Five Teams That Benefit from a Lockout-Shortened Season
The NHL made tangible progress to the game of hockey after a labor dispute cost the League and its players the entire 2004-2005 season.
With all that growth came news of another labor dispute after the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expired. That contract expired on Sept. 15th without a new deal being reached, and now the NHL owners and players find themselves back at square one—like they did in 2004.
But, always looking forward to the future is a bright spot in these times of doubt. There is a good chance that the NHL will have some semblance of a schedule this upcoming season. While it's not good to lose games in any circumstance, fans will gravitate back to the game they love.
When the players do hit the ice once again, there will be thirty teams fighting for the mighty prize in hockey, the Stanley Cup.
Five teams in particular will take advantage of the longer offseason and hit the ice with an energized new hope.
The Philadelphia Flyers have been on both ends of the health spectrum this past season.
At one point, when healthy, the team flourished with the aggressive offseason moves made by GM Paul Holmgren.
He brought in Jakub Voracek, Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds and Sean Couturier; all four players becoming instant contributors. They also were led by star Claude Giroux and Danny Briere.
On the other hand, the Flyers struggled to gain after dealing with a multitude of injuries. The team was without grinder and pest Ian Laperriere for an entire season.
Team Captain Chris Pronger took a re-directed shot from Toronto's Mikhail Grabovski on October 24th. That injury has led to the onset of concussion-like symptoms.
In total, Philadelphia had ten players who missed more than 10+ games due to injury.
An extended offseason would work wonders for this team who played virtually an entire season without their leader.
Detroit Red Wings
Nothing has been business as usual in Hockeytown since their most recent Stanley Cup victory in 2008.
Since that time, many of the hometown heroes responsible for the team's resurgence in the 90s hung up the skates for good.
Defensemen Brian Rafalski, Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart have all left town, leaving big holes in Detroit's back end as they go.
And the team has failed to reach the Western Conference Finals since coming within a game of repeating as Cup Champs in 2008-09.
Amid the struggles of recent, Detroit's current path has been passed on to their young talent. Many of their highly touted prospects like Brendan Smith and Gustav Nyquist will continue to play in the AHL during the Lockout.
Swiss phenom Damien Brunner will acclimate himself with North American ice. Tomas Jurco has bolted from the Quebec Major Junior leagues to play with his future teammates.
The Red Wings are at a crossroads. Their path is unknown but for now the team can count on the fact that their young talent will be getting their reps on the ice in the AHL.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Life has been hard as a Toronto Maple Leafs fan since the last CBA expired.
Since the last CBA, their face of the franchise, Mats Sundin, retired and moved back to Sweden. Goaltending issues continue to linger and much of the blame placed on Goaltending Coach Francois Allaire.
He had walked away from his job with the Maple Leafs on Monday, citing personal reasons as reported by the National Post.
As turmoil still lingers in T.O., the team's future is very bright. And a new CBA may be able to change that.
The Leafs can expend the contract of defenseman Mike Komisarek and give minutes to young studs like Jake Gardiner and Nazem Kadri.
A changing of the guard is occurring in the hockey hotbed of Toronto.
Tampa Bay Lightning
A year removed from reaching the Eastern Conference Finals, the Tampa Bay Lightning quickly came back to reality in 2011-2012.
Superstar Steven Stamkos potted 60 goals and 97 points (via nhl.com) along with adding their goaltender for the future in Anders Lindback via a trade. They also added Andrey Vasilevskiy at 19th overall in the 2012 NHL Draft.
The Lightning weren't able to overcome a slow start to their 2011-2012 season and quickly faded out of the postseason.
With a shortened season, the Lightning could focus on the simple things. Head Coach Guy Boucher is one of the NHL's best young coaches, and recent draft pick Vladislav Namestnikov could see NHL ice within the next year.
The run of dominance in TB will be sustained long after the new contract is signed.
Los Angeles Kings
The dreaded "Stanley Cup Hangover" will be extended for the duration of this lockout.
Viewed by many as underdogs entering the postseason, the Los Angeles Kings compiled a 16-4 postseason record (10-1 on the road) en route to their franchise's first Stanley Cup in their 45-year history.
The team's makeup for the repeat would have been hindered by Jonathan Quick's minor surgery in the summer to remove a cyst in his back, as told to ProHockeyTalk.com. Not to mention that the arduous travel with the Stanley Cup and extended offseason would wear down even the best of team's.
Yet, the Stanley Cup Champs will likely not falter.
Quick should be ready by the end of the year. Slava Voynov and Alec Martinez have stepped up in big ways on LA's back end. And key cogs like Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty are ready to put up big years as they near their prime.
Only time will tell with the Cup Champs and their quest to repeat.
Follow Garrett Kolodziej on Twitter @gkolodziej248 for more articles from B/R and NHL news/notes.