Page 2's 2009-10 NHL preview
After its customary 72-hour offseason, the NHL is back.
Here are 20 reasons I'm excited for the new season -- and I promise none of them have to do with Alexander Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby. (Mostly.)
• One of the greatest players of all time, Peter Forsberg, may come back! Well, maybe. Possibly. Who knows. He's playing in Sweden right now. And, of course, he's hurt. But there's still always that hope he will return to the NHL and dominate again. And that will probably happen as soon as Barry Sanders returns and dominates with the Lions.
• One of the greatest players of his generation, Theo Fleury, may come back! Well, no. Probably not. He has already cut short his comeback attempt with the Calgary Flames. Or has he? Says Fleury: "I could not sign with another team. I retire a Calgary Flame." Oh, really, Fleury? Won't play for another team? Then explain THIS! I say Fleury is in uniform somewhere by the spring. Possibly with the Mets.
• You can get to know your goalie. Remember when the Islanders signed Rick DiPietro to a 15-year deal three years ago? What were they thinking? Hilarious! Apparently not. Because this offseason, the Canucks signed Roberto Luongo to a 12-year deal, meaning he can stay in net in Vancouver until he's 43, if he'd like. I assume the thinking is that if the Islanders' front office does it, it must be a good move. I assume it's also 1981.
• Ice girls! So I guess this is one of the ways you sell hockey in the Sun Belt. Duh, Coyotes. Or anywhere, really. While I enjoy the scenery in that video as much as the next guy, the part I enjoyed the most is the opening scene where you can see a billboard that reads: "Home of Modano Checking." Ha! Good one. Mike Modano doesn't check.
• Ray Emery is back! After playing for a year in Russia, Ray Emery is back in the NHL with Philadelphia as the replacement in net for Marty Biron. Surely Ray Emery + Flyers will not = anything like this. No, this will be tame in comparison.
• The Phoenix Coyotes will be fun to watch. They don't have an owner or any money. And their head coach, "The Great One (Coaching Excluded)," Wayne Gretzky, just quit. This season could look like "Major League" meets "Slap Shot." Just make sure you don't have DirecTV or you won't be able to enjoy the show.
• Fun with Patrick Kane. You can't get in a physical altercation with a cab driver over a bit of change and not expect to hear about it from hockey fans. Or anyone. But I think Kane will successfully overcome those distractions and put up the best season of his career. But that's just my 20 cents, take it for what it is. HEY! No punching! I said you could take!
• Jonathan Toews. While I think Patrick Kane will have a big season, I'm not sure about his teammate, Toews. I don't know what was going on behind the photographer in this ESPN The Magazine cover shoot -- A gruesome murder? A morbidly obese person undressing? -- but I'm aftraid Toews (left) will never be able to shake it. Wait a minute. If there was something horrific going on behind the scenes, why does no one else look like that. OMG! Toews must have been threatened by Kane! Give him back his 20-cents, Jonathan! It's not worth your life!
• John Tavares is here. The No. 1 overall pick will begin the season with the Islanders. I'm not sure which "Next" he is being referred to by these days. The Islanders will happily accept The Next Gretzky, The Next Lemieux or The Next Crosby. The Next Lindros, less so. The Next Alexandre Daigle? Not at all.
• Steven Stamkos. The 2008 No. 1 overall pick scored only 23 goals last season. But that was after scoring only six in his first 51 games, so he finished the season well. So perhaps Tavares is The Next Stamkos.
• Don Cherry. You really can't have a list like this without including Don Cherry. And by "a list like this," I mean a list about hockey and also a list of examples as to why one should not go clothes shopping drunk. Don Cherry makes Craig Sager look about as sartorially imaginative as a senior tour golfer.
• Sean Avery. He's the player hockey fans love to hate. Okay, the player hockey fans love to hate not named Sidney Crosby. But it's more productive to hate Sean Avery because, unlike Crosby, he's unlikely to do anything to make your team lose. Unless you're a Rangers fan, of course. There, there, Rangers fans. It's okay. Wipe your tears with this snazzy scarf.
• Canada. Oh, hey there, friendly neighbors to the north! We like you. Or I do, at least. Hockey season is a pleasant reminder that you exist. However, I still don't quite buy the line about you all having free health care. You are hockey fans. Going to the doctor is for pansies. It's not hard to have universal health care when no one tries to use it.
• Marian Hossa. The talented former Senator, Penguin and Red Wing is now a Blackhawk. And he signed a goalie-esque 10-year deal. So Chicago is pretty much a lock to win the Stanley Cup in 2020. Although it would have been smarter to sign him to a deal that expires in late May, thereby guaranteeing you the Cup THIS year. Oh well, 2020 it is.
• Flyers jerseys. The players may change from year to year, but the ultimate hopelessness of the Philadelphia Flyers endures. Nothing captures this better than a timeless jersey with nameplates that look like peel-away decals. Maybe one day they'll even consider getting a goalie whose name is worth stitching onto a jersey. Maybe even with double-stitch!
• EA Sports' "NHL Hockey." It's the most realistic video game I've ever played. Well, as far as I know. "Halo 3" may also be realistic, but I have never been a cybernetically enhanced super soldier fighting an alliance of alien races. So I can't really say.
• Todd Bertuzzi is on the Red Wings. Don't expect thuggery from Bertuzzi while he's a member of one of the NHL's premier franchises. The Red Wings won't stand for it. But if he does throw any sucker punches, it will be a Red Wings-style sucker punch: textbook, deliberate, almost boring. Not really worth it, Todd.
• San Jose Sharks. I love watching great hockey. That's why I love watching the San Jose Sharks. (This is a regular season preview column.) Right now the Sharks are running an ad that perfectly captures the team. Did you pick it up? The Sharks are fun and entertaining at the beginning. And then the end of the season goes ... bad. Genius campaign.
• Olympic hockey. The NHL will shut down for two weeks at the end of February for the Olympics in Vancouver. The pressure on Team Canada to win gold will be intense. So, like every other Winter Olympics. Only with more booing.
• Geno Malkin's parents. The camera hasn't loved a set of parents like this since the NCAA tournament cameras kept settling on Steph Curry's parents. Well, Steph Curry's mom. But, unfortunately, Dell Curry was sometimes in the shot, too. For the record, I prefer Mrs. Malkin. She makes a delicious borscht.
DJ Gallo is the founder of and sole writer for the sports satire site SportsPickle.com. He also is a regular contributor to ESPN The Magazine and has written for The Onion and Cracked. His first book, "SportsPickle Presents: The View from the Upper Deck," is on sale now.
ESPN TOP HEADLINES
- Blount: Happy release led to return to Pats
- Sources: Pats' Gray late, doesn't practice
- Raiders' Woodson on celebration: 'Ridiculous'
- Sources: White Sox snag LaRoche for $25M