How did we do at bold predictions?

Back in October we posted a set of bold predictions that covered a few of the topics we were all talking about as the season started.  Who would play where, how would they do, etc.  You can look at that post and see all our really wrong guesses and our occasional bits of brilliance if you like.

Just recently, Mike Babcock mentioned that he didn’t know how Auston Matthews would do in the NHL, and he said he’d considered the possibility that he’d need time at wing to get settled in. It feels better now to know that he had no better idea than we did what would happen in this season.

Let’s see how wrong we were:

Matt Martin: Will he play on Matthews’ wing? How many goals/points will he get?

Obviously, this was something that filled Leafs’ fandom with fear at the time.  We know the first answer: never in 82 games.  We know the second answer: five goals and nine points.

Scott Wheeler had this one right when he said: “If he assassinates James van Riemsdyk [Species: eyes.gif], Mitch Marner and William Nylander in practice, then maybe.”

Nafio had the most inventive answer: “He probably will but only in emergency situations. Lou will beat him onto LTIR after finding he stole the crowbar to get the opportunity.”

If should be clear by now that we weren’t taking this prediction job very seriously.

Tyler Bozak: how’s he going to do this year? Tell us a point total or give a general impression.

This was an interesting question at the time because many fans were unhappy that the player they didn’t like hadn’t been traded.

I nailed this one, if I do smugly say so myself: “career year. He’ll spend the most time in the offensive zone ever in his life.”

You have to account for the increased games played this year, but he almost had as high a CF% as last year, his previous best.  He has more points than ever, hitting the 50 point mark for the first time.

Fulemin guessed that: Tyler is finally going to break the 50 point threshold...with 51 points.

And at 55 points for Bozak this year, that’s impressively close.

How long does Hunwick-Zaitsev last as a pairing? If it gets broken up, who partners Zaitsev?

In one sense it lasted 2:11.  Matt Hunwick was injured in the first game of the season after playing that much time.  He came back a week later and then missed a larger chunk of time at the end of October and into November.  That second injury to Hunwick marked the move of Nikita Zaitsev permanently into a top four role.

This question was interesting in that no one who answered thought it would last, but Arvind and Scott thought he’d play with Jake Gardiner, Fulemin said Martin Marincin and I said Morgan Rielly.

We were all right in a way.  Rielly was the first and main partner for the newest Leafs defender, but Zaitsev certainly played with the other two and late in the season Gardiner-Zaitsev started to take precedence.

Zach Hyman: Games-played and points estimate?

Arvind wins this one with: “all games he’s healthy for, and roughly 25 point pace.”

Fulemin is close with: “75 and 34.”

Hyman played 82 games and finished with 28 points.  Sorry, Scott!

James van Riemsdyk: does he break his career high goals/points total (30 goals in 2013-14)? What about his goals against total?

The answer was close to career highs in goals and points with 29 goals and 62 points, good for second on the team.  But the 87 GA he had in 2013-2014, was well beyond the scope of what he experienced this year with 58 against while he was on the ice.

Species wins with his eerily close prediction of: “He’ll get 31 goals and 62 points just to show all of you people who don’t believe in him that he’s still got it!”

But both Fulemin and Scott had guesses close to reality as well.

Roman Polak: how many games does he play?

Wow did we fail here.  In my defence I was making a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy joke, but no one guessed the near ironman performance Polak would be called upon to perform due to injuries and Mike Babcock’s continuing intransigence over the Pittsburgh Penguins star defender Frank Corrado.

He actually played (most of) 75 games.  And by stating the highest actual number (42), I win this one, although Nafio did say “forties”.

Mitch Marner: how many games does he play?

Oh, remember the old days when we thought Marner would need to be eased into the NHL? Weren’t we so young and naive then?

The actual answer is 77 with injury the only thing ever keeping him out of the lineup.  Arvind, Scott and Fulemin were in the ballpark so they share the crown for faith in Mitch on this one.  Fulemin was right on, so he gets the biggest crown.

Joffrey Lupul: does he ever play?

Oh, remember the old days when we didn’t know how willing the Leafs were to make this contract go away? Weren’t we so young and naive then?

Nafio had the most accurate read: “if we'd had any reports of him on the ice or hanging around the facilities at all in the preseason I would have said yes. Unfortunately, if he's actively rehabbing he seems to be doing it out of sight and that suggests he's going to cooperate with the plan to keep him off the roster. If there's a terrible rash of injuries he might miraculously heal up though.”

Arvind also called him being too injured to play, so if you think that’s true, by all means, award him the win. I’m cynical.

Frederik Andersen: how many starts? How many make you cry? Please specify joyous or mournful tears.

We never saw his actual workload coming.  The actual number is 66.

The highest guess was Scott with 58, so he wins.

We really had no idea how many tears there’d be though.

Leo Komarov: Is he still top line muscle or is he fading? If he needs replacing, who will it be?

This is very subjective, and my idea of the true answer with hindsight is that he seemed to be fading and came on strong when it really counted in the spring.  His point totals ended up really close to last year’s, but he did it in a lot more games.

All the answers were mostly correct, but Scott’s was best: “There’s almost no chance Komarov re-finds the success he had last year, but he’ll be a lock in the Leafs’ top-nine all season and he’ll be serviceable.”

Nazem Kadri: career high in points? Dollars fined for diving?

No fines! His career high was in goals and points!

Scott wins again with: “Kadri’s shooting percentage won’t stay as low as it did last year and he’ll have career highs in points and goals.”

But he didn’t answer the fines part, and no one guessed no fines.  We had no faith he’d improve his acting as much as he did.

Milan Michalek: Traded? If so, for what and when?

Cynicism wins.  I said: “No. He’s too expensive for too little value.”

Others refused to answer because trade speculation is hard, though.

This turned out, on the last day of the season, to be a sad story in a way.  His brother Zibanek Michalek, who spent the season in the AHL, was called up by the Coyotes for three games and given a nice send off as he’s calling it a career.  Milan has disappeared from the Marlies roster with an unnamed injury.

Playoff teams are ruthless is the lesson here, I guess.

Connor Brown: Games played? On what line?

The answer was 82 games and fourth line at first with a fast promotion to the Matthews or Kadri line.

Most answers were hilariously pessimistic in hindsight, but I said: “60 games, mostly on the fourth, but moving up to the Bozak line when Soshnikov is magically healed.”

So that’s what? About half right? I got the cynical part right about Soshnikov magically being ready when his games played would keep him waiver exempt through the end of the year, though.

Brooks Laich, Byron Froese, Frederik Gauthier: who will be the fourth-line centre? Who should be? *We all answered this before Laich was waived.

Byron Froese.  ~sniffle~

None of the above was the right answer, although both Froese and Gauthier played a little bit.  No one saw Ben Smith coming. Or Brian Boyle, for that matter.

Arvind at least picked Gauthier, who at least played there a bit.  All the Peter Holland answers make us look clever now, eh?

Jared Cowen: Will the Leafs win the buyout?

The answer was yes, and the winner is Arvind for guessing probably.

Colin Greening: Who will he be traded to?

Arvind wins this one again for guessing no one.

Jhonas Enroth: Reliable backup, 1B or starter by the end of the season?

Ah yes.  Predicting goalies. Who put this question in?

We all picked reliable backup, so that shows what we know.

Jake Gardiner and ???: Who is he paired with most?

The answer is Connor Carrick, but also Polak and Zaitsev and Corrado and Alexey Marchenko.  A smart pundit would have said whoever needs their stats boosted.  Wish I’d thought of that then.

I said:  “I’m saying Carrick for pretty much the whole year, but when Polak gets in a game, well, he’s gotta play somewhere is all I’m saying.”

But others picked Zaitsev, which might be the most true right now.

Morgan Rielly and Martin Marincin: Is that a good idea or just pairing up the spares?

I think all we talked about last fall was defence pairs.

Arvind said the smartest thing here: “I can tolerate it. They switch sides, so Rielly can play on the left. It got mediocre results last year against tough competition, and I’m ok giving it a bit of a test run. But I’d like to see Rielly with a natural, half-decent RD at some point.”

Morgan Rielly: Is he actually any good?

I think Arvind nails it again: “This comes across harsh, but I think Rielly is pretty much a slightly above average even strength player in a very fun to watch package.”

But this is very subjective and others, including me, had more optimistic takes.  We might be saying the same thing, just using a different tone to say it, however.

William Nylander: Will he stay in Babcock's good books all season or spend a week or two with the Marlies at some point?

Depends on how you read the 4C experiment, as to which books you think he was in all year.

I’m picking me here: “I think you can be in the bad books and not be sent down. I also think Nylander is absolutely the type of guy who responds to the occasional negative reinforcement. Whereas Matthews is a guy who will all on his own want to be the best player on the team.”

But also Species for: “There will be at least one mittenstringer column where “sources” say he's a cancer in the locker room or something.”

Which is in the ballpark.

Peter Holland: Did you notice we forgot him?

Arvind wins for: “Who?”

Nafio gets bonus points for saying that nicely: “Poor guy. He wants to be on the team so badly and he's just barely going to make it.”

Auston Matthews: What’ya think?

The correct answer here is obviously that he’s okay, just okay.

Everyone wins for being right about some aspect of the wonder that is Auston Matthews.

Katya: He is already the ‘drive train’ of the team. And young men don’t progress in a straight line, so he will have a bumpy ride and so will the rest of us as we ride along.

Fulemin: There will be half a dozen moments where you’ll remember he’s still 19. There will be many, many more moments where you’re ecstatic he’s a Toronto Maple Leaf.

Scott: Calder Memorial Trophy.

Arvind: Oh, you mean Matt Martin’s centre?

Nafio: I do believe I will take advantage of that GCL isolation feature thing and just watch Auston all by himself for one game this season.

Species: On his first three game stretch without a point we'll be hearing he's a bust. It will be really ugly if Laine is on a hot streak at the same time.

(Except Arvind, what was he thinking?)

And now you know how often we are really and truly full of it when we guess about this stuff.  However, some people (not me) are really good at guessing points.