NHL Lockout: Three Teams that could Benefit from Shorter Season
The NHL lockout looms only two days away, or to put it more ominously, “The Day after Tomorrow.” It seems that most pundits agree that the players and owners will be unable to reach an agreement before the September 15 expiration date.
Still, it is unlikely that the league will cancel an entire season again. They survived the first P.R. disaster but with no real on ice solutions to offer, a second cancellation will bring the curtains down on the NHL. A shortened season, however, is a real possibility.
Here are three teams that might benefit from a shorter schedule.
The Dallas Stars- The Stars were in playoff contention for most of 2011-12 before fading towards the end. Even with the departures of agitator Steve Ott and playmaker Mike Ribeiro, the Stars possess talent up front. Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson are two of the more underrated forwards in the league.
In the off season, Dallas added Buffalo’s Derek Roy via trade. The ex-Sabre is currently sidelined with a shoulder injury but should return by mid-November. If the lockout plays out like most think it will, then Roy should easily be ready for the start of the season rather than being thrust into the middle of it.
The Stars also added aging forwards Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney. The former had a renaissance of sorts for Philadelphia, the latter a career year for Phoenix. Jagr was at his best in the team’s first 60 or so games, which could be equal to the entire 2012-13 season. Whitney is coming off his longest sustained playoff run, reaching the Conference Finals with the Coyotes. He could use the extra rest to start the year.
With the goalie and d-corps still in tact as well, the Stars could reap the benefits of a shorter season.
The Detroit Red Wings- They lost the greatest defenseman of his generation and failed to sign any of their targeted free agents. But the Red Wings still have Mike Babcock at the helm and the two best two-way players in the game in Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. All-star net minder Jimmy Howard returns in goal as well.
The health of the aforementioned Zetterberg and Datsyuk will key Detroit’s success. In recent years, both forwards have battled through nagging injuries, not to mention long forays into the Stanley Cup playoffs.
In a truncated schedule, Detroit will see the best of their stalwart forwards. The championship window is closing. This aging Wings team, though, has a better chance in a shortened season than in the standard 82 games.
The Edmonton Oilers- If the league sacrifices much of the preseason, as the NBA and NFL did in their lockouts last year, teams will struggle to establish systems and chemistry in the early going. As structure deteriorates, talent takes over.
Young guns Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and the 2012 first overall selection Nail Yakupov lead a very young, very talented Oilers group.
Oilers fans might finally see the best out of chronic underachievers Ales Hemsky and Sam Gagner, both of whom rely on supreme offensive skills to offset their defensive shortcomings. Moreover, the scoring prowess of the forwards should ease the pressure off of an improving blueline in the early going.
The biggest question mark is in goal. If Edmonton scores like their capable however, questionable goaltending will be a moot point.