January 03, 2011
The champagne bottles are empty. The goofy hats are in the trash. It's a new year, which means it's time for bold predictions that will be completely forgotten lest one or two of them come true, in which case Lambert will never let you hear the end of it.
Here are some 2011 hockey predictions from the Puck Daddy and Puck Daddy Radio staff, full of optimism and pessimism and several other types of 'ism, we imagine.
Greg Wyshynski, Editor
Whether it's for one year or for the long-term, Parise will sign with the New Jersey Devils. No Lou Lamoriello trade out of fear he'll leave unrestricted in 2012 ... unless, of course, Parise holds out as an RFA, which has always been a quick way to get Lou to punch your ticket.
2. Ken Hitchcock will get another head-coaching gig
Sure, he's collecting a paycheck from the Columbus Blue Jackets to watch junior hockey and foil robberies, and he's apparently in no rush to take just any job. But if the right one does open up, so will that team's wallet for the services of Hitchcock to come in and implement his unique brand of strangling defense, buffet emptying and instant results.
Yeah, really going out on a limb on this one. But you hope that Dustin Byfuglien(notes) keeps up his remarkable play to make the award voting interesting, even if this is going to be a tribute to Lids.
Sean Leahy, Associate Editor
1. Stamkos really entering the Sid/Ovie 'sphere.
Stamkos nibbled at the feet of Crosby and Ovechkin early this season when he went on a rampant scoring tear and had some thinking if 50-in-50 was possible. With the Lightning now having turned things around and poised for a return to the playoffs, look for Stamkos to continue to feed off of Tampa's success on the scoresheet, so much so that you won't be able to mention Sid and Ovie without mentioning the young sniper.
2. NHL's TV deal will be split amongst NBC, ESPN, VERSUS
The NHL's TV rights have become a pretty hot commodity. Potential work stoppages in the NBA and NFL are helping that cause, but networks are back to warming up to hockey thanks in part to strong Stanley Cup final ratings since the lockout.
With ESPN openly expressing to wanting a piece of the pie and NBC/VERSUS hoping to remain partners, the NHL will find it's TV deal spread out just like the NBA's with ABC/ESPN and TNT. More options and more networks covering the game for fans is a bonus for all involved. The interesting part will be to see how the Stanley Cup Finals is scheduled, if indeed three networks have to split rights.
3. The attendances will grow in Phoenix and Atlanta
Drawn-out ownership issues are finally settled with both these franchises. Fans no longer have to wonder about their team's future and they can focus about the on-ice product. It also helps that the Coyotes and Thrashers are no longer the laughingstocks that they once were.
Ryan Lambert, Columnist
People, even those from Washington and Philly, will finally accept that Sid Crosby is the best player alive. A down year for Alex Ovechkin(notes), and a dominant run of games from Sid with a very good team behind him, should be enough to convince even the staunchest of "Cindy Crysby" advocates that there's nothing he can't do if he spends an offseason working at it.
Despite Donald Fehr taking over the NHLPA, the league and the union will get the new CBA hammered out fairly easily and quietly, with a minimum of drama. No one can deny the PA ended up having to sit there and take it in the last negotiations, but the league's done so well -- and made a lot of mediocre players really, really rich in the process -- since the lockout that there won't be much of a shoving match.
3. Winter Classic
Not a prediction so much as a hope: Another Winter Classic night game. It just seems cooler, and it'll give everyone the chance to watch without being hungover. The importance of this cannot be overstated.
Erin Nicks, Columnist
1. IIHF goes avian for World Championships
In a bid to increase North American interest in the World Championships (as fans are normally preoccupied with the Stanley Cup playoffs), the IIHF decides to go the pop culture route, and asks Finland to replace its goaltender with a giant red bird perched in a slingshot.
2. Racy commercial causes young hockey fans to mistakenly reach for the Toys 'R' Us catalog
NBC faces major criticism after Trojan purchases advertising space during a Pens-Flyers games for their "Tri-Phoria," a female pleasure device. Parents are enraged after small children begin asking for the new "purple mini-stick" that they saw on TV.
In an inexplicable move, the Los Angeles Kings pick up D Brian Lee on waivers. Head coach Terry Murray quickly becomes exasperated with Lee's shortcomings, and during a tense moment in practice, tells Lee to "go play in traffic." Brian takes this suggestion literally, grabs his stick and heads out to the 405 freeway, where he is nearly hit by Angelina Jolie. Jolie takes pity on the fair-haired 23-year-old cherub, adopts him and immediately changes his name to "Bemidji" ("Moorhead" didn't sound exotic enough).
Ryan Hains, Producer, Puck Daddy Radio?
1. NHL Popularity
The NHL is the popular kid in the American sporting landscape again as the NBA and NFL have protracted lockouts. The NHL does not have to compete with the NBA on ESPN "SportsCenter" for prime highlight exposure and popularity explodes. ESPN signs a TV deal with the NHL.
2. Jim Ballsille
Gary Bettman learns he can't put multiple fires out at once as two or more franchises become up for sale. Jim Ballsille is again at the waiting with his deep pocketbooks and buys his win into the NHL owner's club.
3. Crosby vs. Ovechkin
The debate over the NHL's best player ... SidCros vs. Ovie is put to bed after a virtuoso regular-season performance and a tour de force turn in the playoffs by Crosby.
Justin Bourne, Columnist
1. No more Boudreau
If the Caps don't win the Cup this year -- and they've got some stiff competition in both conferences -- I just can't see them keeping that lovable scamp Boudreau. He's a totally likable guy, but there are just too many hungry young coaches having success for the Caps to keep banging their head against the wall in hopes that this time it won't hurt.
2. Something makes the NHL implement mandatory visors (grandfathered in).
Oops, two negative Nancy predictions. The game is getting faster, guys shoot it harder, and slapshots ricochet like pinballs on the way to the net these days. It's stupid they're waiting for a catalyst to make the change, but wait long enough, and it'll come.
3. The dynasty teams of yore will get better.
I know, I know, it's the hopeless optimism of a naive fan. But with the Isles, you can only draft a billion good young players for so long until you stumble into some success. And obviously with the Oilers, their up-and-comers are already pretty visible. By next Christmas, both teams might almost not suck.