Hockey Is Back: What We Can Expect Out of the Gate

Keith HarrisonContributor IIOctober 1, 2009

DETROIT - JUNE 12: Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with the Stanley Cup following the Penguins victory over the Detroit Red Wings in Game Seven of the 2009 NHL Stanley Cup Finals at Joe Louis Arena on June 12, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The chase for the Stanley Cup begins today, and I am so excited that I set a timer for the games tonight three days ago. That is sick, but I came to terms with it long ago.

This season will have many bumps and WTF moments and controversies like every other, and every major hockey analyst has predicted that nothing will change from last season.

(Looking at you, TSN. You've switched Columbus for LA. That's it. Really?)

Regardless, the first month or two of the season teach us nothing. Players are still working out chemistry, everyone is (relatively) healthy but not in midseason shape, and the rookies are figuring out just how big and fast everyone is in the NHL. Until Christmas, who knows what is going to happen?

One of the teams expected to contend for the Cup will be just awful, and a few teams that no one expects anything of will be at the top of the standings.

For some reason, I'm thinking Detroit will be slow out of the gate, and I would love to see Phoenix put on a show just to prove that even when they are winning no one shows up.

A couple teams that were expected to improve will not. At all. Vancouver re-signed their big guns, and everybody expects them to be better, but they added no one. Same team, same results.

The New York Islanders landed John Tavares—and nothing will change for the next few years. Don't expect the Isles to do any better this year over last.

A few teams will be much better than last year. However, I don't think there will be any Miami Dolphins-type bottom-to-top heroics going on this year. Toronto will be much better, but Phil Kessel is a kid that scored 36 goals with an unreal playmaking center, and he will have Matt Stajan instead of Marc Savard feeding him the puck this season.

Similarly, Tampa Bay now has a good young defence to build on, with some older guys to mentor the young ones. Mattias Ohlund will be a big help, Victor Hedman will be a stud on the back end some day, and this unit will be much improved.

They won't be battling for the division and giving Pittsburgh and Philly fits though. They will be better. They are not great.

Similarly, one or two big scoring players will have a very slow start. Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Jarome Iginla, Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, Ryan Getzlaf—one or two of these guys will suck for the first month, and one or two of these guys might be on pace for a 300-point season after the first few weeks. These numbers will always figure themselves out.

There will also be a few guys that put up major points that are way out of the normal. Sure, one of the candidates may have a breakthrough season. Most numbers will return to Earth. I can't even come up with a candidate for this; it could be any one of the 700 NHL players out there. It is most likely going to happen though.

So hockey is here, the chase for Lord Stanley's Cup has begun, and I cannot wait for 5 pm tonight, when the puck drops on a new season.

Good luck to your favourite team, and GO FLAMES GO!