Season’s End

If you are wondering where I have been the last few days the answer is simple: I took a break from all of my social media outlets. I was tired of all the negativity regarding the Canucks and needed a few days away from the negative commentary that I knew would follow the sweep. I am by no means in denial of the their first round ousting by San Jose, I fully accept that the Canucks season has come to an end. You will hear no complaints or excuses here. Are there things I could complain about or make an excuse about, YES but it would not change the result so it would be fruitless. It is what it is and that is all there is. We may not have got the ending we wanted BUT we are lucky that we got to watch our team play any hockey in May [14 teams were not so lucky!].

Today’s post looks that the season that was and it was full of plenty of excitement beyond the playoff disappointment. Let’s begin at the beginning shall we? You remember back in September when everyone’s favourite NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman threw down the lockout hammer? As soon as the deadline passed and the lockout was enacted, EVERYONE assumed that there would NO NHL season. The NHL and NHLPA had countless meetings and every time progress seemed to occur it was followed by stalling and growing animosity between the two sides. It seemed as though there would be no end to the lockout as both sides seemingly could not come to any sort agreement. The League did not cancel the season out right rather every two weeks saw Bettman announcing the cancellation of blocks of the season including the cancellation of the ever popular Winter Classic. Each new cancellation only added to the anger of the fans. It quickly became a case of Gary vs. Donald Fehr in a war of words and there seemed to be no end in sight. Cue the call for a negotiator to come in! With the aid of the negotiator the two sides were forced into putting some serious time and reflection into their cases and eventually forced to meet together. The lockout came into affect September 15th 2012 and did not come to an end until January 6th 2013. 510 games were lost from the season. It was initially thought that they could put together a 50 game schedule but later was reduced to 48 games.

After a delay of 3 1/2 months, the season finally began January 19th 2013. Teams around the league created initiatives to encourage their loyal fans to return to the rink. The season had many incredible moments league wide:

The Chicago Blackhawks set a new NHL record with their 21-0-3 undefeated in regulation streak which was eventually broken by the Colorado Avalanche. The Blackhawks solidifed themselves as the best team of the regular season winning the President’s trophy for the 2013 season.

Sidney Crosby came back healthy for the first time in almost two years and played like he never lost a beat. Crosby would have won the Art Ross Trophy had it not been for an unfortunate incident in which he suffered a broken jaw and missed the remaining 12 games of the season. It should be noted that Crosby returned for the playoffs and picked up right where he left off before his injury! The Pittsburgh Penguins proved themselves to be the best team in the Eastern Conference when the went on a tear winning 15 games straight!

The Minnesota Wild overcame some early struggles as big name signings Zach Parise and Ryan Suter helped the teams clinch a playoff berth for the first time in a few years. The feel good story of the year perhaps was the incredible journey of goalie Josh Harding who overcame an early diagnosis of MS to play games in both the regular season and the playoffs.

The New York Islanders made the post-season for the first time in 6 years thanks to some incredible young talent and lots of heart from players like John Tavares, Michael Grabner, Frans Neilsen and veteran goalie Evgeni Nabakov. Tavares lead his team by scoring and setting the example that you never give up on a play or your team.

The Washington Capital overcame many growing pains [new coach and early season struggles] to dominate their second half of the season being led by an awakened Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin led his team scoring more than 30 goals to nab yet another Rocket Richard trophy. The Capitals despite early season woes won their division and earned home ice advantage in the first round.

The Toronto Maple Leafs had their share of drama this year, from the firing of Brian Burke to the ever constant goal-tending rumors. Despite the rumors the tandem of James Reimer and Ben Scrivens helped this team earn their first playoff berth in 9 years! Welcome back to the post-season Toronto, enjoy your journey however long it lasts [I’m rooting for you!!].

The Columbus Blue Jackets earn the award for most improved team overall. This is a team that everyone expects to take advantage of and this year they proved to the league that they are competitive. They made every team they played earn every inch of the ice. They beat Detroit 4/5 times! They acquired Marian Gaborik at the trade deadline and he helped them make a Cinderella run in the final stretch. They only missed the post-season by a SINGLE point [had Minnesota lost their final game, it would have been Columbus that played Chicago!].

The Detroit Red Wings entered their first season without the veteran presence of former Captain Niklas Lidstrom. The void he left was a large one and at times you could see Detroit missing his presence on the ice. For the first time in many years their participation in the playoffs was put in question as they had many ups and downs through the year. Their playoff streak in jeopardy and their fate in their hands sent Detroit on a determination mission where they insured that they would be playoff bound. 22 straight years and still going strong!

The Boston Bruins continued to play their Bruin style of hockey despite the loss of Tim Thomas. Tuukka Rask proved that he was up to the task of being number one and helped to lead the team.

The Montreal Canadiens adjusted very nicely to the coaching change and proved that they can be a top contender. They finished their season as division leaders and 2nd overall in the Eastern Conference. Despite missing the early part of the season due to a contract dispute, P.K. Subban lead the Montreal defence and proved to the league that he is an offensive defenseman.

The Edmonton Oilers may not have had the success in the win column that they hoped for BUT they showed that they have a lot of young talent up front that is capable of making a lot of noise in the next few years. With the talents of Eberle, Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, Yakupov, & Schultz, don’t be surprised if we see Edmonton return to the post-season next year!

The Ottawa Senators Erik Karlsson picked up where he left off last year as the league’s top defenseman before having his season put on hold when he suffered a severed achilles tendon. Despite losing their best defensive asset, the Senators still found ways to win games and were able to put numerous rookies in their line up. Captain Afredsson lead his team on the way to the post-season. Erik Karlsson did return for the final game of the season despite reports that he would not be back until next year and did so in style scoring a goal! Karlsson’s return helped to spark the Senators in their first round victory, best of luck in the second round Ottawa!

The Vancouver Canucks may have had their post-season ended prematurely but they had some great moments. Captain Henrik Sedin became sole possessor of 1st on the all-points leader surpassing Markus Naslund’s 757 points in his 905th career game February 15th. Daniel Sedin became sole possessor of 2nd on the all-time points list behind his brother also passing Naslund’s previous record in his 905th career game April 22nd. Roberto Luongo proved what many fans already knew that he is more than qualified at helping a team WIN. Jannik Hansen scored some timely goals and played an unlikely hero in some games. The team finished third in the conference and won their 5th straight North West Division title. My favourite 2013 Canuck moment was probably on my birthday when Henrik scored that penalty shot goal against Nashville and the entire arena went absolutely nuts!

See? There were A LOT of good moments this season in a year when everyone told me that there would be no hockey. A LOT of people told me that it was pointless to keep suggesting that we would get a shortened season BUT we did get a shortened season! It may have been short but it was full of incredible moments all around the league.

I took a self-induced break from social media the last few days and it was necessary. The Canucks season is over and despite all the negativity that social media has been full of about them, this a team that I am now and always will be fan of my Canucks.  #heartofacanuck. Better luck next year boys!

The playoffs are still underway and many memories are yet to be made.16 teams qualify and by next week only 8 will remain. Prediction: Stanley Cup Final: The Chicago Blackhawks vs. The Pittsburgh Penguins

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

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A Prelude to the 2013 season

Well faithful readers, we survived the lockout. The 2013 NHL season is officially begun. Training camp is underway. Game day is fast approaching. My Vancouver Canucks and the other 29 teams are all back on the ice!!! Each day brings new surprises for the fans and media alike as each team announces signings, trades and surprises for their home openers. Each day the whispers of anticipation of the first games grow louder. Fans and media are eager to prove their opinion is the one to listen to regarding the upcoming season.

As the first day of regular season games approaches, the hungrier the media becomes with finding the biggest headline. What are some of these interesting headlines making news? Let’s take a moment to ponder those, shall we?:

– Luongo, where will he play? You all know how I feel on this issue. I am disgusted by the media and certain fans who blame him for all things. I would be extremely disappointed to see him playing anywhere else, but wherever he plays [Vancouver included] I hope he has a fantastic season.

-Who will fill in the void left by Ryan Kesler? Kassian, Schroeder, Hansen or perhaps even Raymond? According to Mike Gillis, that spot will not be available for too long. Kesler is competitive and has never enjoyed being on the sidelines.

-Will Chris Higgins and David Booth be able to stay healthy for the majority of the season? If so, how many points will they put up? Will they eventually reunite with Kesler on the All-American Express line?

-Tim Thomas. Oh, the ever controversial Thomas. He has decided to continue his year of solitude in Colorado away from all things Bruins and hockey. His backup Tuukka Rask will assume the #1 starter position in the Bruins net for the 2013 season. Thomas has however told the team that he will be returning for the 2013-2014 season….really? It will be interesting to see how his team will respond if he does come back next season.

-Chris Pronger. Will or won’t he retire? This one is a difficult one for the Flyers to address. Pronger is their team captain, an impeccable leader on and off the ice.If he does retire, it means being forced to leave the game instead of on his own terms. The whispers are definitely getting louder on this issue as more and more reporters speculate Pronger retiring, and Philadelphia has yet to confirm one way or the other.

-The Maple Leafs. So many questions. Now that Burke has been fired, what will Nonis do differently? Will he be able to address their goal-tending issue before the end of the season? Will Kessel and Lupul be the dynamic duo they were last season again and if so, can they both stay healthy? Will the team make the playoffs in 2013?

-Scott Gomez has been officially let go. He was sent home by the Montreal Canadiens prior to the start of training camp. They will buy him out in the off-season. In other Montreal news, they have yet to secure P.K. Subban to a new contract. He cannot officially report to camp until he has signed on the dotted line.

-Will the Staal brothers now united in Carolina, be able to lead the Hurricanes to playoffs for the the first time since 2009?

-Can the LA Kings have the same success they had last year with Coach Sutter and goalie Quick?

-Will Ranger Nash be the missing puzzle that New York has been looking for?

-Will the young guns in Edmonton bring the city back to a ‘city of champions’ era?

-Just how good will a 100% healthy Sidney Crosby be? Will he be league MVP once more?

With all of these questions, time will tell. Many more issues will come to light in the coming days leading up to the opening game of the season. I look forward to all the story lines that are still come as the season begins. As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

P.S. Bonus reading for the week: Below is a link to one of my favourite Canuck/hockey blogs. A post from today was quite enjoyable. It’s an interesting look at Luongo’s stats…and if you keep up with my posts, you all know how much I love the guy as a Canuck!

http://canucksarmy.com/2013/1/14/the-case-for-roberto-luongo-as-the-canucks-starter-in-2013

GB says ‘ I am sorry’

It is officially time to drop the ceremonial puck now. The NHL Board of Governors voted unanimously to ratify the new CBA and the players are expected to officially ratify the new CBA by Saturday evening….and training camps are open on Sunday. Following the ratification of the NEW CBA, Gary Bettman addressed the media. What stellar media bite did he share with the public? An apology. Yes, an apology. This apology was geared towards all those who did not want a lockout to happen[which is pretty much everyone!].

“To the players who were very clear they wanted to be on the ice and not negotiating labour contracts, to our partners who support the league financially and personally, and most importantly to our fans, who love and have missed NHL hockey, I’m sorry,” said Bettman. “I know that an explanation or an apology will not erase the hard feelings that have built up over the past few months but I owe you an apology nevertheless.”  How did that sound to you? To me, it sounded as if those words came from someone else…aka someone wrote the speech for him. Following his apology, he also spoke of his confidence that he will remain commissioner for many years to come. I suppose, we shall see.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have been involved in many rumours circling the league, but the most shocking move they have made since the CBA came into reality…firing Brian Burke. Brian Burke was let go, following four years of zero playoff appearances. Most people have said they were stunned he was fired, but the owners claim it was not an overnight decision but months in the making. Just as Burke was fired, his protege Dave Nonis [yes that Dave Nonis] was named as the new General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. It is curious that both Burke & Nonis worked for the Canucks together a few years back…and when Burke was fired back then, it was Nonis who was named his replacement. Nonis says that his GM style is similar to that of Burke, but he is more patient.

The closer training camp gets, the louder Luongo trade  and Pronger retirement rumors all around the league become. The CBA will be ratified by tomorrow evening and as training camps open, teams will try to win back all their fans. Pittsburgh is having a few contests through their social media outlets as well as offering each fan attending the first 4home games: up to three free concession items  and 50% off all Pittsburgh merchandise. Nashville is offering fans 2 for 1 tickets for the first game. The question remains, what will the Canucks offer to win back fans? What will the league offer to win back the fans that they drove away[following the last lockout, they created the shootout]?

Teams are still waiting to find out who their first opponents will be as the regular season schedule won’t be released until this weekend. All I know is regardless of who the Canucks play, that this kid is looking forward to digging out the jersey and getting pumped for game day next Saturday [January 19th!!!]. 30 teams are getting themselves ready for #gameday as the time to drop the puck is nearly here!

Until next time, as always, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.