Thursday, October 6, 2011
Plenty of storylines as NHL season begins
By Vince Masi
ESPN Stats & Info previews the 2011-12 NHL season.
The NHL season kicks off Thursday with three games, including the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins hosting the Philadelphia Flyers, who they defeated last season in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Championships are not won in October, but they certainly can be lost.
Over the past 13 seasons, the Stanley Cup champions boast a combined October record of 100-25-17. The last time a team won the Stanley Cup with a non-winning record in October was the 1991-92 Pittsburgh Penguins, who went 5-5-2 in October 1991.
BARELY ANY REPEATS
No Stanley Cup champion has repeated since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998. The Red Wings almost did it last year, but lost in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. They were the first defending champ to make it back to the Cup Final since New Jersey in 2001.
The past 22 Stanley Cup champions have been coached by 19 different men. The only coach of repeat champions in that span was Scotty Bowman, who guided Detroit to the title in 1997 and 1998, and then again in 2002.
Which team will end the long drought this year? The past three Stanley Cup champions each ended significant droughts without winning the title.
The Bruins won their first Stanley Cup in 39 years last season and the Blackhawks got their first in 49 years the season before that. In 2009 the Penguins won their first Cup in 17 years when they beat the Red Wings.
SUSPENSIONS ARE A STORY
Hits to the head and hits from behind will not be tolerated this season. This is evidence by the heavy amount of suspensions handed down by Brendan Shanahan, the NHL’s VP of Hockey and Business Development. Blue Jackets defenseman James Wisniewski was suspended 8 games for a hit to the head, which causes him to forfeit $536,585.36.
Through October 4 there have already been nine players suspended a total of 31 regular-season games with $701,682.56 of lost pay. Eight of the nine suspensions have been for hits to the head (four) or hits from behind (four).
SID THE KID
All Sidney Crosby has done since he’s come into the league is just turn the Penguins into an elite franchise. But Crosby has been out since January 5 because of concussion symptoms stemming from hits in games on January 1 by Washington’s David Steckel and January 5 by Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman.
Crosby is naturally compared to Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux and for good reason. His production and talent is around the same level as these Hall-of-Famers.
JAGR RETURNS TO THE NHL
After three seasons of playing in the KHL, Jaromir Jagr has returned to the NHL, signing a one-year/$3.3M contract with the Flyers. Jagr’s last NHL season came in 2007-08 with the Rangers when he scored 25 goals, the fewest of his NHL career. On the NHL’s all-time list he’s ninth in points, 12th in goals and 14th in assists.