|ESPN.com: LeBrun||[Print without images]|
Ah, the smell of pucks. There's nothing like it. We're inching our way toward the Oct. 1 start of the 2009-10 season, and here today at ESPN.com, we're launching the start of our season preview.
Check out Scott Burnside's preview of the Atlantic Division teams. My Northeast Division team previews will be posted tomorrow. The rest of the league runs Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
You'll notice a "10" theme in our team previews. So, here are 10 things I hope to see this season (wink, wink):
10. Burnside finally pays me back the $50 he owes me for our bet last season, when he said the Tampa Bay Lightning would make the playoffs. Ahem, since the Lightning were eliminated last season, I've seen Burnside at the Stanley Cup finals, the NHL awards in Las Vegas, the NHL draft in Montreal, the U.S. Olympic camp in Chicago, the Canadian Olympic camp in Calgary and the NHL/NHLPA player tour in New York two weeks ago. Still no $50.
9. The Los Angeles Kings bring the hockey buzz back to Hollywood and make the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons. Suddenly, the who's who of Hollywood start showing up to games just like the old days. "This is so great," actress Goldie Hawn will say on the eve of the playoffs. "But Jonathan Quick is not nearly as cute as the guy we had in the early '90s, the guy who wore a bandana under his helmet [Kelly Hrudey]."
8. Washington Capitals star winger Alexander Semin, through a Russian interpreter, complains that he doesn't understand what all the fuss is about with the Pittsburgh Penguins. "I mean, what have they ever done?" Told by Washington beat writers Corey Masisak and Tarik El-Bashir that the Penguins are the defending Stanley Cup champions, Semin fires his interpreter and claims he was misquoted.
7. The NHL Players' Association goes through an entire season without turmoil. Seriously, that would be nice.
6. The Florida Panthers declare bankruptcy and, on the same day in bankruptcy court in Miami, they are stunned by an $800 million bid for the club from BlackBerry mogul Jim Balsillie, a bid that's contingent on the team moving to Red Deer, Alberta. Ninety percent of the Canadian hockey media spend the next six months in South Florida monitoring the court proceedings.
5. Saku Koivu wakes up at home in Anaheim in mid-January. His Ducks team is leading the Western Conference standings, he's had to do six media interviews all season long and not one of them involved asking him why he didn't speak French. He drives to the rink in his convertible in 85-degree weather, looks to the guy sitting in the passenger seat and says, "Teemu, I should have done this years ago."
4. The Chicago Blackhawks sign star captain Jonathan Toews to a $120 million, 20-year contract extension in December. The NHL's head office is incensed with the deal, but can't do anything since it's very possible Toews will still be playing in October 2030 when he's 42 years old.
3. Ottawa's Jason Spezza asks for a trade one month from the March 3 trade deadline, but he stays put after a proposed deal to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Andrew Cogliano, Dustin Penner and Ladislav Smid is nixed by the star Senators center. It is revealed that Spezza had produced a list of 28 teams he'd be willing to move to, with Edmonton being the only club not on his list.
2. The Toronto Maple Leafs are on pace to eclipse Buffalo's NHL record of 2,713 penalty minutes for one season (1991-92) and, at the March 3 trade deadline, GM Brian Burke adds some insurance by acquiring Georges Laraque from the Montreal Canadiens and Donald Brashear from the New York Rangers. Brashear will play center on a line with Laraque and Colton Orr for the remainder of the season. The Leafs change game times to 6 p.m. local for the rest of the season to accommodate the longer, fight-filled games. TV ratings for Leafs games in Southern Ontario set all-time records.
1. The San Jose Sharks win the Stanley Cup, ending years of playoff frustration. Joe Thornton brings the Stanley Cup back to Boston to celebrate, Dan Boyle brings it to Tampa and Dany Heatley rents a boat to ride along the Rideau Canal in Ottawa with Lord Stanley's mug on display. Me? I finally get it right after picking San Jose four years in a row.