The preseason poll’s 5.6 percent problem

This is the point each season where I get to trot out the historic futility that is the preseason No. 1 spot in the Division I Men’s Poll.

With Monday’s release of the 2015-16 version showing Boston College atop the rankings, we’ve had 19 preseason polls. Of the previous 18, only once has the preseason No. 1 gone on to win the national championship that season (Minnesota, 2003).

One for 18. That’s 5.6 percent. Even the worst power play in Division I men’s college hockey last season, owned by Lake Superior State, was better than that — 8.1 percent.

We all know that polls have no value beyond the peek at how those who coach, cover and work in college hockey perceive things. But we see how perception at one end of the season rarely matches reality at the other end.

Here’s a look at the preseason No. 1s in the 19 years of the Division I Men’s Poll:

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That last column on the right piqued my interest. This seemed like a season when there would be a number of different teams atop preseason ballots, and that was true more than ever before.

All of the teams that made the Frozen Four last year lost key parts of what got them to that point, be it a Hobey Baker Award winner or the starting goaltender. So Providence, Boston University, North Dakota and Omaha weren’t necessarily trendy picks this season, but they did combine for 13 of the 50 first-place votes.

The majority of voters looked elsewhere, and Boston College’s combination of returning experience and incoming talent apparently caught a lot of eyes.

Then again, having one-sixth of the Division I men’s teams get at least one first-place vote shows you that there’s no overwhelming favorite to be the last team standing in Tampa in April.

You could make a great case that it’ll be Boston College — it’s another even-numbered year, after all — but given the track record of the preseason No. 1s, I wouldn’t put the house on it.


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