We all have our thoughts, opinions and biases as to which teams have improved, which are sure-fire playoffs bound, and which are bound for a miserable season. But although a fan, I like to think and try my best to be one of the apparent minority that takes and makes well-founded criticism of his own team. And is that type of thinking that has led me to think about the articles that have been posted here on people’s take on how teams will fair. My thoughts are that given all being equal from other years we could answer these questions with a higher degree of accuracy, but so much has changed that in all truthfulness, we have to wait.
The rules have changed, goalies have to get used to new equipment and limitations on their play, the officiating has made changes.
1. The rules – Fact is that this will affect players and some might not be able to adapt as us as fans or their organizations expect them to. Would anyone be realistically shocked if some, even the consider upper echelon players (especially defensemen), struggled and found limitations they can not cope with due to the new rules? And you can see disagreement between the organizations as to how the rules will affect the play in just the free-agent signings. Now, this is just an example, but it is the one that really sticks in my head: The Flyers Defense.
The Flyers for once seemed not concerned to have several key pieces of their defense being not so mobile as compared to most teams. Will the new rules translate into lightning quick movements that people like Derian Hatcher will not be able to cope with? Will teams play one defenseman way back to counteract speed? Have the slower defensemen thought out a clever way to counteract the changes in the rules? Other teams obviously disagreed with the Flyers approached and have steered clear of slower players. I personally feel that the Flyers took the biggest gamble than any team in the entire league, because they spent a heck of a lot on this proposition. Will it pay off? Possibly, even though I tend to think it will not. But it is certainly a wait-and-see proposition as far as I’m concerned.
2. Even more is an issue with goalies. So MUCH has changed for these guys. Does everyone think Brodeur will be just as effective as he has been before? This is a man we have grown accustomed to seeing him thwarting the opposing team’s efforts to dumping the puck into the offensive zone with his stick work outside the crease. But the days of him playing the puck in the corners, is in the past now. And how their equipment has changed. I know this can be for many other reasons, but I certainly remember a certain Conn Smythe winner (obviously a goalie) simply disappear after some minor changes were mandated into the leg pads just a few years ago. Coincidence? Maybe. Am I willing to bet that NOTHING done to their equipment and the rules will affect the other goalies? NO WAY!! I wouldn’t even bet a soft drink. Everything is changing for them, pads, upper body, and catching glove. Even the size of their uniform! I have seen even reports where Martin Brodeur, arguably the best goalie in the league, has struggled with these changes, to where Lou Lamoriello commented to a radio station that he had never seen number 30 let in the net many pucks that in other years were a routine stop for the net minder. Which goalies will be affected by the extended time off, knowing that goalies are, by their own admission, much more efficient when they get regular play? If I think there is one thing that may be the one key thing that will throw everyone’s predictions in the circular file, is goalies.
3. But last and not least, is officiating. We have all heard it before. The promises: “This time will be different.” Just to be disillusioned once again. Will it last? How drastic will it be? Will the league coward once again at a long line of players waiting to get into the “sin bin”? And how will they interpret the new rules? Yes, we know they are spelled out in the rulebook, but we also know that each and every official has their own take on what and when to call an infraction. It is just simply part of what makes them human beings. And the teams are putting so much expectation and so many different views into this biased ruling. So many taking opposite views on how will the game be, upon the awaited return, that by the time the cup is raised again, inevitably many teams will have phone the league offices protesting and volunteering their view of how things should be. But officiating is a variable that we will not even get a good grip on, until perhaps 10 or 12 games into the season. Will each team react appropriately? Did they make the right personnel choices to intertwine with how the officials will make it all work?
So who is right and who is wrong in their predictions? Who has gotten the correct picture? Who’s made the correct moves? Or perhaps more importantly, who has made the least mistakes that will propel them into the history books.
Simply put, so much is a variable for this upcoming season, that it is hardly an exact science. We just have to wait-and-see.
But indoubtly there are people who feel they have a solid grip on it all. So please let me know how you feel the rules, goalies, and officiating will play out.
And while you are at it, I’ll take next week’s lottery numbers too.