I’m not a big fan of making predictions, honestly, I never have been. Sure, I’ve gone out on the limb before, but I’m just not a fan of making predictions. Nevertheless, it’s that time of year, playoff predictions are running wild.
Too Many Variables
There are too many variables, too many intangibles to make predictions on junior hockey, especially during the preseason or even before the puck drops because there’s just too many moving parts to the equation. Things get a little clearer when playoffs roll around. When it comes to predictions it’s not about being right or wrong. It’s not about being more knowledgeable than the next person, I’ve always hated predictions. I know people in the media are supposed to be in the know and that making predictions gets views, retweets and attracts attention. I get it, it’s the game we often play, but if the last two years have taught it us anything it’s to expect the unexpected.
The 2022 QMJHL President Cup Playoffs will no doubt have it’s share of surprises or shocking upsets. That’s what’s so great about playoff time. It’s unpredictable, even though everyone tries to predict things. You see playoff time is all about character, all about pressure, it’s all about executing the game plan and staying discipline enough to do it and playing your game under pressure.
As a scout we make projections all the time. Some are right and some are wrong. How are predictions and projections different? I try to project player performance based on past performance history and my knowledge of the player, their character, work ethic and work habits throughout the off-season. I realize that most people base their team predictions on the same principles. When it comes to QMJHL an absence of literally two to three players can screw everything up and dash any team’s championship hopes and aspirations. You see projections and predictions are very similar, but in junior hockey there are so many variables that it’s really difficult to make sound knowledgeable predictions on overall team success. That’s where character, and the other intangibles have to come into play when looking at a contending team’s positive and negative tendencies. When it comes to down to winning in the playoffs, of course it’s who wants it more, but it all comes down to exploiting team tendencies.
Here’s one bold prediction, don’t bet against a team against all odds, they may just surprise you. How’s that for a prediction? I know is if I was coaching a Q team right now I would tell my players to either ignore all social media and the bold prognosticators out there, or I would be collecting a wide assortment of bulletin board material, just for a little more fuel for the fire. To count out teams before the puck is even dropped in a series is difficult to comprehend. I really just can’t get my head around that. Sure, you can look at rebuilding teams and say they are going to be easy outs in the playoffs, but that isn’t a given?
Rebuilding teams have been known to do some damage and surprise a lot of people, hell some rebuilding squads make significant noise in the playoffs just on hard work alone. Teams with the right blend of chemistry and character are extremely difficult outs in the postseason. First of all they have nothing to lose, they are desperate. They are used to playing a desperate brand of hockey and don’t have to worry about executing under pressure because they have had their feet to fire all season long.
Playoff hockey isn’t played on paper, there are going to be upsets, it’s the anatomy of those upsets that are sometimes predictable.
Remparts vs Sags
Patrick Roy vs Yanick Jean. This series will be incredibly well coached. The Sags are that rebuilding team that some will say won’t stand against a loaded Remparts team, but when you have the likes of Yanick Jean behind the bench anything can happen. Jean’s playoff exploits are the stuff of legend around the QMJHL. From shadowing top players to the dreaded trap, Yanick Jean has all the tricks of the trade at his disposal. The one thing the Sags are missing is ultimately the depth of skill and veteran presence on the backend to fully match up against the Remparts. That doesn’t mean the Sags won’t compete and be extremely structured. The Remparts will no doubt prevail in this series, but it won’t be without a fight.
Islanders vs Wildcats
If last Friday night was any indication this series will be a barn burner. The ultra-talented Islanders struggled managing the puck in all three zones which allowed the Wildcats to stay in the game. The week before the Isles came in and dominated the Cats. If the Isles can play a grind game and get their power play going this one might be a short series. If the Wildcats can continue to take the Isles time and space away and stay discipline they can make a series out of this. Jonathan Lemieux will have to stand on his head, and the Cats will have to support the puck a hell of a lot better coming out of their zone if they want to make it difficult series for the Isles. The Islanders will prevail in this series, but it will take longer than most people will think.
Mooseheads vs Titan
Which team will show up? This series has all the makings of going the distance. This series is all about consistency and discipline. Discipline to stay out of the box, but discipline to stick to the game plan and “buy in” it to reach the team’s best performance. The Titan have a great chance to go a long way this year and are built for the playoffs and you can say the exact same thing for the Mooseheads. Both teams have veteran presence and solid puck moving defencemen. Goaltending and specialty teams will be paramount in this series. This series will all depend on who wants it more and “buy in”. The team that wins this series will make tons of noise in the playoffs moving forward. A 1st round victory will propel the team in question very far. This one is too close to call, but if there’s going to be a first round upset this might be the series that it will happen.
Sea Dogs vs Oceanic
The Sea Dogs know exactly where they are going to end their season, it’s whether they want to hoist the President Cup first. There’s no question the Sea Dogs are a great team on paper and are riding an amazing winning streak, but the playoffs are an entirely new entity. Serge Beausoleil coached teams are always a difficult out come playoff time. The Dogs will have to play a full team game to dispose of the rebuilding Oceanic. With that being said, the Oceanic will be ready for anything. Obviously on paper this one looks lopsided, but paper don’t mean shit come playoff time. The Dogs have some tendencies to their overall game that the Oceanic can exploit, but depth is the issue for Beausoleil’s club. Elite level team’s should never take their opponents lightly, this series will be a great lesson for the Sea Dogs to learn along their way throughout the 2022 President Cup playoffs.
Phoenix vs Drakkar
There’s no question the Drakkar are in over their heads in this series, but desperation can be their strongest ally. The Phoenix have a very good hockey club that will definitely make tons of noise during the 2022 President Cup Playoffs. There’s no question that Stephane Julien will his hockey club ready for anything. Complacency won’t be an issue for the Phoenix, they will be more than ready to take on the rebuilding Drakkar. 40 points separated these two hockey clubs in the standings, but this is another example of never taking your opposition lightly and executing your game plan to the letter. An extremely young Drakkar team will gain tons of experience playing against the likes of the Phoenix during this series. The Drakkar have a bright future and have experienced their share of adversity during the dreaded downward trend of the junior hockey’s cycle, but this experience will definitely help in their progression as a young core group. The Phoenix will use this series as a great tune up moving forward.