The lockout didn’t wipe out the entire season. That’s the good news. Hockey is right around the corner and now is the time to celebrate this Top 10. Here’s what we can’t wait to see this season. Haven’t you been waiting long enough?
Those kids in Edmonton
The Oilers were so bad for so long that they gobbled up No. 1 pick after No. 1 pick. Now they have Taylor Hall (pictured), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov. They also added coveted young defenseman Nick Schultz, who managed to beat the system and sign with the team. We’ll wait and see if Yakupov makes the NHL this year, but either way, the Oilers have a young, exciting team and that should find success during this shortened season.
What will Gary do?
It goes without saying that we can’t wait to see who wins the Stanley Cup. But what we really can’t wait to see is how loud commissioner Gary Bettman gets booed this time around following the third lockout the league has seen under his watch. When this year’s Stanley Cup is presented will Bettman have the audacity to really face the fans? If/when he does, it may be the loudest chorus of boos ever heard in an NHL arena.
Now more than ever, there will be increased pressure for teams to perform in shootouts. Every point will count that much more in a (likely) 48-game season. We expect a tight race to the finish for playoff spots. Remember in 2010 when the Philadelphia Flyers made the postseason on the last day of the season against the New York Rangers? Expect that kind of suspense in 2013.
With each passing day of the lockout (there were 113 of them) diehard fans puffed their chests and vowed not to attend games. They vowed to not buy memorabilia. Casual fans returned to the NFL and NBA without missing a beat. So now what? Hockey is back and we are about to see how stubborn fans really are. Are they tough enough to stay away? Does anyone even care?
Luongo out, Schneider in?
There’s a big decision to be made in Vancouver. The Presidents’ Trophy winners were bounced in the first round by the Kings and that series sparked a debate: Is it time for Roberto Luongo to fully give up the crease to the younger Cory Schneider? The Canucks’ investment in Luongo (years and dollars) has always been a hot topic, especially when he was playing poorly. Is it time that we see a changing of the guard in B.C.? Trade rumors have been heating up for Luongo, but if he does stay in Vancouver, he will surely be battling for his spot in the net.
Hand-cuffed in Columbus for his entire career, we are officially about to see who Rick Nash really is. The powerful Canadian could only do so much for the lowly Blue Jackets and finally got his wish when he was traded to a contender in the New York Rangers. Now, he will have to face the hostile fans at the Garden and the pressure that comes with being a member of the Blue Shirts. Is he the missing piece the Rangers have been looking for all along?
Could we be seeing the last of the ageless wonders? Teemu Selanne, 42, Martin Brodeur (pictured), 40, and Jaromir Jagr, 40, are all future Hall of Famers. We thank the hockey gods dearly that this season wasn’t totally lost because it could have ruined our chance to see these great stars one last time. We can’t wait to watch these guys lace ‘em up again. Selanne’s smile, Marty’s saves and Jagr’s salute are three things we are certainly looking forward to.
Raise that banner
Poor Kings fans had to suffer through 45 years of mediocrity (for the most part) until the team finally won its first Stanley Cup last season. Then, the fans in LA had to wait out the lockout, wondering when the banner would be raised at Staples Center. When it happens for the Kings, it will surely be special. Legendary Kings left winger Luc Robitaille, now the team’s VP of business operations, said the team has some special surprises for the fans because the club has so long to plan the ceremony. We’re sure it will fit Hollywood’s high standard.
Stars gone Wild
Never in the history of the Minnesota Wild has there been this much buzz about the team. Adding Zach Parise (left) and Ryan Suter (right) can do that for a franchise. We can’t wait to see how these two stars deliver in the Twin Cities. The Wild once sold out over 400 straight games. This year, hockey-crazed fans in the State of Hockey will be packing the seats at Xcel Energy Center. The rest of the hockey world will be keeping a close eye, too.
Sid the (strongest) Kid
Have you seen pictures or videos of Sidney Crosby lately? He sure does look like he is in the best shape of his life. Crosby was everywhere during the lockout, training in Los Angeles, Phoenix and Pittsburgh to name a few of his stops. Perhaps no one benefited more from the lockout than the game’s brightest star. Plagued by concussions for the past few years, it’s now Crosby’s time to take control of the league and his Penguins. In a scary way, he looks very, very ready to do just that.