I've got this funny feeling about what's going to happen in 2008
What's 2008 got in store for the NHL? Well, rising Snow, a falling Bettman, a fumbling Foppa and a bold BlackBerry baron. Frei
Updated: January 10, 2008, 9:43 PM ETBy Terry Frei | Special to ESPN.com
Here's what might happen in the NHL in the 2008 portion of the season:January • Attending the Detroit Red Wings-Vancouver Canucks game in Joe Louis Arena and angered by the delays, hockey fan Adam Joseph Maida, the archbishop of the Detroit Diocese, will be moved to offer last rites to the hurry-up faceoff. • The word out of Sweden, via ABBA founder Bjorn Ulvaeus, whose next musical is called "Foppa," will be that Peter Forsberg isn't just inching toward a return, but that he is closer than ever to being physically ready and mentally ready to return to the NHL. The Colorado Avalanche, averaging 0.17 goals per game with both Joe Sakic and Ryan Smyth out of the lineup and with plenty of cap room available, will be rumored to be first in line. • In the wake of their recent signing of University of Minnesota sophomore Kyle Okposo, and general manager Garth Snow's bush-league broadside at Gophers coach Don Lucia, the Islanders will make runs at all their draft choices still playing in college. Snow again will come off as an obnoxious stage father who thinks his kid should be playing 32 minutes and be the focus of everything the coach does, and Gary Bettman again will do nothing about it. • Television ratings for the NHL All-Star Game in Atlanta will be embarrassing. But maybe that will be a good thing. The 21-19 no-hitter won't be as much of an intriguing showcase for the league as the Winter Classic in Buffalo on Jan. 1. February • Peter Forsberg will be said to have suffered a setback in his attempted comeback and be discouraged. Asked about it, hockey fan Bill Murray will say, "It's 'Groundhog Day' & all over again!" • There will be 52 deadline deals, but Mats Sundin will remain with the Maple Leafs. • The Wild's Marian Gaborik, the 60-goal scorer waiting to happen, finally will snap and say he's sick and tired of playing for Jacques Lamaire. And more fans in the State of Hockey will start wondering why they're filling the building for a franchise that is neither winning the division nor entertaining. • Ottawa goalie Martin Gerber, shoved back into the backup role, will slam his stick during practice, then oversleep and miss the start of a Senators practice the next day before being chased out of the building by coach John Paddock. "Hey, it worked for Ray," he will say.
• The Hurricanes will say, "Gee, Sergei Samsonov seems to have a lot of talent and untapped potential, but also a motivation problem." Folks in Boston, Edmonton, Montreal and Chicago will retort: "Well, no kidding, Sherlock." March • The Flyers' Steve Downie will take another cheap-shot sucker punch at the Leafs' Jason Blake, and senior vice president Bobby Clarke again will say that he has no problem with it. Because, after all, hadn't Blake said that Downie should be kicked out of the league? • The next day, Steve Moore's lawsuit against Todd Bertuzzi and the Canucks will be settled out of court. Equipment managers, trainers and former Canucks, all wrestling with testifying during a trial under oath about what they heard and saw, will breath huge sighs of relief. Nobody will ask Bobby Clarke for his reaction. • Television cameras will catch the Rangers' Jaromir Jagr yawning 14 times. During one shift. An extra-caffeine soft drink will consider featuring him in its next commercial, succeeding Tony Romo, but the ad campaign manager will decide that he would dog it through the taping, as well. April • At the end of the regular season, four NHL general managers -- coincidentally, all of teams that missed the playoffs -- will argue that the league needs to expand the playoff field, grousing that because their teams finished above .500 and with more than 90 points, they deserved to be in the postseason. They will not mention that three-point games and overtime and a separate column for shootout losses meant that 24 of the 30 teams had more wins than losses and that the NHL average -- or the true break-even point -- was 92 points. This should, but won't, give impetus to the movement to make all games worth three points or to eliminate the guaranteed point to an overtime or shootout loser. • Against all odds, Jim Balsillie finally will land an NHL franchise and begin the process to move the team to Hamilton for the 2008-09 season. Anybody who can make kazillions getting people to type on BlackBerry keys the size of a point of a pin can pull off something relatively minor like this. • A Devils-Canadiens playoff game will end at 3:12 a.m., with 14 fans remaining in The Rock, renewing calls to find a better solution than sudden-death overtime. May
Steve Babineau/Getty ImagesSergei Samsonov, floating through another pregame warm-up.
• At his Cup finals news conference, commissioner Gary Bettman finally will get so dizzy in trying to put positive spin on the NHL's state of affairs, he will fall out of his chair on the stage and be unable to get up. The footage will be on YouTube within 14 seconds and will get 1.2 million hits in Canada within the hour. • On a day off between Games 2 and 3 of the Stanley Cup finals, Peter Forsberg will announce he's ready to return to the NHL and offer his services to either the Red Wings or Senators. Terry Frei is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. He is the author of the just-released "'77" and "Third Down and a War to Go."
Jeff Golden/Getty ImagesA dizzy Gary Bettman, immediately before the pratfall.