Checking the QMJHL predictions

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The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs are halfway to completion.

Four teams remain: No. 1 Saint John, No. 2 Drummondville, No. 4 Moncton (which by all rights is No. 2) and No. 5 Victoriaville (really No. 4).

Let’s revisit this guy’s predictions for the league this year, and see how far off-base I was. This might sting the ego a little bit.

To begin the season, I had predicted that the Lewiston Maineiacs would finish at just about .500, and make the playoffs as the third seed in the division, finishing 11th overall.

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This was by far my biggest mistake in the whole league. Actually, when you think about it, that’s not too terrible.

In the Atlantic, which proved to be the strongest division this season, I had selected Moncton, Cape Breton and Saint John, in that order. The bottom three of that division were PEI in fourth, Bathurst in fifth and Halifax in sixth. These predictions were made pre-load-ups, and yet I still grouped the teams correctly. A very hot start from the league’s top seed, the Saint John Sea Dogs, is the difference from my nailing four of the six positions. As it stands, I got three of the six.

The Wildcats, post-moves, I believe, are still the team to beat. Saint John is great, and have a lot of proven winners on a younger-than-normal run team. I still believe in the end, Moncton is a better team. The ‘Cats are too deep on defence and Riopel wins any comparison with Cousineau in my book. No shock that two of the league’s four finalists are from this division.

In the Telus West, I correctly selected Rouyn-Noranda to win the division, but butchered the rest of it. Part of that comes from picking Val d’Or to finish where it should have finished. The Foreurs went through another coach, underachieved for the better part of the season and did nothing to maximize the talent on their roster. For that, they fell from my ranking of No. 2 to an actual No. 4 in that division.

The other two teams were, honestly, a coin-flip. I should have projected that the Junior would finish ahead of Gatineau based solely on the fact that they had Jake Allen for a half season, but I thought there would be a bigger drop-off after that deal went down. There wasn’t.

Gatineau half-validated my pick, though, when it ousted Montreal in the first round of the playoffs.

Off to the Telus East. Quebec was loaded for a run this year. The first half, though, Quebec was riddled with uncertainty as Delmas didn’t pan out in that city, and the big guns weren’t carrying the team. Patrick Roy’s squad played well in flashes, and well enough to run away with a relatively young and weak division, but struggled to be the top team most expected.

I had picked the Remparts to finish first in the division, followed by Chicoutimi, Rimouski and Baie-Comeau. I was 2-for-4, with the middle two teams swapped. I should know never to discount a Clem Jodoin team. I’ve learned my lesson.

Finally, the Telus Central, featuring the Lewiston Maineiacs. I’ll admit, I drank a little bit of the Kool-Aid to begin the season. Things looked promising. There was the bounce-back effect, there was a new coach, new administration, and a bevy of new players.

There wasn’t however, a solid defense. Nor, we have come to learn, was there a solid foundation on the front end. That led to a 15-game losing streak and another coaching change. There have now been four head coaches of the Maineiacs in less than 17 months.

That said, I pegged the division’s top two teams. Drummondville was obviously stacked again, and when the Volts added Allen at the deadline, it was over.

Victoriaville hasn’t won since Mario Durocher led the Tigres to the title in 2002. This year actually marked their first playoff series victory since that season. To finish second with Drummondville lurking in the division is not a bad thing, and the Tigres proved that this conference was also strong. It has sent the other two representatives to the league semifinals this season.

So what good does proving myself wrong (with a little bit of right) serve?

It proves that you can follow patterns, and it goes to prove that, at least on the hockey side of things, Lewiston’s future is looking pretty solid.

Drummondville went a season without making the playoffs before rattling off a league title and contending for another. Lewiston has gone two, unfortunately set up by some moves that never happened and others that did. That said, looking at the team’s core, and the pattern of the league, and the projection (yes, already) for next season based on players’ ages and propects of returning to the league, Lewiston is well-positioned. The Maineiacs have a good, strong core of forwards, and (supposedly) a netminder on his way to town. If they can shore up the deficiency along the blue line, things are looking very good for the black and blue.

But hey, I could be wrong.

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