Top 5 Storylines to Follow This Season
You’ve got your ’05 rookie class, with names way beyond just Ovechkin, Crosby and Phaneuf: Lundqvist, Svatos, Vanek, Miller, Prucha, Getzlaf, Higgins, Emery, Parise, Pomminville…just to name a few. Then you’ve got the ’06 newbies: Malkin, Stastny, Kopitar, Zajac, Kessel, Carle, etc. All talented and all a little more seasoned, a little more experienced, and soon to be potentially joined by Backstrom, Johnson, Toews, and maybe even Turris or Kane. It’s a good time to be a hockey fan, folks.
Free Agents: The free agent frenzy, also known as the “silly season”, may have started off slow but quickly grabbed headlines as semi-exciting names were being handed contracts of eye-popping amounts and lengths. Now all eyes will be on the winners of these massive contracts to see if they live up to the overhype. Which players will drag an underachieving team out of the cellar, and which ones will put them down there? Hard to say, although I know I’ve got my opinions. And that doesn't even take into account the upcoming UFA class, which could feature some of the most prominent players in the league...
Technology and the NHL: Here in DC we’re lucky to have an owner and an organization that understands the benefits of using the newest technology to reach their fan base, and has understood it for a few years now. Slowly but surely, though, the rest of the NHL is catching on. We saw it beginning last season, with an increase in the use of blogging and video capabilities to enhance the hockey fan experience. NHL Center Ice online should be greatly improved this year, and websites are being streamlined to offer more in depth coverage (whether you like the new design or not). It’s an ongoing process and if the NHL can harness the technology correctly, it could become the most instantly accessible league in the sporting world before too long.
Sleeper Teams: A recent Canadian Press story dubbed the Caps as a potential sleeper team this season, and whether that comes to fruition will obviously remain to be seen. But there is a strange uncertainty hovering over the upcoming season and its really hard to tell where anyone will end up by the time the season closes in April, let alone who will raise the Cup in June. Free agents, trades, trade potentials, slots still unfilled – there are a lot of unknowns and the reality is any team could be a sleeper team. Lest we forget everyone’s favorite fact, that two years ago the Hurricanes were ranked near the bottom of the league by many and they went on to win the Cup. My point? You never know.
Division Battles: If you thought things went down to the wire last season, just wait until the last few weeks of this campaign. I’m not one for making predictions, partly because I tend to stink at them and partly because hockey is so unpredictable at the best of times – but I will go out on a limb here and say at least 3 of the 6 division titles will be unclaimed by the last week of the season…and don’t even get me started on the remaining playoff spots. As far as I know, Columbus could win their division and the Rangers could end up in 15th in the East (oh, if only wishing made it so…).
Next up: 5 reasons the Caps will make the playoffs...