Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
Well, the season is starting about four-and-a-half months later than any of us would have liked, but at least it's starting. For most hockey fans, who have come to the NHL in waves since the Rangers won the Stanley Cup way back in 1994, this will be their first (and hopefully last ever) look at what an abbreviated schedule looks like.
We're constantly being told these days that anything can happen in a 48-game season. It's such a small sample size and teams can get weirdly hot or cold irrespective of their actual quality. Detroit, for instance, would have won the Presidents' Trophy through 48 games last season, but in the end didn't even win its division. Plus, you have to consider the fact that these 48 games are being played in an absurdly compacted schedule that's sure to screw with results even more. Lots of teams will make a nasty habit of playing three games in four days throughout the year, and that opens up room for fatigue, injuries and more to skew results in the weirdest ways possible.
Chaos for the league this year. Fun, exciting, hilarious chaos.
You can still bank on a lot of things happening as they would have in an 82-game season, of course. Evgeni Malkin will still be great. The Jets will still stink. Scott Hartnell will still fall down all the time. But overall, guessing how things go this year will be a lot tougher.
So why wouldn't I want to trot out, for the fourth year in a row somehow, 20 Bold Predictions for the upcoming NHL season?
1. Caps miss the playoffs. Leafs make it. In both cases, goaltending is the reason why.
2. Erik Karlsson will take a big step back production-wise.
3. We'll find out that all the time in Switzerland did Patrick Kane a lot of good, and he has a career year.
4. With Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu on his line, Dany Heatley starts to kind of resemble the motivated, really good Dany Heatley of old. Like, if you squint a little bit.
5. Dallas' strategy of signing a bunch of old guys whose bodies can't take an 82-game season pays off because they only have to play 48. Stars in the playoffs, led by Jamie Benn and Jaromir Jagr.
6. Cam Atkinson is going to win the Calder Trophy. Sorry, Nail Yakupov.
7. Shea Weber, not Ryan Suter, will be the one who doesn't look so hot without his ol' runnin' buddy.
8. Jonathan Quick will win the Vezina he should have won last year.
9. One of Anaheim's big three forwards gets shipped out. I mean, it's probably Bobby Ryan but you never know.
10. That Jordan Staal contract will start to look real bad, real fast.
11. Evander Kane puts up another great season, but no one in Winnipeg will stop vilifying him.
12. Nine guys will break the 20-goal barrier this year. Rick Nash won't be one of them.
13. No one will actually complain about hockey being played in late June.
14. The Lightning will win the wide-open Southeast. Steven Stamkos will push 40 goals.
15. Jiri Hudler and Dennis Wideman will both make a real strong case for "Dumbest Jay Feaster signing of the summer." Hudler wins by a slim margin.
16. Detroit will barely squeeze into the playoffs because their defense is terrible, and then get routed in the first round. Jimmy Howard looks decidedly human all of a sudden.
17. This will be Teemu Selanne's last season in the NHL, and he still goes a point a game.
18. The Oilers' power play will be the only good thing about the Oilers, but man, it's gonna be really, really good. Top three in the league.
19. Buffalo will prove it did indeed get tough, but having done so won't help them become a better hockey team. They miss the playoffs.
20. Cory Schneider won't be the answer in Vancouver. At least, not any more than Roberto Luongo ever was. At least he's cheaper and younger, though.
Okay, have a good season.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks signed Scott Niedermayer as an assistant coach, and now my only hope is that Anaheim makes the playoffs so we can see the guy in a nice suit with an insane hobo's beard.
Boston Bruins: Tim Thomas obviously won't play this season but wants to go give the NHL another try next year. It is my belief that 38-year-old goalies who take a whole year off from playing the game of hockey at anywhere near an elite level will be able to rebound no problem.
Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres are catching a hell of a break with this schedule. A full 10 of their final 14 games are played at home. If they don't make the playoffs this year, there's no amount of excuse-making in the world to cover for it.
Calgary Flames: Jay Bouwmeester trade rumors are already flying around. I love hockey.
Carolina Hurricanes: The Hurricanes were the first team to get the transactions started under the new CBA yesterday. They traded Brian Boucher to the Flyers because playing for Philadelphia and being hated for doing so is his destiny. This is gonna be the answer to a trivia question someday.
Chicago Blackhawks: Like many teams, the Blackhawks called up a number of AHLers to their official camp, and you gotta figure Nick Leddy, Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw have the inside track for spots with the big club.
Colorado Avalanche: Nice that Joe Sacco called the attempt to get ready for a 48-game condensed schedule in less than a week a "predicament." That's so apt it's crazy.
Columbus Blue Jackets: The Blue Jackets are hoping all their efforts to keep fans engaged throughout the lockout, such as through a haunted arena attraction over Halloween, will lead to more asses in the seats this season. But if anything, you gotta think their best hope is that four months without the Blue Jackets led everyone to forget how awful they're going to be.
Dallas Stars: Glen Gulutzan is probably really happy the Stars went out and signed or traded for a bunch of guys who don't know anything about his system. Really, really happy. I bet.
Detroit Red Wings presented by Amway: "Tootoo should make impact against former team." Jordin Tootoo? The hockey player? The one who gets like 12 minutes a night? Yeah, I wouldn't count on that.
Edmonton Oilers: So I guess this Nail Yakupov kid is supposed to be good or something? News to me. Russian kid you say? Interesting. I didn't notice him much in the World Juniors.
Florida Panthers: Between Jan. 19 and 26, a period of seven days, the Panthers play five games. Oh my god someone is going to die this season I just know it.
Los Angeles Kings: The Kings somehow tricked the Carolina Hurricanes into giving them a roster player and two draft picks for Kevin Westgarth, who plays five minutes a night, has five career points, is too expensive, and sucks. As Cam Charron said on Twitter, his page on Behind the Net looks like the Dow Jones in Sept. 2008. He doesn't even fight! A one-for-one of Westgarth for Stewart would have been highway robbery for the King. I don't understand. This is an amazing trade.
Minnesota Wild: (Ed Note: The Wild checked in with a correction on Lambert's ticket pricing: There is no difference in 2011-12 and 2012-13 Wild single game ticket prices. In the 2011-12 listed price you referred to (http://wild.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=585978), facility fees were not included. Now, the $2 fee is included in the price of the ticket (http://wild.nhl.com/club/page.htm?id=51774). A $98 ticket last year cost, $100, and this year, the ticket just costs $100.)
Montreal Canadiens: Erik Cole says sky-high escrow might force him to retire after this season ends. He's due $4 million next season. Unless escrow is 100 percent, he'd be really dumb to give up that kind of money, right?
Nashville Predators: Expect Craig Smith to play a much bigger role for the Preds in his second year in the league. Apparently he left his Finnish team in October because he thought the lockout would end soon. Poor, naïve Craig Smith.
New Jersey Devils: Mathieu Darche will be in Devils camp. Wouldn't be the worst option in a limited role.
New York Islanders: If you're reading this after 10 a.m., the Islanders have already suspended AWOL defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky for not reporting to camp.
New York Rangers: Mike Del Zotto is both locked up for this season and next, and to pretty great money for the Rangers, too.
Ottawa Senators: Eugene Melnyk thinks the Senators were "much better" than the Kings last season. Well then.
Philadelphia Flyers: Not that Kurtis Foster is in any way a good NHL defenseman, but the Flyer didn't have many NHL defensemen period before they signed him.
Phoenix Coyotes: Today is Day No. 157 since Jude LaCava of Fox 10 in Arizona said Greg Jamison would have the deal for the Coyotes sewn up within the next five days. But if you were worried Keith Yandle somehow stopped playing for the Coyotes during the lockout, he didn't. He's still on the Coyotes. So don't worry.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Here's a stat I've never seen before but kind of makes sense: A Penguin has won 14 of the last 24 scoring titles in the NHL. For the record, though, Sid Crosby doesn't think he'll put up 100 points this season.
San Jose Sharks: Todd McLellan says the Sharks' schedule is "not the disaster it could have been." That's thanks in large part to the team opening with two road games but then having a six-game homestand.
St. Louis Blues: Wow, 5,500 people showed up to watch the Blues' first official practice. That's more than the Flyers drew. Think people are excited about this team?
Tampa Bay Lightning: Still hilarious that the Lightning's starting goaltender, for whom they gave up a prospect, two second-round picks and a third, only has 38 games of NHL experience.
Toronto Maple Leafs: James Reimer gets the start on Saturday, and Dave Nonis says he and Ben Scrivens are "quality goaltenders." Your mileage will probably vary, but for what it's worth, Nonis says the Leafs "don't need to make a move" for a goalie."
Vancouver Canucks: The Canucks signed Cam Barker for some dumb reason. Oh no, why would they do that?
Washington Capitals: The Caps loaned Tom Poti to Hershey for a conditioning stint. Makes sense. He only played 21 games last season.
Winnipeg Jets: Your pre-packaged reason for the Jets missing the playoffs this year: So much travel!!!!
Play of the Weekend
Mark McMillan of the University of North Dakota, you scored a real nice goal.
Gold Star Award
As always, if you're not reading the annual Travel Miles post from On the Forecheck, you are missing out big-time. Minnesota will travel a league-high 31,345 miles this season, while New Jersey only goes 11,659. Detroit and Chicago will play 24 of their 48 games each in back-to-backs.
Minus of the Weekend
Sucks to be Scott Gomez. Or, I mean, not. If you're gonna pay me $5.5 million to sit at home, I can deal with that.
And by the way, any team that's not that close to the cap and is looking for a potentially decent second-line forward they can get for peanuts might wanna consider seeking out Gomez's services. He actually drove possession last year, and would likely do it again if used in the correct situations. Not that anyone will, but it wouldn't be the worst idea.
Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week
User "zombie" has it figured out for his hometown team.
To Montreal: Filppula
He taught me the most wonderful lesson a child can learn: Never trust nobody.
Ryan Lambert publishes hockey awesomeness almost never over at The Two-Line Pass. Check it out, why don’t you? Or you can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter if you so desire.
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