With camps around the corner, my offseason lessons

So what have we learned in the offseason?

" Neil Smith didn't like being part of a multitiered and crowded chain of command. He reacted to it with such revulsion, it was almost as if he had spotted 23 rats running around in the hallways of the Coliseum. But give him credit, the Islanders were undefeated during his tenure.

" Among the skaters, Patrik Elias is the Devils' cornerstone -- and with a seven-year deal, he better be for a long time.

" When Gary Bettman offered the arbitrators Kool-Aid, they didn't drink it. Right, Daniel Briere, J.P. Dumont, Kyle Calder and Scott Gomez?

" Steve Yzerman can take longer than Hamlet to make up his mind. However, despite the fancy way the famous procrastinator talked, Hamlet wasn't as classy.

" Another glance at the "Classic 39" episodes of "The Honeymooners" on DVD reminded us that Ralph Kramden infamously claimed he was the king of his castle, and then panicked and hoped Alice never found out he said that. The Ducks' Chris Pronger doesn't even pretend that he is the king of his castle.

" Even when he has a good personal situation, Mike Keenan still can screw it up.

" The Iron Curtain has fallen, the Soviet Union is history, and "defections" no longer are necessary. But the Penguins' Evgeni Malkin showed that cloak-and-dagger tactics are still sometimes necessary to make it to the NHL. John le Carre's next novel could be called, "Malkin's Flight."

" John Davidson stepped out of Hockey Night in Canada's "Hot Stove" and into the fire as president of the Blues. Actually, having only one gig instead of 12 might represent a cutback in his workload.

" Cutting its ownership stake in the Canadiens to 19.9 percent, Molson Coors is showing its interest in hockey now is Light.

" The Flyers' Peter Forsberg still has a burning desire to play. In other words, he won't take a dive while recovering from surgery.

" Todd Bertuzzi is getting a fresh start. Well, as fresh as it can be.

" Judging from the play it got in the tabloids, Jose Theodore might have so many points in the Hilton Honors program, he is getting close to being able to stay for a week in Maui for free.

" If new Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli had more hair, it would be accurate to say that Harry Sinden was getting out of it when he stepped down as team president. Presumably, though, Sinden's suits still will be coated with Teflon as he continues to serve as an adviser to owner Jeremy Jacobs.

" The Hurricanes cast their lot with Cam Ward. The Senators liked Martin Gerber better than Dominik Hasek. The Red Wings liked the jilted Hasek and the idea of Chris Osgood as the starter better than Manny Legace, who got too much of the blame. The Lightning liked Marc Denis better than John Grahame, who went to the Hurricanes to back up Ward. And there were about seven goaltending circles along those lines.

" Speaking of which, Marc Crawford believes that if Dan Cloutier had stayed healthy last season, they both might still be in Vancouver. Now, they're in it together in Los Angeles, where Crawford likely already has been approached 12 times for autographs and told, "I love you on 'General Hospital,' Dr. Quartermaine."

" Michael Peca and Darcy Tucker can bury a hatchet. Or at least say all the right things about it.

" The Penguins' survival in Pittsburgh still depends on having three "ARENA" symbols straight across on a slot machine's payline. (I'd go into detail about what that would look like, but I've never seen three like symbols on the payline of a slot machine.) But be suspicious if the song "Kansas City" ("Kansas City, Here We Come") is played at the home opener.

" Roberto Luongo now knows that until a deal is signed, it's not worth the paper it's not printed on. And as part of that, following his trade to the Canucks, he has the opportunity to prove whether he can be as impressive for a good team as he was when under siege with a bad one.

" The Stars' Eric Lindros still can pass a physical and his talent still tantalizes. Same with the Coyotes' Owen Nolan.

" The Sharks didn't get an offer they liked enough for Vesa Toskala or Evgeni Nabokov. But they still would be better off trading one and making Nolan Schaefer the backup.

" If the Wild front office was smart, Marian Gaborik's re-signing came with a caveat: LET HIM LOOSE, JACQUES!

" The Rangers' signing of Brendan Shanahan was savvy for several reasons, even if the odometer is getting close to rolling over. If he can deliver kicks in the posterior, literally and figuratively, and lead by fiery example, that could be as important as Henrik Lundqvist showing his regular-season play wasn't a fluke.

" Darryl Sutter was ready to be grumpy only in the front office, but he kept up the franchise tradition of fleecing the Avalanche.

" Patrick Roy, who spent the summer basking in the glow of the Quebec Remparts' Memorial Cup victory, hasn't lost his talent to rub folks the wrong way, but that's one of the reasons he wins. And the smart money is on him becoming the Canadiens' GM someday.

" There still is an NHL team playing in Chicago. That's the rumor, anyway.

" Tomas Vokoun is healthy again. At least the Predators better hope so, or their season will become a lament worthy of a whining steel-guitar soundtrack.

Let the camps begin.

Terry Frei is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. He is the author of "Third Down and a War to Go" and "Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming."