An effort, probably futile, at interpreting the preseason poll

Monday’s release of the preseason Division I Men’s Poll starts the 18th season of the rankings we put together from the votes of coaches, media members and others in college hockey.

In a world where the PairWise Rankings exist, we can’t pretend that the rankings are worth any more than the pixels on which they’re displayed. Their real value is in giving a picture of how teams are viewed by those who pay close attention to the game.

That being said, a lot of people think Minnesota has a team built to make it back to the Frozen Four.

The Gophers got 36 of the 50 first-place votes to take the top spot in the preseason poll. Looking back at previous preseason No. 1s gives mixed signals on whether Gophers fans should be happy about that.

On one hand, only one of the previous 17 preseason No. 1s went on to win that season’s national championship.

On the other hand, that one was Minnesota. In the fall of 2002, the defending national champion Gophers got 22 of 40 first-place votes to lead the preseason poll. They finished that season with a second straight title.

The preseason No. 1 spot has been a bit of a curse lately in terms of making the Frozen Four. Since that 2002-03 Minnesota team, the only preseason No. 1 to make it to the national semifinals was North Dakota in 2007-08.

Here’s the list of preseason No. 1s and how they’ve fared that season:

1997-98: North Dakota (30/30); 30-8-1, won WCHA regular season title, lost in NCAA quarterfinals

1998-99: Boston College (6/30); 27-12-4, won Hockey East playoff title, lost in NCAA semifinals

1999-2000: Boston College (26/40); 29-12-1, lost in NCAA championship game

2000-01: North Dakota (24/40); 29-8-9, won WCHA regular season title, lost in NCAA championship game

2001-02: Michigan State (33/40); 27-9-5, lost in NCAA first round

2002-03: Minnesota (22/40); 28-8-9, won WCHA playoff title, won NCAA title

2003-04: Minnesota (25/30); 27-14-3, won WCHA playoff title, lost in NCAA quarterfinals

2004-05: Michigan (17/40); 31-8-3, won CCHA regular season and playoff titles, lost in NCAA quarterfinals

2005-06: Denver (17/36); 21-15-3, missed NCAA tournament

2006-07: Wisconsin (17/40); 19-18-4, missed NCAA tournament

2007-08: North Dakota (13/29); 28-11-4, lost in NCAA semifinals

2008-09: Boston College (36/50); 18-14-5, missed NCAA tournament

2009-10: Denver (20/46); 27-10-4, won WCHA regular season title, lost in NCAA first round

2010-11: Boston College (45/50); 30-8-1, won Hockey East regular season and playoff titles, lost in NCAA first round

2011-12: Notre Dame (11/43); 19-18-3, missed NCAA tournament

2012-13: Boston College (35/50); 22-12-4, lost in NCAA first round

2013-14: Massachusetts-Lowell (19/50); 26-11-4, lost in NCAA quarterfinals

If you’re looking to predict which team will win the 2015 national championship from the trends of the first 17 years of the preseason USCHO poll, here are some possibilities:

• No spot in the preseason poll has yielded a champion more than No. 4. That produced the winner in 2001 (North Dakota), 2002 (Boston College) and 2003 (Minnesota). This season, No. 4 is Boston College.

• Not including the 2013-14 Yale team that was unranked and received just six points in the preseason poll that season, the average position of the eventual champion before the season was 7.3. No. 7 this season is St. Cloud State.

• The average number of points for the eventual champion (adjusted in some cases to a 1,000-point scale, meaning a 20-team poll with 50 voters like we currently have in place) is 541. This season, the closest team is No. 9 Ferris State.

Or maybe we should just let the season play out.