By Rob Ficiur
As we began the new year of 2017 I made specific predictions about what would happen in the world of sports.
1. Correct – Three Canadian NHL teams will make the playoffs –
I wrote: At this moment (December 2016) four of the seven Canadian NHL teams are in a playoff spot. Montreal ranks 6th in overall league standings; Ottawa is 10th and Edmonton is 11th overall. Calgary is in a Wild Card playoff spot with 40 points. Winnipeg is currently one point out of the last Wild Card playoff spot.
Looking back – In the end four of the seven Canadian based NHL teams made the playoffs. When I said three, I meant at least three. The Ottawa Senators came within one goal of making it to the Stanley Cup finals. The Edmonton Oilers wowed their fans by winning their first playoff series since 2006 and then almost winning in the second round. Interesting that at the moment I am writing this (December 19 – both Ottawa and Edmonton – who had impressive playoff runs – are out of a playoff spot.
2. Wrong – A “new” team will win the 2017 Stanley Cup –
I wrote; In the first seven years after the 2005 lockout a different team won the Stanley Cup. The next four years (2013-2016) the Stanley Cup champion was a repeat winner from this group. I predict that the 2017 Stanley Cup winner will be a team that has not won since the Salary cap era (since 2006).
Looking Back – The Nashville Predators made their first ever appearance in the Stanley Cup final. They would have been a new cup champion. Instead they lost to the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins were the first Stanley Cup champion to repeat as winners since the 1997 and 1998 Detroit Red Wings.
3. Wrong – The Toronto Raptors will make the NBA final –
I wrote: At this moment the Raptors are fourth overall in NBA standings. Last year the Raptors came within two games of going to the NBA final. This year only the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers are ahead of the Raptors in the Eastern Conference standings.
The Raptors have become a great NBA team. They have learned how to win in the playoffs through some of the hard losses they have gone through the last three years. This year they will take it one step further – to the finals.
Looking Back – The 2017 Raptors had their second best season in team history. In 2016 (their best season ever) the Raptors went to the final four. A year later they were eliminated in the second round by Cleveland. In 2016 they lost to Cleveland in six games; a year later they lost in four straight. Being in the playoffs four consecutive years for the first time in franchise history did not take away the sting. The team went backwards not forwards.
4. Correct – The Toronto Blue Jays will miss the MLB playoffs.
I wrote: After two thrilling trips to baseball’s final four, the Jays will miss the 2017 playoffs. There are three reasons why:
First, the team has lost significant talent over the off season. Gone are sluggers Edwin Encarnaceon and Jose Bautista and pitchers RA Dickey and Brett Cecil.
Second, making the final four three years in a row is uncommon. The Blue Jays have been to the final four the last two years. Only three teams since 2004 have gone to the final four three straight years.
Looking back: Some of my information was wrong. In the end the Blue Jays re-signed Jose Bautista to a one year contract. Joey Bats had his worst year of his career. After their worst April in team history the team could never rebound. At least eight times they climbed within one game of .500 only to lose and fall back. The 2017 Jays were never in the running.
5. Wrong – The Calgary Stampeders will win the 2017 Grey Cup
I wrote; The Stamps were as close as a team could be to winning it all in 2016. No team has ever lost the Grey Cup in overtime until the 2016 Stampeders. The Stamps have been the best team by far the last two years and have no championships to show for it. 2017 will be their year of revenge.
Looking Back – I was so close with this prediction. The Stampeders were leading 17-8 at half time and 24-16 after three quarters. In the fourth quarter Calgary was on the Toronto one yard line. They fumbled the ball and the Argonauts took it 109 yards down field to tie the game. How often does that happen? This was the same Stampeders who lost the previous Grey Cup in overtime.
My 2018 predictions will be in next week’s column.