Sunday, July 27, 2008

McKeen's Hockey

It's late July, which naturally means it's time to bang out a hockey magazine.

Every year I do some of the heavy lifting on McKeen's Hockey's annual yearbook, and it's a process that gets started about now. Someone higher up the food chain than me decides when these things hit the shelves (late August, generally) and the turnaround time means a deadline likely within the next two weeks.

Only 15,000 words to go.

It's a fun project to do every summer, but as you can imagine, it's also incredibly challenging given you need to write something that's going to be worthy of $7.99 a month from now. (I know there are complaints every year about books being out of date, but the entire magazine industry runs on a similar cycle.)

ESPN's running a survey right now where you can rank all 30 NHL teams, and that's much the same process I've been going through lately. There are obviously still some big pieces to come into play — Mats Sundin, Teemu Selanne, Joe Sakic, teams over the cap, etc. — but I think everyone would agree on a few basic things:
  1. Detroit, Pittsburgh and San Jose will make the playoffs
  2. Los Angeles, Atlanta and the Islanders won't
  3. There are a lot of wild cards, with at least a dozen teams that are very difficult to place
  4. Given the level of parity in the league, injuries will be a major factor
  5. Moving away from a division-heavy schedule changes things for a lot of teams, making it more likely we see four teams from a particularly strong division make the postseason
It's too early for me to post a full list of predictions here, but this is what ESPN's readers have come up with so far. Take it for what it's worth (I've marked the two teams picked to change the most in bold):


East

West
1 Pittsburgh
1 Detroit
2 Montreal
2 San Jose
3 Philadelphia
3 Dallas
4 New Jersey
4 Anaheim
5 NY Rangers
5 Chicago
6 Washington
6 Calgary
7 Ottawa
7 Colorado
8 Tampa Bay
8 Minnesota
9 Boston
9 Vancouver
10 Buffalo
10 Edmonton
11 Carolina
11 Nashville
12 NY Islanders
12 Columbus
13 Toronto
13 Phoenix
14 Florida
14 St. Louis
15 Atlanta
15 Los Angeles

Everyone loves the Blackhawks. :-)

As for the magazine: I'll try and post some more information on a release date and maybe even an early look at the cover in the near future.

And feel free to offer suggestions for this year's issue.
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20 Comments:

At 8:29 AM, July 27, 2008, Blogger The Forechecker said...

Personally, I think the Blackhawks are overrated by most; but really, the 5-13 slots in the West could get pretty murky.

As for a suggestion for the magazine, one interesting angle that could benefit from the light of day would be a breakdown on trends in the shootout, which I got into last September and mc79hockey further investigated a couple weeks ago.

Like it or not, the shootout plays a huge role in the NHL standings, and the common wisdom right now treats it pretty much like a coin flip.

Either that, or a Photoshop-fest in honor of Barry Melrose's return to the league; what would the other 29 head coaches look like with mullets?

 
At 9:13 AM, July 27, 2008, Blogger Pokecheck said...

Ottawa way up at 7 and Carolina way down at 11? Give me a break.

 
At 9:43 AM, July 27, 2008, Blogger devin said...

James, does your COL ranking assume Sakic signs? Does your CHI ranking take into account the lousy division they play in? Also, EDM finished 4th in the NW last year -- what has VAN done to be able to overtake them this year? Otherwise I have to agree it's almost impossible to peg the West.

 
At 11:10 AM, July 27, 2008, Blogger Doogie2K said...

Bold prediction: Edmonton finishes no worse than third in the division and earns a playoff spot.

Secondary bold prediction: Colorado and Vancouver are the teams out on their asses.

To be fair, the Canucks had a lot of defensive injuries last year, but that doesn't make up for the fact that they still have, charitably, 3.5 top-six forwards.

 
At 2:12 PM, July 27, 2008, Blogger Ebscer said...

Well Chicago will make the playoffs, although I think the five seed is a bit high,

Also the Ottawa Senators will not. That is a team that is clearly on the downswing no matter who good Lee may turn out to be.

 
At 2:43 PM, July 27, 2008, Blogger The Puck Stops Here said...

At this point, I think Tampa Bay is the most overrated team. I don't see how overpaying a few guys who are nowhere near point per game players while not addressing their goaltending or defence makes them a playoff team.

Phoenix is the most underrated team. They looked a lot better after they acquired Ilya Bryzgalov. They added Olli Jokinen. They have Shane Doan, Ed Jovanovski, Derek Morris. This could be a playoff team.

 
At 3:16 PM, July 27, 2008, Blogger devin said...

But PHX also lost Ballard, Vrbata and Boynton, and they play in a division with 3 titans (although ANA seems set for a fall, esp if they have to dump Schneider for nothing - this team was 14th in the West in GF last year and there's no McDonald or Selanne now). If PHX could spend to the cap then wow, they could win the cup in '10. But they can't ;)

Speaking of salary dumps, CHI is still 5M over the cap. They look much better at the moment but who will they jettison and at what cost? They are over the cap with only 10 NHL forwards signed. Huet will help big time, though.

EDM had as many key injuries as VAN and finished 9th and ahead of VAN. If VAN signs Sundin then they are a different team. But as of now they face the same issues they did last year. Why would EDM regress assuming a healthy Horcoff and Souray this year? If Sakic retires COL is in trouble, too (Raycroft, anyone?)

 
At 3:19 PM, July 27, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

James, does your COL ranking assume Sakic signs?

Devin, these are not my rankings.

 
At 3:40 PM, July 27, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Chicago gets a real coach they could make playoffs. But for that to happen they have to start lousy and get Savard fired.

Ottawa most likely will make the playoffs because Spezza, Heatley and Alfredsson will once again score 80-90 points each.

In Edmonton hopes are really high but I think there might be few sophomore jinxes going around that young team.

It's one thing to surprise people in your first year when there's no expectations and given that Oilers' late season push was easy because they had no pressure.

Now Oilers is the great young team on the rise. Cogliano, Gilbert, Gagner and other will double their ppg averages etc. etc.

Let's see how they can handle expectations and pressure?

 
At 4:36 PM, July 27, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Out: COL will be lucky to make the playoffs even with Sakic. I mean, Raycroft is their backup? They'd be better off with a piece of 2x4 across the goal line. Darcy Tucker? Is Shayne Corson a camp invite?

In: EDM (first-round fodder, but still in).

Out: NYR (look alot like an AHL team), OTT (Gerber couldn't even take the job from the league's No. 1 nutjob last year), and TBL (playoff team generally employ defenceman).

In: BOS (made it last year without their best C man); CAR (still get to pound on ATL, FLA and TBL several times a year); BUF (8th and out).

 
At 5:46 PM, July 27, 2008, Blogger Steve said...

I clicked on "comment" to ask if I was just a big Edmonton homer for doubting they'll finish fifth in the division. Either the answer to that question is no, or this section's full of big Edmonton homers.

 
At 5:59 PM, July 27, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Today's Oilers is a cult. K-Lowe, MacT, Huddy et al will tell anybody who wants to listen how the game is played. They have their ears in the room with Horc, Staios, always injured captain who's brother does off-ice programs for players.

Hopefully they'll succeed because after Lowe and MacTavish they'll have to hire people with no rings but experience in GM and coaching jobs.

 
At 6:23 PM, July 27, 2008, Blogger saskhab said...

The NW doesn't have a flagship team... it's pretty mediocre as a result. Can Edmonton be the team that is less mediocre than the rest? Perhaps. It's a tossup.

But Colorado seems very unlikely to be the team that does move above the heap. Edmonton, Minnesota, Vancouver, and Calgary almost all have an even chance of finishing 1st in the division, IMO.

So putting Edmonton in 5th in the division isn't a stretch, but IMO not the most likely team to finish last.

And Chicago, at 5th on the list, would actually get the #6 playoff seed if this list came true.

 
At 11:30 PM, July 27, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey James,

I started following hockey post-lockout when Sid the Kid joined the Penguins. A lot of my friends first paid attention to hockey at the same time. What about a piece on what every hockey fan who came late to the game ought to know about the pre-lockout game - players, trends, style of play, etc.???

 
At 12:49 AM, July 28, 2008, Blogger Jimmy Jazz said...

I really love ESPN sometimes: Tampa making the post-season? Okay...

The SE division has two, and only two teams that will compete for a playoff spot: Carolina and Washington, and maybe not even the former.

 
At 10:24 AM, July 28, 2008, Anonymous Dean said...

I think that you could make a few predictions based on reversion to the mean. For instance, as mc79hockey pointed out (and maybe the forechecker too), the Canucks were pretty unlucky on the shootout, and the Oilers were pretty lucky (although some of that could be due to Garon being a right handed catcher). The Canucks also were fairly unlucky on winning 1 goal games, and their injuries on defense shouldn't be as bad this year. Plus, with the return to a more balanced schedule, the NW teams should pick up a few points. I'm predicting that Chicago and the Canucks move up, Colorado and Nashville move out of the playoffs. There could be another switch in there too involving Anaheim and one of Edmonton and Phoenix.

 
At 12:02 PM, July 28, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey all, THESE WERE THE FANS PREDICTIONS. There were NOT Mirtle's, or ESPN's. Some of the comments on here imply that Mirtle made the rankings. Please read.

Scott Burnside's power rankings are at: http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/columns/story?columnist=burnside_scott&id=3504426

I'm not even going to bother commenting on some of the ridiculous selections made by the FANS that don't reflect off season changes and on a US based site. :-)

I submitted my own rankings and they were pretty close overall to Burnside's.

 
At 12:41 AM, July 29, 2008, Anonymous exwhaler said...

Of the fans' rankings, I'm surprised that the Rangers are ranked so high (they're currently at No. 9 overall). That team has no real offense, a weak defense that wasn't helped by the aging Redden, and an elite goalie who's in danger of getting burned out. I doubt they make the playoffs this season.

Most underated? Gotta be the Oilers (at 21). Not world-beaters by any means, but they should be a nice surprise this year.

 
At 3:56 PM, July 29, 2008, Anonymous Keith said...

I don't see Edmonton as a top team in the NW this year. Better than Colorado, sure. Better than Vancouver? Possibly, depending on how the scrubs in front of Luongo play. Luongo by himself gives that team the potential to finish anywhere. A couple of surprising seasons, and who knows where Vancouver finishes up.

The problem with Edmonton is that they were the second worst team in the West defensively last year, and they won only 26 hockey games. The 15 shootout wins really makes Edmonton a deceiving club, especially since shootout success in one year has not typically followed for the same team the next. It's a total crapshoot, and not something any sane observer should anticipate will be maintained.

Edmonton might make the playoffs, but I personally am not betting on it. I think 09-10 is their year to emerge though.

Chicago will improve, probably at Nashville's expense. Anaheim will probably fall back to the pack a bit. St. Louis better, but not in. Colorado I think will be out. I don't like Phoenix more for the division they are in than anything else.

But really, outside of Detroit, Dallas and San Jose at the top, and LA and Columbus at the bottom, the other ten teams could finish anywhere. And of the lot, I wouldn't place a lot of faith in a single one as my hope for a Stanley Cup.

 
At 5:21 PM, August 22, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ottawa way up at 7??? They finished 7th last season, how is
7th way up?

Picking Colorado to miss the playoffs is not bold at all, a large majority of the predictions I have seen have them out, you want bold...Colorado wins the division.

And how is it Colorado even without Sakic is such a sure thing to miss and the Oilers are such a sure thing to make??? The Oilers goaltending is no better than Colorado's and Colorado's defensemen are far more stout than Edmonton's.

And Colorado has plenty of offensive talent even without Sakic especially with Granato there to straigthen out the powerplay. Stastny, Hejduk, Wolski, Smyth, Svatos, Hensick even Arnason and Tucker can score. How is that any worse than what the Oilers have? It isn't.

Man the Oiler homers are running wild this offseason, I have never ever seen it this bad before. Just because the Oilers finished strongly last season it is not automatic they will improve this year.

I think actually making the playoffs like Colorado did is a far stronger finish than missing the playoffs and yes Horcoff was injured but that is peanuts compared to the number of games Sakic, Stastny and Smyth missed and Colorado still finished in 7th! LOL.

 

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