A few years ago, back in the mid-eighties the Edmonton Oilers were heading into playoff overtime. Jim Robson began to speculate with the coverage crew, who might be the overtime hero when Howie Meeker interrupted with a shout of “I think Gretzky will score.”
Robson couldn’t contain his snort. “Yeah, you and 50 million others, Howie.”
The point was obvious, but worth exploring. Yes, Howie made a wise choice in Gretzky (I think it was Peter Klima that scored, by the way) but that’s no fun. Predictions aren’t supposed to be so obvious. The tradition holds that the overtime scorer will be some hard working fourth line plugger whom the hockey Gods reward with a brief moment of glory.
Okay, so Klima wasn’t a fourth line plugger. But later, the pundits crowed that Slats had made another brilliant move in his long line of brilliant moves (like saying “Wayne, get out there…”) by holding Klima off until everyone else was dog tired before throwing the enigmatic sniper out on the ice. A quick snap shot from the slot and it was over. Boston was done.
The truth is, Slather hated the way Klima dogged it and he could not trust his defensive responsibility in a close checking Stanley Cup match. He threw Klima out there because he had no choice. His young Oilers were all bent over on the bench. Klima for forty seconds might give someone else time to recover.
No one had predicted Klima…but every pundit tried to take a little credit in the post game analysis.
So now, everyone is predicting the Wings will win the Cup.
What a cheesy choice. Yeah, I know they have added Hossa so if anything they are stronger. And they have the best coach, the best management, blah, blah blah. The truth is, a lot of the same people picking the Wings, picked the Ducks at the beginning of the season. Some backed away when Neids and Selanne played their coy little game for half a season, but again, most stayed with heir selection when the guys returned to the fold for the playoff run.
But the Ducks got knocked off by a suddenly competent Dallas squad.
The truth is, picking a Stanley Cup winner before the season even starts doesn’t take into consideration the ebbs and flows of the regular season that leads to the marathon that is the Stanley Cup playoffs. Injuries to key players, especially at the end of the season, the hot goaltender syndrome (or lack of a hot goaltender), the right matchups at every stage… and everyone knows the first rounds are the hardest to get past when all 16 teams are fresh and motivated to fever pitch. Just ask those same Wings who had so many other early exits over the years, very powerful Red Wing teams by the way, what can happen in the first couple of rounds. And goaltending? If Osgood falters, the stampede of the “I told you so” crowd will indeed be life threatening.
“Never liked that guy…always knew he was a dog…”
So will the Wings repeat they way the experts tell us? Or will Sid the Kid lead the charge and take the Cup back east? The truth is, there’s a one in sixteen chance. And a lot can happen in two months, not to mention the nearly seven months leading up to the playoffs.
So stick with your home team, mates. Anything can happen when the Hockey Gods start to smile.
But here are some predictions you can count on.
Number One: Fans in almost hald the NHL cities will be clammering for their coach or GM to be fired by Xmas. The exception to this is Edmonton where the lynch mob will form in early November.
Number Two: There will be a breakout player that almost all of us missed in picking our pool team(s). The lucky suckers who do manage to select this player will claim to have mysterious inside information.
Number Three: For half of the pool players, their pool team will be a bitter substitute for their failing home team, who for some reason, are just once again falling apart. Of course, we will still lose to to the poolies who got luckier than us.
Number Four: Canadian Fans will spend much of the year arguing with other team fans why their Defenceman, Winger, Centre or Goalie should be given great consideration for the 2010 Winter Olympics. American fans will scratch their heads and exclaim “there’s a Winter Olympics in 2010?”
Number Five: A number of teams will trade their immediate future for help in the Cup run. All will be bitterly disappointed when the rental player (a) does not help them win the Cup and (b) departs for greener pastures in the off season.
Like I said, some predictions you can count on.