5 Things We'll Miss Most If the NHL Season Is Canceled
On Monday, December 10, the NHL canceled another batch of games, up to December 31.
James Mirtle of The Globe and Mail suggests that only a month remains to salvage a season, so now the pressure's on. After rays of hope early last week from the player-owner talks, the two sides stormed off to their respective corners as they hit another impasse.
If they can't find a way to bridge the gap soon, the record books will have another blank line like 2004-05: "DID NOT PLAY."
Now that the cancellation of the season is more than just a distant possibility, let's take a look at five of the biggest losses that fans will suffer if the NHL and the Players' Association fail to reach an agreement in the next few weeks.
1. Teemu and the Old Guard
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At 42 years old, Teemu Selanne is winding towards the close of a golden career. Since his 76-goal rookie season with the Winnipeg Jets in 1992-93, Selanne has gone on to record 1,406 points in 1,341 regular season NHL games, good for a career average of nearly 1.05 points per game.
Selanne's consistent production made him a fan favorite—especially in Anaheim, where he's played 13 seasons in two tours of duty. His last two seasons were strong on a below-average club, and the Ducks were looking forward to having him back for another year.
If the season is cancelled, that might not happen.
At a recent Ducks/Kings joint practice in Anaheim, Selanne remained upbeat. He told Agence France-Presse (via The Globe and Mail) that he'll stand with the Players' Association, even if it means he never plays another game:
I would like to play more, but if I don’t then I am still the happiest camper. I am thankful I am able to play for such a long time and enjoy this game for such a long time. I don’t have to play one single game anymore. That’s why I feel this is not about me. It is about the future of the hockey.
The final acts of other stars like Daniel Alfredsson and Jaromir Jagr also hang in the balance as we await resolution. It would be a shame if fans don't get the opportunity to say a proper goodbye to these great players after such productive careers.
2. New Faces
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After all the will-they-or-won't-they at the draft, the Edmonton Oilers did take talented Russian forward Nail Yakupov with the first pick overall.
Yakupov's next step in his development is a stint with HC Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk of the KHL, though North American fans were able to catch him in action during the six-game Subway Super Series this fall.
Yakupov is expected to be another weapon when added to Edmonton's already-potent young offense. It was thought he had a chance to make the team as an 18-year-old, as did Ryan Nugent-Hopkins last year.
Oilers fans are keen to see what he brings to the table. They're also looking forward to seeing free-agent signing Justin Schultz, who continues to lead the entire AHL in scoring with the Oklahoma City Barons.
Though not 2012 draftees, other new faces who were expected to make an impression in NHL lineups this year included Mikael Granlund with Minnesota, Sven Bärtschi with Calgary and Jonathan Huberdeau with Florida.
After the last lockout, 2004 No. 1 pick Alex Ovechkin and 2005's top choice Sidney Crosby squared off in a battle for supremacy that rages on to this day. If the season is lost, Yakupov and his peers may find themselves in a similar situation as they match up against the 2013 draft class.
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Last season's playoff clash between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers was one for the ages. Filled with blood, sweat, tears—and a bucketful of goals—emotions were raging from start to finish.
The passage of time is bound to temper this rivalry, along with many others around the league. At a time when NHL fans from coast to coast were enjoying the intensity of rivalries both new and old, hitting the "pause" button with the lockout means it'll be a while before we see emotions burning back up to their prior levels, both on and off the ice.
4. Resolution for Luongo
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Ever since he was supplanted in Vancouver's net by Cory Schneider during last year's playoffs, the hockey world has been buzzing about where Roberto Luongo will land when hockey season starts up again.
After intense speculation at the draft, and even some chatter in the final days before the lockout began, Luongo's status is now on hold.
A blockbuster trade can be one of the most exciting turning points in an NHL season. For now, fans in Vancouver, Toronto and other potential destinations must remain patient until play resumes and the Canucks' goaltending saga finally reaches some kind of resolution.
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When April rolls around, that's when the fun really begins. Last year's playoffs were filled with drama and great hockey, and love 'em or hate 'em, you can't argue with the intrigue of the Kings' dominant Stanley Cup run and the emergence of new stars like Jonathan Quick and Dustin Brown.
Without a regular season this year, that also means no playoffs—which will make for a very long spring.
If the two sides can reach a resolution to the lockout in the next few weeks, every game in the regular-season sprint will take on more meaning and the playoffs will likely be a mad scramble featuring some unlikely teams and surprising stars.
Bring it on, I say. Here's hoping the NHL owners and players can move past their need to win this negotiation and finally settle their differences so we can get back to watching hockey.
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