The Cold is back and so is the NHL (Season Preview)

Last year the NHL saw yet another record losing streak fall unfortunately for Toronto fans it was not their Stanley Cup streak. Instead it was the Boston Bruins streak who had not won a Stanley Cup since the 1971-72 season.  It also saw a streak continue as the six Canadian teams again were not able to break their 17 year Stanley Cup drought. They again had a chance and a very good chance with the Vancouver Canucks but were unable to pull off the win. This left the Boston Bruins as the defending champs and the Vancouver Canucks as the defending Western Conference champions for the second time in Franchise history. The biggest question will be can the Bruins repeat as champions and be the first team to repeat since the Montreal Canadiens in the early 1990s. With everyone watching the Canucks and the Bruins there will be plenty of other things to watch including something that had a big effect on the Stanley Cup Finals. Throughout last year the NHL was cheered and jeered for their handling of one of the biggest problems in sports. This of course is the concussion issue that began to make itself known last year after Sidney Crosby was knocked out of the season after suffering a concussion. This will have its effect this year as well when Sidney Crosby will remain out for the beginning of the year. Last year the NHL was sent scrambling to try to find the right way to deal with the concussion issue to protect their players but still keep the physicality in the game. The job was given to Colin Campbell the official disciplinarian of the NHL and he did a pretty good job. The old school style of Campbell led him to be slightly more lenient than many would have liked and after the season he stepped down. Now the job will be given to the Brendan Shanahan who has already had his hands full in the preseason. The balance needs to be found in order to keep the NHL great by keeping the physical aspect of the game but still make sure that the players do not have their careers cut short because of a bad hit. AS of right now there are a few players suspended already for hits they made and the new regime in discipline is doing something very different. Shanahan has started making videos in on some of the controversial calls in order to explain his thinking in his new role as disciplinarian. He also has plans to create videos to show how the game is changing for the better in respect to bad hits. During the preseason there has been a slight change as a few players have pulled up on a potential hit. These hits would have never affected the game as they were generally when a player had passed the puck on and the hit was not necessary. As the belt gets tightened by the NHL and Shanahan it will be interesting to see what happens. Will the players begin to let up on hits that are not needed and put fellow players in danger or will there be a record number of suspensions this year? The question remains to be answered as the NHL season is beginning to rev up.

As the season looks to begin there is another big aspect of the NHL hanging over the heads of Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr. This of course is something that every fan hates to hear and especially every NHL fan. The Collective Bargaining agreement will be done after the 2011-2012 season and this is not good news for fans. The last time the NHL CBA was up to be negotiated was in 2004 and that resulted in the first fully cancelled season in NHL history. The CBA talk has already started as the NHL fans hope that they will not repeat the 2005 season but with the recent NFL and NBA lockouts the NHLPA may be willing to go under some serious negotiations to get what they want. This round of negotiations may end up surrounding the NHL’s revenue sharing system that says players get 57% of the NHL revenue when it exceeds $2.7 billion and with the revenue at $2.9 billion last year the owners will definitely want to change this. The players of course will not like this and would likely want an adjustment in the team revenue sharing system to make sure that the revenue basement can be attained by some of the poorer teams in the league. This and a number of other key financial points including the leagues escrow system and the players having a say in business matters are also some key points that are a little more complicated. One of the biggest points for fans will be the involvement of NHL players in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. The NHL would prefer that their players do not leave to Russia and come back hurt after playing the Olympic tournament while the players enjoy participating in the tournament. Besides them the fans are highly in favour of the NHL going to Sochi especially if the Russian fans get to see Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin play on home soil for their home team. This may be just a pipe dream however as the players will most likely not fight for it if they need to sacrifice some other aspects to get the concession. With the 2005 cancelled season looming the fans are a little wary of what might happen after this year. As a fan I am not optimistic as the last negotiations ended with the NHL and Gary Bettman getting most of their requests while the NHLPA essentially settled in order to play hockey. This time the NHLPA will likely be looking to get some of these concessions and with Donald Fehr at the helm it is not looking too good. Of course this is after the season so as a fan I will be sitting and enjoying as much hockey I can before the stress of not having hockey hits after the all-star break. The 2011-12 season is still scheduled to run and it will be a fun one so follow along with me as I preview every division in the NHL and find out who I think will win the Stanley Cup this year.

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