NHL Lockout: 5 Teams Who Could Benefit from a Brief Work Stoppage
The threat of the third NHL lockout in 18 years is slowly changing from worst-case scenario to most-likely reality.
July 13th. August 14th. August 28th. September 1st.
The notable dates have come and gone, the negotiating periods have fizzled out fruitlessly, and the owners and players continue to hurl barbed shots without budging from the trenches.
With eight days until the dreaded date of Sept. 15th—the official expiration of the league's CBA—the situation looks bleaker than December in Siberia.
Actually, make that January.
But will every NHL team actually be hurt by a short work stoppage?
The lost fans, support, revenue and games will certainly sting, yet winning trumps all—and for at least a few lucky franchises, a delayed season could, in fact, help them in the latter regard.
For this handful of teams, an additional month or two away from hockey could play right into their hands.
Los Angeles Kings
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Less than three months removed from their first Stanley Cup victory in franchise history, the Los Angeles Kings have kept almost the exact same team around for the start of the 2012-13 season.
The team gave new contracts to Jonathan Quick, Jarret Stoll, Colin Fraser, Dwight King and Jake Muzzin this summer, cementing down the very team that swept through last spring's playoffs with a 16-4 record.
Los Angeles was not nearly as dominant in the regular season, however—they rarely climbed above the playoff bubble over the entire course of the winter.
With an already-familiar roster in hand and a Stanley Cup to defend come 2013, missing a month or two wouldn't hurt these Kings much.
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Historically, October has been a month that the 'Canes have always hoped to forget.
Over the last three seasons, Carolina has won a mere 11 of their 33 games in the season's opening month, setting them up for a rocky climb back into the postseason picture—one that they've failed to complete on all three occasions.
Now, however, the Hurricanes are coming off their most headline-grabbing offseason in franchise history—new additions Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin may transform the 'Canes offense into a truly elite unit—and may appreciate a slight delay in the season.
After all, Carolina opens up the season with an intimidating six-game road trip that includes dates in Vancouver, Los Angeles, San Jose and Boston, one that could well serve as the team's toughest two-week stretch of the entire season.
Even after returning home, the 'Canes will still have to survive duels against the Rangers and Devils before the month ends.
Avoiding October could be a dream come true.
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The Nashville Predators may have the most difficult schedule on the continent.
With a combined 18 games against the Blues, Blackhawks and Red Wings every year, the Preds may well be hoping for a full-scale NHL realignment in the next CBA.
If that doesn't work out, though, escaping a month or two certainly wouldn't go over badly.
Nashville opens the year in Detroit on Oct. 12 before starting a four-game homestand against the likes of St. Louis, Vancouver and Pittsburgh. Then, they'll embark on a treacherous seven-game voyage across every American time zone—with road contests against the Kings, Sharks and Blackhawks, to boot.
If the Predators want to stay in Central Division title contention for another year, a mid-November opening day would definitely be a positive omen.
New York Rangers
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The 2011 regular-season Eastern Conference champions faltered in their third playoff series, but, following the expensive acquisition of Rick Nash this summer, the Rangers may enter the year as Stanley Cup favorites.
If the season goes as planned, though, they'll have to survive an enormous October test before re-entering the Cup discussion—a season-high, eight-game road swing beginning with a daunting match against the defending NHL champions.
They'll swing through San Jose, Pittsburgh and Carolina, among others, before returning to Madison Square Garden on Nov. 1—the latest home opener of any team by more than a week.
And that's all without Marian Gaborik.
It's safe to say that the Rangers wouldn't mind deleting October from the calendar.
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The Dallas Stars' high hopes for the 2012-13 season took a dive when Derek Roy, brought in from Buffalo in a high-profile July trade, announced he was undergoing corrective shoulder surgery.
Roy's estimated return time is currently set for Christmas, and that may even be a stretch.
Without Roy, the Stars' top-six is needy once again, and their planned early-season schedule will certainly expose that weakness. Dallas plays nine of their first 13 games on the road and 10 of their first 13 against 2011-12 playoff teams—including the regular season champions of both conferences.
Moreover, an additional month or so would help this upgraded Stars' lineup—which also added veterans Ray Whitney and Jaromir Jagr this summer—gain a little more familiarity.
They wouldn't be too crushed by a brief work stoppage.