Sunday 17 September 2023

The Annual Read

Just like the sun rising in the east and snow blanketing Canada in the winter, there's a tradition that I keep every year here on HBIC. Just before the start of a new season of hockey, the annual publication known as The Hockey News Yearbook is released with new stories, reviews of every team, and predictions for the upcoming NHL season. Like a vast number of you, I read this Yearbook to gain knowledge about the NHL season, but I also read it to see what the predictions and prognostications are from the men who are paid to be the smartest in room. I'll admit that I want them to be wrong when it comes to what they write, but they often are correct with their projections. In knowing that, they almost always make a Stanley Cup prediction that's wrong when it comes to the team that wins and the two teams that participate in the Stanley Cup Final. Is this the year they finally get it right?

The annual look at the top-ten rookies along with their top-fifty players is here once again, and it's not hard to imagine that Connor Bedard and Connor McDavid are the top players on both lists. Among the rookies, Adam Fantilli, Jiri Kulich, Luke Hughes, Matthew Knies, and Logan Cooley get some love from Ryan Kennedy. The "Top 50 players" in the NHL are also handled by Ryan Kennedy, and this list will certainly get fans talking as it features the likes of Nathan MacKinnon, Auston Matthews, Sidney Crosby, and Andrei Vasilevskiy, but new names in new ranking spots include the likes of Jack Hughes, Cale Makar, Tage Thompson, and Jaccob Slavin. Have a read through both of these lists and see if you agree where players land based on Kennedy's judgments, and who should be higher or lower on his lists!

Jared Clinton files a solid read about Dallas Stars' star Jason Robertson, Ryan Kennedy has a fantastic piece of Matthew Tkachuk, Michael Traikos has a great article on Jack Hughes, and Carol Schram writes a intriguing piece on Jakob Markstrom. Those are the four main pieces filed for this edition of the Yearbook, and I sort of miss the smaller pieces that used to run in the Yearbook. Yes, it's nice to have four main pieces by four different writers, but I miss the secondary pieces that each writer used to file that were about a page long on a specific player. Perhaps they'll return in future Yearbooks, but they're absent in this year's version of the Yearbook.

The NHL Team Reports are presented midway through the Yearbook, but there are some predictions that are made prior to the Team Reports. Because The Hockey News is trying to sell magazines, I won't list off what is predicted, but the writers do project the final standings in each of the divisions along with making a Stanley Cup Final prediction including which team should win the Stanley Cup. I will say that the writers have the Seattle Kraken back in the playoffs, though, and that one division of the four will only have three teams in the playoffs. In short, there are some bold predictions made!

Among the different criteria used for the Team Reports, two of the criteria include "Intangibles" and an "X-Factor" for each team. It's always interesting to see how these two criteria are filled out for each squad. Also noted in each report is a "Cup Odds" given by The Hockey News, and there are some unique statistical leaders shown under the 2022-23 numbers as Corsi For/60 and Corsi Against/60 are listed among the numbers.

It's interesting to note that there are zero minor-league statistics nor are there any junior or European statistics listed in the Yearbook. If one likes to track the development of players in leagues not named "NHL", the ability to do so doesn't exist with this year's edition of the Yearbook. I used to enjoy checking some of the statistical lists from other leagues to see who was playing where, but I can't do that this year. Maybe that will return in a future Yearbook?

Overall, The Hockey News Yearbook for 2022-23 is another solid entry in the Yearbook series that The Hockey News produces, but it's missing things from years past that made it a can't-miss read. While I still would pick this year's Yearbook up for the team reports, I'm starting to believe that The Hockey News is doing the bare minimum in publishing this annual report. That's fairly disappointing considering the cost of the magazine, but, like everything else on the planet, one seems to get less for one's dollar nowadays.

In any case, the team reports and the predictions should keep one occupied for a while, and those four main pieces on Robertson, Tkachuk, Hughes, and Markstrom are well-written. I'm sure you'll find enough to keep reading through any and all of these pieces, so make sure you pick up a copy of The Hockey News Yearbook where ever you can!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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