The lockout that lasted 119 days has ended, the new collective bargaining agreement is in place and the NHL is finally about to play games again after hastily arranged weeklong training camps around the league. Here are 10 questions and answers about the upcoming season:
1. What’s the potential downside to teams playing 48 games in 99 days?
Injuries! The NHL is a physical game, with separated shoulders and pulled groins as prevalent as power plays and glove saves, not to mention concussions. Less time to rest will put the players at greater risk of getting hurt.
2. Has this kind of condensed schedule been used before?
Yes. The 1994-95 season was delayed by a lockout, too. After 48 games, New Jersey surged through the playoffs and won the Stanley Cup with a four-game sweep of Detroit in the finals, riding a young goalie named Martin Brodeur, a deep group of forwards and a creative coach in Jacques Lemaire. The teams that can minimize injuries, keep all four lines cohesive and fresh, and get consistent play in the net will fare best in this whirlwind season.
3. What might be more interesting than usual, with this shortened season?
The playoff races. Since the NHL started giving out standings points for losses in shootouts and overtimes, the competition for those eight spots in each conference sure hasn’t fallen off. With fewer games, there’s simply less time for struggling teams to drop out of the chase. Shootouts in particular will play an even more pivotal role in the season.
4. Can Los Angeles repeat as Stanley Cup champion?
Why not? The Kings are deep. They’re confident. They have an exceptional goalie in Jonathan Quick. Staying healthy will be key. Leading scorer Anze Kopitar slightly injured his knee last week in Sweden and could miss a couple of games.
5. Is this the year a Canadian team will end that title-less streak north of the border?
Vancouver again has the best chance, though the Canucks have made a habit of following strong regular seasons with letdowns in May or June. They led the NHL with 111 points last year, but got bounced in the first round by the eventual champion Kings.
Toronto is a rebuilding after firing general manager Brian Burke last week. The Maple Leafs last made the playoffs in 2004, the longest current streak without an appearance in the league. Montreal, the last Canadian club to win a Stanley Cup, in 1993, posted the worst record in the Eastern Conference last season. Edmonton has a lot of emerging young stars but little depth. Winnipeg has trouble scoring. Ottawa is thin on defense. Jarome Iginla isn’t getting any younger in Calgary.
6. Which team wanted the lockout to end more than any?
No one enjoyed watching all those games get canceled, but Minnesota generated the most buzz last summer by signing free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to mega contracts. Then the Wild and their eager fans had to wait for perhaps the best team in the franchise’s 13-year history to be unveiled. Now they get the chance to see what Parise and Suter can do, and capable complementary players like Mikko Koivu, Matt Cullen, Cal Clutterbuck and Pierre-Marc Bouchard are poised to help the Wild make the playoffs for the first time in five years.
7. How is Sidney Crosby’s head after a long layoff?
The headaches are gone for Sid the Kid, whose post-concussion symptoms have nagged one of the game’s greatest stars for the last two years. Crosby, 25, is ready to help Pittsburgh return to prominence.
8. Who are the best rookies to watch?
Detroit’s Damien Brunner, Edmonton’s Justin Schultz and Minnesota’s Mikael Granlund, to name a few. Brunner is expected to get plenty of scoring chances, as he did playing in Switzerland with teammate Henrik Zetterberg. Granlund, a Finnish sensation who has paparazzi and fans following him all over his home country, will be on the second line for the Wild.
9. Which will be the next franchise to relocate?
The New York Islanders are leaving Long Island for the fancy new arena in Brooklyn beginning in 2015. The Coyotes continue to face an uncertain future in Phoenix, and the NHL would love to add another team in Canada.
10. Speaking of moving, whatever happened to that realignment plan?
That still must be ironed out. The NHL decided about a year ago to move from six divisions to four conferences. Carolina, both New York teams, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington would be in one group; Boston, Buffalo, Montreal and Toronto, Florida and Tampa Bay would be another; Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis and Winnipeg would be a third; and Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose, Phoenix, Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton and Vancouver would be the last.
The NHL Players Association stalled the implementation, citing concerns about increased travel and competitive imbalance, with two conferences of eight teams each and two others with seven apiece. The issue was not part of the CBA talks, though, so that’s the next item for the two sides to work on. When the Atlanta franchise moved to Winnipeg in 2011, the Jets remained in the Southeast Division. So some kind of shift will have to be made.
Follow Dave Campbell on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/DaveCampbellAP
More Related Stories
- How Dan Savage lost it
- Nancy Jo Sales on L.A. celeb robbers: "The Bling Ring kids were depressed"
- “Arrested Development,” hurry up and get here so you can stop being so annoying
- Must-do's: What we like this week
- Josh Ritter makes his "Blood on the Tracks"
- I don't hate millennials anymore!
- What's 2013's "Gone Girl"? Here are this summer's best reads
- Fox executive behind "Does Someone Have to Go?" leaving the network
- Hillary Clinton memoir shows up on Amazon
- A brief history of Jennifer Weiner's literary fights
- First look: Joaquin Phoenix, Marion Cotillard shine in "The Immigrant”
- No women allowed: Summer music festivals are dudefests, again
- Vivica A. Fox tapes anti-gun PSA in front of poster for her movie
- This is what Guy Fieri looks like as a balloon
- Mariah Carey's rambling, cursing, dress-popping "Good Morning America" concert
- Fox's new reality TV show threatens regular people with unemployment
- Amanda Bynes arrested after hurling bong from window
- Steamy lesbian-sex movie has Cannes abuzz
- Stop what you're doing and go watch "Borgen"
- Teenage girl claims she was beaten up for looking like Taylor Swift
- Mike Judge: "Bowling for Columbine" made me pro-gun
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11