The Weight of Expectations

Danny Gray
11 years ago
The Leafs have started the month of November 2-2. Now feels like an appropriate time to remind everyone about the cognitive bias known as anchoring.
In case you forgot, or have not read the article I wrote about it over the summer here is a brief refresher:
Anchoring is a cognitive bias that causes people to rely on one piece of information when making a judgment or decisions. Most often we “anchor” any subsequent analysis to the first piece of evidence or information we encounter. This all occurs subconsciously. For example, students taking part in a study were asked simply to write down the last two digits of their Social Security Number. Professors then auctioned off a series of items to the highest bidder. They found that students with higher Social Security Numbers were willing to pay more for an item than those with lower ones. Simply thinking about a number influenced their perception of the objects’ value.    
You can read the full article here.
9-3-1. That was the Leafs’ record on November 4. Those were the days. Two straight losses have engendered an existential crisis among many fans. What has happened to the Leafs? Why has Phil Kessel not scored a hat-trick this month? What we need to remember is that despite two straight losses this team is still outperforming expectations. While awesome a 9-3-1 start was entirely unexpected by anyone paying close attention to this team.
Almost every single knowledgeable observer forecast that this Leafs team, while improved, would fight for a playoff spot all year and likely finish somewhere between 7-10 in the Eastern Conference. This has not changed. What changed are our expectations. The Leafs’ unfathomably hot start has created an anchor in the minds of many fans. If this is the standard by which they will be judged for the rest of the season, prepare to be disappointed.
The month of October should not change your evaluation of this team. The Leafs will still have to fight for a playoff spot. They will still likely finish somewhere between 7th and 10th in the East. 
The only conclusions that can be drawn from the month of October are as follows:
  • The Leafs are an improved team.
  • They have the ability to play excellent, playoff worthy hockey.
  • These points are money in the bank for when they inevitably regress.
The Leafs are 2-2 thus far in the month of November. Something fans’ would have been perfectly happy about if told before the month of October.       

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