Ranking the Biggest Surprises of the 2013-14 NHL Season Thus Far

Joseph Sykes@JoeSykes4Contributor IIIMarch 24, 2014

Ranking the Biggest Surprises of the 2013-14 NHL Season Thus Far

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    The first full NHL season since 2011-12 reminded hockey fans across North America that anything can happen within a span of 82 games.

    We have witnessed powerhouse squads like the Blackhawks and Penguins dominate their respective conferences. However, usual basement dwelling teams like the Blue Jackets are finally on the cusp of a playoff berth. 

    Every season has those special moments that define it for years to come. 

    As the final games of the 2013-14 season hit the books, let's take a look at some of the biggest surprises this year had to offer.

5. The Ryan Callahan-Martin St. Louis Trade

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    Fans don’t have to look too far back this year to remember one of the biggest and most shocking trades of the past few seasons. 

    On the March 5 trade deadline, the New York Rangers announced that they traded their captain, Ryan Callahan, to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for veteran goal scorer Martin St. Louis along with a couple of draft picks.

    Rumors swirled a few weeks earlier that Callahan was going to be traded because of his high asking price, but only one man predicted the actual team and player involved—former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason who predicted the transaction via his radio show.

    St. Louis was believed to have wanted out of Tampa Bay after relations with Lighting general manager Steve Yzerman were reportedly in turmoil. The drama began after Yzerman didn’t select the 38-year-old to the Canadian Olympic roster.

    Both teams are poised to make a deep postseason run with their new acquisitions. It would be very interesting to see the drama escalate if they happen to meet later in April.

4. Jaromir Jagr

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    During the offseason, the 42-year-old Jaromir Jagr made the decision to play another year in the NHL. This time, it would be with the New Jersey Devils. The Devils would be the winger’s seventh team in his legendary NHL career.

    Despite his age, Jagr is still proving that he can play in the big leagues. He currently is tied with Adam Henrique for most goals on the Devils’ roster with 23, and he also is leading his team in assists with 37.

    Jagr has also stated that he would like to play for the Devils again next year if he gets the chance, but he still misses playoff hockey. The native Czech explained in an interview with The Star Ledger’s Rich Chere that he could be on the move if the Devils don’t make the postseason.

    “I haven’t many years left,” Jagr said. “I don’t want to waste the years I have left sitting around. That’s the worst to me, watching other guys in the playoffs and not being in it.”

    Some would say that is selfish on Jagr's part, but when you look at the time he has left in the sport, he should have at least one more run for Lord Stanley’s Cup. That and the love of the game are what drives players like Jagr.

3. Fighting

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    Fighting is a staple of professional hockey. There is a code of conduct in the game, and if you break it, you have to pay the consequences.

    This year we saw one of the biggest uproars about the this aspect of the sport and whether or not it should be allowed.

    There were a few controversial instances this season that questioned if dropping the gloves is a necessary part of the game.

    Earlier in the season, we saw a line brawl break out between the Washington Capitals and the Philadelphia Flyers. The brawl seemed like any ordinary one until Flyers goaltender Ray Emery skated out of his crease to challenge the Capitals’ Braden Holtby. Holtby, who did not want to get involved, was beaten mercilessly by Emery until the linesmen broke it up.

    A month before that, notable fighters Colton Orr and George Parros engaged in a scuffle, which ended in Parros being carted off the ice after hitting his head on the ice.

    These are just two instances of fighting gone awry. While these examples are just two rare occurrences, they didn’t help the argument that fighting is OK. Over the course of the offseason, expect this issue to be discussed thoroughly by the NHL. 

2. Colorado Avalanche

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    Colorado went from the bottom of the Western Conference in 2013 to being one of the top over the course of a single offseason. What went right? Lets look at back to two key moments in the 2013 for the Avs.

    Last May, the club announced that they would be hiring former Stanley Cup winning goaltender Patrick Roy to become the franchise’s head coach and vice president of hockey operations.

    Team president John Kroenke stated on the Avalanche's website that Roy “has a great hockey mind.” So far this season, Kroenke is looking really smart. He has led the team to a 44-21-6 record that has given the Avalanche 94 points.

    In addition to Roy, the drafting of forward Nathan MacKinnon, is a big reason why the Avs are about to make it back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year.

    The 18-year-old phenom is leads all rookies in both the goals (23) and (31) assists categories. This performance will most likely earn the young forward the Calder Trophy.

    He is a instrumental piece in this Avalanche franchise and given a few more years and playoff experience, he and his teammates will earn their Roy his first Cup as a head coach.

1. Philadelphia Flyers

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    The Philadelphia Flyers went from having no chance at reaching the playoffs this year to holding second place in the Metropolitan division. 

    There were many factors that played in the Flyer’s turnaround, but one really stood out.

    After beginning the season with three straight losses, the club’s chairmen, Ed Snider, decided a big change was needed to be made to the coaching staff. He announced on Oct. 8 that Peter Laviolette, who led the team to the Stanley Cup Final in 2010, was fired.

    After Laviolette left, former Flyers enforcer Craig Berube received the vacant head coaching position. Since his installment, Berube has led his team to a 31-15-6 record, which places them in the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff chase. 

    The team is now in control of the spot with 83 points. Sitting below them are New York, Toronto and Detroit.

    This is quite an impressive feat for a team that was considered finished by the end of the first month. Berube’s first playoff run will be the ultimate challenge now.