Crosby's fantastic season was abruptly halted by concussion problems near the beginning of January. Prior to hitting the sidelines, Sid the Kid played in 41 contests (half a season) and recorded 32 goals and 34 assists for 66 points. If ballots had been cast on New Year's Day, I have no doubt in my mind he would have been the runaway choice for the Hart.

Rocket Richard - Alex Ovechkin
Best Fantasy Forward – Alex Ovechkin

I played it safe by predicting Ovechkin would lead the league in goals, based on his track record. My next pick would have been Daniel Sedin, who currently sits third in the league with 41 tallies behind Corey Perry (47) and Steve Stamkos (44). I can argue that I followed the masses by picking Ovie, but any way you look at it, this was wrong.

Norris – Drew Doughty

Anyone who saw Doughty play on a regular basis last season would agree there are Norris Trophies in the man's future, so I don't feel any regret in guessing wrong here. For what it's worth, of the seven experts who submitted predictions at the start of the year, three of us chose Doughty for this award.

Vezina – Roberto Luongo

My thinking behind this pick was not that Luongo would actually be the league's best goalie, but that the Canucks would be a great team and Bobby Lu would benefit from playing with them. As he's sitting atop the NHL in Wins (37), third in GAA (2.14) and third in save percentage (.927), I still think he stands a decent chance of taking home the hardware.

Calder – Jordan Eberle

I'm still confident that Eberle will become a great NHLer, but perhaps I expected too much from him in his rookie season. Sure, 18 goals in 65 games are impressive, but given the statistics posted by Jeff Skinner, Michael Grabner and Logan Couture, Eberle won't even be a Calder finalist.

Eastern Conference Champion – Boston Bruins

I'm giving myself a B+ for this one. The Bruins currently sit third in the Eastern Conference, but they remain within striking distance of the Flyers and Capitals with three games to play, and hold the best goal differential in the East. I think they have to be considered one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup.

Western Conference and Stanley Cup Champion – Vancouver Canucks

While I noted above that Boston holds the best goal differential in the East, Vancouver leads the league in this area and it's not a particularly close race. With 113 points on the season, the Canucks have already wrapped up the President's Trophy and are the odds-on favorites to be the last team standing at the end of the playoffs. Given how poorly some of my player predictions have turned out, please allow me a second to revel in this moment.

Surprise breakout – Nikita Filatov

Swing and a miss! Filatov has to be considered worst prediction, but I have a reasonable defense. Scouts everywhere touted him as the best prospect in hockey prior to the season. The combination of his skills and the apparent need for scoring on the Blue Jackets seemed like a perfect fit, but Filatov's season couldn't have gone much worse. After 23 uneventful games in which he registered a measly seven assists without scoring a goal, the Russian dynamo was shipped to Springfield of the AHL where he recorded only 15 points in 27 games. It's beginning to look as if his future in the NHL might be with a different franchise.

Best Fantasy Defenseman – Mike Green

Various injuries combined to derail Green's season, but the eight goals and 16 assists he amassed in 49 contests were far behind the pace he set with back-to-back 70 point campaigns the past two years. Having said that, how many people predicted Dustin Byfuglien would be the most valuable fantasy defenseman this year? That's what I thought.

Best Fantasy Goalie – Henrik Lundqvist

For my money, he's the best goalie in the league. Others think it has come down to Roberto Luongo (most Wins) and Tim Thomas (best GAA, save percentage), but Lundqvist, Carey Price and Pekka Rinne are still in the conversation. Put another way, if you owned King Henrik this season, you have not been disappointed by the results.

Most disappointing fantasy season – Dustin Penner

In a season split between Edmonton and Los Angeles, Penner has found the back of the net 23 times and added 22 helpers for 45 points. This is a far cry from the 32 goals and 61 points he totalled a year ago so I consider this prediction a pretty good one, although Sergei Gonchar may have been an even better pick since his move to Ottawa has been nothing short of disastrous.

Best enforcer for your buck – Steve Downie

Downie failed to reach last season's totals of 20 goals or 208 penalty minutes, but given that he's played in 25 fewer games, his numbers this season are arguably even more valuable. His numbers, pro-rated across 82 games, would result in a stat line of 15 goals, 30 assists, a plus-11 rating and 260 PIM. There's no better enforcer in the game for fantasy purposes.

Biggest overachiever from a late round draft pick – Jordan Staal

I'd like to point to Staal's numerous ailments this season to defend my pick, but in the 40 games he's played, he has failed to break out offensively in the way I expected. Prior to the season, he seemed like a prime candidate to bust out since he was tagged to move from his third line role into that of a scorer, but success simply hasn't materialized. I'm holding out hope that a healthy off-season and the returns of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in 2011-12 will combine to spark an offensive spike.

Most over-hyped rookie who will be a fantasy bust for this season – Lars Eller

As the main piece received by Montreal in the Jaroslav Halak deal, expectations in hockey-crazed Montreal were high for Eller, but with just 16 points (none on the power play) in 74 contests, the Dane hasn't shown the ability to score on a regular basis. He'll take some time to develop into a more complete player, but I don't think big offensive numbers are in the cards for him. I hit this one on the head.

Best season after recovering from injury – David Booth

When I made this pick at the start of the year, my biggest concern was that Booth would get hurt again and wouldn't get the opportunity to prove me right. To my surprise, he has played in every Florida game this season, but has only recorded 22 goals and 17 assists for 39 points. Color me surprised. The massive struggles experienced by the Panthers' power play have certainly contributed to his misery, but it's hard not to be disappointed by the lack of production.

So there you have it. If any of you wagered large sums of money based on my pre-season predictions, I know someone you can talk to about a second mortgage. Then again, if you put that much faith in my prognostication abilities then you probably got what you deserve.

Rotoworld is hosting a playoff pool scheduled to take place on Monday April 11th. We are looking for a few readers to join our team of experts. E-mail Mike Finewax at and tell him why we should choose you.

Kevin Brown has covered hockey for Rotoworld since 2010 and counts himself among the many tortured fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs. You can find him on Twitter @kbrownroto.
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