It might have been four months late, but on Saturday, January 19th, 2013, the puck finally dropped to begin the 2013 National Hockey League Season. Despite the aggressive calls for boycotts and protests, it appeared that the majority of fans were excited to see the thirty teams lace up the skates and get back into action. With the long absence of hockey filled with talks of pension, caucus, make-whole, and hills to die on, it was quite difficult to remember the changes to the league that everybody was looking forward to. Free agents were signed, teams had made trades, and the training camps flew by. In fact, through one week the season has already been underwhelming.
Due to the truncated schedule where each team plays 48 games in 99 days, it’s quite difficult to follow one team, let alone 30. Despite seeing the scores, to look further into each game can be hard to do. Back for the 2nd year, “The Week That Was” explores tidbits of the week of NHL action not easily found on the top of the twitter feed and the forefront of the boxscore. The past 7 days have been highlighted by dazzling rookies, star veterans, long-awaited debuts, and home-opening woes. Here is the week that was from January 19th to January 25th.
The Rookies Debut it Well…
With only a one week turnaround from the ratification of the CBA and the start of the season, everybody was focused on the free agents still available, new arrivals in each city, and different team battles in training camp. Sitting in the shadows of all the storylines were the upcoming rookies. Through one week, the rookies have been incredible. With future stars such as Nail Yakupov, Alex Galchenyuk, and Justin Schultz netting their first goals during the week, it would already be considered a great start for the rookie class. However, on opening night a few rookies stole the spotlight to prove that this year’s Calder Trophy race will be tight.
Rookies Cory Conacher, Vladimir Tarasenko, Mikael Granlund, and Jonathan Huberdeau combined for five goals in their first career games, leading all of their teams to very solid victories. All four rookies outperformed their expectations both on the scoresheet and one the ice, contributing equally defensively and offensively. If these players can continue their remarkable production for the next 92 days, their teams will certainly be playing more than just 48 games this season.
…But the Legends do it Best
The rookies were remarkable, that much is sure. To face that much pressure in their first game and perform so admirably is incredible. However, we have always been told to “respect our elders”. This is not referring to the performances on opening day from current stars such as Patrick Kane or James Neal, who despite their young age are much older than the crop of rookies. On opening day, the rookies, the stars, the goaltenders, and the comeback players were all upstaged by the true veterans.
Players such as Jaromir Jagr, Ray Whitney, Teemu Selanne, and Martin St. Louis, all of which are in the twilights of their careers and probable (if not locks) hall of fame inductees, rose to the occasion of the opening night of a shortened season. With Jagr and Selanne leading the way with 2 goals and 2 assists each, the true veterans of the NHL showed why they’re considered such valuable commodities despite their ever-increasing age. It is incredibly unlikely that they keep up their scoring paces through 48 games, but hopefully these players are just warming up, and plan on continuing their success in the NHL beyond 2013.
Worth the “Wade”
It seems like just yesterday that Wade Redden was a star with the Ottawa Senators, a core piece on the blueline in their attempts to win the Stanley Cup. However, following a falling out with the Sens, Redden’s hockey career plummeted. Despite signing a 6 year, 39 million dollar deal with the New York Rangers, his overall play did not justify his caphit and was subsequently sent down to the Connecticut Whale two years later, six games short of his 1000th NHL game. With no willing trading partners and the Rangers’ refusal to buy him out, Redden remained in Connecticut for two years. Luckily, the implementation of the amnesty buyout in the new CBA allowed the Rangers to part ways with Redden, allowing the 35-year-old defenseman to get his career back on track.
With a 1 year, $800,000 contract, Redden made the jump back up to the NHL with the St. Louis Blues, a deep team considered to be cup contenders in the 2013 season. With experience and leadership, Redden’s presence will be very helpful to such a young and inexperienced team. But nobody could’ve imagined that in only his second game back to the big leagues, Redden would score his 1st goal in nearly 3 years, to help the Blues beat the Dallas Stars. He certainly won’t be in contention for the Norris Trophy, but if he continues to play well, Redden’s comeback will likely be one of the feel-good stories of this season.
There’s No Place Like the Road
There’s something magical about home openers in the National Hockey League. Whether it takes place on the first day of the season or one week later, the introduction of all 23 players and the montages that take place on the jumbotron really seems to pump up the crowd in anticipation for the season that lies ahead. With the fans in euphoria and fully backing the players, it would be sensible to believe that the home team should win the majority of the games. The opposite is the case. In their opening games, the home team in 2013 only won 13 of the 30 games. Perhaps the losses can be attributed to too much hype or cold feet from standing on the blue line for too long. But this statistic is merely indicative of how the home-ice advantage is essentially non-existent. Despite the presence of a loud crowd, there are no advantages for the home team in the modern area. All road players stay in the nicest of hotels, are given adequate rest time before practice, and have very nice amenities at the arena. However, it is always fun to see the home team win, and hopefully the visiting team is sent home with a loss more often than not.