When the NFL season began, we ran this online. We love hockey too: the sticks, the playoff beards, anything related to Sean Avery! We decided to apply the same concept. Here now: five questions on key issues this season on the ice and a variety of answers from league observers.
WHO'S GOING TO WIN A CUP FIRST: SIDNEY OR ALEX?
"Sidney gets there first because his team has a franchise goalie in place; the same cannot be said for AO, and those types are certainly tough to find." - RYAN CARDINAL, WCHA BLOG
"I feel Sid will get to the top faster than Ovechkin for a number of reasons. First off, he has a stronger arsenal of cohorts (Sykora, Malkin, Staal), along with a few guys expected to come along just fine on his wing (Satan, Fedotenko). Top that off with the sort of year Marc-Andre Fleury had between the pipes, particularly in the playoffs. When the going got tough on offense, which may often be the case in the playoffs, MAF kept the Penguins in the running. There's also that whole experience thing. Last season, Sid skated closer to the Cup than Ovie did. And finally, I think the last reason the Caps won't come close this season is heavily weighed upon the fact they let Christobal Huet slip from their grasp. When I saw him sign with Chicago I thought to myself, 'Wow, the Caps screwed that one up.' Signing Theodore in his wake was definiely a downgrade for the Caps." - FRANK D FROM PENSBURGH
"Hmm, who do I think will win the Stanley Cup first, the crybaby or the showboat? Wow, that's a tough one. Personally, considering that they're both locked into long-term contracts with their current teams, the Penguins won't be as good as they were last year and the Capitals are relying on Jose Theodore in net (trust me, not a good idea), I'd say either team winning the Cup could be a long shot. It all depends on who gets traded to the Red Wings first." - MILE HIGH HOCKEY
"Normally I'd say Alex, simply because he may be the most relentless athlete I've ever encountered. He just wants to win that much, and losing is just like death to him. But the Caps still have yet to solve the whammy Pittsburgh has over them. If the Caps can give as good as they get against Pittsburgh with Crosby on the ice during the regular season, I'll give Alex the nod." - ERIC MCERLAIN FROM OFF WING OPINION
"Sidney has already been canonized as Hockey Jesus, and depending on who's fan fiction you read, he's already been to the top of the mountain. Ovie, while being lovable, has yet to make it deep into the playoffs. The Penguins are win-now, the Caps are win-consistently, but later." - MELT YOUR FACE OFF
WHO'S YOUR SLEEPER TEAM—AND SLEEPER PLAYER—THIS SEASON?
"Sleeper team? I'd have to go with Chicago. They definitely stocked up with some key ingredients in the offseason. Acquiring Huet as the backstop to a Kane/Toews offense was a crucial and successful move. Wow, two Huet references in two questions. You'd think I was a closet Habs fan (I'm not). Plus, adding Brian Campbell on D, regardless of how much it cost them, will certainly help their chances. I can see the Blackhawks slipping into the playoffs in the number 7 or 8 spot and potentially even making it as far as the second round." - FRANK D FROM PENSBURGH
"I'm going with Dion Phaneuf, and the reasons are three-fold: first off, Dion Phaneuf plays for the Flames, who play in Calgary, which is often referred to as a 'sleepy cow town.' Secondly, I have it on good information provided by a reliable source (my bookie) that Dion is a huge fan of professional wrestling, in particular WWF superstar "Rowdy" Roddy Piper as well as AWA legend Nick Bockwinkel. And anybody who is anybody knows that both grapplers favored the "Sleeper Hold" as their finishing maneuver. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the very lucky Phaneuf is currently dating the luscious, lovely and talented Elisha Cuthbert. Now who among us wouldn't get "sleepy" after a night or two with her? (hummina hummina—w00t! w00t!). That's what I'm talking about it! Who's with me?" - MELT YOUR FACE OFF
"Paul Stastny in Colorado could be the surprise MVP of the league, no doubt about it. He's got a lot of competition, but the kid is the real deal. Am I saying this because I'm a homer? Maybe. But I don't think the Avs could be the sleeper team of the league. That honor goes to Blue Jackets. Why? Good Lord, they have to make the playoffs sometime, might as well be this year." - MILE HIGH HOCKEY
"It's the Panthers. Florida has been treading water for a couple of years, years when I expected them to play better hockey. They really ought to be able to make a move this year. League MVPs don't exactly come out of nowhere either, but if I had to pick a darkhorse, I'd say Brendan Morrow with Dallas. The Stars will go as far as they ride him." - OFF WING OPINION
WHO DO YOU HAVE WINNING THE CUP?
"Detroit Red Wings, and I'm going out on a limb with the Washington Capitals. I think the Wings will beat the Stanley Cup hangover and return to the Finals for a second straight Cup. The Wings were the last ones to go back-to-back in '97 and '98 and I think they have the right people in place to do the same this year if they can stay healthy." - CHRISTY FROM WINGING IT IN MOTOWN
"This year's Cup finals will be Detroit-Montreal with Detroit repeating." - STEVEN FROM PUCKUPDATE
"I don't do predictions, because predictions are bound to make me look like an ass. Instead, I'll just say that the likelihood of a Detroit repeat makes me so uncomfortable that I no longer am allowed to walk next to open windows in buildings taller than two stories." - MILE HIGH HOCKEY
WHAT THREE THINGS COULD THE NHL DO TO INCREASE ITS POPULARITY?
"I think the whole outdoor-game thing is the first step to really taking it to another level. That attracted massive attention last season, and I don't expect the Chicago/Detroit game to be any less extravagant. I really think the NHL needs to push for a larger presence on the networks. ESPN, NBC—whatever. Get them out there and let people see the sport. A lot has changed over the years and hockey players, for the first time in a very long time, I feel, are once again perceived as the top of the heap in terms of athleticism and grit. Plus, you have to promote the players as the face of the sport. Ovechkin on the cover of magazines with a missing tooth is just hysterical to me—but that's his personality. Get him out there and have him win people over with that and do the same for other big names in the league. I think connecting with the existing fans is key to pulling in even more." - FRANK D FROM PENSBURGH
"Continue to fund youth programs to get kids who may not be able to afford to play on the ice. Embrace new media/social networking. Give fans access that other sports don't grant, i.e. locker rooms, etc." - RYAN FROM WCHA BLOG
"1) Each team plays every other team at home and on the road. With the high level of league parity and stars spread throughout the league, fans want to see each team come to their building. They don't want to see Ovechkin or Crosby only every other year. They want variety in the schedule.
2) Don't give teams a point for losing in OT or the shootout. We can leave the shootout in because it can provide some excitement and eliminates ties. However if you lose, you should not get a point. It will help shake up the standings to make things more interesting for fans.
3) Co-exist on both Versus and ESPN. If hockey isn't on ESPN, is it really a sport? Of course, but my point is that when the TV leader in sports doesn't cover your team, it's much harder to increase the popularity of the sport. By getting the league back out there in front of the average sports fan, the NHL would hopefully increase its popularity." - WINGING IT IN MOTOWN
"Patrick Kane ditches the aw shucks personality, scores 60 goals and breaks up Lindsay Lohan's relationship on a Hawks West coast road swing. Outside of those eventualities, I expect the game will keep puttering along at its current pace." - OFF WING OPINION
IF YOU HAD TO LIKEN THIS UPCOMING SEASON TO A FILM, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
"Ever get the feeling that an unstoppable meteor is headed your way, annihilating everything its path? Well, ever since Marian Hossa agreed to a 1-year deal with the Stanley Cup Champions, the Red Wings, this is the fear every hockey fan has that doesn't call Hockeytown home. Ten years ago, director Michael Bay made this country feel American all over again with the box office disaster hit Armageddon. Also, 1998 was when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman wanted America to feel Canadian all over again, kicking off his plan to bring ice hockey to even the smallest of towns in Tennessee. Georgia. Ohio? America, and hockey for that matter, has never been the same. This intersection in time of Bay and Bettman was no coincidence. After all, the '08-'09 NHL season will play out as if it were reading the script of Bay's Armageddon, line-for-line. The parallels are stunning, and range far past the simple truth that both present themselves far better when viewed in HD. This is bad, people. The big red meteor is going to win. And not only is it going to win, it will destroy all of us by using its system of strong team defense, reliable netminding, and goal scoring-at-will. Where's the intrigue? Where's the unpredictability? Guess what, Detroit, NASA's on to your machine-like ways, and they've searched far and wide to bring in the best hockey teams to thwart your playoff sweeping ways. We call them the Drillers. Their goal? To go deep into the postseason, and avert Team Meteor from a catastrophic back-to-back claim on Lord Stanley's Cup." - MELT YOUR FACE OFF
"The year is 1977 and the movie is Slap Shot. Remember—mill closes, Chiefs fold. During that era in the NHL, the California Golden Seals folded; the Kansas City Scouts moved to Colorado and then New Jersey; and the Cleveland Barons and the Minnesota North Stars had to merge in order to survive. And I haven't mentioned all the WHA teams that disappeared." - OFF WING OPINION
"This year's season will be 1985's Weird Science. The Detroit Red Wings are Kelly "Lisa" LeBrock, the sleek, sexy man-made creation with the funny accent. The other 29 NHL teams are Anthony Michael Hall (Eastern Conference) and Ilan Mitchell-Smith (Western Conference)—hopelessly enamored with the LeBrock Wings. When these teams try to build the Detroit Lisas, though, instead of having a smoking hot team, they instead have a giant, useless missile. Sidney Crosby is Bill "Chet" Paxton, a guy trying to stop everyone else and also doing whatever he can to get more screen time." - STEVEN FROM PUCKUPDATE