Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Predictions for the upcoming NHL season are starting to surface in various print and online publications. Much like last year, the early consensus has the Islanders finishing last in the division, last in the conference, and last in the Academy Award voting for Best Live Action Short Film. You know, any excuse to put the Islanders last. Here's why I don't care:

  1. Garth Snow has once again put together a team that can thrive under the leadership of Ted Nolan.
  2. Making predictions is mostly a worthless exercise. I suppose it takes up column space. It can even be informative and entertaining. But, in the end, predictions have very little value.
Let's look at point #2 first. One of my favorite stories from last year's baseball season is a prime example of the futility of making predictions. ESPN.com published the predictions of its baseball experts for the 2006 postseason right after the regular season ended. Nineteen experts participated, including all of the big names: Gammons, Neyer, Olney, Kurkjian, Karabell, Stark, etc. Not a single one of them picked either the Tigers or the Cardinals to even make it to the World Series. Not a single one of them picked Detroit to make it out of the Division Series. Only one of them picked St. Louis to advance to the NLCS. It was the biggest prognostication whitewash I've ever seen. The baseball gods said, "Ha!" And it continues to amuse me to this day.

I know there are some Islander fans who are upset at the lack of respect being shown for the team as indicated by the various last-place predictions. I say forget about the predictions. Let's just drop the puck and see what happens.

Which brings us to point #1. Ted Nolan's reputation is based on his ability to get the most out of his players. Fedotenko, Comrie, and Vasicek are precisely the kinds of players whose talents should best be served by a coach who knows how to motivate individuals (which, by the way, was one of Al Arbour's great strengths as a coach). There are certain players who simply will not fulfill their potential without the proper environment. We've had to watch several of them struggle on Long Island when it was the wrong environment. I'm expecting good things from this group. But I'm certainly not going to make any predictions!


thedope said...

Predicting with hockey is especially tough. Although you can pretty much count on the Devils, Avs, and Wings showing up year after year - and the Blackhawks being horrid - teams rise and fall each year. 6 different cup winners over the past 6 years (excluding lockout).

Outsider said...

That's just it. When you look at each conference, you can make a case for almost every team making the playoffs. Then you get unexpected results like the Flyers completely flopping last year and the Pens emerging a little faster than most people thought they would. Most teams have a reason to start the season with a sense of optimism in the current NHL. And then there are the Blackhawks...