Hockey Related Revenue……..CBA….Contract Limits……..Arbitration……..blah blah blah blah blah……IT’S OVER!!!!!!!!!!!
I’m back ladies and gents, back from the playoff bubble where all I could do was concentrate on Devils hockey, back from my post-playoff depression slumber thanks to a Kings victory in 6 games, and back from lockout exile! This will be a long one, but we have so much catching up to do!
There are many media outlets and websites with detailed CBA information if that’s your thing. I’m not an economist or a lawyer. I’m a hockey fan, but here’s how I see the events of Sunday with all the information I saw on TV, the internet, and reporters on twitter.
The NHL and NHL Players Association reached an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement. This means a lot of things; first off, THERE WILL BE HOCKEY!! That’s really the most important one for us fans. I don’t care too much about the rest and I assume neither do you. According to reports I’ve seen on various forms of web media, we should expect the regular to season to begin sometime between January 15th and 19th, with the 19th being the most likely date.
SO THIS IS AWESOME! Gary Bettman and the hard line NHL Owners were smart enough to realize they couldn’t afford both financially and from a PR standpoint, to lose another season. The NHL Players were aware they’d have to make concessions, and they did. If you have to pick a winner in this edition of NHL Lockout, I say it’s narrowly to the players. They lost on 50-50 revenue sharing, down from their 57% share in the old CBA. However, they NHL wanted 5 year contract limits, they got 7 (8 if you re-sign with your own team). The NHL wanted salary to vary at most 5% each year up or down, it’s 35% in this CBA. On those major issues the players get a win, but the one thing we all must remember, players included, is that the owners can do this again in another 10 years (or 8 if the owners opt-out; they players can opt-out and I guess strike if they want to after 8 years.). The owners control the purse strings to the league and as much solidarity and brotherhood as the players have, the owners due to their financial well-being will always have more. This lockout was more about power than economics in my opinion and the owners did prove they are the ones who hold most of the power. The Players proved that they would not be rolling over to the owners demands easily and that they are unified and can stand their own ground. Now on to hockey….
Here are my pre-season top 10 power rankings
1. Los Angeles Kings– They took out the top 3 seeds in the West with relative ease, and then after two extremely close wins in New Jersey, took a commanding 3-0 series lead in the Cup finals before winning in 6 games. The champs get their due, much like goalie and playoff MVP Jonathon Quick got his after the season and before the lockout in the form of a hefty raise. Until the season gets rolling along and the standings reflect otherwise, the Kings are the best team in the league for now.
2. New York Rangers- NO ONE CAN SAY I’M NOT OBJECTIVE AND FAIR!! All the Rangers did was grab the #1 Seed in the east last year, and fell two points shy of #1 team in the league. They tied Vancouver for most wins in the NHL with 51. They have a stud goaltender. They also traded for some guy named Rick Nash who, if he hadn’t been wasting away in Columbus (a la Kovalchuck in ATL) would likely be a superstar in this league. Instead he’s just a great hockey player that the casual fan and all Ranger fans are going to be seeing and enjoying a lot of. He’s the offensive powerhouse that’s been missing…the shortened season should benefit the Rangers, they looked tired after two 7 game series victories before losing the ECF in 6 to some team from across the Hudson in New Jersey.
3. Vancouver Canucks- Sedin Twins, reliable goaltending (Schneider or Luongo, but more than likely Schneider) and back to back President’s trophies. The Canucks are for real and with 8 teams per conference in the playoffs it’s hard to have your “window closing” in hockey if you’re talented enough to make the playoffs and the Canucks are. On the other hand, with the exception of Schneider in goal, they aren’t exactly getting younger either. Kind of reminds you of the Sharks playoffs for the past decade; can’t get the job done either when it counted most.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins– They lost Stall, but in the trade with Carolina they got back Brandon Sutter who will be a formidable replacement. They locked up Crosby for 12 years (obviously the owner had nothing to do with that signing seeing as how they wanted 5 year limits…..I digress), they have Geno Malkin…they also have Marc Andre Fluery guarding the net. A fully healthy Crosby in a short season could spell doom for the rest of the east if the Pens start off fast; but Fluery must rebound from the massive amount of goals he allowed against the Flyers in the playoffs or this team won’t go far.
5. Boston Bruins- They have the highest cap number in the league, but with the long term (and in all reality career ending) injury to Marc Savard they’ll get some cap relief and they aren’t exactly at the $70.2 limit for this year. Tyler Seguin was signed thru 2019 pre-lockout and with the exception of Nathan Horton and the goaltenders; every important player on the roster is signed beyond this year. Goaltending will be the issue with this team. Can Tukka Rask step up to the plate with Tim Thomas on his “vacation”? He led the league is GAA when he took over for an unproductive and injured Thomas in 09-10. If he’s motivated by it being his “contract year” (and what athlete isn’t) the Bruins could make another cup run this spring.
6. St. Louis Blues- No huge names on the team for the most part. No high powered offensive juggernauts. However they have the coach, defense, goaltending, and team mentality that can win in this league. Long gone are the days of Brett Hull and AL MacInnis, but that doesn’t mean this team can’t begin to relive the era that saw them make the playoffs for 25 consecutive seasons. Only thing they need to do is put it all together and grab a championship. Missouri may not be the first thing to come to mind as a hockey hot bed, but if the Blues can come close to repeating last year’s regular season success and can make a trade for a big offensive weapon, the St. Louis area will be covered in blue as oppose to cardinal red for the early summer months.
7. New Jersey Devils– Normally when a team finishes runner-up for a championship they’d be slated at worst in the 5th spot in the power rankings. However, most teams don’t lose an elite player who is their team captain. Zach Parise is off to Minnesota. The Devils have many question marks to deal with. How do you replace Zach Parise? You really can’t, but if you figure Kovy puts in a few more goals without having Zach out there you don’t need to actually replace him. Can the 4th line repeat their playoff success? When is Adam Henrique returning from his injury? Can Marty still do it at 40/41? The Devils could be a threat this year, but it could also go the other way….they also have 9 players scheduled to be free agents after the season including Elias, Clarkson, and Zajac. This short season and following off season are full of uncertainty, but this organization seems to find a way every year (err…except for ‘96 and 2011) to have a shot at Lord Stanley’s cup.
8. Detroit Red Wings– Lindstrom has retired. A report I saw today has Thomas Holmstrom also retiring. However, these are the Red Wings. They scout well, draft well, trade well, and sign well. They are one of the model franchises of the league. They have solid coaching and goaltending. They have Pavel Datsyuk who is one of the more amazing offensive players in the league. They are constantly just making the playoffs and doing it in style. The next year or two may be transitional for them, but I don’t see them missing the postseason.
9. Philadelphia Flyers- They have the offensive talent even with losing Jagr and JVR. Trading van Riemsdyk and getting Luke Schenn in return solidifies the defensive corps. It honestly all boils down to Ilya Bryzgalov. If he lets in 5 goals a game, it doesn’t matter if Giroux, Hartnell, and Briere are all scoring tons. They shipped their backup to Columbus because he’s a capable starter the Blue Jackets needed, so now 2010 playoff goalie Michael Leighton is the last line of defense if Bryz falters. Problem is they obviously didn’t think he was anything special; otherwise they wouldn’t have had him hanging down in the minors two years after being the starter on the Stanley Cup runner up team.
10. Chicago Blackhawks- They made a play for Brodeur when he was flirting with other teams in free agency but it all falls on Corey Crawford. The Blackhawks have had two early playoff exits and Crawford needs to step his game up if they’re going to be serious cup contenders. After the salary cap purge following their championship the Hawks have remained formidable, but they need their defense to step it up and the team needs Crawford to come up big in clutch situations.
Part 2 with teams that were close to cracking the top 10 and teams to watch for in each division coming up shortly