It's a fool's game.
Making predictions or forecasts, that is.
Take the team as it appears on paper, use the previous season's performance as a solid starting point, rate the improvements of individual clubs as compared to their conference rivals and you go ahead and make a prediction about where they will finish the year.
The standings rarely work out as expected, however. Top picks often flesh out and end up conference champions and/or President's trophy winners. But there are always surprises, a slew of injuries that skew things and the unpredictable coming together of factors at just the right time that makes some teams better than anyone could have forecast. Similarly, some teams thought to be contenders heading in, plummet and have disaster seasons.
If I had a real independent and detailed take on every NHL club, I would post a team by team analysis in the lead up to the 2007/08 season. I would break predictions down by conference, starting with the team that I believe would finish #15 and ending with my pick for the conference champ.
Different points that would be covered for each team would include:
1. Analysis of strengths and weaknesses by position.
2. Improvements, such as off-season trades and incoming rookies.
3. Improvements as compared to rivals. A team may have made some trades but if they pale in comparison to what conference rivals have done, the effect may be minimal.
4. Potential-overall age of the squad plays a major part in this factor.
5. Intangibles (I always love this part of the pre-season debate, where you can take wild swings in the dark and attach significance to otherwise meaningless factors.)
However in the end, for practical reasons, a lot of the discussion on the strengths and weaknesses of many teams would ultimately come from the parsing of a great deal of online content on the subject together with my opinion thrown in. Nothing wrong with that to some degree of course, as the so-called experts engage in the same style of supplementing their own opinions and knowledge.
I wish I had had the time and opportunity over the past few years to endlessly watch games played by each team, compile in-depth analysis and come to completely independent conclusions. Alas, that isn't the case.
The full-time hockey writers at various publications do a thorough analysis of each team and provide their predictions each year. There is alway some admirable accuracy due to the shared hockey knowledge at these outfits as well as the inevitable miscalculations. Regardless, the most important aspect is that it's entertaining to read.
As the new season draws near I will analyze at least a handful of teams in some detail. I will also offer up my predictions based on simple rankings for both conferences and give some rationale for choices others may consider sheer lunacy. But stirring up debate is half the fun of these kinds of stunts, isn't it?
I'll leave that for as close to the beginning of the season as possible owing to the potential for last minute trades or signings.