The approach that I took in the final analysis is straightforward. It gives the ECAC preseason polls the greatest accuracy when possible. I chose to give the ECAC preseason polls credit for predicting a given outcome correctly even when the media and coaches differed in their conclusions if one of the two polls predicted the winner of the regular season or ECAC Championship correctly. This ensure that the results are a best case scenario for the ECAC preseason polls's predictive abilities.
The results as tabulated above illustrate that the winner of the ECAC preseason polls goes on to win both a regular-season title and ECAC Championship in the following season 18.2% of the time. The preseason poll is accurate in predicting the ultimate winner of the regular season only 18.2% of the time. Media and coaches polls predict correctly the winner of the ECAC Championship 27.3%. However, disturbingly, the plurality of the time, the winner of the ECAC preseason poll fails to win either the regular-season title or the ECAC Championship.
These statistics are illuminating after both ECAC preseason polls chose Union to finish first in the ECAC. Cornell was selected to finish second in both polls. Union begins NCAA Division I play on Saturday against Merrimack and speculation has begun already about whether the Dutchmen from Schenectady can repeat the successes of last season that culminated in Union's winning of a Whitelaw Cup and appearance in the 2012 Frozen Four. The hanging of four (one for a regular-season title, one for an ECAC Championship, one for either an NCAA Tournament appearance or being an "NCAA Regional Champion" (there is some ambiguity among sources about that), and one for a Frozen-Four appearance) banners at Messa Rink before the game Saturday evening will just exacerbate such murmurings.
Another historical fact to consider also is the number of programs in the history of the ECAC that have been able to defend successfully their ECAC Championship. The only current members of the ECAC to win back-to-back ECAC Championships are RPI ('84-85), SLU ('88-89, '00-01), and Cornell ('67-68, '68-69, '69-70, '96-97). As the parenthetical years indicate, RPI defended its title once, SLU defended titles twice, and Cornell defended its titles with back-to-back championships four times.
The uphill battle seems steep for the Dutchmen. However, it would not be the first trend in ECAC Hockey that they bucked. Union joined a select group of programs that have won both the trophy for the regular-season title as it has been given since 2001 and went on to win the Whitelaw Cup. Cornell and Yale were the only programs to achieve that feat prior to last season. Yale did it in 2009. Cornell did it in both 2003 and 2005.
Considering the weight of the statistical and historical evidence, it seems statistically unlikely that Union will claim both a regular-season title and a Whitelaw Cup this season. Especially, when one considers that Cornell is the primary outlier in all the above trends and is the only program to have gone on to win both the regular-season and the ECAC Championship after the ECAC preseason poll selected it, and to have defended the Whitelaw Cups a record four times for a total of six ECAC Championships earned in that manner. This analysis is not to put down Union hockey or dampen its expectations. It is a newly successful program that is poised for another great year. The purpose is principally to highlight the predictive worth of ECAC preseason polls in discerning which program will claim titles at the end of the season.
Cornell averages winning a Whitelaw Cup every three years. The last time that Cornell won the ECAC Championship was 2010. That season the ECAC preseason poll placed Cornell second. Only time will tell which trends are predictive of the 2012-13 season.