This week, Nick D. and Bob H. renew their Laurel and Hardy act, trading barbs on what exactly fans will see once the NHL agrees to a fixed number of games to complete the truncated 2012-13 season.
Point, Nick: Nail-biting white-knuckling, heart-attack-inducing intensity.
Every game, every minute, every point will be huge.
Anything can happen.
Basically what you can expect is all around great hockey every single night and since it is NHL hockey we’re talking about, literally anything can happen. It’ll be a memorable season to say the least. The Philadelphia Flyers will definitely benefit from the extra time off as veteran warrior Kimmo Timonen has had time to rest and heal, so he should be in good form when the season does start. Obviously other guys have also had time to nurse any lingering injuries from last season. While other squads will be well rested too, as far as the Atlantic Division is concerned, teams like the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils who made pretty significant moves and lost significant pieces respectively, will have less time to see how the puzzle comes together, while the Flyers have a lot of familiar faces, and only a couple holes to fill.
If the 48-game 1995 year was exciting, the 48-game 2013 season will be unforgettable.
Counterpoint, Bob: It’s easy to figure out what to expect when you’re expecting a 48-game season, because it all comes down to three options:
And anything in between.
Nick, I had no idea you possess a crystal ball. What, did all that time spent wilting in the Florida heat suddenly give you trance-like clairvoyant powers?
Seriously. With only one sample to draw from, the 48-game slate from 1995, how can anyone reasonably extrapolate which of the 30 NHL teams could benefit or be hurt by a truncated schedule?
In our business prediction is required, but the least reliable of all the sciences, no matter how many times we engage in knowledgeable speculation. Best to keep an open mind, roll with the changes, and not act like you know what’s coming.
Nick: Well sure, we can’t deduce which teams will gain or suffer, but you can’t deny that the Flyers have just as good a shot as anybody else. Look at how they did during the 1995 season especially after the Mark Recchi trade for John LeClair, Eric Desjardins, and Gilbert Dionne. Eric Lindros won the Hart and Lester B. Pearson trophies for the league’s most valuable player and the best player as voted by the players. They fell short in the playoffs, but they were certainly one of the best teams in the league that year as they went 28-16-4 for 60 points to win the Atlantic Division, which was then comprised of seven teams instead of the five that make it up today.
Bob: The Flyers played seven games in the first 10 days back then, going 2-4-1 and looked like they’d finish out of the playoffs for a sixth straight time. Then came the LeClair/Desjardins/Dionne for Recchi trade, an eight-game win streak, a nine-game win streak, a division title and surprise run to the conference finals.
The Penguins started out 12-0-1, and the Nordiques went 12-1-0 but ended up losing in the first round as the #1 seed. The eighth-seeded Rangers beat Quebec but were swept by the Flyers. Washington was 2-8-2 and made the playoffs. Montreal went in the tank just two seasons removed from a Stanley Cup. The Devils played rope-a-dope and counterpunched their way to a championship a year after scoring over 300 goals. Vancouver tied one quarter of their games. San Jose made the playoffs and posted a first-round upset. Detroit destroyed the competition for 48 games and three playoff rounds and then were wiped out by New Jersey.
You can’t tell me any experts predicted anything of the like after just looking at how their 1993-94 season ended.
And, there’s no magic wand that will be waved by Paul Holmgren to recreate the magic of Bob Clarke stealing the Canadiens blind and getting a trip to the semifinals out of the deal. It can happen, but the likelihood is slim. Like Split Enz said once, history never repeats.
Nick: Look man, all I’m saying is the guys should be ready to go and well rested. Even the ones who played in Europe, Russia, and the minors, should be good to go. They’ve had more time to rest up and get right, they’ve played a less physically demanding game overseas and in the minors, and by the end of the season, they should still be pretty fresh. Not to mention there will be teams scrambling to make some deals to bolster their clubs for the playoffs. The quality of the hockey throughout this slightly-more-than-half season should not only be good, it should be outstanding.
Bob: With apologies to the Bard, the quality of hockey will most definitely be strained. It confuseth him that watches and tireth him that skates. Nicholas, thou displayeth all the intuition that a common strumpet displays when showcasing her wares.
Dozens of top players have played half a year in Europe. Dozens more ordinary Joes have found ice time in the ECHL and AHL. Now you’re asking them to play 48 more games, plus playoffs, within a four-month span. This is not what you’d call the fans (lemmings though they are, and that’s a rant for another column) getting the most for their continued investment in this poor excuse of a league.
It was one thing 18 years ago when not many players saw Europe or the minors as an option and needed the scattershot start to get back into shape; it’s another when it’s not hard to believe all this hockey will catch up to players who have competed since September and October across the board by the time baseball season rolls around and the regular season still has a ways to go.
Be prepared for a mess of a week-long training camp. Of Holmgren and other General Managers making some quick-trigger decisions that are wrong because they have little time for due diligence before dealing. Of a shuttle between the AHL and NHL because key players are hurt right off the bat or get hurt at inopportune times. PLAYOFF HOCKEY IN JULY.
That is the type of “anything can happen” that will most likely hinder, rather than help, attraction to the NHL product once the honeymoon period is over.