Another season, another long summer.
With the NHL Awards days away, let's take a look back at the story makers this season in the National Hockey League
Briere Signs With Philadelphia
What an impact Daniel Briere had in Philly. After signing an 8-year, $52 million deal, Briere started off with a bang. After going through a slump mid-season, he revved up his game come playoff time. Briere was a hit in the city of brotherly love and has given that franchise a bright future with a quick and agile scorer along with his leadership abilities. Briere would end off the season with 72 points in 79 games and then add 16 points (9 goals, 7 assists) in 17 playoff games through three rounds.
Big Name Signings Make Impacts Elsewhere
Chris Drury ($35.24 million over five years) and Scott Gomez ($51.5 million over seven years) hit it big in the Big Apple, helping the Rangers make it to the second round. While Ryan Smyth ($31.25 million over five years) decided to test his luck with another Northwest Division team, signing with the Colorado Avalanche, who also made the second round.
Other impact off-season signings included Paul Kariya with St. Louis ($18 million over three years) and Jason Blake with Toronto ($20 million over five years).
Oilers GM Kevin Lowe Plays Hardball
Trying to make up for the losses of Chris Pronger and Michael Peca to free agency a year ago, Kevin Lowe decides to test the Restricted Free Agent market and goes after Anaheim Ducks power forward Dustin Penner. Lowe offers Penner an offers sheet worth $21.25 million over five years. At $4.25 million a season, Ducks GM Brian Burke becomes upset with Lowe calling the move cheap and sleazy. Burke needs room to sign other younger free agents to long term deals and does not match the offer.
New Jersey, New Style, New Look
The new RBK EDGE jerseys become the official jerseys of the NHL. Six teams, including Tampa Bay, Vancouver, San Jose, Ottawa, Columbus, and Washington, unveil new logos prior to the season. The new streamlined jerseys are met with some skepticism at first but gradually gain support league wide.
During a Board of Governors meeting on September 18th, cities included for possible expansion include Las Vegas, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Houston, Quebec City, Seattle, and Winnipeg. As well, the current 'unbalanced' schedule is voted to be changed so all teams will play each other once.
Season Start Off in England
The Los Angeles Kings and reigning Stanley Cup Champion Anaheim Ducks start off the season with two games at the O2 Arena in London, England. In the first game of the season, LA rookie goalie Jonathan Bernier steals the show as he records his first career win as Michael Cammalleri scores the first goal of the season. The next game, Corey Perry scores two goals and adds an assist to lift the Ducks to a 4-1 win.
Serious Bullying Going On
The Philadelphia Flyers live up to the monicker of being the 'Broad Street Bullies' as the NHL hands out multi-game suspensions to five separate players, the worst two being 25-game suspensions to Steve Downie (on a check to Ottawa's Dean McAmmond) and Jesse Boulerice (on a slash to Vancouver's Ryan Kesler). Randy Jones is also suspended on a vicious hit from behind on Boston's Patrice Bergeron.
The reigning Eastern Conference Champion Ottawa Senators rush out of the gate with a start that is likened to the Montreal Canadiens on the 1970s winning their first five games of the season.
The New Kids
Blackhawks rookie Jonathan Toews records points in each of his first ten NHL games, which is the second-longest streak to start an NHL career. Toews' teammate Patrick Kane has a slow start to the season en route to leading all rookies with 72 points.
Other impressive rookies include Atlanta's Tobias Enstrom (38 points, tied for most points by an Atlanta defenseman), Vancouver's Alexander Elders (+6 on a depleted Canucks blue line), Washington's Nicklas Backstrom (69 points in rookie season), Canadiens goalie Carey Price (24 wins as a rookie), Phoenix rookies Peter Mueller (22 goals) and Martin Hanzal (27 assists), and Edmonton rookies Sam Gagner (36 assists) and Andrew Cogliano (45 points) among others.
A New Home
The New Jersey Devils begin play in their new arena Prudential Centre in Newark, New Jersey after starting the season off on a nine-game road trip.
On February 10, Florida Panther's forward Richard Zednik gets hit in the throat by teammate Olli Jokinen's skate by accident severing his carotid artery. Zednik rushes to the bench where he collapses and then rushes to the hospital in time to save his life. Zednik would eventually recover and hopes to play again for Florida.
Malky Leads The Pens
With Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby out for the latter part of the season, Evgeni Malkin takes the Penguins on his shoulders and leads Pittsburgh to a second place finish in the East. Malkin ends up second in league scoring behind Alexander Ovechkin.
Alexander The Gr8
After a small decline in points in his sophomore campaign, Washington Capitals forward Alexander Ovechkin makes his mark by becoming the first 60+ goal scorer in the NHL since 1996. He then breaks Luc Robitaille's record for most goals by a left winger as he scores his 64th and 65th goals of the season on April 3rd.
Ovechkin leads the Capitals to an improbable Southeast Division title after starting the season as one of the worst teams in the division.
The Price Is Right
Doubtful to even make the playoffs, the Montreal Canadiens stay in the hunt and are led by rookie goalie Carey Price to first place in the Eastern Conference. Montreal also captures the Northeast Division title.
Pittsburgh rolls over the struggling Ottawa Senators in four, while the Boston Bruins take the first seed Montreal Canadiens to seven games as do the Washington Capitals to the Philadelphia Flyers.
The eighth-seeded Nashville Predators give the Detroit Red Wings a scare by tying the series at 2 games a piece. Yet, the Wings would take the series in six games. The Calgary Flames also take the heavily favoured San Jose Sharks to seven games.
Philadelphia would make a surprising run to the Conference Finals, upsetting Montreal in the second round in five games while the Dallas Stars upset the San Jose Sharks in a Game 6 overtime thriller.
Sid "The Kid" Crosby makes his Stanley Cup Finals debut against the Detroit Red Wings. Despite a solid team, the Pittsubrgh Penguins are shut down by an older, more experienced Red Wings team in six games. The Red Wings claim their eleventh Stanley Cup in franchise history.
If you have any stories that didn't make it here or I forget, make sure you post them.