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A Guide to Playoff Prognostication: A Look at How the Experts Make Their Picks

The prognostication game is a very difficult business. There is a reason why it’s reserved only for the best and brightest of pundits—because it requires an almost preternatural ability to understand the game of hockey in a way most regular fans simply cannot. The casual fan may think he or she has what it takes but—make no mistake—their hockey acumen is no match for someone with a Communications degree and a close relative and/or fraternity brother in the business. 

Members of the mainstream North American hockey media spend countless hours watching games, considering strengths and weaknesses of respective teams, breaking down statistics…and then go on to pick the Rangers to win the Stanley Cup for no other reason than they’re from New York.

It’s this unbiased, diligent consideration of the facts that separates professionals from those who are simply fans. If Linda Cohn thinks the Rangers can beat everyone in the Eastern Conference (plus the Red Wings), rest assured it’s because of their stunning regular and post-season success over the past four years and not because the cover of her autobiography is a picture of her wearing a Mark Messier jersey. This willingness to think outside the box is what differentiates someone like her from an amateur who would take the easy route and make evidence-based predictions.

Her colleague, respected hockey journalist and fellow Communications scholar John Buccigross, is just as assiduous in his sizing up of the season to come. By rigorously uncovering clues and hidden symbols in various song lyrics from whatever adult-contemporary-posing-as-rock-bands happened to be shuffling through his iPod at the time, Bucci very astutely predicts Montreal as your 2008-2009 Stanley Cup champion. Based on sheer blood instinct—and the positive vibes of the Little River Band’s wimp-rock stylings—Bucci likes the Habs because, hey, it’s their 100th anniversary and they are “balanced, well-managed and have a positive energy.” 

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Anti-European Sentiment in the Canadian Hockey Media Is Getting Out of Hand

Every major sport in North America has stubborn traditionalists in its media ranks. ESPN’s Joe Morgan seems to honestly believe that the Golden Age of Baseball ended the day he retired, and much of what has come since is an insult to the game or “not the way the game is supposed to be played.” In both his MLB and NFL coverage, Joe Buck often engages in embarrassing, maudlin displays of orthodoxy, most famously his ridiculous overreaction to the Randy Moss touchdown celebration against the Green Bay Packers in the 2005 playoffs.

While these traditionalists can be infuriating, you never get the sense that they are indicting a specific group of people, but rather the natural (or, in their eyes, unnatural) progression of the sport. In other words, Joe Morgan doesn’t think baseball has become tarnished due to, say, the influx of Latin and Asian players; he’s just an egotistical jerk who thinks his generation was the greatest and will not accept otherwise. Joe Buck’s issue with the Randy Moss touchdown dance wasn’t that Moss represents the black, urban “gansterization” of football; he’s just an easily offended prude who probably gets uncomfortable around nude sculptures in art museums.

But much of the traditionalism, if you can call it that, emanating from the Canadian hockey media lately carries with it a not-so-subtle implication—that Europeans are not only what’s wrong with the sport, but they are, by nature of their place of birth, inferior to Canadians.

What’s truly shocking is not so much that this undercurrent of xenophobia exists in the Canadian media—because it has for a long time now—but that so many people seem to think it’s a legitimate, defensible position or, at the very least, chalk it up to simply being a lovable quirk of Canadian culture or a byproduct of their passion for the game.

I suppose it would be even more troubling if it wasn’t so pathetically transparent. One need only look at the top five scoring leaders or the three Hart finalists this year to understand the root of this growing anti-European sentiment. Since gaining a foothold in the league, there’s a reason the treatment of European players in Canada has gone from leery non-acceptance to near outright hostility. And it doesn’t have anything to do with “heart” or “toughness” or whatever easily leveled, stereotypical charge you can throw at them. Anyone who understands the psychology of fear can see those charges for the red herrings they are.

The real reason behind this growing hostility, of course, is that Canadians can see their death grip on worldwide hockey dominance slipping away. In truth, it might be already gone. If you look at the probable rosters for Vancouver in 2010…well…let’s just say Canada likely won’t be the favorite on paper.

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