At the beginning of the year, we posed 10 questions about what we expected from this season. So how did we do? Probably good enough to make it into the playoffs as an eighth seed. Sure, we correctly predicted the Blackhawks' rise, but we were thrown off by how bad the Lighting did this season. Here are a few more we got right and wrong. (Check out our original predictions) Jenny Reisinger Cohen
But what about ...?
So what happened to those guys we thought could retire? They didn't. Teemu Selanne played for the Ducks as expected and Joe Sakic was back with the Avs. Unfortunately, he was sidelined for several months with back pain and a bad run-in with a snow blower. But the big surprise was Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin. He spent the first half of the season sitting on the sidelines as a spokesman for a poker Web site before finally hitting the ice with the Canucks in January.
Can the Sharks actually do it this year?
Yes, they can! San Jose added Todd McLellan behind the bench, who had no NHL head coaching experience before heading West. They also kept Joe Thornton on the team and added Rob Blake. Not only were the Sharks able to keep pace with the Stanley Cup champion Red Wings at the top of the Western Conference, but they also locked up the Presidents' Trophy for the league's best record. Is it just a stepping stone to the Stanley Cup?
Will the NHL be OK without an agreement with Europe's leagues?
Big offseason buzz surrounded the Predators' suspension of Alexander Radulov, who jumped ship and signed a deal with a team in the Continental Hockey League (KHL). While the issue between the NHL and KHL hasn't been fully resolved, no one really seemed to notice once the season got started. Of course, those issues may come up again this summer, but that remains to be seen.
Will free-agent contracts pay off?
GMs lost their minds on the first day of free agency last summer and the dividends really didn't pay off. They threw big-time dough at players like Jeff Finger and Wade Redden, only to see average returns. But don't expect the same crazy contracts this summer. With the economy tanking and a potential drop in the salary cap looming, teams are going to be more stingy with the purse strings, which isn't a bad thing.
Who won't be returning to postseason play?
We thought the New York Rangers looked more like the New York Strangers with players like Sean Avery heading out of Manhattan. And Henrik Lundqvist? We weren't sold. Turns out the Rangers will be in the postseason with Avery in a Rangers jersey. But we did correctly guess that Nashville would have a rough time getting back to the playoffs with a young team like the Blackhawks pushing their way to the top.
Is going to Europe again a good idea?
Once again, the league had success starting off the season in Europe. Because of that, as we expected, the NHL is going to continue what's become an annual start to the season. In fact, October will see the Detroit Red Wings heading to Sweden, which has already proven to be a popular plan with Swedish fans excited to see the likes of Swedes Nicklas Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg on home-country ice.
Which near-miss team will make the playoffs?
Quite a few people in the hockey world had high hopes for the Blackhawks this season and we were no exception. So it's not a total surprise that we picked Chicago to actually get a playoff berth this year. With the young talent of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, we predict this will be the first of many postseason appearances for this up-and-coming team. And it turns out we were right about the Hurricanes making it in, too.
Will Toronto be better this year?
The Maple Leafs missed the playoffs (again), which isn't the biggest surprise considering the loss of Mats Sundin and all the upheveal in the front office in the offseason. Even Curtis Joseph couldn't help them. Here's hoping the addition of GM Brian Burke will add some stability to the 2009-10 season and maybe a postseason spot.
Can Detroit win the Cup again?
That remains to be seen, but it's still a definite possibility. And while we were worried about how the offseason addition of Marian Hossa would affect the team, he turned out to be a great pickup for Hockeytown.
Did Tampa Bay make the right changes?
We thought the team had a chance with offseason additions like Ryan Malone, Steven Stamkos and coach Barry Melrose, but their defense worried us a bit. What really should've worried us was everything! Barry didn't even last a month before getting canned, Stamkos didn't play like a top draft pick, and the Islanders were the only thing between Tampa Bay and the East basement. We didn't think it would be that bad.