Friday, December 30, 2011

The Top 10 Hockey Stories of 2011

On the other hand, here's a guy who hasn't been in the news at all this year...

2011 is on life support today, and by tomorrow night, it'll be just another year that has come and gone.  It did, however, produce a tremendous number of dramatic news stories in the hockey world.  Let's have a look at the 2011 Year in Review in the hockey world (stories are in chronological order).

1. SIDNEY CROSBY'S CONCUSSION - The 2011 NHL Winter Classic was supposed to be a celebration of the league's two best players: Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby.  Neither player was relevant in the game itself, except for Crosby getting drilled in the head by David Steckel, which is the likely initial trigger of Crosby's concussion.  Luckily for the Penguins, if you add up the rest of their roster, they almost come close to the offensive production of Crosby.

2. THERE'S A NEW OWNER IN BUFFALO - In February 2011, Terry Pegula was approved to be the new owner of the Buffalo Sabres.  He seemed to bring a new attitude to the franchise and emphasized winning multiple championships.  The Sabres went on a shopping spree in the summer, but let's just say that Ville Leino probably wasn't worth 6 years...or even one.  Pegula says he wants to win in Buffalo, but he never really provided a time table...

3. THE BOSTON BRUINS' RUN TO THE CUP - The Bruins run to the Stanley Cup wasn't easy: they were taken to a Game 7 three times, including the Finals themselves.  Rookie sensation Tyler Seguin exploded when he entered the lineup, thus...gaining on Phil Kessel in terms of playoff points with the Bruins.  What's more: Tomas Kaberle became the first player - other than his own brother - to win a Stanley Cup despite doing absolutely nothing for the team he won with.

4. VANCOUVER CHOKES, CITY RIOTS - Despite finally getting past the Chicago Blackhawks in the playoffs, the Canucks failed to win the Cup again.  Although they were the number one team in the league in the regular season, Roberto Luongo insisted that he wanted to retain the honor of being the laughing stock of the league.  To celebrate the Canucks' epic Stanley Cup Finals collapse, Vancouver fans took to the streets and rioted violently all over the city, but they can do that because that shows that they're passionate, right?

5. NHL RENEWS TV DEAL WITH NBC - Rather than signing with the Worldwide Leader in Sports (even though they're absolutely terrible), ESPN, Gary Bettman and the NHL signed a 10-year/$2 billion TV deal with NBC.  What we didn't know at the time is that the NHL would not be banished to irrelevant networks, such as Versus.  As 2011 becomes a memory come January 1st, Versus does as well.  With the new NBC 24 Hour Sports Network, the NHL is destined to go mainstream, right...or is that what we said when the Outdoor Network became Versus?

6. THRASHERS DIE, NHL GOES BACK TO WINNIPEG - Once upon a time, Gary Bettman thought that moving Canadian NHL franchises, such as Quebec City and Winnipeg, out of Canada due to financial issues and then following that up by expanding to the south would be a good idea.  Well, as with many of Bettman's decisions as NHL commissioner, things haven't gone very well.  The Thrashers were purchased by a group that gave Winnipeg an NHL franchise again.  Not only that, but shockingly, they're not the worst team in the league this season!

7. THE NHL'S CONCUSSION EPIDEMIC - Many "experts" offered their opinion regarding the recent surge in concussions: the game is faster, players are stronger and their equipment is better.  Even my theory, that Matt Cooke and Chris Pronger have elbows, is invalid this season.  What we do know is that every team has experienced at least one of their players suffer a concussion this calendar year, and there isn't an easy solution.  The league needs to make sure they don't take checking completely out of the game and make the NHL like women's hockey...

8. PHIL KESSEL DOMINATES THE FIRST QUARTER - No, Phil Kessel doesn't play football, but he did have an incredible first quarter of the 2011-12 NHL season.  Although he has been caught atop the league's goal scoring leaderboard, he continues to prove that Brian Burke won the Kessel-to-Toronto trade.  Despite this, Bruins fans continue chanting "Thank You Kessel" every time the two teams meet...inevitably because the Bruins are up 4-0.

9. CROSBY'S RETURN TO HOCKEY...AND TO INJURY RESERVE - After missing most of the calendar year, Sidney Crosby returned to the Penguins lineup as they faced the New York Islanders.  While some people debate whether scoring against the Islanders really counts at all, the league insists that stats against them count, which means Crosby's electric goal on his second shift back in the lineup counts.  He finished with four points.  Despite his epic return from his concussion, his symptoms returned after just eight games in the lineup.

10. THE RELEVANCE OF THE FLORIDA PANTHERS - After a decade of misery and losing, the Florida Panthers went on a shopping spree in free agency, as many Miami-area teams have over the past year or so.  Despite this, not many people took the Panthers seriously entering the 2011-12 season.  In fact, nobody did.  Their top line of Versteeg-Weiss-Fleischmann has emerged as one of the league's best lines, and other than that, nobody scores for the Panthers.  Still, as long as those three are healthy, the Panthers are actually a good team, which means they might make the playoffs.

11. TIM TEBOW BECOMES KING OF THE 4TH QUARTER - Dammit.  Tim Tebow really does show up everywhere, doesn't he?

Honorable mentions:

  • Ilya Kovalchuk and the Devils are revived in the 2nd half of 2010-11
  • Tampa Bay Lightning storm through the playoffs (see what I did there...?)
  • Brad Richards in a New York State of Mind
  • The decline of Ovechkin and the Caps
  • NHL re-aligns the Conferences just to mess with their fans and media

Happy New Year's, everyone!  Thanks for making my first full year of blogging a successful one!