The following predictions are based on my belief that there will be an NHL season in 2013. The NHL and NHLPA can’t possibly be dumb enough to lose another full season, right? RIGHT? Especially, when they are so close on so many issues. Both sides know that losing another full season would irrevocably damage the game and it’s popularity; causing each side to lose money and sponsors. Plus, it would create a smaller revenue stream in the future. And if there’s one thing we know the NHL and NHLPA can agree on: it’s the fact that both sides like making as much money as possible. With all that said, let’s get to the predictions.
#1. The Minnesota Wild will make the playoffs as the #6 seed in the Western Conference.
-The Wild have not made the playoffs since the 2007-2008 season. The drought ends in the upcoming abbreviated season. If you remember, Minnesota made a huge splash this offseason- acquiring the two most sought after free-agents on the market in Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. With Parise and Suter, plus other newcomers: Mikael Granlund, Torrey Mitchell, and Zenon Konopka, the Minnesota Wild have their most talented and deepest roster in franchise history. All of this talent should add up to a playoff spot, even in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.
#2. Minnesota will start the season slow.
-Yes, the Wild added a lot of talent to its roster this off-season. But once a deal is struck and the lockout is ended, there will not be a lot of time to prepare for the upcoming season. And this will negatively affect teams who are integrating a lot of new members to there roster. I mean, with only a one-week training camp and a lot of players new to the Wild’s roster; there are bound to be some growing pains when it comes to learning head coach Mike Yeo’s system. However, with the kind of talent the Wild is adding to its roster, they should be able to weather an early storm or two.
#3. Mikko Koivu will still be the best player on the Minnesota Wild
-Koivu, the Wild’s captain, and the most underrated player in the NHL, will still be the team’s best all-around player. Koivu, a center, can do it all on the ice; He wins faceoffs; Plays the body; Is excellent defensively; Has great vision; Is a deft passer; Has great hands; and most importantly: he plays hard and to win every single night. His one issue has been staying healthy. If he can avoid injury this season, he should post the best numbers of his career. Plus, he will be playing with Zach Parise every night. And I will go out on a limb and say Parise is just a tad bit better than the Antti Miettinen’s of the world that usually line-up next to Koivu on the ice.
#4. The Wild Will be a Fun Team to Watch
-Even hard-core Wild fans have to admit that their team hasn’t exactly been thrilling to watch play throughout the years. (Jacques Lemaire.) That should change this year. Mike Yeo, Minnesota Wild head coach, wants to play an aggressive, up-tempo game, featuring a strong forecheck. And this year, he has the horses to do so. Last year’s team started out playing an aggressive style. But injuries forced coach Yeo to dial his system back. With all of the talented additions to his roster, look for Yeo to ramp up his system and to do away with the dreaded trap style of play. Which should make for some entertaining hockey. And hey, maybe the Wild will even finish in the top half of the league in goals-scored. (A man can dream.)
#5. Mikael Granlund Will Win the Calder Trophy. (Rookie of the Year)
-Granlund, Minnesota’s first round pick in the 2010 NHL draft, will finally be making his NHL debut once the lockout ends. His debut will come with a lot of pressure attached, as fans in Minnesota have been waiting for what seems like an eternity to see him make his Wild debut. Yet, nothing this elite-prospect has shown indicates he will shrink from the moment. Granlund, the AHL Rookie of the Month in November, has 8 goals and 10 assists in 19 games played so far for the Houston Aeros this season, despite missing time with a severely sprained ankle. He certainly has the pedigree and talent to win the Calder Trophy; In 2010, he was named the rookie of the year in the, SM-liga, the top pro league in Finland, as an 18-year-old. I expect big things from him this year and the years to come.
Despite many fan’s unrest with the lockout, (myself included) the NHL will see its TV ratings and attendance grow in most markets.
-The fact is hockey is/was growing in the United States. And even with the lockout, I believe it will continue to do so. Technology has advanced to the point that the casual fan can see the game better on his/her HDTV screen, which will bring more eyeballs to the sport. Also, TV ratings are up for all sports, because more people want to watch the games in the comfort of their living room, and because sports are the last thing left on TV that need to be watched live. Added all up, this portends success for the NHL in the future. Especially, when you factor in that hockey is at its best when seen live, in-person. This should help boost the attendance numbers in the short-term, while the stigma of the lockout wears off.
Sidney Crosby will be the MVP of the NHL
-Crosby, the Pittsburgh Penguins captain, is hands-down the best player in the league. He will have more leeway on the ice and less worry of taking another head-shot, because of his work in trying to get a deal done to solve the lockout. Plus, you have to remember that he has barely played over the last two years and is sure to be fired up and looking to make up for lost time. The best player in the league with more room on the ice; equals an Art Ross Trophy, a Ted Lindsay Award, and a Hart Trophy for the Kid.
The Detroit Red Wings will take a step back.
-Detroit, the best franchise in the NHL for the last 20 years, will take a step back this season. They are extremely thin on defense and will miss Nik Lidstrom’s steady presence on the blue line dearly. Plus, they are getting old in a lot of key spots. They will still be a playoff team, but they will not be a cup-contender.
Your 2013 Stanley Cup Champion will be the Chicago Blackhawks.
-Chicago won the cup in 2010 and will win it this year. Despite having the most talented team in the league the past few years, the Blackhawks have failed to live up to their lofty expectations. That changes this season. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews will lead this team to another cup. And they must, for the Blackhawks will be in salary cap hell for the foreseeable future after this season.