Sidney Crosby and 50 Things We Are Excited for This 2011-12 NHL Season
It's almost September, which means we have just a little over a month before the 2011-12 hockey season finally begins.
For hockey fans, the summer is unbearable. After the Stanley Cup victor is crowned, the wait for the next hockey season seems to last forever.
Needless to say, we're excited and ready for the 2011-12 season to begin.
However, there are some specific things we're excited for this upcoming season. We decided to bide some time while we wait for the season to begin, to discuss what we're looking forward too.
What are you looking forward to most about this coming season? Tell us in the comments!
50. Hockey Returns After Three Month Absence
Okay, it's really not a three-month absence, it's just the offseason. But being without hockey for three months is very difficult.
Especially since their offseason falls in the summer.
What else do we have to tide us over until our boys return to the ice? We have baseball, which most of the time is a snoozefest, tennis, golf...I'm bored just thinking about it.
49. The Stanley Cup Playoffs
Once the NHL season starts and is underway for a couple months, we all start looking forward to and getting excited for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
This is because its the best hockey and awesome to watch every year, even though that means we're that much closer to our yearly hockey hiatus.
48. Has Matt Cooke Really Changed?
Matt Cooke was going through some personal issues last season and insists that that wasn't the real Cooke and he has changed.
It will be interesting to see if that in fact is true.
It won't take away what he's done in the past, but it will be good for the league and his team if he does actually clean up his act.
47. Alex Ovechkin
Alex Ovechkin cooled off a little points wise last season, focusing on other aspects of his game, instead of just scoring goals.
Will Ovechkin continue from last year or return to leading the league in goals?
46. Roberto Luongo and Tim Thomas
Roberto Luongo dominated during the regular season and choked again the playoffs. Tim Thomas wasn't the starter in the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs, but had a fantastic season last year, winning the Stanley Cup and the Vezina.
Which goaltenders will we see in 2011-12? And who will be the best goaltender next season?
45. Nicklas Lidstrom Back for at Least One More Year
This offseason, we've seen a bunch of high-profile retirements. One of the biggest was Detroit Red Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski.
Nicklas Lidstrom has decided to return for at least another season and we're excited to see how he performs without his partner.
We're also anxious to see if he can take home another Norris Trophy and tie Bobby Orr's record.
44. Who Will Win the President's Trophy?
Another exciting thing to look forward to is who will be the best team in the league next season and win the President's Trophy?
Will the Caps take it again, as an early favorite? Or, will Vancouver go two years in a row?
43. Who Will Win the Stanley Cup?
It's very difficult for teams to reach the Stanley Cup Finals consecutive years in a row and even more difficult to win the Cup two years in a row.
So, it's almost anyone's game to win the Cup next year, although the Washington Capitals are heavily favored again.
42. Who Will Lead the League in Scoring?
Another interesting thing to look forward to is who will lead the league in scoring next season.
Odds look good for a Vancouver Canuck, considering it was Henrik Sedin two years ago and Daniel Sedin last year.
Maybe it'll be their linemate Alexandre Burrows this year? Or Ryan Kesler?
41. Who Will Win the Rocket Richard?
Alexander Ovechkin won the Rocket Richard two years in a row: 2007-08 and 2008-09.
Then, Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos tied 2009-10 and Corey Perry won this past season.
Could it be Stamkos again? Or Ovechkin? Or even Crosby, if he returns and plays just as well? Or someone completely different?
40. Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks Face Each Other
The Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins fought tooth and nail for seven games, with the Bruins finally winning in Game 7.
The two won't face each other again until January 7.
Should be a hard fought game.
39. Trade Deadline
The NHL trade deadline could be very active next season.
The Philadelphia Flyers may be looking to trade Sergei Bobrovsky, Brian Burke could finally get his center and there are plenty of pending RFAs and UFAs that might be moved, if their negotiations aren't going well.
38. Hockey Day in Canada
The annual Hockey Day in Canada will fall on Saturday February 11, 2012.
The NHL will celebrate with 12 games scheduled for that day, including all Canadian teams playing each other (except Winnipeg playing the Pittsburgh Penguins).
The Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs will face off that day as well.
37. Super Saturday
For the first time, all 30 NHL teams will end on the same day.
The last day of the season falls on a Saturday, April 7.
Every team will play each other that day to end out the season, including rivalry games between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins and the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens.
They'll be going out with a bang next year.
36. New Head Coaches
There are five new head coaches in the NHL beginning 2011-12.
Glen Gulutzan is the new head coach of the Dallas Stars, Mike Yeo will be the new face behind the bench of the Minnesota Wild, the Florida Panthers hired Kevin Dineen, Peter DeBoer moved from Florida to the New Jersey Devils and finally, Claude Noel will be the first head coach for the new Winnipeg Jets.
It will be interesting to see how each of the new coaches adjust to their new roles.
35. Pending Changes
There will be minor changes next season that should help the NHL better judge replays, which will be a good change.
There could be more changes to come as well.
One such change could be to the way overtime periods are played, as possible alternatives were tested over the summer.
34. Before Realignment
The Atlanta Thrashers were bought out and relocated to Winnipeg to become the Winnipeg Jets this season.
However, for at least this season, despite being hours away from the Southeast division, the team will remain in the same conference.
It will be interesting to see how the change in the travel time will affect the teams in the Southeast and in the Eastern Conference.
33. The Phoenix Coyotes
This offseason, the Phoenix Coyotes lost Ilya Bryzgalov to free agency.
They replaced him with Mike Smith, from the Tampa Bay Lightning.
How will the team perform without Bryz and in front of Smith?
32. Dallas Stars
The Dallas Stars are still seeking a buyer and until then, are tight on money.
They had to let Brad Richards walk away and it's been difficult finding players to replace him and hopefully keep them competitive next season.
How will they do?
31. The New San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks have a great core team, but the Stanley Cup has eluded them. They didn't make it to the Finals this year, but they made it to the Conference Finals.
The team traded Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi away, but received Martin Havlat and Brent Burns from the Minnesota Wild. Additionally, they re-signed Logan Couture.
Are their changes enough to make them a legitimate Cup contender?
30. Evgeni Nabokov or Alexei Yashin Return?
Evgeni Nabokov says he's going to go to the New York Islanders training camp with the hope of making the team.
Alexei Yashin might be looking at an NHL return in the near future.
These are two story lines that could make the Islanders a more interesting team in the time to come.
29. The Return of Evgeni Malkin
Evgeni Malkin isn't getting quite the attention that his teammate Sidney Crosby is, but Malkin will make his return for the Pittsburgh Penguins, after rehabbing a knee injury.
Knee injuries have severely impaired many athletes' careers and forced fellow Russian sniper Pavel Bure into early retirement.
It will be interesting to see how Malkin skates and plays after this latest knee injury.
28. The Latest Installment in the New York Islanders Arena Saga
27. The Sale of the St. Louis Blues
The St. Louis Blues are for sale. They had a deadline of August 22 for potential owners to get their bids in, but so far, we don't know if a deal is in the works.
The latest update offers no new information, so as far as we know, they're still trying to sell the team.
26. The Sale of the Dallas Stars
The Dallas Stars are another NHL franchise looking for new ownership.
The last interested party was Vancouver businessman Tom Gaglardi and speculation had Mark Cuban looking into the team, since the Stars share the arena where his Dallas Mavericks play and he's quite wealthy.
Could a sale happen soon, during the season perhaps?
If Cuban is actually interested and its not just speculation, at the moment he doesn't have much else going on with the NBA lockout.
25. The Sale of the Phoenix Coyotes
The NHL is still keeping the Phoenix Coyotes afloat and if the team can't find a buyer, it seems that the team might be moved.
Especially, if the relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg is successful, which it looks like it will be.
Will the Coyotes finally get a buyer whose offer is approved? Or will the team be relocated?
24. Semyon Varlamov
It seemed like Washington Capitals goaltender Semyon Varlamov was considering returning to Russia, so that he could be the number one goaltender, instead of fighting for the spot.
However, the Capitals traded the rights to RFA Varlamov to the Colorado Avalanche, for a couple of high round draft picks.
Will Varlamov be the consistent starting goaltender that the Avalanche need? Or, will he continue to fight injuries and be inconsistent?
23. Teemu Selanne
Teemu Selanne is still deciding whether to retire or return to the Anaheim Ducks for another season.
The decision is hinged upon whether or not his knee will allow him to play another year, but it seems like Selanne will return for another season.
If he does, it will be interesting to see how the now-41 year old follows up his successful 2010-11 campaign.
22. New Captain of the New Jersey Devils
The New Jersey Devils are in need of another captain, after trading Jamie Langenbrunner last year. The three front runners seem to be Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias and Zach Parise.
Will Kovalchuk captain another team and be the second current Russian captain in the NHL?
Will Elias lead the team again, he was captain from 2006 to the beginning of the 2007 season?
Or will it go to Parise, who should be the future of the team, so long as the team gets him signed long-term?
We'll have to wait and see.
21. New Captain of the Philadelphia Flyers
The Philadelphia Flyers are in need of a new captain, after trading away Mike Richards over the summer.
The leading candidates for the position are: Chris Pronger and Danny Briere, but even Claude Giroux's name has been brought up.
It will be interesting to see which one is selected and how quickly the team announces its new captain.
20. Black Friday
Thanksgiving weekend isn't just for football anymore.
NBC will broadcast a Black Friday afternoon hockey game between the Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins at 1 p.m.
It's a good sign that NBC feels that the NHL warrants a Black Friday matinee on their national station.
19. NBC Changes
NBC has picked a few games that they would decide between for their national broadcasts of NHL on NBC.
However, they have announced that beginning this season, the other flex games will be shown on their other channel, VERSUS, which will eventually become the NBC Sports Network.
18. The New Buffalo Sabres
The Buffalo Sabres have an exciting season ahead of them. They have a new owner, a new name on their arena (F'N Arena, let the jokes commence).
They also have some new players on their team, including free agent signings Ville Leino from the Philadelphia Flyers and Christian Ehrhoff from the Vancouver Canucks (via the New York Islanders).
Will the Sabres be one of the teams to beat in the East this year?
17. The Washington Capitals
The Washington Capitals have made a few new additions to their team for 2011-12, most notably the addition of veteran goaltender Tomas Vokoun.
The team believes that with Vokoun, they could finally have all the pieces needed to finally win the Cup that has eluded them thus far, despite being heavily favored the past few years.
Will it be enough? We'll have to wait and see.
16. The New Florida Panthers
The Florida Panthers will be a considerably different team this coming season.
They have made many changes and have many new additions, including Tomas Fleischmann, Tomas Kopecky, Brian Campbell, Kris Versteeg, Scottie Upshall and Ed Jovanovski.
Will this be a rebuilding period for the team or will they become competitive in their tough Southeast division right away?
15. Tampa Bay Lightning
The Tampa Bay Lightning kept most of their team intact, re-signing Eric Brewer, Teddy Purcell and of course, locked down Steve Stamkos for a few years.
Will the team continue their success and maybe go on to win another Cup this year?
14. Shea Weber's Play
This offseason, Shea Weber and the Nashville Predators went to arbitration and Weber was awarded the largest award in arbitration history.
In 2011-12, Weber will earn a whopping $7 million.
Will Weber's play be commensurate with what he'll be getting paid? Will he and the Predators finally agree on a long-term deal?
These questions will be answered soon enough.
13. Drew Doughty's Situation, However It Is Resolved
Drew Doughty and the Los Angeles Kings still haven't come to terms on a new contract.
A new deal could be reached before training camp, or it could drag on even longer. In fact, the two sides have until December at the very latest.
Whether its a new, big contract or a trade, all eyes are on Doughty and the Kings to see what transpires.
12. Mike Richards Return to Philly
Up until he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in June, Mike Richards thought he'd spend his entire career with the Philadelphia Flyers, ever since he signed his long-term deal.
Surely, he's out to make Philly regret trading him and he'll get the opportunity to return to Philly in person quite soon.
The Flyers and Los Angeles Kings face off in the City of Brotherly Love on October 15.
I know I'm not the only one looking forward to how that game turns out.
11. Zach Parise's Return
While most people are fixated on when Sidney Crosby will return to the NHL, another high-profile player who missed even more of last season than Crosby did will be returning.
Zach Parise will return to the New Jersey Devils lineup and I for one, along with Devils fans at the very least, am anxious to see how he performs after being out of commission for so long.
Perhaps, Parise will even challenge for the Rocket Richard or Art Ross?
10. Jaromir Jagr Returns to the NHL
After a very successful NHL career playing for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals and New York Rangers, Jaromir Jagr has spent the past couple of seasons in the KHL.
That will change this fall, as he'll make his return to the NHL playing for the Philadelphia Flyers.
We're all curious how he'll play. Will he look like his old self or just prove that he should've either stayed in Russia or retired?
9. The First Philadelphia-Pittsburgh Game
It's pretty common knowledge that the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers hate each other.
A couple of events this summer probably won't help.
Jaromir Jagr signed with the Flyers, after the Penguins rescinded their offer and Max Talbot moved to Philly—unforgivable to Pittsburgh fans.
That first game between the two should be even more entertaining than they normally are, with these two developments to stir the spot.
The two don't meet until December 8 in Philly, but when the Flyers travel to Pittsburgh on December 29, I'm sure the Pittsburgh fans will have a warm welcome for Jagr and Talbot.
8. The New Columbus Blue Jackets
The Columbus Blue Jackets have a couple of high-profile new additions. They acquired Jeff Carter from the Philadelphia Flyers and signed James Wisniewski after acquiring his rights from the Montreal Canadiens.
Will these two players be enough to dramatically improve the team?
Suddenly, the Blue Jackets are a more intriguing team.
7. The New Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles Kings are an even better team for 2011-12 as well. They acquired Mike Richards from the Philadelphia Flyers, who should greatly help on offense and is defensive-minded as well.
Additionally, they picked up Simon Gagne in free agency.
The Kings could be serious contenders now.
6. Winnipeg Jets
The people of Winnipeg are finally getting what they've been waiting a very long time for: the Winnipeg Jets are back.
We're excited to see the first Winnipeg home game and the insanity of that crowd.
The Jets open their season at home on Sunday October 9, hosting the Montreal Canadiens.The game will be broadcast across Canada and on NHL Network in the U.S.
5. 2012 Winter Classic
The Winter Classic has become an event that many fans look forward to each year.
This year should be another great Winter Classic, as the Philadelphia Flyers are expected to host the New York Rangers at the Phillies home park.
That's a great rivalry and great rivalry between cities, which should make for a great game and another great storyline for a potential second installment of HBO 24/7's Road to the Winter Classic.
4. Opening Night
As stated earlier, we're all just excited for the NHL season to get underway. The 2011-12 season's opening night, Thursday October 6, has a fantastic lineup:
The Boston Bruins will host the Philadelphia Flyers at 7 p.m. It will be the first time the two teams meet since the Bruins swept the Flyers in the ECSF en route to their Stanley Cup win.
The Toronto Maple Leafs will host the Montreal Canadiens. A great historic rivalry is a great way to kick off another season.
Finally, the Vancouver Canucks will host the Pittsburgh Penguins at 10 p.m. EST, a game that will see the much awaited return of Evgeni Malkin and perhaps, the much anticipated return of Sidney Crosby.
3. Rivalry Games
The rivalry games are some of the best games each year in the NHL.
There's the old school, Original Six rivalries, between teams such as the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins.
Then there's division rivalries, state rivalries and just team rivalries, such as the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins.
Another interesting rivalry might be between the Penguins and the New York Islanders, who had some very tense games last season.
2. Ilya Bryzgalov in Philadelphia
It's been widely believed that the only thing keeping the Philadelphia Flyers from a Stanley Cup is their goaltending situation.
They signed Ilya Bryzgalov this summer and hope that the issue is behind them.
Will Bryzgalov be everything everyone is expecting? Will the Flyers finally get their coveted Cup?
Time will tell.
1. Sidney Crosby's Return
Sidney Crosby's return to hockey, whenever that may be, has to be the most anticipated moment of the upcoming season.
Everyone has had an opinion about Crosby this offseason, whether its about when they believe he'll return, when he should or should not return and even retirement opinions.
We won't know until training camp at the earliest anything further, but whether people admit it or not, they really want to see him return.
Even Alex Ovechkin admits it.