By Rob Ficiur
This week the NHL launched the 2015-2016 season. Hard core fans know there are old issues that drag down the quality of the game. Likewise this year will bring some new twists that will engage the fans.
New – The Connor McDavid era begins in Edmonton. Not since Sidney Crosby, a decade ago, has there been as much hype before a rookie played his first NHL game. The timing could not be better for Edmonton, as they have not made the playoff since 2006. Fans hope that McDavid, and the other young talent stockpiled by the Oilers, will bring that extra something that will make them the City of Champions again. Oilers fans will bristle at the “Be patient” advice. However, Oilers’ Nation be patient. Crosby’s Penguins did not make the playoffs his rookie year; but they did win a championship in his fourth year.
Old – the pre-season ended with San Jose Sharks goon Raffe Tores getting a 41 game suspension for an illegal hit. The league should be applauded for taking a stand against the goons who cross the line. Fans enjoy hitting but not deliberate attempts to injure.
New – the NHL will have three on three overtime this year. In 2005 the league introduced the shootout as a way to eliminate ties. In the last few years league officials believe there have been too many ties. Three on three overtime, which was tested in the American hockey League last year, proved an excited way to end most games.
Overtime seen many formats in the NHL. Prior to November 1942 overtime was a part of regular season games. Due to war time restrictions the overtime was eliminated. We did not see regular season overtime until the 1983-84 season. In 1998 the NHL changed the overtime format changed the four on four skaters we had until this season.
Old ? – The Chicago Black Hawks raised their third Stanley Cup banner in the last six years. The team that had only won three championships in their 82 year history prior to 2010, has won the cup every other year since. Is it getting old? Hawks fans don’t think so.
New- Seven NHL teams begin the season with brand new head coaches. Of four teams that fired their coach during the middle of last season, only Ottawa has brought their coach back for this new season. Toronto’s hiring of Mike Babcock to an eight year sixty million dollar contract is new for NHL coaches. Now he is making money on par with the players – and the team is not likely to fire this coach to appease a young star player.
Old – Long time coaches return to their teams as well. The longest serving head coach in the NHL is Boston’s Claude Julien, who started with the team in 2007-2008. When the Bruins’ missed the playoffs last year I thought Julien would be fired. Instead the GM was fired and the Bruins 2011 Stanley Cup winning coach gets another season to lead Boston. Chicago’s Joel Quenville, who took over four games into the 2008-2009 season, is second in coaching seniority. With three championships under his belt, Joel might be able to coach in Chicago as long as he wants. The NHL coach with third most seniority is the New York Islander’s Jack Capuano who took over part way through the 2010-2011 season.
New – The New York Islanders have a new home at the Barclay Center. Though this new arena is only 25 miles from their former home, the hope is that it can create revenue to make the Islanders a contending team. The Islanders, who won four Stanley Cups in a row from 1980-1983, have not won a playoff round since 1993. Their current head coach Jack Capuano has got the team into the playoffs in two of his five seasons as head coach.
Old – A few weeks ago the Arizona Coyotes renegotiated their arena lease with the city of Glendale. Blah Blah Blah – (that is the sound fans hear when they tune out the latest update on the Phoenix / Arizona Coyotes arena lease). It seems only a matter of time before the Coyotes leave the desert to look for greener hockey pastures somewhere else.
New – The NHL entertained expansion offers during the summer. Las Vegas and Quebec City put down $10 million deposit to be considered. Las Vegas and Quebec City both have new arenas. Las Vegas and Quebec City both have potential owners with deep pockets. Las Vegas and Quebec City both have a rich hockey history… except for Las Vegas.
Will an NHL team go to this desert? Will Quebec get an expansion team or a transfer team such a Arizona? The new and the old mesh together as the NHL season begins on and off the ice.