SUN Hockey Pool

The guessing game

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 5:03 PM ET

Sports Illustrated ranks Edmonton ninth overall and Colorado 19th. The Hockey News has Colorado fifth in the West and Edmonton eighth. Go figure.

So-called hockey experts are a dime-a-dozen in this country. But this year is the test. This year should separate the experts from the guessperts.

It's no major challenge to make predictions and projections when you simply take last year's standings, put an 'up' arrow beside a team that improved in the off-season and a 'down' arrow beside one that suffered defections, etc. and move 'em up and down a spot or two.

But this year ...

Even the hockey people are debating about what will happen with the potential dramatic swings in the standings.

Take the two teams that open the season here tonight.

Edmonton has an 'up' arrow.

Colorado has a 'down' arrow.

But how up and how down is it going to be?

Is Edmonton going to reach for the top and Colorado drop like a rock? Or will the difference end up being that they end up being two teams of the same sort of strength?

"I think everybody in hockey can't wait to find out how this all plays out," says Oilers coach Craig MacTavish.

"Our team is adding. Some of the other teams had to do what we'd been doing all those years, which is taking away. How does it all shake down?"

Add new rules ...

Add new rules and, in the case of goaltenders, new equipment, and some players become more valuable and some even become obsolete.

Take the Oilers and the Avalanche. They might be as good an example as any team in the league.

Colorado has lost Peter Forsberg and Adam Foote. The Oilers have added Chris Pronger and Michael Peca.

Colorado was a 'down' arrow even if they'd been able to keep their team together. Edmonton was an 'up' arrow even if they came back with the same squad.

Which team finishes higher? And how much higher?

Sports Illustrated ranks Edmonton ninth overall and Colorado 19th.

The Hockey News has Colorado fifth in the West and Edmonton eighth.

How can Sports Illustrated and The Hockey News, two reputable publications, be that far apart on two teams?

Try them on the Nashville Predators.

SI has the Preds fifth overall and THN has them 13th in the West or 25th/26th overall. McKeen's Hockey has the Oilers fifth in the West with 95 points and the Avalanche two spots back in six with 93 points. They have the Predators ahead of them both with 99 points. Try them on the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. Sports Illustrated has them 22nd overall, The Hockey News has them third in the West.

One outfit, www.vegas.com, has Colorado at 7-1 to win the Stanley Cup and Edmonton at 22-1. Defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay is at 8-1.

The outfit www.bowmans.com has Colorado at 12-1 to win the Cup and Edmonton at 20-1. Defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay is at 15-1.

Rather interesting odds

Somewhere out there, no matter who you cheer for, you should be able to get some rather interesting odds on your squads.

About the only thing that just about everybody agrees on seems to be that Wayne Gretzky doesn't have a snowball's hope in hell of enjoying any success with the Phoenix Coyotes.

There are, however, an unbelievable number of media pundits picking the Ottawa Senators and/or the Calgary Flames to win the Stanley Cup.

That's despite Ottawa having a 41-year-old goalie who hasn't played in over two years and couldn't stop a beach ball on a 10-city IMG tour of Europe last December. That's despite Calgary having a team that, with a 42-30-7-3 record, finished five points ahead of the Edmonton Oilers, who missed the playoffs, in the last hockey season.

The www.bowmans.com site, incidentally, offers a Calgary -150 Edmonton +130 bet on which team will finish higher in the standings this season. The same bet, with the same odds, favours Toronto winning more games than Montreal. Sports Illustrated has Montreal 17th and Toronto 20th.

The Hockey News has Toronto eighth and Montreal 10th in the East. McKeen's has Montreal with 92 points and Toronto with 87.

On the opposite page, you can see how our own crystal-ball gazers differ considerably on where to pick any number of teams this year in their predictions.

I mean, Robin Brownlee, Rob Tychkowski and Scott Zerr are so far off the mark, it's really hard to comprehend, isn't it?


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