At the risk of jinxing things, we finally have a full 82 game schedule on tap again for 2021-22. Will that impact teams and players; and if so, to what extent? It remains to be seen, although what we do know is prognosticators will make predictions for 2021-22, and that includes my annual 15 Fearless Forecasts.
For the crazy season that was 2020-21, I think I did okay with my forecasts, the results of which you can see here. What does 2021-22 have in store? One never knows, except as usual I won't be making any "softball" predictions. No – these are called Fearless Forecasts for a reason, since although they're all grounded in at least some statistical or other form of logic, they're definitely meant to be bolder than more traditional predictions. And clicking the link above to see the results from my 2020-21 Forecasts, you'll see even in cases where my Forecasts don't ultimately come true there are lessons to be learned which everyone can apply in their fantasy leagues, as well as me in making future predictions, like the ones to follow.
So without further ado, onto the 2021-22 Forecasts!
1) Neither Mark Stone nor Max Pacioretty will score 70 points
The chemistry between Stone and Pacioretty in 2020-21 was undeniable, as they both had points on 36 even strength Vegas goals, tying for third in ES point pairs among all NHLers. I think their magic was a result of a shortened season not allowing for stats to renormalize, plus opposing teams perhaps being caught somewhat off guard, as well as Chandler Stephenson unsustainably underachieving.
For Stone, of the 94 other instances of a winger scoring 1.1+ points per game in 50+ games dating back to 2000-01, only Alex Tanguay – twice – had a lower SOG per game rate than Stone's 1.78. And it also was Tanguay who was the only one to best Stone's SH% of 21.4%. What did Tanguay's stats look like at age 29 an onward, which is how old Stone will be this season? Not very good, as he never cracked the 70-point mark again.
As for Pacioretty, players just don't come along and set a career high in scoring rate at age 32, especially when that rate is 87 points and they had posted a 70+ point scoring rate just twice in their career. In fact, dating back to 2000-01 there are only nine other instances of players who, at age 32+, fired 3.5+ SOG per game while averaging 1.05 points per game. What did the rest have in common? Scoring 98+ points in at least one prior season, which is far and above what Pacioretty had previously done.
On top of that, Pacioretty shot 13.8%, or 25% higher than his career rate entering 2020-21. So right there Patches should have had only 18 goals, which would've brought his scoring rate down ten points. He also finished with 19 points in 14 games, a rate well higher than what we've seen from him since he joined Vegas, and likely something that would've normalized had the 2020-21 campaign lasted the usual 82 games.
Another factor working against Pacioretty and Stone scoring as well in 2021-22 is Stephenson, who presumably will be the duo's center yet again. By Q4, Stephenson was shooting more (2.26 SOG per game, versus 1.6 for the season as a whole) and getting ample ice time (19:38 per game overall with 2:53 on the PP, versus 18:06 and 2:06 for the season as a whole). Just a