Alright class, raise your hand if you thought that after two weeks of the 2010-2011 NHL season: Sidney Crosby, and Steven Stamkos would rank as the top two scorers in the league… Fair enough. Did you see Matt Cullen and Tomas Kopecky nipping at their heels? Keep your hand raised if you took the under and figured Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise would combine for less points than Colorado blue-liner John-Michael Liles has notched alone. Now keep ’em raised if you forecasted the parade-inspiring 4-0-1 start for the Toronto Maple Leafs…
If your hand is still raised, my friend, you fall into one of three categories: genius, crazy, or Brian Burke. Roughly 2% of the population falls into the first one, and Brian Burke is unmistakably an island — regardless of depth and darkness of December — thereby incapable of even reading this, so chances are favorable that you’re crazy. If this has you down, fear not, for there is a silver lining in your cloud. That lining is called the 2010-2011 NHL season; notably, it’s poised to rival the sanity of a mental institution.
I will be genuinely shocked if this isn’t the best post-lockout hockey NHL fans see to date. “Why so?” you ask. Funny, I have many reasons. “Can I see?” you ask. Funny also, I’ve conveniently placed the most important ones in a list. “Where can I see this list?” you ask. Oh boy, better buy a lotto ticket, it’s you’re lucky day!
Reasons The 2010-2011 NHL Season Is Going To Rock
1) Parity, parity, parity. Gary Bettman demands parity.
When was the last time you remember entering a season without a clear cut favorite for the cup? You might be thinking you have one pinned down, but after the fire sale in Chicago and fresh draft picks littering rosters sooner than later, the league is wide open these days. Don’t believe me? PuckDaddy ran a piece that included the Stanley Cup predictions of seven Y! contributors. Six different teams were represented in the picks — Six! That means only one team (Vancouver Canucks) was picked by more than one person. Chicago was a consensus favorite last year. Pittsburgh and Detroit were both considered heavy favorites in the years before. It’s not just the extra point for the overtime loss that is leveling the playing field; the talent level and abundance of NHL-ready players at a young age is growing. Don’t believe that one? Perfect — I’ve created reason #2 just for you.
2) Chris Chelios retired
I love Cheli, but his departure from the game is the symbolic final nail in the coffin of the old NHL. I’m not suggesting the transformation from veterans to less experienced NHL’ers happened overnight. It happens every season; it was true last year and is becoming more apparent as time wears on. What I am saying is the evolution of communication, technology, and training has set kids who learn the game today miles apart from those who were learning the game twenty years before them. The kids are faster, stronger, better coached, more talented and less sparse than they used to be.
Believe it or not, growing up with the internet and DVR is huge. If Steve Yzerman was lucky enough to own a VCR when he was 13, what are the odds he got to record Marcel Dionne and Guy Lafluer more than once or twice to study their moves? Jonathan Toews could watch Stevie Y. as many times as he wanted without missing Jaromir Jagr, Mario Lemiuex, or Joe Sakic. I’m a year older than Toews and from South Florida. The South Florida part means I don’t play in the NHL. The age though, means I got incredible exposure to my favorite players at a young age. I was able to use that exposure to elevate my game and emulate them as I played. If it could help a kid from South Florida, imagine how technology pushed the best guys on skates today into a new stratosphere.
3) Maurice Richard, meet Steve Stamkos
Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin finally have a real challenger to their throne. I don’t want to talk about Stamkos alone as much as I wanted to point out that reason #2 means the NHL’s riding of Crosby and Ovechkin is finally drawing to a close, and in what perfect timing? The league needs to look appealing for a new TV contract and just happens to be full of marketable stars ready to take over–
- Steven Stamkos is off on a torrid pace this season with a hat trick and four multi-point nights in seven contests. He is showing no signs that last year was a fluke and looks to easily break 50 goals for the 2nd year in a row. Steve Yzerman is proud, very proud.
- Regardless of who shuffles through their wing in the wake of Burrows’ absence, the Sedins continue to be unstoppable; Daniel Sedin, having tallied a point in every Vancouver game thus far, trails only Stamkos for the league lead in goals (7) and points (11) while Henrik Sedin, having failed to score a goal on the year, rides his league-leading 10 assists to a tie for 3rd place in points overall.
- Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are coming off the hugest years of their lives. Each added a Stanley Cup to their resume while Kane took home silver in Vancouver after losing gold to Toews and Canada. They have a world of attention focused on them, and along with Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith, are expected to do some heavy lifting in the transformation of the Blackhawks after a litany of summer goodbyes.
- Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan, Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, Joe Pavelski, Dany Heatley and pretty much everyone sporting a Kings, Ducks, or Sharks jersey are wild cards. If the NHL keeps its momentum, we may finally see a diversion from the traditional lackluster environment these guys are used to in California. Especially if lockouts in other sports rule next season, the Cali market could be in for a huge boost. Getting guys from out there to play under as much of a spotlight as guys in the east will be a kick for exciting hockey all around the league.
- New Jersey‘s roster is packed with names and will be exciting to watch once they get up to speed. Dallas has a top six that can hang with anyone. Detroit is back in form after a season of injuries kept them out of the cup picture. Toronto finally looks poised to make the playoffs. St. Louis, Colorado, and even Edmonton are full of young guys ready to be the new faces of the game. If the NHL wants to gain some ground on the other major sporting organizations, the time is now!
4) First the pads, then the trapezoid, then the pads again.
Life is difficult for goalies these days. Each season it seems like a new rule is implemented just to make “life tougher on them”, which Gary Bettman pronounces “more exciting hockey.” Jean-Sebastien Giguere was the cause of new restrictions before the lockout, Martin Brodeur is still miffed about the trapezoid,and the little guys aren’t exactly thrilled with the new pad rules. The thing is Gary is right. As much as I find thorough enjoyment in the old game, things are getting better every day. The old game died with the two line pass. As mentioned before, it didn’t happen overnight, but thankfully, it happened. The new game is finally established with only a handful of guys leftover from an era that by now seems long gone. An era when the NHL and FOX tried gaining fans by making the puck glow instead of figuring out ways to make the game itself more exciting to casual fans. Kudos to the NHL for doing this without destroying the tradition of the game. On a semi-related note, double kudos for not being afraid to subvert tradition when they need to. The crackdowns these days on head shots and blatantly injurious plays are exactly what the league needs to keep its players safe and integrity soundly intact.
Ultimately, the sharpening and honing of the game into a new figure is nearing completion. The talent and rules of the game have never been better aligned to create a chemistry of hockey perfect for fans of all ages and demographics. I promise you puckheads, you’re in for a good one.
Of course this is only the tip of the ice berg when it comes to why this season will rock your socks off. It is also only the tip of the ice berg for Points and PIMs. This is the first hockey blog I’ve done and I’m pretty new to blogging in general. If anyone has any ideas they would like to share, or would like any explanations for any of the theories and projections offered here I will be more than happy to address them. I plan to post at least once a week, and to work into some regular format including stats, streaks, video, news, and more. Please take the time to like this on stumble if you enjoyed reading, and be sure to remember to follow us on twitter.
Upcoming topics include: Points and PIMs introduction, fantasy projections! fantasy projections!! fantasy projections!!! league/team overviews, my personal endeavor back to the ice, why you need a twitter account, and yet another look at the Excel Energy Center.
Until then, may all your points come with PIMs, and your PIMs with game misconducts.