18 January 2013

My One Sentence NHL predictions.

Here are my one sentence NHL predicitions.

(C- Central, N- Northwest, P- Pacific)

1> (C) St. Louis - I believe they are the deepest, most complete team
2> (P) Los Angeles - The defending champs very much belong in the converstaion
3> (N) Minnesota - May be optimistic, love the forwards, like the goaltending, and if the young D improves, they are the best team in the Northwest.

4> (N) Vancouver - Everyone except Russo has Vancouver winning the Northwest.  I think this is a team that's going to play a tougher schedule than years past and under more distractions than ever.
5> (C) Chicago - Could do better than 5th, need to stay healthy, still question in the pipes.
6> (P) San Jose - Should be okay in reg season, but LA is the new front runner in the Pacific.
7> (C) Detroit - I think Lidstrom's retirement raises many questions, but still a playoff team.
8> (C) Nashville - Obviously losing Suter hurts, but Renne is still going to be a force.

9> (N) Edmonton - Wouldn't surprise me if they squeaked in if SJ, DET or NSH have a rough spell.
10> (P) Phoenix - Still have some upside.
11> (N) Colorado - A better year, but not there yet.
12> (P) Anaheim - Might not be a good swan-song for Teemu.
13> (P) Dallas - We'll see about Jagr's impact.
14> (N) Calgary - Not a lot of hope for them.
15> (C) Columbus - Even less hope than Calgary.

(A- Atlantic, N- Northeast, S- Southeast)

1> (N) Boston - If Rask is solid, this is the best team in the East, and will meet little resistance in their division
2> (A) New York Rangers - I still like the Rangers in the Atlantic, good team front to back.
3> (S) Washington - Even after last year's bad regular season, I can't bet against them in the Southeast.

4> (A) Pittsburgh - They might challenge the Rangers, but their playoff effort was dissapointing.
5> (A) Philadelphia - C'mon who doesn't want to see the rematch against Pittsburgh though fifth feels optimistic with Bryz's issues and other distractions.
6> (N) Buffalo - A very improved team, wouldn't surprise me to see them a little higher.
7> (S) Carolina - Two Staal's are better than one, and this team's future looks bright.
8> (S) Tampa Bay - Goaltending questions key for the bolts, but they're in if they do all right

9> (N) Toronto - The pursuit of 8th place comes up short.
10> (A) New Jersey - Hard to imagine last year's finalist falls this far, but they got troubles.
11> (S) Florida - Another team that's hard to imagine falls far, but more an issue that everyone else in their division is better than last year.
12> (A) New York Islanders - A little improvement for this team.
13> (N) Ottawa - Can't think of too many reasons to like this team.
14> (N) Montreal - Can think of even fewer reasons to like this team.
15> (S) Winnipeg - And their stupid fans will be razzing opposing, yet superior goaltenders every step of the way.

17 January 2013

Revisiting my wild preview.

Well, in case you didn't believe it would happen this year, it turns out there will be a season for the Minnesota Wild, and it is just two days away.

Shortly after the Parise and Suter signings, I had this post, which essentially amounted to an early (OK, it was  apparently six months early) season preview for Minnesota.

I don't think too much has changed.  It looks like Cullen and Bouchard will switch lines at the start.  Again, I think the Wild could have the best top 9 forward core in the West, and think the second and third lines are more of a 2A and 2B.  The Wild are going to be a very tough team to match up against, and should do well very well scoring goals against average defenses.

The defense is still the question mark.  I think most of us recognize that Suter is a total gamechanger for the blue line corps.  I think I was a little skeptical of Spurgeon in a top pairing, but last nights scrimmage has made me a believer.  However, I still think if there's a good deal out there for Fletcher to acquire a second pairing D, he should do it.  Especially with Gilbert's health now being a question.  Fletcher doesn't have to rush a deal.  As I said before Fletch holds a lot of cards in any trade, he should be able to bargain from strength if he makes a deal.  A luxury this franchise has never seen.

I admit for the first time I'm a little concerned about Backstrom, I hope he's in better form Saturday than he was last night.  He's a good goaltender, but I think the Harding signing makes it pretty obvious that this is Backstrom's last season in Minnesota with his deal coming to an end.

I don't know why people are down on the Wild's chances.  I think they are a legit contender in the conference race, and I think should be able to finish in the top four.  It's hard to put them ahead of Los Angeles and St. Louis, but I think they have a good chance to catch Vancouver, and frankly there's more to like about Minnesota's lineup than most of the Western Conference.  Even if they don't finish top four they most certainly should be a playoff team and will be a tough draw for any higher seed in the first round.

Despite signing what the media proclaimed as the two biggest free agents, most national analysts are putting them out of the playoffs or at the bubble.  Somehow I think the Wild have been underrated.

State of Hockey, I emplore you, please dare to hope!  This team is going to be exciting!

I'll have my one line league predictions tomorrow.

06 January 2013

Hooray, the Lockout is over! What do fans do?

I am glad that the NHL is returning.

At the beginning, I believed that neither side wanted to lose the season.  Based on some of my tweets, obviously my faith wavered.  In the end both sides I think got the best deal they could.  It's incredibly frustrating that this deal didn't happen three months ago, and that the lockout could've instead lasted only long enough to cancel the pre-season games.

So as fans in the State of Hockey, where do we go from here?

I can't speak for everyone, but what you want to do regarding your fandom is your business.  I know my place in the blogosphere.  If you're reading this, it's probably because your looking for a little more to read after checking out Russo, Hockey Wilderness, First Round Bust, or any other number of fine Wild fan content available in this amazing world of blogging.

That is to say, if you're reading this, your passion for hockey is probably much closer to strong than casual.  Among my twitter followers, this seems to manifest it self in one of two ways.  The majority want to find a way to further punish the NHL, boycotts, merch, swearing off the game.  Others just didn't want to care about the lockout and wanted to watch games again.

I had some moments in the former category, but honestly, I think I always knew I'd be ready to watch again.   I had one angry night during this lockout, and I tweeted some things I regret. (Something I still plan to address in a future post.)  Inspired by a Puck Daddy post, I decided to stop wearing Wild merchandise.  A decision that cut my wardrobe in half.  But I figured if there was no league, there's no reason I need to promote the team.  (By the same token, part of why I didn't blog a lot either.)

I do hope the league and PA have learned their lesson.  If the league, as they were claiming, lost $20 Million a day, then by no standard was the lockout worth it for them.  No was it worth it for players that probably just torched 10-15 per cent of their career earnings, assuming an average NHL career is about four years.

Both sides have suffered, and I believe it because it is now three times that both leaderships were interested in victory over partnership.  I can hope they learned their lesson, but if they haven't that's their fault, not mine.

I believe the NHL, especially live, is one of the best forms of entertainment in the world.  That said, if they want to torch it and hurt themselves.  I can find other things to do.  I actually reunited my love with the Vikings this year.  Unlike most American sports fans.  The NFL runs a distant second to me, but I was glad to join in and make it number one for a while.

I probably should've gone and supported more High School and College games.  There's still time for that this year though.

So I'm willing to forgive and hope for the best in 8 years.  I'll watch most games on TV, live tweet with everyone, and get tickets for a few games.

If you feel differently that's your right.  If you want to avoid the NHL, and the lockout has truly made you hate the NHL game, that's up to you.  For me, I don't see the point.  If you like the game, watch.  If you don't that's fine too.  In the end that's the only decision that should matter.

If I want to do something positive.  I'll start encouraging players and owners to start talking in four years, just in case it takes them four full years to get an extension done.