Tuesday, October 04, 2005

NHL Brainstorm

One very good new blog is Battle of Alberta a blog that highlights the two Alberta teams Calgary and Edmonton. I added it to my bloglist today.

They have had a very good series of posts called the NHL Brainstorm. They can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5.

They asked several Canadian bloggers (and not necessarily hockey bloggers) a series of questions. Participants were Andrew Anderson, Colby Cash, Ginna Dowler, Andy Grabia, The Hack, Jay Jardine, Chris Selley and the Battle of Alberta hosts Sacamano (who is the Edmonton fan) and Matt (who is Calgary fan). I really love the hot stove league feel off these posts.

They asked the following questions (which I would like to attempt to answer and then possibly comment upon their answers):

Question 1: Name one thing that's widely expected (or bit of conventional wisdom) about the upcoming NHL season that you doubt will happen.

I do not think that the obstruction crackdown will last and I do not think that the rule changes will make any significant difference in the NHL's scoring rate. This is a common response in some form from their pundits, another common response was that the Calgary Flames will not do as well as expected.

Question 2: What is the biggest unknown for you in the upcoming season, or what will you be most curious to see?

How will the markets respond that were sold false hope in the off-season. Some markets have been convinced that they are significantly improved due to their off season moves, but will turn out to be no better than they were in 2004 (or possibly even worse then they were in 2004). Will this kill any momentum at the box office? Both Hack and Selley made similar points. Another question was about how long the obstruction crackdown would last and if it would affect fighting.

Question 3: A) Pick one player who you think will break through, and B) pick one player whose performance will drop off considerably, relative to what we're used to

My breakthrough pick is Jason Spezza. He has tons of potential and had a great year in the AHL last year. he looks ready to take a big step forwards. Declining player will be somebody who is getting up in years like Ed Belfour or Mike Modano. Spezza was a common choice picked five times. The decling choices had less consensus, the only player named twice was Joe Sakic (who I think still has a few years left in him). I think the worst choice was Paul Kariya (chosen by Matt). I think he will have a big year leading Nashville in points.

Question 4: A) Pick one team who you think will break through, and B) pick one team who has been good recently who you think will be bad this year

I think San Jose will become an "elite" team this year. I'm not sure you call it a breakthrough if you are coming off a trip to the semi-finals, but nevertheless, I think they will jump further forwards. The previously good team that will do badly is St Louis. The Laurie ownership gave up Chris Pronger and Pavol Demitra before selling the team. It will be a while before things turn around. Florida and Ottawa were the only teams picked twice to improve. Matt picks the New York Rangers - which I think is a poor choice - they will likely have a bad year. St Louis was the most common choice for a team to drop off.

Question 5: A) What will the results of the Stanley Cup Finals be, and B) how is *your* team going to do.

First, I have to say that it is impossible to predict something like this with reliability, but if I follow my predictions I made earlier I should pick an Ottawa vs. San Jose final, which Ottawa would likely win if Hasek is healthy. How will "my team" do? For the purpose of this question, I will call the Vancouver Canucks my team. I grew up in Vancouver, but have not lived there in over a decade - old habits die hard. I think I am atypical fan in that I watch a good game and get a real buzz from it but do not necessarily notice or even care who won. Going back to my predictions, I would have Vancouver doing well and winning the Northwest Division and then likely losing to San Jose in the semi-finals. Of course, with some luck they could have a good shot at the Stanley Cup. Three different pundits picked a San Jose vs. Ottawa final. This is the most popular pick.

To the people running the Battle of Alberta, keep up the good work. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

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