Kukla's Korner

Above the Glass

P is for playoffs. D is for draft. F is for favorites.

Every year about this time, I watch with awe and a healthy dose of jealousy while experts and fans make their predictions for the playoffs, drafts, trades and winner of the Stanley Cup final. Now that I’m officially a hockey blogger, I figured I’d better get with it and make my own predictions. I tried, I really did. But I fear the results would make dogs howl at the moon. Instead, I will offer an alternative to laying down odds based on numbers, the types of prospects a team needs or who may or may not be activated from injured reserve. It’s a simple system I like to call “picking favorites.” Oh, and if someone can explain to me how the New Jersey Devils “won” the draft lottery, but the Edmonton Oilers are still picking first, that would be good too.

So here are the criteria I would use in my highly scientific and reliable system for predicting fate:

NHL Playoffs

1) The hot factor (Sorry boys. This one’s for the ladies). The Tampa Bay Lighting vs. Pittsburgh Penguins match-up is posing a major dilemma. I like both teams equally and I can’t pick a winner. When in doubt or dilemmas, I say use the hot factor as your guide. On a hot scale of 0 - 10, head coach Guy Boucher is 10 plus multiple bonus points. Honkin’ tall French Captain Vincent Lecavalier is 10 plus one bonus point. Nobody on the Penguins roster can really top them. There. I’ve just solved my problem. Tampa will win the series. By the same token, hot players who are not playing right now due to injury can tell you who’s going to lose or be eliminated early. For example: cutie pie Swiss goalie Jonas Hiller and Anze Kopitar are at least 10 plus 1 on the hot scale and both are down with injuries. Thus, the Kings and the Ducks are toast in the first round, if not the second.

2) Uniform color and logo. Using this particular criterion, the Calgary Flames will never go anywhere because their retro jerseys make them look like Tigger from Winnie the Pooh. But if you have a really cool jersey like Montreal’s or the blue with red lettering version of the New York Rangers’ jersey, you’re good to go. I also like the Penguins’ Winter Classic jerseys and the LA Kings white with blue trim get up. But as we can see from the item above, L.A. and Pittsburgh are already toast. Remember, hot trumps pretty much anything, any day.

3) Location, location, location. Any team that is not in a hockey town where fans can tromp through a winter wonderland to get to a game probably doesn’t stand much of a chance. (Of course, every time I see palm trees swaying in the breeze outside the Staples Center, I do admittedly seethe with envy at anyone who has the best of both worlds.) Likewise, if you live in a hockey town where snow or other wintery weather falls well into May, your team stands a pretty good chance of at least making it to the semi-finals. This might not work though, because then that leaves Detroit, Boston, Montreal, the New York Rangers, Canucks and the Chicago Blackhawks still standing at the end of the first round. Note to self: rethink this rule.

4) Swag: Any team that introduces adult pajamas and matching furry animal slippers is a shoe-in for the Stanley Cup finals. Alas, most NHL teams have not yet recognized this prime marketing opportunity, so they’ll just have to fight their way through the playoffs like they always do.

5) Playoff beards. More hair and actually looking attractive in said beard improves your chances. Using this criteria, Henrik Lundqvist (who, let’s face it, could put dog poo on his face and he’d still be flaming hot), the Sedins and Henrik Zetterberg could help their teams enormously. Alternative option: if you do something super-cool, brave and selfless like shave your head to benefit children’s charities, as did the Tampa Bay Lightning, then that may be used as a predicting factor in lieu of the beard.

Odds for getting to the Memorial Cup final and/or being highly drafted in the 2011 Entry Draft

Mock drafts are already all over nhl.com and most experts have already declared that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will go first. I have a little bit different system for matching up players to their future NHL employers. Here I will review the criteria that will help the NHL’s future get where they want to go, and predict which Portland Winterhawks will go to which teams. These criteria may also be used to predict how far a particular team will go en route to the Memorial Cup.

1) Quality of soundbites. This is how I know that the Winterhawks will yet again go highly in the draft: they are the purveyors of some of the best soundbites in the world. The number one with a cherry on top, courtesy of New York Islanders’ prospect Nino Niederreiter: “I shoot the puck! The puck go in!” Genius. Number two: When the team went down in a bruising loss to the Kootenay Ice, his fellow Swiss countryman and top prospect Sven Bartschi did not shy away from telling it like it is and he did it in high style. Not bad for a kid who is still learning English: “we weren’t hungry enough to score goals.” When I asked Ty Rattie about a goonfest that happened at a particularly punchy and penalty-laden game…I don’t remember the other team, but I remember the soundbite: “they weren’t playing with a lot of class.”

2) Quality of fighting. For Portland, we have many players who like to get into the business with opponents. Among them are three draft picks: Riley Boychuk (Buffalo Sabres), Brad Ross (Toronto Maple Leafs) and Captain Brett Ponich (St. Louis Blues). But the best is a player who hasn’t been drafted, but who did get an invite from the Pittsburgh Penguins last summer to attend their training camp: Taylor Peters. At the time, he had taken a lot of flack for not having started a fight during any games. So of course, when he did it was all business. It went like this: I was watching the game travel down to our attacking zone, when we all realize that mitts and sticks have been dropped at the other end and somebody’s going at it. I look over and there’s Taylor, helmet already removed and fists up and that look on his face that just said “bring it.” You want to drop mitts with Taylor, you better come ready. He also writes a really cool blog. I recommend it for fun reading about everything from how to negotiate bad drivers in Portland, to choosing appropriate footwear and the idiot’s guide to surviving horror movies. It is my humblest of opinions that the Pens would be well served by giving Taylor a second look this summer.

3) Legitimate criteria. No hot factor is allowed or appropriate when ranking teenage players young enough to be your son, so here I will substitute more valid criteria such as talent, attitude, style of play, sportsmanship and skating ability. The WHL is full of young talent, from Nugent-Hopkins to Brayden Schenn to the 11 players on Portland’s roster who have either been drafted and/or signed with an NHL team. It’s hard to pick just one as the player or team most likely to hit the jackpot.

4) Best hockey town/homer alert, part 1: Obviously the best hockey town in the WHL is Portland, Oregon. But I must give props to Vancouver, Kelowna and Windsor. All have won the cup at some point in their past or recent history. I rest my case.

5) Best Alumni. Among the most famous alumni of the Portland Winterhawks are Cam Neely, Marian Hossa, Brandon Dubinsky, Brenden Morrow, Paul Gaustad and Braydon Coburn. And our current roster isn’t too shabby either: the Winterhawks have reclaimed their former glory this year by becoming the U.S. Division champions.

As for draft picks in the 2011 Entry Draft, these are my predictions. Now mind, I wouldn’t take them to the bank. Unless you like losing money. But a girl can dream:

Sven Bartschi: L.A. Kings. It’s where all the cool European import players hang out.

Joe Morrow: Tampa Bay Lightning. They have a lot of big defensemen who could eat you for breakfast if they forgot their pre-practice protein shake. What they need is a speedy, sharp shooting offensive defenseman.

Ty Rattie: Chicago Blackhawks. They need fresh talent that still has all his original teeth. 

Tyler Wotherspoon: A steady, quiet defenseman who’s going to explode with another season of practice and experience, just like the Edmonton Oilers.

Taylor Peters: Like I said, worth another look by any team. But it would be preferable if that team is the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Pearce Eviston: Just blew into town in March right at the last weekend of the regular season after his BCHL season ended. Don’t know much about him yet, except that he scored in his first WHL game and has been getting ice time ever since. Not knowing him, I’ll go with Montreal. Anyone who can go from Pearce who? to scoring in his first game should fit nicely on a team that continues to defy the odds.

Parting shots:

What does it all mean?: Using my highly predictable system, the best bet for the Stanley Cup final is the Rangers vs. the Canucks. Realistically, though, I feel a Cinderella post season coming on. Therefore, if I were to choose based on reality, I’d go with Vancouver. vs. Washington.

And as for the junior hockey odds…homer alert, part 2: Easy. Memorial Cup final: Portland Winterhawks vs, Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors (who are guaranteed a spot in the final as the host team). 

 

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Comments

OlderThanChelios's avatar

Funny stuff, Samantha. Your blog is always a good read.

Oh, and if someone can explain to me how the New Jersey Devils “won” the draft lottery, but the Edmonton Oilers are still picking first, that would be good too.

Okay, here you go. All of the teams who miss the playoffs have some sort of chance of getting the right to move up in the draft. So having one of your balls (um, ping pong balls, that is) selected first means you get to move up the maximum number of slots – which is four.

So, because NJ was eighth from the bottom, they got to move up to the fourth pick. Then the rest of the draft played out with the Oilers getting the first pick. Simple, right?

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 04/15/11 at 05:25 PM ET

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Alas, I am learning that the game of hockey may be simple, but its rules and regulations are not. I’m glad you like the blog; thanks for tuning in. And for helping me understand that rule.

Posted by Samantha from Portland, Oregon on 04/15/11 at 06:24 PM ET

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I couldn’t get past the 2nd paragraph where you said Kopitar is a 10 +1. What?! I understand Lecavlier, and Boucher if you dig cool scars, but you write off fine mensch’s like Letang, and a tall drink of water like Neal? Even Kovalev for the older man in one’s life.

I do understand though if you may have been extra put off a bit by guys like this. Though, I argue if you’re into Kopitar, how can you not be into Malkin.

Posted by NathanBC on 04/15/11 at 07:41 PM ET

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‘Tis true, Kopitar may not be on everyone’s hot list, but one of the many flaws in my highly scientific system is that it’s a wee bit subjective. Good call on Malkin. I am into him: he’s tall, and he’s quite the little cutie pie with his chipped tooth grin and broken English and crafty one-liners at press conferences. Plus, listen to any interview that lasts longer than a soundbite and you can tell the boy is no dummy, despite some people’s opinions to the contrary. What’s not to like? But when ranked alongside Lecavalier and Boucher, they still come out ahead of him. Plus, Malkin’s not playing right now, so using my hot guy who’s not playing now = elimination theory, then it further supports my prediction that Tampa will win. Neal, Letang and Kovalev just don’t do it for me. Not sure why.

Posted by Samantha from Portland, Oregon on 04/15/11 at 09:04 PM ET

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About Above the Glass

Welcome to Above the Glass, a definitive anti-expert’s guide to hockey. I started blogging in 2009 as part of an effort to learn all 87 rules in the NHL Rulebook in 107 days before the 2010 Olympics, 30 years after I discovered the sport. You can peruse the archival results here. Growing up in Arizona, I didn’t even know hockey existed until February 22, 1980, when the USA played Russia in the Olympics. And just like that, the game of the century changed my life. I still don’t quite understand the icing rule or which faceoff circle goes with what offense, but I do know that every aspect of hockey has something to teach us about life. That’s what you’ll find here, along with my unadulterated passion for the game.

I live in Portland, Oregon, home of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. I invite anyone who wants to know more about hockey in the Rose City to visit here, where I blog exclusively about the Winterhawks. I’ll post an occasional musing about the Hawks, the WHL and junior hockey here as well.

Follow me on Twitter: @AbovetheGlass

Email: samantha@kuklaskorner.com