It's hard to think about leveling up at a time when hockey is sinking into an abyss of positive tests, postponed games and a best-on-best Olympic tournament that will exist only in our daydreams and video game simulations.
So let's remember the good times, shall we? Here are 10 players and teams that took the leap, found the next gear and achieved higher levels in 2021 -- and what might await them in 2022.
Here's a good reminder about how 12 months in a pandemic can feel like 12 years. In December 2020, Fox was coming off an impressive rookie season that saw the 22-year-old finish fourth for the Calder Trophy behind well-hyped fellow defensemen Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes and forward Dominik Kubalik.
But fourth is great! That portends good things would eventually happen for Fox -- "eventually" in this case being the first half of the following year, when Fox owned the 56-game 2021 season and became only the second defenseman to win the Norris Trophy in his second season.
The other was Bobby Orr.
This season, Fox is tied for the league lead in points with Victor Hedman and would have played his way into a lead role on Team USA had the NHL gone to Beijing. There's leveling up, and then there's a meteoric rise like that of Fox.
In 2022: Fox leads the Rangers to their first proper playoff berth since 2017.