Over the course of the past week, we've looked back and we've looked forward. Now it's time to take that all into account and come right out and answer the big question: How are the Lightning going to do in 2011-12?
But before we get to that (this is what's called a "tease"), when this topic came up a few weeks ago in a Question of the Week posed by Tina Robinson, I said something about preseason predictions being a somewhat ridiculous notion because of the fact that an actual analytical prediction of what will happen during an upcoming season is going to be based on information that is going to be altered by infinitely unforseeable factors that occur over the course of that season. Injuries, over- and/or under-achievement of individual players, trades.
These and other things can and will happen, to every team in the league, each of which will have some sort of impact, directly or indirectly, on every other team in the league. Yet, this doesn't stop people from flocking to self-proclaimed "experts", the best of whom are simply very good at making educated guesses and/or lucky, to see if their guesses come close to what actually happens, even though the route to the end result is never what was predicted.
But hey, who cares? Making predictions is fun.
I've taken the predictions of the Raw Charge staff (those willing to go on record, anyway; cagey bunch, these folks), plugged them into a spreadsheet, added 'em up and then divided them in order to come up with some numbers that will give you our much anticipated "official" aggregate predictions. Here we go...
What place will the Lightning finish within the Southeast Division? - 1.4 (Best finish = 1st; Worst finish = 2nd) Within our division, we're a pretty upbeat group. We're not impressed by the changes made by the Carolina Hurricanes, Winnipeg Jets or Florida Panthers and don't feel particularly threatened by any of them. The Washington Capitals are another story though and those of us who didn't pick the Lightning to finish just ahead of Washington picked the Bolts to finish just behind them.
What seed will the Lightning earn when the playoffs begin? - 3.167 (Best = 1st; Worst 5th) All of us feel the Lightning will make the playoffs this year and most of us feel they'll be seeded pretty highly when the battle for Eastern Conference supremacy begins. Hurray for unanimous optimism!
How will the season end for the Lightning? - 3.5, which translates to being eliminated in the conference finals (Best = Stanley Cup; Worst = knocked out in the 2nd round) So much for unanimous optimism. This area had the most disparity in opinions among the Raw Charge staff, with those of us who feel the team will grant the wishes of Bolts fans everywhere with a championship on the other side of the aisle from those who feel the team will get bounced in the 2nd round, which would certainly be a disappointment after last season. The glass half-fullers point to another year of growth and maturation under head coach Guy Boucher and his system as a key to taking the next step while the half-emptiers see other teams also becoming familiar with that system as an obstacle that the team will find difficult to overcome in the postseason.
So there you have it; We here at Raw Charge predict a pretty good regular season that will find the Lightning challenging for the top spot in the Southeast, paying off in a high seed in the playoffs, but ultimately falling short of playing for the Stanley Cup. Now it's your turn to let us have it. Tell us what YOU think in the comments below.