World of Fantasy

Every year, the hockey press likes to make predictions about the league leaders, playoff matchups and where the break outs will appear. I often wonder where they come up with these ideas — are they attending camps, watching guys skate, and looking at the overall team, or just pulling random numbers out of last year’s statistical pile and then hitting “puree” on their column inch generators?

Let’s start by looking at what The Hockey News had to say in their September 4 issue with “Fantasy Advice” (page 49). I’ll call it more fantasy than advice, and make some of my own predictions, and generally try to keep from laughing at the suspension of mathematics for the sake of storytelling.

Scott Gomez will finish in the top 25 scorers, with 87 points, 63 of them assists. So the Rangers are paying $10M for 24 goals? Granted, that’s twice what Gomer put in the net last year at twice the price, so maybe the math works. But wait, there’s more!! Jagr is also projected to have 67 assists. Um, who is going to score the goals from all of those assists? THN doesn’t show any Rangers in the top 25 goal scorers. Prediction #1: Jagr and Gomez play patty-cake with the puck until Gomez starts making his ill-timed, inaccurate passes and the Rangers lead the league in short-handed goals allowed, unless Gomez’ groin strains again and he gets to watch from the press box.

Similarly, fellow green-seeker Brian Rafalski is predicted to score 8 goals and notch 53 assists in the Motor City. Maybe if he keeps his stick down, and remembers where the blue line is. Prediction #2: Rafalski will be the first defenseman to earn $200,000 a point. And Chelios will complain about him at least once.

Much of Evgeni Malkin’s success this year will depend upon his wingers, if he’s moved to center as THN’s 07-08 Yearbook suggests. Put a pair of young guns on either side and he’s got room to move, pass and score; saddle him with guys who don’t move or pass and he’ll get frustrated quickly. Prediction #3: The Penguins give the Rangers a run for the money and playoff seeding.

The Devils will have a 40-goal scorer, again. Parise, Gionta, or Elias could do it, especially if Zubrus sets up the triangle and keeps the shooting lanes open. Prediction #4: At least one of the Devils’ top lines accounts for 100 goals this year.

I have the one-pager from THN tacked to my bulliten board, right by the free weekend passes (with 395 restrictions) from Avis and the raffle tickets I’ve bought to support various random charities; it’s in good company in the “fantasy” world. We’ll revisit this at the half-way point.