Thursday, September 27, 2007

Sports Nation Votes

I was pondering a piece on predictions for the up coming season. All writing starts with a little research. I stumbled over this site at ESPN where fans can vote their predictions for conference and cup winners in the 2007/08 season. I was quite surprised by the fans collective opinion. Slightly over 3,000 votes had been cast as of mid day 27-Sep-2007 (Pacific). The fan favorites in the east and west (drum roll please): Pittsburgh and Los Angeles? Take it a step further and imagine that 50.5% voters figure Sid the kid and crew to finish atop the eastern conference standings. Buffalo and the Rangers come in second with 15% (+/- 2%) and Ottawa was the only other team worth noting with 7.5% of the votes. The remainder of the east together gathered about 12% of the fans approval as best in their conference.

The west is far less certain. Observation of the potential winner out west is more distributed between the Kings, Detroit Red Wings and your Vancouver Canucks. Even the defending champ Ducks and the San Jose Sharks garnered significant vote percentages. The votes were LA 29.6%, Detroit 20.5% and Vancouver 13.4%. The Sharks and Ducks came in with 9% each. A full 17% of votes were for other western teams to make it to the top of the conference. Colorado bested the other others.

When it comes to winning the Stanley Cup the voters still have a love affair with the LA Kings. Dean Lombardi and Marc Crawford must be selling a particularly good brand of Kool aide down in LA LA Land. At 29% of the votes, LA had double the fans second choice of Buffalo (14%). Other vote getters were Pittsburgh and New York Rangers in the east and Detroit and the San Jose Sharks out west.

Of course a statistician would give you fifty two reasons why such an unscientific web based vote does not present reality. I also look at the numbers with a great deal of skepticism.

Where did I cast my votes? The east: I think the Rangers have taken steps to improve their team. Buffalo has lost Drury to New York. Pittsburgh? Maybe, but I think they are still a year or two away from leading the east. I picked the New York Rangers.

The west: Like the poll voters showed, this is a harder one to pick. Brian Burke is perhaps the best management mind in the game. However, his Todd Bertuzzi move is going to turn out to be brilliant or a disaster. If brilliant the Ducks may just remain the best in the west. Colorado is improved with the addition of Smyth and Hannan. They also have a lot of good young guys like Stastny and Liles. You would think the Sharks are going to be a contender at some point. Suspect defence may still be the Sharks weakness. The fans choice of LA is just plain loopy. There is no way in heck that the Kings are going to improve from 27-41-14 in ‘06/07 to notching around 48 wins this year no matter how darling Anze Kopitar is.

Your Vancouver Canucks? Well we do have one of the best net minders in the game. The team benefits from a full year under the new coaching regime. Scoring depth remains a question. With the improvements to Colorado, Calgary and Edmonton, which represents 24 Canuck games, the boys are going to be hard pressed to repeat even as a divisional winner.

I picked Colorado Avalanche. And my pick depends on Peter Budaj. If Budaj can maintain a decent save percentage deep into the season I suspect you’ll be seeing the Avalanche lead the west and contend for the cup.


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