So the puck finally drops tonight to kick off the 2008-09 National Hockey League season ...
Many are wondering how the Pittsburgh Penguins will do this season or if the Detroit Red Wings can repeat or even how the Alexander Radulov saga will end. These are questions everyone is asking. But we here at Puck Daddy would like to know answers to the following questions -- ones that linger in the back of the mind for every die-hard puckhead and/or hockey geek before the season.
How many times will someone other than Matthew Barnaby criticize Barry Melrose on ESPN?
Melrose is a fun-loving guy, a player's coach, and a former long-time member of the media who made a lot of friends in his time at ESPN. Will that cause some pundits to hold their criticism if the Tampa Bay Lightning continues their slow start? If things get really ugly, how long until the "Melrose back to ESPN" rumors begin? Certainly Linda Cohn won't start them.
When will the New York Rangers fire Tom Renney and replace him with John Tortorella?
With all the changes Glen Sather made in the off-season to the lineup, how far away are we from a coaching change? The pressure is on Renney despite losing Sean Avery, Jaromir Jagr and possibly even Brendan Shanahan. Three straight early-round exits didn't help Ron Wilson, so it's not out of the realm to believe Renney is on a short leash from Sather.
Blueliner Victor Hedman and wunderkind John Tavares are the cream of the 2009 NHL Draft crop. The Isles, Leafs and Kings are the likely contenders to win the draft lottery, so it's only natural that if you're a fan of one of those franchises, there may be a time when you'd prefer to have your team put themselves in better shape to draft one of those two studs. The last place team in the entire National Hockey League has a 48.2% chance to selected number one overall. Is it worth it to grab a potential franchise player?
How many times will Dwayne "Eklund" Klessel trade Gaborik this season?
Marian Gaborik is this season's Marian Hossa; the most-sought after, talked about potential free agent. Will he sign? Will the Minnesota Wild trade him before the deadline? No one knows at the moment, but our rumormongering friend will be sure to have weekly "updates" as to where Gaborik's future will take him. Expect your favorite team to be involved in a rumor involving the 42-goal scorer last year at some point this season (e3).
Will Alexander Ovechkin score 50 in 50?
It's only officially happened five times in NHL history, but if there's one player in the league right now that can achieve this feat, it's Ovechkin. Every time he touches the puck there's the potential for a goal. How many players can you say that about?
Is this the year the NHL Network lives up to its potential?
Since appearing in my Direct TV lineup a year ago, NHL Network has been my default channel. At first, the programming was outstanding and provided hours of entertainment in-between games (despite the constant re-running of the Darryl Sittler vignette), but it was evident over the summer the lack of programming available to viewers. With the promise of more live games this season (blacked out on NHL Center Ice of course!) along with the broadcasting of every Hockey Night in Canada doubleheader on Saturday's, NHL Network is slowly beginning to improve and make it worthy for more than just vintage games and old highlights.
When will Versus realize the Erin Andrew-esque potential in Carrie Milbank and put her on our televisions every week?
Let's not forget, the now Internet legend of Erin Andrews began as a reporter for the Tampa Bay Lightning before moving on bigger and better things at ESPN. Milbank, who currently hosts programming on NHL.com, has the experience at being a reporter, is easy on the eyes (commence "Leahy is a sexist pig" blogging!) and might spice up the Versus broadcasts. Certainly, the Smoke Monster from "Lost" appearing during highlights won't bring eyes balls to the screen.
When will Chris Chelios finally say goodbye?
He signed a one-year deal last month and now is out 3-6 weeks due to a fracture tibia. Cheli's games played has decreased little by little over the past three seasons and only played in 14 playoffs last year, including zero in the Stanley Cup final. Entering his 25th season, Chelios has said he'd like to play as long as he can, but with his role in Detroit diminishing, is there a team willing to take a chance on him? (Tampa?)