Way back in September we assembled nine of the sharpest minds in hockey to make their projections for the coming season. Okay, maybe not the sharpest minds in hockey, but definitely nine of the most available minds at the time of the exercise. In addition to predicting who would win each of the six major awards, our nine hockey savants were asked to locate their nearest crystal ball (or Magic 8 Ball) and make a variety of prognostications for the 2012-13 season. In what always proves to be a fun, yet humbling activity, I present to you the best and worst of these projections.
There were really no surprises here, but we’ll award the best pick to the four writers (Kevin Brown, Ryan Dadoun, Gus Katsaros and Brian Rosenbaum) who selected Sidney Crosby since he has been named a finalist for the award. Four of our other participants (Corey Abbott, Marty York, James O’Brien and Jimmy Hascup) predicted Steven Stamkos would take home the hardware. Michael Finewax was the only one to select Evgeni Malkin. None of these predictions are worthy of ridicule.
Rocket Richard Trophy
How boring. All but one of our writers predicted Stamkos would lead the league in goals. Ryan Dadoun really went out on a limb to pick Crosby for the title.
Seven writers predicted King Henrik Lundqvist would win the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender while Brian was on the Jonathan Quick bandwagon and Gus predicted a Carey Price rebound, which never materialized.
Corey, James, Gus and Michael get a gold star for selecting Jonathan Huberdeau as the league’s top rookie since he was recently named a finalist for the award. My selection of Mikael Granlund looks foolish in hindsight, but I’m in good company, as Marty and Brian apparently hitched their horse to the young Finn’s wagon as well.
Art Ross Trophy
Sidney Crosby would certainly have run away with the NHL scoring title, had he not suffered a broken jaw with a quarter of the schedule to be played, but the fact remains none of our esteemed writers expected the reliable Martin St. Louis to win the race. To borrow from the famous fable, he’s the “slow and steady” tortoise while some of the flashier names are the hares. Not a perfect analogy, I’ll admit.
James Norris Trophy
Congratulations to Brian for distancing himself from the rest of our panel by predicting Kris Letang would be the NHL’s best defenseman. The other eight writers all failed to pick a player who was named as a finalist for the trophy. Nice job, Brian. As for the rest of us, we shall collectively hang our heads in shame.
Our most common pick for league leader in penalty minutes was Zenon Konopka, whom five of our “experts” (given how well we’re doing with these predictions thus far, I think the quotes are warranted) picked for the crown. The Minnesota center ended up fourth in the league with 117 minutes in the sin bin, but nobody foresaw Toronto’s Colton Orr racking up 155 PIM. It’s hard to fault us for overlooking the Leafs enforcer, since no right-thinking person would have predicted coach Randy Carlyle would dress Orr for 44 of the team’s 48 contests.
It’s clear from some of the submissions made by our group of prognosticators that the definition of what constitutes a sleeper is not universal, but we’ll put our differences aside and evaluate players against the conventional wisdom entering the season. We’ll give Brian some props for projecting a productive season for Niklas Kronwall, who delivered with 29 points in 48 games, which was good for sixth in the league among blueliners, to go along with 44 PIM. Marty trusted the 2011-12 breakout enjoyed by Blake Wheeler when many others doubted he could repeat his success and he was rewarded as Wheeler posted 41 points in the shortened season. I admire Michael’s willingness to go out on a limb, but his selection of Roman Cervenka as a sleeper failed to the tune of 17 points in 39 contests.
Most Likely to Disappoint
Consider this the opposite of the typical “Most Likely to Succeed” meme from your high school yearbook. (For what it’s worth, I feel comfortable saying Sean Avery would have been the runaway winner, had we voted on “Class Clown”, but I digress.) Jimmy was spot-on with his prediction that the Coyotes’ Mike Smith would be a disappointment to his fantasy owners, as his late-season resurgence wasn’t enough to erase his early struggles. I recognize that in order to hit a home run in this category our predictors must choose impressive players, but I hope my colleagues Marty and Brian don’t mind me saying they swung and missed with their selections of Ryan Suter and P.A. Parenteau, respectively, as each of these players enjoyed career seasons after signing big free agent contracts in the summer.
Goalie Most Likely to Lose his Job
Corey and I must share some embarrassment here, as we both predicted Niklas Backstrom would wind up losing his starting gig, but the Finnish veteran laughed in our collective faces by leading Minnesota to the postseason and tying for the NHL lead in wins.
These predictions are meant to be bold, unorthodox visions of the future and offer our writers the chance to be proven wise, but by their nature they often make us appear silly in hindsight. Below I provide some of the most interesting ones; good, bad and ugly.
“The NHL and NHLPA will settle before the start of the regular season”. – Michael Finewax
“Jonathan Bernier will steal a surprising amount of starts from a briefly struggling Jonathan Quick”. – James O’Brien
“Capitals finish last in the Southeast”. – Jimmy Hascup
“Wojtek Wolski will score 20 goals (in an 82-game season)”. – Gus Katsaros
“The Islanders will make the playoffs”. – Gus Katsaros
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