The wonderful thing about writing sports predictions is that the predictor can’t lose.
If even one of your guesstimates hits, you can claim superior insight and act as if you knew it all along — like Biff Tannen flexing his Grays Sports Almanac from the future.
And if you miss the mark? Well, hey, predictions are silly, the 2020s taught us that no one can really forecast anything with accuracy, and you just typed them out because your editor needed some holiday content.
So, here goes our best guesses for hockey in 2022.
If we’re correct, expect us to remind you. If not, let’s both pretend you never clicked, shall we?
Patrik Laine gets traded, again
Hard to believe Laine will still be only 23 years old when the Columbus Blue Jackets season likely comes to its conclusion.
The electric (if inconsistent) winger has been the source of a captivating 44-goal campaign, a blockbuster trade, and more bursts of on-ice highlights and off-ice drama than we can count.
Despite the Finnish sniper’s hot start this fall (10 points in 10 games) — a fine rebound from his dismal 2020-21 — injury and the tragic death of his father, Harri, at age 54 have halted both his and the Jackets’ bid for playoff contention.
Laine accepted a hefty qualifying offer last summer (one year at $7.5 million), but he’ll again be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights in the summer of 2022.
GM Jarmo Kekäläinen cannot run the risk of inking Laine to another one-year deal and effectively walking an elite talent to unrestricted free agency shortly after he turns 25.
So, does Laine want to commit long-term to an organization that has been shedding assets for futures and clearly needs several more pieces to contend?
We doubt it.
Montreal wins the draft lottery
No doubt, Jeff Gorton is a smart hockey executive. But he’s also a lucky hockey executive.
In his final two seasons at the helm of the resetting New York Rangers, the GM jumped to No. 2 in the 2019 draft (Kaapo Kakko) and all the way to No. 1 in 2020 (Alexis Lafreniere). After the Blueshirts canned Gorton for not fighting Tom Wilson fast enough or something, their lottery luck expired.
Well, Gorton now finds himself steering another Original Six rebuild. And with exciting young scorers scarce in Montreal (the team’s offence ranks 31st), the franchise could use a little of that Gorton good fortune to get things back on track.
We’re betting the hockey deities are frowning on the Arizona Coyotes’ blatant tank job.
So even though the Yotes will finish with highest odds of securing the No. 1 overall pick, Montreal — the draft’s host city — will secure the pick and use it on future No. 1 centre Shane Wright. (In a few years, Nick Suzuki will eventually slide to a more appropriate No. 2 pivot role.)
Some history: The Habs have moved up in the lottery just once in their history. In 2005, with just a 2.1 per cent chance of jumping the ladder, they jumped to the fifth-overall selection.
That pick was a smart one: Carey Price.
Maybe this is a boring bet, but it’s bold in the respect that the NHL hasn’t seen a threepeat champion since the New York Islanders opened the 1980s with a four-crown dynasty.
The Tampa Bay Lightning will accomplish this feat because (a) it dresses the world’s best goalie, (b) owns the best big-game two-way defenceman, (c) can roll out multiple scoring threats, (d) excels at special teams, (e) employs a GM who is deft at snatching veteran role players (Corey Perry, Zach Bogosian, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare) and, most important, (f) knows it can go all the way.
To think, Tampa has already dealt with significant regular-season injuries to all-stars Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov (again) and has hardly skipped a beat.
Captain Steven Stamkos (sixth in league scoring) is keg-standing from the fountain of youth.
Alex Killorn is grinding like a guy who’s still over the moon that he wasn’t part of Tampa’s off-season salary dump.
And Ryan McDonagh is probably the best D-man we stopped talking about.
If Jon Cooper’s bunch pulls this sucker off, the Bolts will indisputably rise above the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins as the greatest team of the league’s salary cap era.
• Connor McDavid wins the Art Ross and Hart trophies.
• The Colorado Avalanche defeat the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference final.
• Cale Makar swipes the Norris.
• The incomparable Patrice Bergeron calls it a career after the Bruins make a first-round exit.
• Minnesota’s Dean Evason claims the Jack Adams.
• Auston Matthews rallies to pass Leon Draisaitl and Alex Ovechkin for the Rocket.
• Trevor Zegras steals the Calder from frontrunner Lucas Raymond.