Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Revisiting Pre-Season Predictions

In this basking-in-it time between the Capitals utterly improbable run to the post-season and their equally improbable run through the post-season, let’s look back to the predictions we made back in June regarding the 2007-2008 NHL awards. This tiny post has been one of our most accessed, with hundreds of unsuspecting Google and Yahoo! searchers seeking information on award prognostication finding their way to our DC-centric forecasts. We will now examine these predictions, assigning each a grade based on hindsight benefited by ten months and an NHL season, plus a statistical probability that our optimism will be rewarded.

Prediction: Nicklas Backstrom
Grade: A
We in Washington of course knew of the potential dynamo we had quietly finding his way into the Caps lineup, while much of the rest of the league drooled over names like Kane and Toews in Chicago. While one of those two may yet take the Calder (benefiting somewhat from the absurdly lacking-in-logic argument that Backstrom’s numbers are inflated because he happened to play with Alex Ovechkin), but this was a solid pick.
Probability: 75%

Prediction: Boyd Gordon
Grade: C
The pick was based on solid logic in June, even though it may look a little flawed now in April. Gordon definitely looked to be on the rise (and still will be) as a top-notch defensive forward with that always-desired third-line offensive upside. He did get a little derailed by injury early on, which is why we cannot completely discount him as a potential Selke nominee in the future.
Probability: 0% Another time.

Prediction: Soon-to-be-acquired (by trade or free agency) elite defenseman
Grade: C
Partial credit. What, you say? How can we justify this seemingly completely wrong prediction with a generous middle-of-the-road grade like C? Well, the partial credit comes from a couple of aspects. Around the middle of the season, Mike Green started getting some attention for his swift skating, penchant for OT game-winners, and speed that allowed him to jump up into plays while still granting him time to hustle back down the ice and be defensively sound. His name and “Norris” were uttered once or twice, and the general sentiment was (and remains) that he will blossom into an elite defenseman. So he could be construed to be our unnamed-in-June man. The only thing preventing this from being a higher grade is that tricky phrase “soon-to-be” in front of “acquired”. While Green was acquired with a draft pick obtained a trade, it happened back in 2004.
Probability: 11% Nick Lidstrom, anyone?

Prediction: Olaf Kolzig/Brent Johnson
Grade: B-
Again, partial credit. Right team, wrong player(s). In a way, we could claim to have been a little mixed up in our predictions for Norris and Vezina, for an elite player was acquired via trade, but it wasn’t a defenseman, it was elite goaltender Cristobal Huet. Did his playoff-cinching nine-game winning streak, 11-2 record, 1.63 GAA and .936 save percentage in 13 games with the Capitals come too late for consideration for the Vezina? NO!
Probability: 17%. Might grab some consideration, a la Manny Acta and his should-have-had-it Manager of the Year award.

Lady Bing
Prediction: Donald Brashear
Grade: Incomplete
Ha, ha! See the irony. You see (snicker), Donald Brashear does not play a gentlemanly form of hockey (chortle). Therefore (suppressed giggle), he would never garner consideration for the Lady Bing. Oh the hilarious irony.
Probability: < 0%

Jack Adams
Prediction: Glen Hanlon
Grade: B
Again, right team, wrong man. Can there really be consideration for anyone other than Bruce Boudreau? His only potential derailment comes from optimism-haters and their nit-pickery about not coaching an entire season. That of course can be easily remedied when Boudreau leads the Caps to the Presidents Trophy next season, but for now it’s really his only obstacle.
Probability: 95% It’s gotta be Bruce.

Prediction: Alex Ovechkin
Grade: A+
Not exactly a profound prediction, though doubtless many a Canadian media member and resident of Pittsburgh and West Virginia took extreme umbrage at any pre-season notion that their anointed one would not take home a second straight MVP. They likely still hope for a Pittsburgh Hart in the form of Evgeni Malkin, since that in a way would pay proper deference to their tragically injured diety.
Probability: 99% I’ve never been one to encourage or condone rioting, but if Ovechkin does not win the Hart, I encourage and condone rioting.

Conn Smythe
Prediction: Brooks Laich
Grade: B+
We invoked the memory of Druce on the Loose in penning this somewhat obscure up-and-comer in for the playoff MVP. Coming off a career regular season, it might not be that absurd a premise. We’ll start to see come Friday.
Probability: 21%

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