By Rob Ficiur
In the more recent issue of the commentator I reported that for the past three years 50% of my yearly predictions have been correct. Which half of these 2017 predictions will be accurate? Or will they all be right (or all be wrong).
1. Three Canadian NHL teams will make the playoffs –
At this moment 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. In 2015, five Canadian NHL teams made the playoffs a year later none of the teams north of the border made the post season. With over half of a season to go, teams can get hot and teams can fall apart.
Why did I predict three teams? Montreal has been consistent all season long. A year ago they were considered a potential Stanley Cup threat until goalie Carey Price was injured. Teams in Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton have surprised with their improved play over last year. In all three cities, there have been hot streaks and followed by cold streaks. I expect that through the course of the final playoff push, that one of these teams will slip just enough to miss the playoffs.
2. A “new” team will win the 2017 Stanley Cup –
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 Stanely Cup winner will be a team that has not won since the Salary cap era (since 2006). At this moment seven of the top NHL teams are ones that have not won since the new NHL. One of them will win this season.
3. The Toronto Raptors will make the NBA final –
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.
For six years in a row Lebron James has lead his team (the Miami Heat or the Cleveland Cavaliers) to the NBA final. It was Lebron’s elite play that allowed the Cavaliers to overcome a two game deficit and win the 2016 NBA title. Lebron has played at such an superstar level for the last six years, that time will catch up to him. In 2016 an injury to Golden State’s Steph Curry limited his playoff productivity. He was still good, but not elite. At age 32 began a slow decline from their peak.
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.
4. The Toronto Blue Jays will miss the MLB playoffs.
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 Encarnacion and Jose Bautista and pitchers RA Dickey and Brett Cecil. They have been replaced by slugger Kendrys Morales and pitcher Francisco Liriano. One can argue that some of those lost were aging veterans who would not have produced as much as they had in the past. However, the talent lost has not been replaced by equal talent even based on last year’s numbers.
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. It is not impossible, but very hard.
Third, the Jays seem to have lost chemistry this off season. Maybe it is the fans wishing that Jose and Edwin were there to hit the big home run for us (because they did). The Jays had a triple threat of Edwin, Jose and Josh Donaldson, now they have Donaldson and probably Kendrys Morales. Good but not great.
5. The Calgary Stampeders will win the 2017 Grey Cup
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.
Check back in 52 weeks and see if these predictions came true.