The NHL lockout was a frustrating process as fans had to wait months for the league to move the actions from the boardroom to the rink. And now that hockey is back, the compact schedule and shortened training camp have produced sloppy play by many teams, putting a less interesting product on the ice.
However, the silver lining to the lockout and the shortened prep time is the physicality of the game.
For every player who finds himself needing an extra second to get rid of the puck, there is an opponent prepared to level him to the ice. For every pass that doesn't hit its mark perfectly, there is a body to deliver a blow to an unsuspecting forward.
The first three-plus weeks of the NHL season have produced some jarring body checks, keeping our attention on the game as teams look to polish their Xs and Os.
These 15 moments of mass destruction are just a slice of the physicality of the 2013 NHL season.
These guys could be teammates in Sochi—as long as Anton Volchenkov doesn't bury Evgeni Malkin first.
In this divisional matchup, Jersey's big D-man leveled the Pittsburgh superstar to keep him honest moving through the middle of the offensive zone.
Veterans know how to be opportunistic in scoring, as well as hitting, and Erik Cole showed the latter in this late January game against the Ottawa Senators.
Just as rookie Mark Borowiecki turned his body away from the boards, and thus avoiding a brutal boarding hit, Cole landed his shoulder squarely on the rookie's and leveled him.
David Backes doesn't care how cool Colton Sceviour's name is.
The youngster had a good long look at Backes barreling down on him and still managed to hold onto the puck a split second too long, allowing Backes to perfectly level Sceviour right inside the Dallas blue line.
If Sceviour keeps making those hesitant decisions with guys like Backes on the ice, he won't be in the NHL for long.
Kevin Shattenkirk is fast becoming one of the most impressive defensemen in the NHL, and you can expect his instincts to sharpen after the lesson that Johan Franzen taught him in Detroit.
Shattenkirk takes a split second to survey the ice, only to find himself face down on the rink. Next time he's at the Joe, he'll be getting rid of that puck a little more quickly.
After years of destroying the Montreal Canadiens with his infamously burdensome contract, Scott Gomez was dealt his own little helping of destruction.
Under a new, smaller contract with the San Jose Sharks, Gomez was caught up high by Kevin Bieksa in center ice, and Bieksa was more than happy to answer the bell for his display of aggression.
The video lacks sound, but turn on any Michael Bay explosion to get the feel for the magnitude of this check.
Brian Strait responsibly rotated from his position to chase down the puck in the corner, and unfortunately, he paid the price for making a smart hockey play.
Strait was in a vulnerable position in the corner with Daniel Paille barreling in toward him, and Paille's momentum provided him the perfect opportunity to send Strait to the ice and try to make a play on the puck.
Vancouver is a team full of big, tough defensemen, but San Jose's Ryane Clowe took advantage of one of their less experienced members in the second week of the season.
Behind the net, where defensemen are generally vulnerable, Clowe zeroed in on Christopher Tanev and rubbed him into the board before slamming him into the ice.
The art of the hipcheck has been lost throughout the league, but Keith Ballard gave us a beautiful throwback example of the days of yore.
With Cody McLeod trying to sneak by Ballard and the Vancouver defenseman at risk of getting an interference penalty if he turned his body to get his hands up in McLeod's wheelhouse, Ballard instead lowered himself and delivered contact via the hip, giving McLeod nowhere to go but tumbling to the ice.
Zdeno Chara did not take kindly to seeing an old teammate take a shot at a new one.
After former Bruin Blake Wheeler took a run at Boston prospect Dougie Hamilton, Chara got in Wheeler's face. Apparently unsatisfied with how the message was received, Chara saw an opportunity to talk some extra sense into Wheeler later on.
He delivered that message loud and clear with a solid shoulder check in the open ice.
Cal Clutterbuck is one of hockey's pure tough guys, and if he didn't know before, Stephane Robidas found out why during this mid-January meeting between the Wild and Stars.
Rolling off of Kyle Brodziak, Robidas found himself just slightly off-balance, just as Clutterbuck was bearing down on him. The human wrecking ball sent Robidas flying cleanly and dramatically into the boards completely horizontal.
Scottie Hartnell hasn't gotten to do much this season after breaking a bone in his foot only three games into the season, but he made his mark on the rival Pittsburgh Penguins with his hit on Brooks Orpik.
Hartnell caught the vulnerable Orpik trying to move up the boards and rubbed him out on a 90-degree angle, sending the brutish Pens defenseman crumbling to the ice.
Chris Kreider got plenty of hype for his impressive playoff performance with the New York Rangers last season as he came out of Boston College. For a few minutes at least, he seemed to believe his own hype as he felt cocky enough to stickhandle through the neutral zone with his head down.
Brooks Orpik didn't take kindly to the Kreider show and delivered a proverbial knockout punch to the rookie, who went down hard, holding his face. Kreider would be okay, but he learned a valuable lesson about getting fancy with the puck late in an NHL game.
There was a time when Alexander Ovechkin was the most exciting rookie on the ice in the NHL. These days, that title belongs to Tampa's Cory Conacher.
Ovechkin apparently hasn't taken the transition well, and he delivered a nasty welcoming body check to the diminutive Conacher in the first game of the season between these division rivals.
The normally stoic and systematic Detroit Red Wings added a little extra emotion by bringing in Jordin Tootoo in the offseason, and Tootoo has been happy to hunt down opponents in Hockeytown.
In his most impressive hit of the season, Tootoo bowled over Philip Larsen, who retrieved the puck in the corner lacking the urgency that would normally protect him from the wrath of Tootoo.
The devastation that followed made equal impressions on the Detroit fanbase and on Larsen's body.