NHL Lockout: 5 Teams That Will Lose Momentum When Play Resumes
Momentum is a fickle thing. It can come from taking hope in an offseason that went well, building on last year’s playoff run, or the potential of your favorite team’s young players blossoming into super stars.
Those things gave fans hope into September, but the lockout now has some worried that the pendulum will start swinging the other way.
Any team's momentum can be drastically changed by this work stoppage. If any hockey is played this year, the chances are a frantic start will throw many teams for a loop at the beginning.
This lockout is easiest to compare to the one the NBA suffered last year. Both leagues play a normal 82-game schedule, both leagues have owners that were claiming to lose money with their franchises and both leagues have owners that are going to try and make as much money as possible in a shortened season.
The similarities can go on, but those few reasons make it easy to assume that, like the NBA last year, the upcoming hockey season will be condensed to squeeze every penny possible out of the fans.
Opportunities to generate revenue were missed with game cancellations, so look for this to be a repeat of last year’s NBA season. This column shows five teams that could have the biggest momentum shifts based off of the model of the NBA's shortened season.
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Through free agency, the Dallas Stars actually got much older. With the age came the hope of filling the offensive gaps that destroyed the team’s chances to make the playoffs last season.
All of Dallas’ momentum came in the offseason. The acquisitions of Derek Roy, Ray Whitney and Jaromir Jagr really gave the fan base a shot in the arm. Many were upset that the defensive problems weren’t addressed, but the chances of changing one of the all-time worst power-play units did create optimism for the team.
All of that optimism came with the thought that mini-camps and the preseason would be where the new pieces could gel with the existing roster. Now the Stars have to bring in a whole new line and let the chemistry build when games really matter.
The experimentation phase with all of the new additions to the roster could put the Stars in a hole. That hole might be too big to climb out of with a shortened season.
A condensed schedule could also limit the amount of practices, which won’t help the chemistry grow any faster.
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Like the Stars, the Minnesota Wild are also bringing in new players. The fact that the two biggest free agents in Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are coming in gives this team a ton of hope.
The problem is that they are being looked at as two pieces that would put this team from 12th in the Western Conference to a playoff position. The expectations are high, and they too will need time to build chemistry. With the possibility of a slow start and a fan base that wants results, it could be the formula for a storm of unrest in the Twin Cities.
Depending on the final terms of the lockout, both of those players could be really unhappy with Wild owner Craig Leipold.
Leipold is one of the owners leading the charge for cutting existing contracts back and capping them at a certain length. This comes just a few months after signing both prized free agents to 13-year deals.
Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins
Both teams have major stars playing in Europe. Captain Zdeno Charra and starting goalie Tuukka Rask headline the Bruins players at risk. Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk are two of the top Red Wings on the ice.
Boston is one year removed from a championship, and the Red Wings are perennial contenders. Both teams have big risks here because, on one hand their players are in competitive hockey games and staying in game shape. On the other hand, they are playing against the toughest opponents possible.
Most NHL players are either overseas or in the AHL, but the action stateside isn’t as high in terms of quality as it is in Europe.
Assuming there are no injuries, one of two things will happen to these teams. With such a large chunk of their rosters playing at a high level, it could result in players coming back in a midseason groove and rushing out to huge leads in their respective divisions.
The other possibility would be that they come back to a condensed schedule and start to tire quickly. Again, that is assuming nobody gets injured. Every day someone in Detroit is crossing their fingers and hoping that Datsyuk doesn’t have a torn ACL as the KHL injury page loads.
As time goes on, the gamble of injury-free and fresh legs grows larger.
New Jersey Devils
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The key number for the New Jersey Devils is 28.5. According to the current roster, that is the team’s average age, putting them as the oldest team in the league.
The next closest team is the Nashville Predators at 27.7 and that his a huge difference. Even the Dallas Stars, who signed two 40-year-olds in free agency, have an average age of 27.1.
Most teams in the league are in the range of 26 to 27. While one year may not be a huge difference, it does show how many aging veterans they have. In most cases, people will tell you they don’t feel better this year than they did last year.
The Devils currently have Johan Hedberg listed for backing up Martin Brodeur. This means the insurance policy for a 40-year-old who just played an extra quarter of a season on a run to the cup, is a 39-year-old career journeyman.
Hedberg is a great backup. But if there is a condensed schedule like the NBA, then Devils fans will be seeing him more than they want to, especially if an unfortunate injury happens to Brodeur.
The momentum from the playoffs will be hard to maintain if the veterans tire quickly, which seems likely if there is a condensed schedule like the NBA had.