Ten questions to ponder on the NHL this season

First published in the Lethbridge College Endeavour, Oct. 8, 2008

Let’s get the obvious over with.

The Red Wings are ridiculous and will probably win the whole thing again, and the Leafs are terrible and will miss the playoff s again.

Now, for your debating pleasure, 10 questions the media can’t and won’t stop asking about the NHL this season:

1. Will Montreal be a legitimate contender for the Cup?
In a world without Detroit, the Habs are the most skilled team in the league on paper. The talent pool under 25 in the organization is getting so good GM Bob Gainey should start feeling embarrassed soon.

While the “experts” want to talk about whether Robert Lang and Alex Tanguay are good fits, Alex Kovalev, Andrei Kostitsyn, and Thomas Plekanec will be tearing defences apart. Depth wins, and the Habs are drowning in skill at every position. They are a contender now, and for multiple years. If anyone disagrees, Georges Laraque is prepared to come by and convince you.

2. Are the Oilers as good as the media, especially just north in Alberta, think?
Probably not — yet. However, this team is Montreal two years ago.  The skill of their youth is unbelievable. Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano are just the tip of the composite stick; Kyle Brodziak, Ladislav Smid, and Robert Nilsson join a corps to watch for a long time. Fans might not enjoy the division crown just yet — though don’t count them out — but they will love watching the Oil’s speed and skill skate circular grooves around the bigger, tougher Flames for a long time.

3. Will Todd Bertuzzi rejuvenate his career in Calgary?
Actually, he might. The only thing is the fans and media seem to think rejuvenation for him means 40 goals. Well, let me disclose a little-spoken-of tidbit: he’s done that once. Everybody talks about this guy like he’s an offensive powerhouse.

He’s entering his 13th campaign and only two of the previous 12 were offensively strong. But the media pounded his big, tough presence into our brains for those two years and now we still talk like he’s a superstar.

Never was, never will be. Let me pound something into your brain: he’s a career minus 26. He could, however, put up 25 goals and 50 points if he plays with No.12 enough. Of course, I could probably score 20 playing with Iginla.

4. Will Pittsburgh prevail over the exodus of players it has faced?
They won’t be the same and will fall back to the pack.  Their depth took a serious hit with losses like Ryan Malone and Marion Hossa, among others. However, don’t start applying for a second student loan to bet against them; they might not finish first, but Crosby and Malkin are enough to keep them in the running.

Scoring 100 points in this era can get you an Art Ross trophy. Having two guys who clear the number is just cocky.

5. Will Markus Naslund become his old self with the Rangers?
See Todd Bertuzzi.

6. Will Mats Sundin play in the NHL this year?
No one cares anymore, but the media won’t let us move on so I’ll say sure. Why not let another veteran sit out half a season and then handpick the contender they want to join. Nice rule.

7. Can Ottawa return to its days of being an elite team?
The short answer is no. The long answer is absolutely not.

8. Will Tampa Bay go from worst to first?
It’s unlikely that this will happen, but like Edmonton, look out for these guys in the very near future. Stamkos and Lecavalier will commence boggling minds momentarily, and Mike Smith will slide in quietly as a very solid net minder.

9. Will Roberto Luongo make a good captain of the Canucks?
This is is just bizarre. He might be a good leader, but if you’re asking your goalie to be the captain, how horrible are you expecting to be?

And, now, finally, the question we will hear discussed the most:

10. Will the NHL expand to Europe?
As ridiculous as it sounds, the answer is probably. There are many hockey people who think it will not only happen, but it is a good idea. TSN’s Pierre Maguire and the Score’s Steve Kouleus are two of those people. Maguire mentioned a flight from Montreal to Frankfurt, Germany is only one hour longer than one to Los Angeles. Of course, he didn’t mention what their plan is for teams traveling from Los Angeles to Frankfurt, but maybe it would involve a rocket ship.

Enjoy the year.

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