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Holding Myself Accountable

Since we're not just getting ready to flip the calendar over to 2007, but we're also approaching the midpoint of the NHL Regular Season, I thought I'd check in on some of my pre-season predictions to publicly bolster or humiliate myself (probably some of both, I imagine). So here we go...

MISCELLANEOUS PREDICTIONS
First Coach To Be Fired (Trent Yawney): Ken Hitchcock and Gerard Gallant beat him to the street, but he didn't even make it into December, so I'll give myself partial credit on that one.

Most Improved Team (St. Louis Blues): Whoops! The Blues were at the bottom of the heap last year, and they're 2nd worst in the NHL right now, with a winning percentage of .375. The most improved teams this year are the freakishly mighty Anaheim Ducks (who went from .598 to .795 WP), and the suddenly mediocre Pittsburgh Penguins (.354 to .514).

Most Disappointing Team (Tampa Bay Lightning): Disappointing can be a relative term, based on expectations, but, two seasons after winning the Stanley Cup, the Lightning are indeed sinking below .500, and out of playoff contention. I'll give myself credit on this one, although I'm sure many would dub the Philadelphia Flyers as the biggest bomb of 2006-07.

Most Improved Player (Alex Tanguay): Whoops, again. Or maybe I was misquoted when I said, "40 goals and 50 assists." I really meant 14 goals, not 40, right? Currently, the most improved players in terms of Points Per Game are Daniel Cleary (.71 vs. .19 last year) and Martin Havlat (went from 0.89 to 1.41).

Comeback Player (Sergei Fedorov): Fedorov's production is indeed up from last season, and we'll have to see how his working relationship with Ken Hitchcock pans out. With 25 points in 30 games, he's approaching the point-per-game pace, and his shooting percentage is back up to 13.8 (slightly above his career mark of 12.4), up from 8.5 last year. I'll give myself a thumbs-up on this one, although you have to note the outstanding season that Alexei Yashin's having as well on Long Island.

"Don't Come Back" Player (Jeremy Roenick): Looks like I nailed that one, folks.

REGULAR SEASON AWARDS

Presidents' Trophy (Carolina Hurricanes): Yikes! The Hurricanes are 11th in the league, and Anaheim is lapping the field. It looks like I'll miss that one.

Art Ross Trophy (Jaromir Jagr): Jagr is certainly in the scoring race mix, in second place behind Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby.

Calder Memorial Trophy (Evgeni Malkin): Malkin's having a sensational rookie season, and would probably be considered the favorite at this point, although L.A.'s Anze Kopitar is tied for the rookie scoring lead with Malkin at 33 points. We've got a long ways to go in this race, however, and dark horses like Jordan Staal and Alexander Radulov may make some noise.

Frank J. Selke Trophy (Kris Draper): Draper's offensive production has dropped back down to his typical 5-15 goal level, so I doubt he'll be strongly considered for the Selke. It usually seems to be the reward for a lock-down defensive forward who pots 20-30 goals to boot.

Hart Memorial Trophy (Chris Pronger): He's the stud defenseman on the best team in the league, and he's putting up better offensive totals than teammate Scott Niedermayer. That sure sounds like an MVP to me - I feel good about this one.

Jack Adams Award (Jim Playfair): Calgary has been a bit of a disappointment so far, so this pick is clearly going to be a miss. There are probably 5 or 6 good candidates here, including Ted Nolan, Barry Trotz, Randy Carlyle, and Guy Carbonneau.

James Norris Memorial Trophy (Chris Pronger): No problem with that pick so far...

Maurice Richard Trophy (Jaromir Jagr): I recently broke down the contenders for the goal-scoring title, and Jagr is still a contender, but Alexander Ovechkin, Marian Hossa, Brendan Shanahan and Martin St. Louis are setting a frenetic pace. At this point, I'm starting to doubt my chances.

Vezina Trophy (Tomas Vokoun): Vokoun's hand injury has pretty much eliminated him from any chance at the Vezina, so this will be a miss. Who knows, if he fails to come back, maybe his backup Chris Mason might get a shot (2nd in the NHL in Save Percentage).

William M. Jennings Trophy (Dominik Hasek & Chris Osgood): The tandem award for fewest goals against seems a good bet for the Red Wings duo (2.11 GA/G), with San Jose in 2nd at 2.19.

DIVISION WINNERS

Atlantic (New York Rangers): The Rangers currently sit 3rd behind New Jersey and the New York Islanders and with a subpar defense, I don't like their chances so much right now. Whoops...

Northeast (Ottawa Senators): First in the Northeast? I meant last, right? Double whoops...

Southeast (Carolina Hurricanes): The Hurricanes sit in 2nd behind the Atlanta Thrashers, but boast a 5-game winning streak and seem to be firing on all cylinders. It'll go down to the wire.

Central (Nashville Predators): The Predators have maintained a modest gap over Detroit for a while now, and have taken advantage of tremendous depth to pile up the points despite injuries to Tomas Vokoun and Jason Arnott, among others. This seems like a solid pick.

Northwest (Calgary Flames): At the time of this writing, all five teams in the Northwest are within 1 point in the standings! I give myself no better than a 20% chance of being correct on this one. Based on Expected Win % (using GF/GA ratio), one would say that Colorado and Calgary should pull away from the field, but that's just not happening yet.

Pacific (Anaheim Ducks): Despite quality opposition in San Jose and Dallas, the Ducks should wrap this up easily.

BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER
So what's the final tally? All in all, I count 22 predictions above. On 10 of them, I seriously doubt I'm going to be correct at season's end. Another 8 I'd say are solid picks with a good chance of being right, and the other 4 are in that middling area (like the Art Ross or Calder picks). 8 for 22 is .363, right? If this were baseball, I'd be an All-Star...

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