It is true, hockey is back. There are so many fans out there who are angry, apathetic, frustrated, annoyed and many other sentiments that are all totally justified. I can understand how some people want to “punish” the NHL and the NHLPA for what they put us through by not watching or supporting the league, but my question is…haven’t WE been punished enough? For individuals like myself who are in love with the sport, as well as the league, and have been deprived of both for 4 months, why deprive ourselves further to prove some point that won’t make a difference overall? What’s the end game for such an action? If fans actually orchestrated a league wide boycott of the NHL, what purpose would this serve? Do we want to destroy the league because they made us angry for a few months due to their greed? All seems pretty sill if you ask me. Hey, I understand the frustrations and believe me, I had my angry moments. But now that it’s back, so am I. Will it take longer to get as passionate? Absolutely. Will I be less inclined to buy merchandise and spend money in any other way that would support league/sport? Probably. What I will not do is abandon the league after a long hiatus. It’s proving a point that doesn’t need to be proved. The NHL will suffer in the USA, and the league has taken a big hit already. So after months of annoyance, how will not watching games on TV help me? The answer is…it won’t. As far as I’m concerned, the deprivation of hockey is over.
Now, on to more pressing matters. Given that the 2013 NHL season is only 48 games, I think it will be a rather strange one where the usual safe predictions won’t apply. Some players are injured, some will have slow starts, others are warmed up from playing in Europe or the minors, and simply, others will be a bit disoriented by starting a season in January, and are not used to such a condensed schedule. Heading into this shortened campaign there are many assumptions being thrown around and I’m going to question the ones that stick out most to M.E.
Penguins will win the Cup?
Huge assumption, and by many. Pittsburgh is a dynasty simply because they have two of the best players in the world. This is true and no one can disprove it. However, their defense and goaltending were suspect in last year’s playoffs so why is it so safe to expect them to win it all this year? My guess is that some dark horse team will emerge and surprise everybody.
Crosby will win the Art Ross Trophy?
In most years this is a safe bet, if he’s healthy. The lockout probably served him very well, allowing him more time to recover from his various injuries and have a full (and extended) off-season to train. However, he hasn’t played in a very long time and no one knows how fast or slow he will start. Now, in the past he’s broken onto the scene like a man possessed, but this time around there are numerous players who are equally hungry and have been “chomping at the bit” to get out there and dominate. Maybe someone out there has more to prove that Sid does.
Asterisk next to the 2013 Stanley Cup Champion?
When New Jersey won the Cup in 1995 after a shortened season, did anyone say “it didn’t count” or “wasn’t the same” because of that lockout? Not really. To be honest it’s barely mentioned and people don’t remember anymore. No matter who is crowned the 2013 Stanley Cup winner, they will be remembered as a champion and the part about the shortened season will be forgotten quicker than most people anticipate.
Columbus will be the worst team in the NHL?
Pretty safe assumption, however I’m going to say no. Something in me says that Columbus will pull together and surprise everybody. Crazy, I know. I’m not stating a playoff run is in their future but part of me thinks the lack of a superstar on this team will serve them better and they will manage some victories here and there. I still believe they will be quite low in the Western Conference standings, but I believe an unexpected team will not adjust well to this shortened season and have a rougher time.
Stamkos will win the Rocket Richard Trophy?
Nope, not this time Stevo. There is no doubt that he’s one of the best goal scorers on the planet and his off-season work ethic is something that should be admired and followed by his colleagues. However, he hasn’t played in a very long time…so I’m thinking someone who has been playing the last few months will emerge as the top goal scorer in 2013.
Rick Nash will dominate in New York?
I don’t see it. Rick has played in a small hockey market for his whole career and from what I know, he prefers that. For the first time, he has tons of pressure on him and I think he will struggle in his first season. He will play well, but not good enough to thrust the Rangers into the Stanley Cup Final, which is why they acquired him in the first place.
Toronto will miss the playoffs again?
Yes, they will. Toronto doesn’t have what it takes to make the playoffs, even if they do get Luongo. Sometimes things don’t change. Sometimes, assumptions can be accurate…