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Revisiting Predictioning and End-O'-Year Justificationing

It's said that intelligent life that ceases to change, ceases to be intelligent. The curse of the internet means prognostication is more of a mugs game than ever before (Bob McKenzie's fine, retro description). What I'm saying is, can I change my mind about my pre-season predictions? No? Dang. Thing is, you want credit for making the right predictions (East here, West here), you'd gotta take the flak for the blown ones.

In that case, a hard swallow and excuses at the ready!

Here's the East:

Boston Bruins

Pre-season: 3rd

After 40: 2nd

Finish: 2nd

The difference: Eh, what's one spot?

The excuse: Washington would run away in their division, Philadelphia would take theirs, and Boston would be in a dogfight division... That didn't happen so much.

Grade: B


Buffalo Sabres

Pre-season: 4th

After 40: 11th

Finish: 9th

The difference: Whoops. Horrible, bumbling start (or in Ryan Miller's case, half season) not quite exorcised by a strong finish (again).

The excuse: Should have re-thought this one when they signed Lenio to be a front line guy... And what's a healthy Derek Roy doing getting 43 points?

Grade: D

Carolina Hurricanes

Pre-season: 13th

After 40: 15th

Finish: 12th

The difference: Miserable start for Eric Staal, who didn't get going until the end of December. Joni Pitkanen missing 50 games can't help, but even when he was around...

The excuse: Given the knot of teams in that 10th-through-14th bracket, no excuse needed.

Grade: A


Florida Panthers

Pre-season: 14th

After 40: 3rd

Finish: 3rd

The difference: Hm. I had real problems predicting this one: a huge number of vets were brought in for financial reasons (hitting the cap floor). Not many thought it would work.

The excuse: I guess they recalled their 3rd NHL season as a precedent. Getting points from 18 losses helped, too.

Grade: D


Long Island (New York Islanders)

Pre-season: 10th

After 40: 14th

Finish: 14th

The difference: A bit too much faith in their starting five, plus Evgeny Nabokov.

The excuse: Expected improvement didn't happen (Where the heck did Nino Niederreiter go?). Being in a division with four 100+ point teams doesn't help (See Also: Columbus).

Grade: C


Manhattan (New York Rangers)

Pre-season: 5th

After 40: 1st

Finish: 1st

The difference: Well balanced team with a shockingly healthy Marian Gaborik and brilliant goaltending. Throwing some praise Ryan Callahan's way, too: great choice for captain.

The excuse: Philly and Pittsburgh were looking good to finish ahead of them, so not feeling too bad about this spot.

Grade: B


Montreal Canadiens

Pre-season: 7th

After 40: 13th

Finish: 14.2% chance of first overall draft pick! 15th and last.

The difference: Yes, there were loads of injuries (again), but even with a full roster this team played badly. The only thing worse was their management.

The excuse: Erik Cole was a great pick-up, Carey Price was coming off an 8 shutout season, AND important players would finally be healthy! How bad could they be?

Grade: D

New Jersey Devils

Pre-season: 11th

After 40: 7th

Finish: 6th

The difference: Zach Parise not just healthy, but roaring; Patrik Elias and Kovalchuk lit it up; and Adam Henrique has my vote for the Calder trophy.

The excuse: Martin Brodeur finally lost his magic (descending all the way to "good"), with no visible replacement; Ilya Kovalchuk looked lost despite 31 goals.

Grade: D

Ottawa Senators

Pre-season: 15th

After 40: 6th

Finish: 8th

The difference: All-World defenseman Erik Karlsson leading young players developing more quickly than expected; inspired play from a healthy Jason Spezza and rejuvinated Milan Michalek.

The excuse: This was supposed to be the season where they blew up the team and started a true rebuild. Management is as surprised as anyone.

Grade: D

Philadelphia Flyers

Pre-season: 2nd

After 40: 4th

Finish: 5th

The difference: The Rangers got all their pieces together, bumping the Flyers down.

The excuse: A full season of Chris Pronger would probably have pushed them into first - or closer to it, at least.

Grade: B


Pittsburgh Penguins

Pre-season: 6th

After 40: 5th

Finish: 4th

The difference: Evgeni Malkin and James Neal are having career goal scoring years, and Richard Park has another 4 game winning goals. Seriously, the guy is spooky for game winning goals over his career.

The excuse: After gooning it up last year, the team is playing a more controlled, cleaner game (Brooks Orpik's suspension-worthy knee notwithstanding) and it seems to be working.

Grade: B


Tampa Bay Lightning

Pre-season: 8th

After 40: 12th

Finish: 10th

The difference: Bad special teams and insufficient goaltending = no post season for you!

The excuse: Dwayne Roloson's worst save percentage in a decade by far. A serious upgrade on defense is needed, though a healthy Marc-Andre Bergeron all season would have helped their power play.

Grade: B


Toronto Maple Leafs

Pre-season: 9th

After 40: 10th

Finish: 13th

The difference: Atrocious penalty killing, and goaltenders who are oddly human (much to their fans' disappointment).

The excuse: Toronto has looked like a jumble of parts rather than a team - the talent there isn't actually that bad, but they don't look like a team very often.

Grade: C


Washington Capitals

Pre-season: 1st

After 40: 9th

Finish: 7th

The difference: Total team collapse for the first half of the season - huge disappointment from last years' playoffs led to a lethargic start. Poster child franchise for why it's not always a good idea to name your leading scorer your captain.

The excuse: Tomas Vokoun came in for pennies because he wanted to win, defensive specialists were brought in to fit specific roles letting the offensive stars run free, and a weak division they should have scooped points from like a dog clearing spilled rice.

Grade: D


Winnipeg Jets

Pre-season: 12th

After 40: 8th

Finish: 11th

The difference: Polar opposite of Toronto - a young team that pulls together every game. First home winning season in five years.

The excuse: A lot of Canadian's "second team", they finished up pretty much where expected. Wouldn't mind catching a game in Winnipeg with that crowd!

Grade: A

About half right? Oof. How about the West?

Anaheim Ducks

Pre-season: 12th

After 40: 14th

Finish: 13th

The difference: This isn't a team with great depth, so when Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, and Bobby Ryan all have off seasons? Not much can be done to recover.

The excuse: Finishing up about where expected, though injuries and a couple month-long cold streaks from Lubomir Visnovsky didn't help.

Grade: A

Calgary Flames

Pre-season: 7th

After 40: 12th

Finish: 9th

The difference: Getting two wins from your combined backup goalies can't be good. Oh, and despite howling for the team to perform a complete rebuild, it's not like Jay Feaster could do much - 11 players have no trade clauses.

The excuse: At least six of their top ten scorers missed a dozen games or more, so offense was a challenge.

Grade: C

Chicago Blackhawks

Pre-season: 3rd

After 40: 1st

Finish: 6th

The difference: It's been a seasons of streaks for Chicago, including 9 losses in a row in January/February. And seriously: the only team in the league without a shutout?

The excuse: Losing point-per-game captain Jonathan Toews hurt badly, considering the other talent lost as too expensive in the off season.

Grade: C

Colorado Avalanche

Pre-season: 10th

After 40: 8th

Finish: 11th

The difference: When Ryan O'Reilly is your team's leading scorer, something has gone horribly wrong.

The excuse: Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Seymon Varlamov hold the fort okay, and Gabriel Landeskog has been a revelation; now for the rest of the team...

Grade: A

Columbus Blue Jackets

Pre-season: 8th

After 40: 15th

Finish: 15th and then some.

The difference: Trading for two huge, high-impact players filling needs immediately... and one gets suspended to start the season while the other sulks. And the goalies still suck.

The excuse: See those trades? Those got a lot of people excited, not just me! A year everyone wants to put behind them.

Grade: F

Dallas Stars

Pre-season: 14th

After 40: 10th

Finish: 10th

The difference: Michael Ryder doubled his goal output, Kari Lehtonen improved nearly everywhere for the third year running.

The excuse: They win just enough to make me look bad. Unless they improve considerably, I'd take them for 14th again.

Grade: D

Detroit Red Wings

Pre-season: 6th

After 40: 4th

Finish: 5th

The difference: Mediocre special teams and a death-on-wheels division kept them from getting higher; only 10 losses at home stopped them from dropping.

The excuse: No excuse needed - I took flack for predicting St. Louis would finish above them, and I'll take the credit now, thanks!

Grade: A

Edmonton Oilers

Pre-season: 13th

After 40: 13th

Finish: 14th

The difference: Young teams take time, and they haven't had enough yet. Devan Dubnyk is starting to impress after an awful start to his career.

The excuse: Got another one (mostly)! Still need some veteran help on the blue line like, say, Souray or Pronger... I kid! I kid!

Grade: A

Los Angeles Kings

Pre-season: 5th

After 40: 3rd

Finish: 8th

The difference: Six players - six - with goals in double digits, and one of those they had to trade for. None made it even close to thirty.

The excuse: Say it with me now, everyone: "THIS is the year the Kings break through!" Some day... *sigh*

Grade: C

Minnesota Wild

Pre-season: 11th

After 40: 6th

Finish: 12th

The difference: Until they picked up Tom Gilbert, their top defensive pair was Marco Scandella and Jared Spurgeon. How did they lead the league at one point?

The excuse: The Wild have dressed 43 skaters this year, and multiple personalities is a problem: without the skill to run or the system to clamp down, they don't know what their game is any more.

Grade: A

Nashville Predators

Pre-season: 9th

After 40: 7th

Finish: 4th

The difference: A skyrocketing power play in the second half boosted a - predictably enough - solid defense and great goaltending.

The excuse: No one hit 60 points (or 80 games), and only a couple made 20 goals. That sound like a 104 point team to you?

Grade: D

Phoenix Coyotes

Pre-season: 15th

After 40: 11th

Finish: 3rd

The difference: Going 11-0-1 through February helped compensate for the league's worst power play, as did Mike Smith's eight shutouts.

The excuse: The league's worst power play is in the playoffs, by relying on Mike Smith in net. You know, he of the .900 save percentage the previous two years. I'm supposed to predict that?

Grade: F

St. Louis Blues

Pre-season: 4th

After 40: 5th

Finish: 2nd

The difference: Getting the right veterans signed and having the right coach early. Ken Hitchcock has worked wonders, as has "29 GM's excuse to drink" Brian Elliott. Signed a two-way contract for $600K in September. My.

The excuse: I knew they'd be good, but this was above and beyond. Replacing the coach was a risk, and it paid off big.

Grade: B

San Jose Sharks

Pre-season: 2nd

After 40: 9th

Finish: 7th

The difference: Great power play, but a terrible penalty kill and coasting through the season waiting until the playoffs start almost had them miss!

The excuse: Six seasons ago, the Sharks had 99 points. That was the last time they finished below 100 until this year's 96.

Grade: D

Vancouver Canucks

Pre-season: 1st

After 40: 2nd

Finish: 1st

The difference: Good, but not great, pretty much everywhere.

The excuse: What excuse? Bang on, here! Okay, not actually that tough given the division - they'd finish 1,2, or 3.

Grade: A

About half again. Bottom line - if I want to make money on this kind of thing, I'm going to need someone to give me better than 2-1 odds...

Speaking of which, how's that playoff pool going?

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