Monday, June 15, 2009

Burning Questions for NHL Off Season

With the Stanley Cup being awarded back on Friday night, the off season is here and we have 5 burning questions for the NHL as we head into the off season from the future of the Phoenix Coyotes to will who play in the league's special events next season (Especially the Season Opening Weekend in Europe and the Winter Classic).

1. What will happen to the Phoenix Coyotes

Just before the playoffs started, the league officially took over the Phoenix Coyotes due to major debt problems, lack of a fan base and a shaky ownership situation. One of the biggest controversy is Jim Balsillie who wants to move the team from Phoenix to Hamilton, Ontario. Other then moving the team which would be a big controversy in it self, the fact it would affect the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Buffalo Sabres teams since the distance between the 3 cities is very close to each other. Even though I'm usually against moving teams for basically any reason, but not in this case, because this team is so much trouble from so many areas as the team has had a big problem developing a fan base of any kind in the area and big name players not coming for the most part with the exception of the 1st couple of years in the mid 90s when they had some of best players who moved with them from Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Eventually, I think they will have to move the Coyotes because they future if they stay is very bleak in Arizona and theirs not much to gain for the Coyotes. If they were to move, we could they go? You could go to one of the cities that's been relocated out of the NHL like Quebec City or Hartford, another city that's been mentioned is Kansas City, this was a very popular pick especially with the NY Islanders having arena problems earlier this decade. If your looking for someplace new in the league, I would consider the Seattle because the Pacific Northwest part of the U.S.A. has never had an NHL team before and it would do both by getting new NHL fans and expanding to a new part of North America.

Seattle is looking for a winning team right now, the Seahawks haven't done very much in recent years and the Mariners have just plain sucked big time. I know their new MLS team, the Seattle Sounders have been doing well, but a hockey team would be much more well known then a MLS team no matter how successful they become.

2. Who will go first in the NHL Draft?

This year, they are 3 main players that league experts are talking about who will go #1 in this year's NHL Draft which is coming up at the end of June. These players are John Tavares, Victor Hedman and Matt Duchene as the 3 up and coming superstars from this year's draft class.

John Tavares is a explosive forward who has broken several records during his time in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). First he broke Wayne Gretzky's record for points in a single season with 134 back in the 2006-07 season with the Oshawa Generals then near the end of his junior career he broke Peter Lee's all time scoring record near the end of the 2008-09 season. In the playoffs he was very impressive as well which included scoring 56 points in the playoffs in his career and got the London Knights to the Western Conference Finals before losing to the eventually OHL and Memorial Cup Champion Windsor Spitfires.

In addition to his offense, his defense ability if getting better all the time with just his rookie season being a minus in the +/- catorgey during his junior career. Many experts have him going to the NY Islanders going #1, but they are 2 other players that have pretty strong cases about being the top player taken this year.

This year's top defense men is a big and strong Swedish player named Victor Hedman who has played for MODO in the Swedish Elitsern the last couple of years. At 6'6" and 220 LBS, he will be a defensive force in the for many years. During his time in Sweden, he's been punishing opponents with his physical presence and in a league where their's not much hitting in Sweden, he has scared other players throughout the league.

In addition to his league success, he's also has been a big part of the Swedish Junior team bringing home back to back Silver Medals at the World Junior Championships during both the 2007-08 season and 2008-09 seasons. He's also expected to play a major part for the Swedish Olympic team when the Olympics take place in Vancouver coming up next year. What may give him a disadvantage over Tavares and Duchene is that Defense men have the hardest transition to the NHL so some teams may go against that, but he's expected to trump that rule and make an impact very quickly.

Finally, a player that has taken him to the top of the rankings is Matt Duchene. He was always highly regaurded but it's only recently that he's been known as a top tier NHL Draft pick. In addition to his success in the playoffs which included being a big part of the Brampton Battalion going all the way to the OHL Championship Series against the Windsor Spitfires. Also his international success has included the 2008 U18 World Championship and the World U17 Challenge with team Ontario. He also impressed in the CHL Top Prospects Game where he got an assist in the game and was named the games best player.

In addition to these 3 players, some other players to watch for include teammates for the WHL Brandon Wheat Kings Brayden Schenn and Scott Glennie who helped the Wheat Kings getting to the Eastern Conference Final before losing the Calgary Hitmen.

Also two of the top Americans this year include Jordan Schroeder for the University of Minnesota and John Moore of the United States Hockey League's (USHL) Chicago Steel who's been ranked as the top NA Defense men.

3. Which Big Name Free Agents will switch teams?

This is always a very interesting part of the off season when the Free Agency Period begins on July 1. For the hometown Dallas Stars, Sergei Zubov has been injured a ton over the last 2 season only playing about 60 combined games the last 2 years including only playing about 20 games due to a hip injury. He will turn 39 in July and right around the end of the regular season, the Stars were preparing to move on without Zubov as they was some talk, but not much about the possibility of him retiring during the off season.

Look for more updates as the Free Agency period looms as it always a very busy time of year.

4. Who will play in the 2010 NHL Winter Classic?

Two of the most exciting moments of the Regular Season are the NHL European Openers and the NHL Winter Classic. For the European Weekend which will be played on October 2 and 3. It will be the Central Division Rivals Detroit Red Wings against the St. Louis Blues in Stockholm, Sweden, while the Chicago Blackhawks will play the Florida Panthers in Helsinki, Finland. This was announced back in February.

As for the winter classic on New Year's Day, it's been rumored that Fenway Park may be the host next year, but haven't been able to be confirmed yet. However, it will be done next year and it's sure to be an exciting event once again as Wrigley Field in Chicago was an excellent host next year. Some of the teams that have been interested include the Washington Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins about possibly playing in this event next year. It's expected that an official annoucement will be made on this topic pretty soon from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.

I would like to see which teams will be playing and the site so fans and media who may want to attend the event can do it in a timely matter. This is quickly becoming one of the best events the NHL does every year and it's an important part to get the NHL back into the mainstream since the canceled season during the 2004-05 season.

5. What will a Marc Crawford Coached Dallas Stars Team look like?

With the changes the Dallas Stars have made in recent weeks with Joe Nieuwendyk being the G.M. and hiring new head coach Marc Crawford could be a high energy attacking team, with some similar moves that when he coached the Colorado Avalanche during the mid and late 90s when he won the Stanley Cup back in 1996. He work's best with veteran players like he had in Vancouver with the Sedin Twins and Todd Bertuzzi.

One of the main reasons why he didn't have much success in L.A. is because it was a rebuilding effort that seems to have gone to long and he was forced to play a style that he wasn't very comfy with. This should be a much better situation with his knowledge of playing and preserving older players like Jere Lehtinen and Mike Modano, also finding the best of the younger players like Loui Eriksson.

I can't say this enough though with the changes that have come in the last couple of weeks with the Stars, the only thing that Stars Fans can do is hope that Joe Nieuwendyk knows what he is doing after a team got all the way to the Western Conference Final last year and the fact that he knows it was unfair to fire Dave Tippet after that all he had to go through last year.

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