That’s what a packed house at Joe Louis Arena was screaming as Steve Yzerman walked away from the podium during the closing ceremony for the Detroit Red Wings home for the last 38 years. Yzerman is a hall of famer who wore the winged wheel across his chest for 22 years. His #19 jersey will hang in the rafters of whatever home the Red Wings have from now until eternity, never to be worn by another player on that team. He was the captain for 19 seasons and he’s still known simply as “The Captain.” He is Hockeytown and it’s time for him to come back home and lead the team he loves.
This is a scenario that makes too much sense to not happen. Following his retirement from playing in the NHL in 2006, the Red Wings made Yzerman team vice president. In that position and through his stint running team Canada, he was groomed for the position of general manager. Under Ken Holland, the Red Wings current general manager, he learned the tricks of the trade and was part of another Stanley Cup championship. There was even an attempt to make Yzerman the GM before he eventually departed for Tampa Bay, but Ken Holland declined a promotion that would have made room for Stevie Y in the front office.
In the time since Holland obstructed Yzerman’s path to his rightful place at the helm of the organization, the Captain’s Lightning have won 1 Stanley Cup and the Wings have none. This isn’t to insinuate that Yzerman is necessarily a better GM than Holland, but after some bad contracts and steadily declining performance of the team in recent years, Holland seems to be on his way out after an illustrious career in Detroit. The time is now to get the band back together. Holland has two years left on his contract and Yzerman only has one, that seems like a deal that is more than doable.
There are whispers that perhaps Steve Yzerman and Chris Ilitch, son of former owner Mike Ilitch and the guy currently signing the checks, don’t have the same type of relationship. Mike Ilitch only ever cared about giving the people of Detroit a winner and because of that, he will always be remembered fondly by fans in the Motor City. Rumor has it that his son is much more concerned with the bottom line and is not as willing to spend endless amounts of money just for the chance to win big. With a reputation for being tighter with the money, it’s also said that he is a much more hands-on owner and because of that Stevie Y might want to avoid giving up the good thing he has in Tampa Bay. I call bullshit.
Steve Yzerman and the Detroit Red Wings go together like peanut butter and jelly. He belongs in Detroit where he made a career and turned the Red Wings into a dynasty. He laid the bricks that built Hockeytown and it’s hard for me believe that he hasn’t simply been waiting for his chance to return. The fans in Detroit should be forever grateful to Ken Holland for the teams that he built but it’s becoming clear that he doesn’t have the same success in the salary cap era as he did before it. Holland’s time is ending and that will leave the door open for Stevie to come home, just like the fans want. Chris Ilitch should make sure he doesn’t let this opportunity slip away. His dad sure wouldn’t have.
On Sunday April 9th, 2017 the Detroit Red Wings played their last game at Joe Louis Arena, signaling the end of an era. For 38 years Joe Louis was the heart and soul of Hockeytown, and the list of players who graced the ice in that building is a who’s who of hall of famers. It is one of the most iconic places in hockey, even for those who don’t support the winged wheel. Everyone respects the history but for some of us, Joe Louis Arena is more than just a building where our favorite team played, it’s hallowed ground. It’s like a part of the family, a piece of our sports culture. A piece of Detroit’s culture.
JLA is a monument to a time before corporate sponsorship of stadiums. When places that represented a people were named in honor of the greatest champions among those people. The Red Wings new home, Little Caesars Arena, inspires considerably less Motor City pride. Joe Louis Arena was too old, too small, too ill-equipped to handle the needs and desires of today’s sports fan. Because of that, it was time to move on, but damned if it wasn’t a great place to see the game. That place was always rocking and the atmosphere was always electric. Four Stanley Cups were won by the Red Wings during their time in that building. The team was built into a dynasty during that era; they were royalty, and Joe Louis Arena was their castle.
One of 31 octopi that were thrown on to the ice during the Red Wings last game at Joe Louis Arena.
The Red Wings are missing the playoffs for the first time in 25 years and it almost seems fitting that in the same year we all said goodbye to beloved owner, Mike Ilitch, and Joe Louis Arena. This is the beginning of a new era for the franchise and all of its fans. What makes this franchise so special is that even though they are planning for the future they know they had to honor their past.
The Illitch family has always had a deep love for the city of Detroit and they know what that building and the team mean to the city. The organization recognized the meaning of that moment, and they knew that the fans in Detroit needed a chance to pay their respect to a place that means so much to them. In a ceremony that involved over 90 current and former players and coaches, the city and the team had a chance to process the moment and reflect on everything that had happened under that roof.
Current and former players salute the crowd following the closing ceremony at Joe Louis Arena.
Steve Yzerman was in the house and was greeted by adoring fans who begged him to come back home to Detroit. Bob Probert’s widow spread his ashes in the penalty box, a place where he spent a considerable amount of time during his career. Guys that couldn’t attend, like Sergei Fedorov and Brendan Shanahan, sent in video messages. Hell, Wayne Gretzky did a video message, and he didn’t even play for the team but he wanted to be part of saying goodbye to a piece of history.
Joe Louis Arena was more than just a building. For some people, it was their earliest memory of going to a game. For some people, it was where they fell in love with the game. For some people, it was where they saw champions made. For some people, it was sports Mecca. For some people, it was home. As for me, it is the place where some of my fondest memories happened, and the best place to watch a hockey game on the entire planet.
It’s been a very different kind of year for fans of the Detroit Red Wings. Right now, the team is among the worst in the NHL and the chances of them making it to the Stanley Cup Playoffs are dwindling with each passing day and each loss. It’s a sinking feeling that people in Detroit aren’t used to and missing the playoffs is something that hasn’t happened in decades. To many of us, it’s a tragedy for a franchise that is so accustomed to excellence to be in such a poor state. But it also seems like a fitting cap to what has been a trying year for the Red Wings. A year when the Wings have lost some very important people and will be leaving their home of the last 38 years.
The hits started coming last summer, less than two months after the Red Wings first round playoff exit at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightening. On June 10th, one of the most legendary players in the history of the game of hockey, Gordie Howe, passed away at the age of 88 and the entire sports world mourned. He was an old man who had lived a full life and for that, all of us who loved him can be grateful. But that doesn’t lessen the impact of his passing.
You are missed, Gordie.
Then a couple of weeks ago, on February 10th, 2017, longtime team owner, Mike Illitch, passed away. He too lived to a ripe, old age and at 87-years-old the man who made his fortune off the Little Caesars pizza chain and bought the Red Wings in 1982 for $8 million had lived to see his team win 4 Stanley Cups during his time as owner. He truly loved the Red Wings and his other team the Tigers, as well as the city of Detroit. As a fan, you couldn’t ask for a more passionate and caring owner. All he ever wanted was to win and though his Tigers were never able to bring him a championship he was overjoyed every time the Wings were able to hoist the Cup.
Mike Iliitch loved his team and his city.
So with two of the biggest icons in the history of Detroit hockey gone, isn’t it fitting that the team would miss out on the postseason for the first time in 25 years? The passing of Howe and Illitch, along with this year’s abysmal performance by the team and their departure from Joe Louis Arena, point to a shift in the world of Detroit Hockey. That might not be a bad thing and it seems like it could be a jumping off point for the next generation of Detroit Red Wings.
New arena. New owner. New Red Wings. The team has been coasting on “just making the playoffs” for years now and the decade anniversary of the last Stanley Cup championship is rapidly approaching. Fans are getting tired of simply making it to the dance and getting tossed in the first or second round. It’s time for a rebuild and a year away from the playoffs might be what the franchise needs to turn the corner and get back to the mountain top. It’s been tough losing Gordie and Mr I, and it will be tough leaving Joe Louis Arena behind but the only constant in this world is change. These changes might be hard but they are necessary. Likely, it will be a bumpy road but with some luck there will be a new, improved Red Wings team rising from the ashes of the 2016-17 season.
As the NHL season approaches, so does the final season for the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. It has been the home of hockey in Detroit since 1979 and is one of the most fabled venues in all of sports. With the end rapidly approaching, we take a minute to review some of the best moments in the history of Joe Louis Arena.
Red Wings/ Avalanche Brawl (March 26, 1997)
Not only is this one of the greatest moments in the history of Joe Louis Arena, this may be my favorite moment in the history of the sport of hockey. Roger Pretzel has already given you his perspective on the affair. As an 11-year-old whipper snapper, I was just coming into my own as a sports fan in the Detroit area when this shit went down. But I remember watching it on tv in real time and falling in love with the Red Wings, the rivalry and the sport of hockey.
Hockey is one of the few sports where teams have a long memory and will retaliate for past offenses, even if it isn’t until next season. Baseball is probably the only other sport where this is an accepted (more or less) practice. That’s exactly what happened with this brawl. This ass kicking that the Avalanche received at the hands of the Red Wings was payback for Claude Lemieux’s dirty hit on Kris Draper in the ’96 playoffs. That hit ended Drapers season and he ended up needing reconstructive surgery.
When the two teams met at Joe Louis Arena the following season, it didn’t take long for things to get scrappy. A scuffle turned into complete and utter mayhem and Darren McCarty took the opportunity to pay back the debt owed to Claude Lemieux by beating the shit out of him. It was glorious. Another highlight was goalies Mike Vernon and Patrick Roy duking it out at center ice. This remains my favorite moment ever to occur at Joe Louis Arena.
See for yourself:
Red Wings end 42 year cup drought (June 7, 1997)
This was such a big deal when it happened. 42 years since Hockeytown had last seen the Stanley Cup, the Red Wings complete a 4-game sweep of the Philadelphia Flyers on their home ice. This is another moment that I vividly remember witnessing live on tv. It really makes me realize that 1997 was a great year to be a Red Wings fan.
The Red Wings won game 4 by a score of 2-1. Mike Vernon, who had been benched for the final 10 playoff games in the previous season, redeemed himself by winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP. He finished the playoffs with a 16-4 record and a .927 save percentage, and was integral in bringing Lord Stanley’s Cup back to Detroit.
Then it was party time. The arena immediately went ape shit when the clock expired, and so did the players. Joe Louis Arena was so electric that you could feel the joy pouring out of the television set. All around Southeast Michigan, the drinks were flowing and the people were celebrating. Of all the Red Wings and Pistons championships I have been alive to witness, I remember this one as having the most raucous celebration. LET’S GO RED WINGS!
Here is the best of the Red Wings 1997 Stanley Cup run:
Steve Austin and the zamboni (September 28, 1998)
This is another event that has been covered in some capacity here at ScoreBoredSports. But I was physically there for this one so I have to touch on it. And it remains one of the coolest moments in WWF (WWE) history. With the Detroit Red Wings in the middle of a dominating run, pro wrestling decided to come to town and found a way to incorporate some of Detroit’s hockey culture into the spectacle. Monday Night Raw was at the Joe and as usual there was no shortage of controversy and excitement.
In usual fashion during that era, Vince McMahon was being a total asshole. He screwed over Stone Cold Steve Austin by setting him up to get beat by the Undertaker and Kane and lose the belt. The only problem was that they both pinned Steve, so there was no clear cut winner. McMahon was having some stupid ceremony to present the belt to one of them. As usual, Steve Austin wasn’t having it. Punk ass McMahon surrounded himself with police in order to protect himself from Stone Cold’s white trash wrath, but Steve Austin had other ideas.
Stone Cold drove a zamboni up to the ring and proceeded to circumvent the police and security in order to open up a quick can of whoop ass all over McMahon. 12-year-old me was going absolutely nuts out there in the crowd. Steve Austin then got arrested and taken out of the arena, but the damage was done and the whole world knew that McMahon was bitch made.
I know it’s all staged but it was still pretty sweet. Check it out:
Gordie Howe’s last/Gretzky’s first All Star Game (February 5, 1980)
This one took place before my time but that doesn’t make me think that it’s any less fucking awesome. Two of the most legendary players in the history of the hockey sharing the ice for the 32nd NHL All Star Game. A 19-year-old phenom in the making, Wayne Gretzky, and a 51-year-old titan, Gordie Howe, playing in their first and last All Star games, respectively.
It was Howe’s 23rd appearance. Gretzky would go on to appear in every single All Star Game during his 20 year career, trailing only his childhood idol, Gordie Howe in total appearances. These two would combine for six decades as the face of the NHL and to see them both on the ice had to be very special for the sold out crowd in Joe Louis Arena.
This passing of the torch from Howe to Gretzky signified a changing of the guard in professional hockey. From toothless maniacs who didn’t even wear helmets to toothless maniacs who wore helmets. Gretzky was fast and flashy and incredibly talented, but he didn’t come up with any goals or assists that night in 1980. The old grizzled vet, Gordie wound up with 1 assist, however, and though I couldn’t find a video of the game, I did find one of that assist.
Way to go old man:
As the sun sets on Joe Louis Arena, we bid farewell to one of the most legendary venues in hockey. You can’t stop progress, and I suppose this moment was inevitable. A top notch team needs to have top notch facilities. When the crew moves up Woodward to their new home, Little Caesars Arena, near Ford Field and Comerica Park, they will take the banners down at the Joe and all that will remain is memories of the great times that came to pass on that hallowed ground. But until 2017, there is still one more season of hockey and some more memories to be made at the Joe.
It seems like every other day we are losing legends. Last week we lost Muhammad Ali, a recognizable and influential figure the world over. Two days ago, it was hockey legend, Gordie Howe. The man known as Mr. Hockey is one of the most prolific players ever to play in the NHL. He is the only person ever to play in five different decades, appearing in his first game in 1946 and ending his storied career in 1980.
Fellow Hockey Mt. Rushmore faces like Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr consider Howe to be the greatest player ever. He won four Stanley Cups, six scoring titles and six MVP awards. When his career ended he was 52 years old, making him the oldest player in the history of the league. With his 22 seasons of 20 goals or more, he is the kind of player that could do it all. He could score on you and beat the hell out of you. There’s even something called the Gordie Howe hat trick, which occurs when a player scores 3 goals, gets an assist and gets into a fight.
Aside from his much-recognized greatness on the ice, Gordie Howe was a great man whose humility should be an example to anyone with that kind of fame. Growing up in the Detroit area, there were always stories of people meeting Gordie at a bowling alley or at the mall. The stories were always the same. He was nothing other than humble, gracious and eager to meet his adoring fans. He is perhaps the most legendary figure in the long history of Detroit sports.
It’s because of that fact that Mike Ilitch and the other big wigs at the Detroit Red Wings must name team’s new home Gordie Howe Arena.
When it was announced earlier this year that the Motor City’s new pro hockey venue would be named Little Caesars Arena, I was less than thrilled. After moving from a place that was named after such a historic figure as Joe Louis, it felt like a cheapening of a franchise with so much prestige. Even so, it made sense because the owner of the Red Wings made his fortune through his nationwide pizza chain, Little Caesars. But with the passing of Gordie Howe, and with everything he has meant to the city of Detroit, it would be a crime to not name this arena in his honor.
To refrain from giving the Red Wings’ arena corporate naming rights, even if the team and that company do have the same owner, would be a nod to the prestigious place that the Red Wings hold in the dogma of hockey. To name the arena after the one of the greatest in the history of the game and most legendary figures in sports history of the city of Detroit would show that Mike Ilitch cares about the city and its return to greatness.
I’ve already signed the petition to make sure that the Red Wings new home will be called Gordie Howe Arena. At that time there was almost 13,000 other signees. If you care about hockey, you should add your name to the petition and do your part to make sure that Gordie Howe is honored in a fashion befitting his contributions to the great sport of hockey.
An April without the Detroit Red Wings. That’s something that’s pretty hard for me to comprehend. The last time that happened was 1990 and I was four years old. For almost my entire life, the Red Wings have had a presence in the postseason of the NHL. 24 years in a row they have had a shot to win the Stanley Cup. Whether as President’s Cup winning favorites or the last team in, they’ve always been in the conversation come April.
The Wings currently sit one point ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers for the second wildcard spot. When the two teams met last Tuesday, the Red Wings defense got off to an abysmal start where they allowed 23 shots against their 3 in the opening period. The team wound up losing the game 4-3 because they were never able to recover from that first period and get a much needed win. The Flyers are one of the hottest teams in the league and briefly overtook the Wings for that 2nd wild spot before that win against the Blue Jackets yesterday. The Wings are going to need some very strong performances to close out the season if they hope to make the playoffs from the 25th straight year, and keep the longest current postseason streak in all of sports alive.
Now all of that is in jeopardy and I’m not sure what to do. So let’s explore why the Wings are in the predicament they’re in.
Defense and Goaltending
When you allow as many shots as the Red Wings did in the first period of that Flyers game, it becomes obvious that the defense is a big problem area for the team. It’s been that way for a while now. Actually, it’s been a problem ever since Nicklas Lidstrom left back in 2012. The team hasn’t had a stud defender since and the good players that they do have haven’t been able to get the job done. With the team’s most experienced defensemen, Niklas Kronwall, sidelined for 1-3 weeks with a knee sprain, they really need the other guys to step their game up or there is a very big chance that they will not be in the playoffs.
Mrazek can’t continue to let himself be caught out of position.
The defense also isn’t being propped up by the goaltending like it was in earlier parts of the season. There are times when the goaltending looks down right amazing, especially when you consider how many shots are getting thrown at the net. But Petr Mrazek has been looking pretty shaky as of late and Jimmy Howard, who the team is paying $5.3 million for each of the next three seasons, looks like a shadow of what he once was. From what I have seen this season, Jimmy Howard has no business being in the net and should only be looked at to give Mrazek rest. So that means Mrazek had better find some of that early season magic that he displayed if the Red Wings have any hope maintaining their shaky hold on a playoff spot.
Put the puck in the net
The defense shouldn’t get all of the blame for the state of the team because the offense has been anything but prolific. Despite having a stable of young stars and some aged but crafty veterans, they have not been able to get the puck in the net nearly as often as necessary to stay competitive. The Wings are 24th in the league in goals per game, with 2.5. That is not good enough. They need Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg to turn it up a notch and help the young guys out. But more than anything, they need to score some goals. Some way. Any way.
The Red Wings are going to need more than just Larkin to make it to the playoffs.
I’m not going to lie, from what I’ve seen recently, the Detroit Red Wings will not be making the playoffs. They just look too flat all around, despite the dazzling play of Dylan Larkin and other youngsters like Andreas Athanasiou, Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist. The future is bright and I’m really hoping that they can hold it together long enough to make it 25 straight playoff appearances. Then who knows what’s possible. Anything can happen in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but first they’ve got to make it to the dance. And I’m not as sure about that happening as I was a month ago.
The NHL Trade deadline has come and gone with one of the most dismal deadline days in recent memory.
Many people saw this coming, with only 14 trades, most of which you could consider “minor”, made over the weekend leading up Monday’s 3pm deadline. There were a few big time moves though, three of which involved captains. Dion Phaneuf, captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs, was traded to the Senators in a monster trade earlier in the month. Winnipeg Jets captain Andrew Ladd returned to Chicago in a trade made Friday night leading up to the deadline and longtime ‘Canes captain Eric Staal joined his brother, Marc Staal, when he became a New York Ranger on Sunday afternoon.
Here is the rundown for all the trades made up until the deadline:
Lee Stempniak is now with the Bruins
Flames get some goaltending help from the Wild
FLAMES GET: G Nicklas Backstrom
WILD GET: F David Jones
Blackhawks and Ducks swap depth players
BLACKHAWKS GET: F Tim Jackman, 2017 7th round pick
DUCKS GET: F Corey Tropp
Marooned in Edmonton
OILERS GET: F Patrick Maroon
DUCKS GET: D Martin Gernat, 2016 4th round pick
Predators add a minor leaguer
PREDATORS GET: D Corey Potter
COYOTES GET: future considerations
Darryl Sutter’s Kings add the coach’s kid
KINGS GET: F Brett Sutter
WILD GET: F Scott Sabourin
Jamie McGinn moved to the Ducks
DUCKS GET: F Jamie McGinn
SABRES GET: 2016 conditional 2nd or 3rd round pick
As we spend the holiday with family, feeding both our gluttonous faces and the capitalist machine, I thought I would take a minute to do what most Americans do around this time. Dream about the things they don’t have and probably never will. In order to do that, I made a Christmas Wish List of all the athletes that I wish my teams would acquire, either by free-agency, trade, or kidnapping if necessary.
This a weird one because it’s a dream of mine that was reality for a short time. For just about a year, my favorite Cuban-born player was on the Detroit Tigers. Once they realized the season wasn’t going anywhere, the team traded him away in the midst of an all-star caliber season. Cespedes was a very important piece on the Mets teams that went deep in the playoffs. He is looking for a big payday in free-agency. I say the Tigers should break out some serious cash and bring him back to the Motor City.
If the Pistons could somehow get Kevin Durant on the floor with Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson, then this team would be very scary. He’s just the type of wing player that this squad needs. He can shoot the ball, take it to the hole, rebound and defend with the best of ’em. He’s an absolute monster all of over the court and can single-handedly change the outcome of a game. In fact, the other night he hit the go-ahead shot, and followed it up with a game-saving block to seal the win over the Clippers.
Now this is someone that should already be on the Detroit Lions’ roster. They had the chance to draft the defensive tackle with the 10th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, but passed him up to take TE Eric Ebron. That has proved to be a poor choice when you consider Ebron’s inconsistent production, the loss of their top-3 DTs in free agency, and the fact that Donald absolutely destroyed the Lions two weeks ago for 3 sacks. If he was on the team, I would be like Ndamukong “Who”?
For the final selection on my Detroit Sports Fan’s Christmas Wish List, we’ve got the captain of the Dallas Stars, Jamie Benn. This guy has it all. He’s young and plays the entire length of the ice. He’s got 46 points in 35 games this season and would kill it on a line with any handful of young Red Wings. If he was on the team, they would have to be favorites to come out of their conference.
So there you have it, my Christmas Wish List for all four of my favorite professional sports teams. Leave a comment and tell us which superstars you’re wishing for this holiday.
In honor of Halloween we take a look at some of the Scariest Athletes of All Time. These are players that strike fear into the hearts of both opponents and fans alike. They are the hard-hitting, ass kicking, monsters of the game. You definitely DO NOT want to fuck with these people.
Lawrence Taylor was a reckless monster on the gridiron, who no one wanted to go up against. With 142 career sacks, he was damn near unstoppable for the better part of a decade. He could do it all, and he did it with an intensity and viciousness that led him to be considered one of the top outside linebackers of all time and gained him a spot in the Hall of Fame. There’s no doubt many a retired offensive NFL player that still see Taylor in his nightmares. Oh yea, he was pretty wild off of the field too.
All you have to do is watch the above video of brutal Mike Tyson knockouts to know why he is here among the “Sports Monsters Hall of Fame.” During his prime, Tyson was amazing to watch and terrifying to imagine going up against. He made it look so effortless to absolutely destroy opposing fighters. His short stocky frame could deliver brain damage at will and he even once said he wanted to “eat Lennox Lewis’ children.” If that’s not scary, I don’t know what is.
Known for his lack of self control, explosive temper and neck like a semi-truck, the 4-time Super Bowl Champion linebacker was a force to be reckoned with on the field. With no shortage of violent hits on opposing offensive players, he would make me shit my pants if I was a running back. This raving lunatic didn’t reserve his roid-induced rage just for the opposing team, and even once ended his teammates career but crushing his eye socket with a punch.
As a well known enforcer, Bob Probert, did his best work with the gloves off. A throwback to the days of ‘old time hockey’ when fighting wasn’t seen as taboo. He was one of the toughest players ever to step out on the ice. He was willing to put his body through whatever it took to get the job done. If that was the case then imagine what he would be willing to do to you if you were unfortunate enough to get in his way? During the pinnacle of his career in the 1987-88 season, he amassed an outlandish 398 penalty minutes, and still managed to tie for 3rd on the Red Wings with 62 points. Rest in Peace, you beautiful beast.
Just look at this guy and tell me he isn’t the scariest fuckin’ thing you’ve ever seen. He is an imposing ball of human muscle and raw animal aggression. He now resides in the fantasy world of WWE but when he was in UFC he could beat you with the submission or the knockout and has left more than a few of his opponents with soiled underwear. If you see him in an alley, run!
ScoreBoredSports brings you its final 2015-16 NHL Season Preview: the Atlantic Division. Thanks so much for reading, and we hope you’ll keep your brain-port hooked to our internet tube for more hockey coverage throughout the year!
A collection of teams moving in very different directions, the Atlantic Division reads fairly clearly, even through the Red-Wing-tinted glasses I can’t help but to wear. Stanley Cup aspirations persist in hockey notbed Tampa Bay, while rare talent Jack Eichel instantly elevates the expectations in Buffalo. Between Boston’s deceptive re-tool, Toronto’s complete upheaval, and Ottawa’s likely fall to earth, there’s plenty of room for stink potential, too. Oh, and I guess there’s another team in Florida for some reason. I think Jaromir Jagr, inventor of the printing press, plays there?
The Sens might need big things from Anderson this year.
Some food for thought regarding Ottawa’s blazing-hot finish to the regular season: they tied for 5th-highest PDO in the league, a big albatross to wear for such an under-skilled team. Of the team’s 5 players to reach the 20-goal mark, 3 of them shot an unsustainably high percentage last season compared to the league average of about 9%: Mike Hoffman (27g, 13.4%), Mark Stone (26g, 16.6%) and Mika Zibanejad (20g, 13.3%). They also received the miraculous surprise of a bouncing baby goal keeper, sizzling hot out of the randomness oven. Unfortunately, Andrew Hammond hit his terrible twos pretty quickly and flickered out of the playoffs, and some keepers never survive past that stage. Luckily, the Senators still have dumpy old Craig Anderson, who has a great year every other year, though he sometimes loses track of which year is supposed to be which. They still have all the aforementioned young talent, which is significant, and that’s not even mentioning perennial All-Star Erik Karlsson. They carried some younger players that now face the ever-looming sophomore slump, which is always written off as a myth until it hits home. Curtis Lazar, Mark Stone, and Jean-Gabriel Pageau will all technically be entering their second full seasons, and there’s plenty of youth all over the roster that needs time to develop. The defense is shaky beyond Karlsson and Cody Ceci, who plays 20 minutes a game and looks to be the team’s hopeful replacement for Chris Phillips. The admixture of Anderson’s bobbing reliability, and the team’s unlikeliness to repeat their outstanding shooting percentages, leads me to believe that the Sens will fall out of the playoff picture altogether this year.
Chara is a monster, and will need to play like it this season.
After a tough year in which some important players either stalled in their development (Reilly Smith), underperformed (Loui Eriksson), or became injured (Zdeno Chara), Boston is hoping a significant roster turnover can bring in some new blood; the future-forward acquisition of valuable draft picks has been balanced with incoming players like Matt Beleskey, Zac Rinaldo, Colin Miller, and Jimmy Hayes. This mild bunch comes at the cost of several key players such as the potential future anchor of their defense, Dougie Hamilton, and fan-favorite Power Forward, Milan Lucic. The hope is that one of Beleskey or Hayes can oaf it up in front of the net to sufficiently replace Dr. Lucic’s cerebral style of smashy-smashy. They’ve retained Claude Julien, one of the most accomplished coaches in the NHL; they’ve also still got Patrice Bergeron, one of the most complete players you’ll ever see. Bergeron is an absolute joy to watch, from the way he commands the face-off circle, to the way he always, head up, makes a patient play. I also see this as a potential rebound year for All-Star keeper Tukka Rask, who struggled at times with the defensive turmoil in front of him. The big, and I mean big, question is that of Zdeno Chara’s health. He’s currently listed as day-to-day, though that is obviously subject to change rapidly as the team will be cautious going into the season. Without big Z, Boston lacks the defensive depth to launch a meaningful challenge in the East. Contrary to most people’s projections, I believe the Bruins, with solid leadership and the luck of a little good health, will return to the playoffs this year — but it’ll be a thin line to tread unless more changes come.
Jack Eichel looks like he could be one of the Sabres’ children.
The overhaul that Buffalo underwent in the off-season was transformative, no other way to say it. When I was watching action from the most recent World Junior Championships, it was actually Jack Eichel who stood out more than Connor McDavid at first, even when the U.S. team didn’t go as far as McDavid’s Canadian champs; then I saw some insane footage of McDavid showing otherworldly control and power in skating drills during the Oilers’ training camp, and I felt light-headed, so now I’m not so sure. Regardless, Eichel is a major talent who is highly likely to be one of the best players in the NHL within five years. They also have, by the way, last year’s second-overall pick Sam Reinhart, who led Canada to the WJC crown by tying McDavid and Max Domi for the lead in scoring. That’s no joke. Add to that a ridiculous infusion of talent including versatile but troubled Center/Forward Ryan O’Reilly, promising winger Evander Kane, and potential star goaltender Robin Lehner, and you just have a different team from last year’s onslaught of awful. Did I mention that all of these players are under 25? The Sabres upgraded in other areas, too, adding Cup-winning coach Dan Bylsma, and taking a flyer on talented two-way defenseman Cody Franson. The team also added the veteran David Legwand, who won’t break games but is a great role-model for young players andaslaslsgggggggg… shit, sorry… almost fell asleep there. You get the idea. Apart from David Blandwand, I am quite excited for this Buffalo team, as this is a good hockey community that has been thirsty for greatness since the day the Dominator left town. The playoffs are not at all out of the question for this squad, though a lot of that will hinge upon the formation of a coherent defense, especially with the Grand Canyon-sized crater left behind by Tyler Myers. Luckily he wasn’t all that great, and Bylsma has the energy and credential to whip this inexperienced Sabres D into competence. It looks like it will come down to a competition between the Bruins, Penguins, Sabres, and Blue Jackets for those final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.
Detroit Red Wings:
19 year old Dylan Larkin could be the future in Hockeytown.
A new era begins in Detroit, with first-year coach Jeff Blashill looking to bring some energy and fresh looks to an always-good Red Wings team. The problem in recent years is that that “always good” has come at the expense of “ever great,” as injuries (see: every Red Wing), odd contracts (Johan Franzen, Henrik Zetterberg, Jimmy Howard, “Diamond” Dan Cleary) and failed signings (RIP Stephen Weiss) have stunted opportunities for the Wings to break through. As an aside, Wing-haters can delight in reading this article from the invaluable Winging It In Motown blog about the truly horrific contract situation of Captain Hank and Franzen, should either retire before fulfilling their contract. And don’t even get me started on Dan Cleary, whose inconceivable presence on the Wings’ roster is only explicable through a tangle of Newfoundland mafia connections. Nonetheless, this year hope abounds, as Wings fans can finally admit to themselves that there’s always been some weirdness with the way departed, beloved, Cup-winning and hair-ever-swooping coach Mike Babcock used players. Prime example: Jakub Kindl has actually always been very good, and his essential deletion from the Red Wings universe last year truly puzzled me, especially when he was being leap-frogged by guys like Brian Lashoff and Alexei Marchenko (who are fine in their own right, just not as groomed or effective). So I’m looking forward to seeing Blashill’s take on the talent available. That talent was significantly increased when GM Ken Holland signed Mike Green, a right-handed defenseman with blistering offensive skill, and Brad Richards, a two-time Cup winner, former Conn Smythe trophy winner, and one of my all-time favorite slowpoke badasses. This team will continue to dominate possession numbers and show high shooting percentages with ridiculous talent like my best friend, father, and life coach, Pavel Datsyuk, as well as outstanding younger talent like Gus Nyquist and Tomas Tatar. The Wings also have a potential rookie starlet in Dylan Larkin making the opening-night roster; the Wings haven’t had a teenager on their opening-night roster since Jiri Fischer in 1999. His talent has been dynamic and impactful in training camp and the pre-season, so don’t count out that new blood making an impact. Larkin dominated for the US in those World Juniors, by the by, outclassing both Eichel and McDavid before the States petered out and McDavid had more games to rack up points. Peter Mrazek represents a solid hope for the Wings future in net, but the real hope is that Jimmy Howard can live up to his weighty contract. My prediction: Playoffs x 25. Beyond that, I see a competitive second-round exit. Or ten Stanley Cups — that’s what I meant. Ten Cups, this year.
Tampa Bay Lightning:
Ben Bishop and the Lightning look to be poised for greatness again this year.
It doesn’t take a lot to figure out why I’m predicting the Tampa Bay Lightning to win the Stanley Cup. With everything in place for another deep run, and the bitter taste of coming oh-so-close last year as a particularly powerful motivator, the Bolts look to be hockey’s most complete team. Starting with Steve Stamkos, the NHL’s archetypal sniper, the Lightning have elite talent at every position, and lots of it. Victor Hedman has finally matured into a Norris-Trophy candidate, and is supported by a deep defense with the likes of Anton Stralman, Braydon Coburn, Jason Garrison, and Matt Carle all capable of contributing in meaningful ways. Ben Bishop proved himself to be a fine backstop, and only looks to get better. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of season Tyler Johnson has, who came from nowhere to become one of the NHL’s elite offensive players, this generation of Martin St. Louis for Lightning fans. Jon Cooper has also acquitted himself nicely as a tactically astute coach that can find productive player combinations, evinced by the chemistry discovered between Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, and Ondrej Palat. This team has no significant weakness, and if anything, is looking at rebound seasons from the likes of Stamkos and Valteri Filppula, who mysteriously was minus-17 in spite of the Lightning being the NHL’s highest-scoring outfit last year. Let’s also remember that the 3rd overall pick from two years ago, Jonathan Drouin, may be ready to burst out in a big way. Things look to finally be lining up for Tampa’s second Stanley Cup run.
Look, sometimes these picks are fairly anticlimactic because the writing’s on the wall. As such, here’s an inappropriate GIF of Jaromir Jagr that I found on Reddit:
I kid about Florida, but I still don’t see them going anywhere after a stagnant off-season. The ageless Jagr will, of course, be good for 40-60 points, and 20-30 European models bedded; Roberto Luongo will likely be a consistent net presence as long as there are no serious stakes. The rest of the team’s outlook seems to hinge on player development, as their core of Alex Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, and, most importantly, Aaron Ekblad, will have to carry a larger load if this team wants to go forward. It’s clear that Ekblad is a star, but elevation is needed out of the other two as well as players like Nicklas Bjugstad, Vincent Trocheck, and Boston castoff Reilly Smith. Remember when Florida fans threw rats on the ice after a hat trick for some reason (because cats)? Do they still do that? Are there still Florida Panther fans even? Ah, stupid times.
Sorry to say it, but Montreal’s season really depends on Carey Price, who we know will be very good, but may have trouble replicating his MVP season from last year. His level of excellence will drive their team, though a very minor influx of speed and creative potential in players like Zack Kassian and Alex Semin, as well as the retention of Jeff Petry, offer potential relief for their offensive woes. More importantly, they have the game’s most exciting defenseman, P.K. Subban, who also became one of hockey’s foremost philanthropists after pledging to donate $10 million to a Montreal Children’s Hospital. I’m an unabashed fan of everything P.K. He does things on the ice nobody else can, makes the game fun and thrilling, expresses himself in an interesting way (as opposed to most NHL players and their monotone cliché-bot routine), kisses Pierre Mcguire on live TV, I mean what more could you possibly want? I’m hoping Subban does something unthinkable like celebrate after a goal so the anything-but-level-headed Montreal media run him out of town, straight into the arms of the Red Wings. Yes, I may be having an Ambien hallucination right now, but this is why we all gathered at the Eiffel Tower today, isn’t it? N’est-ce pas, Henri?
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