12 Reasons to Look Forward to Hockey

With the 2011 – 2012 NHL season only a month away, here are 12 reasons to get into the spirit:

    1. The Winnipeg Jets! Are you kidding me?! Finally the hockey gods smile on the Great White North. While it would’ve been so much sweeter poetry to see the Coyotes come back home, who can complain with the Jets? Not a bad team – they could make a playoff push, and I finally have another Canadian team to cheer for whose fans don’t make my skin crawl. Hooray! [1] And the way things are going, and especially with the looming recession in the US, Phoenix will be moving north next season. So bad news for teams who have fans that don’t know what a Gary Bettman is.
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    2. The shifting dynamic of the Western Conference – specifically the young Oilers. This team is stockpiling future all-stars like they’re going extinct. It’s only a matter of time before they start clicking and begin tearing through the West. Eberle, Hall, Nugent-Hopkins…with granddaddy Smyth back to shape the future…things could be worse in the City of Champions.What’s more, I’ll be paying special attention to the LA Kings. The Richards trade was mighty, and they now have a serious team. (Kopitar!) If the goaltending stands up – look out.
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    3. Staying with the West … the response of the Vancouver Canucks. Last year’s apparently Entitled to the Cup gang got stomped something fierce in their two chances to clinch the prize. Their team got embarrassed, their stars underperformed when pushed, and their fans made themselves out to be some of the lamest in all of sports. So – how will they respond? Will the Sedins go on a scoring tear? Will Luongo brush of his shoulder and go all Vezina on everyone? Or will others begin pushing the twins around, and will Luongo play as fragile as Rain Man without Wapner?
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    4. Which Russians will grossly underperform this year, play well below their pay-grade, and spend the following years in the KHL, badmouthing the city they played for? Stay tuned.
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    5. Will Optimus Reim be a flash in the pan? Or can he finally backstop the Leafs – one of only two teams to not make the post-season since the lockout – to …sigh… at least eighth place. Will the waffles rain down once again in the Tdot?
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    6. Staying with goalies – how many games will Rick DiPietro play before he gets hurt and what zany injury will end his season this year? Smart money is on sixteen games before he’s injured in a freak speedboat accident.With ten years left on his contract, the former #1 pick’s played 39 games over the last three seasons – and last year he got knocked out in a goalie fight. A goddamned, good old-fashioned goalie fight.
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  1. Who will the Montreal police decide to try and press charges against when their players get beaten up?
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  2. Europe premiers. The last three seasons, a team that started the season in Europe went on to win the Stanley Cup: Pittsburgh in 2008, Chicago in 2009, and Boston last year. If you believe in this sort of thing, put some money down on one of Anaheim, Buffalo, LA, or the NY Rangers.
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  3. Zambonis!
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  4. That thing players do when they bang their sticks on the boards after a fight. I love when that happens.
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  5. Crosby Comeback. Sid was having the season of his career before he took a couple good hits and needed the rest of the season off. During a 25 game streak he had 26 goals and 24 assists. Nobody was stopping him. He was having the best streak in years. Then he took a really big (maybe later-ish) hit to the head that knocked him out of the game. Then he took another hard slam into the boards the next game and was done for the season. It’ll be worthwhile to see if he can reach any sort of momentum close to what he did last year – and if he can – look out. The Hart was his to lose until that January.
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  6. Okay, so maybe Mikael Granlund won’t be in the NHL this year (he’s fulfilling his required Army service in Finland). And maybe it’s not such a bad idea for Mikael to take another year to train for the bigs, since he’s still a relatively small guy. No use in Leaf prospecting him.But he’ll be in the NHL soon. And if he can do this, at the age of 19 … against Russia in a World Championship semi-final … on the fly … he’ll do some good things. If this doesn’t get you excited for hockey, you have no soul … Or you’re not into hockey … but, really, what’s the difference?:
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[1] You see I am a Leaf fan – so automatically Ottawa and the Habs are out. I’ve lived in Vancouver for four years so I cannot support them (any Leaf fan that’s lived in Vancouver can tell you why) and the Flames – who I used to dig … 2004, Iginla, Kiprusoff, Microsoft – were ruined by the amount of Albertans that I went to school with in BC. The Oilers have just been bad for a while. I have nothing against them, if only because I feel sympathy for any team that’s been worse than the Leafs the last couple years. But hey, at least they have #1s.

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