January 17, 2013

If you crawl back to the NHL, you’re pathetic + season predictions

by Dan Bilicki In: Ice Hockey, Picks

This week, the NHL welcomes back its fans that it treaty so poorly for the past four months. Beating down the people that ultimately fill their coffers and now expect them to rush back to their arenas, fill their seats, buy their merchandise, boost their TV ratings and ultimately forgive them for wasting half of a season.

To all of you crawling back to the NHL: Shame on you. You are a weak-willed individual. If the people that you are supporting cared about you fans at all, we wouldn’t be writing up a preview in January – this would have been worked out back in September.

I’ve shared this opinion on Facebook before but I’ll say it again here: Seeing a fan crawl back to the NHL is watching Rihanna get back together with Chris Brown.

Not to take anything away from the seriousness of the abuse that Brown laid on Rihanna, but this is roughly the sporting equivalent.

It’s not beaten-woman syndrome, it’s beaten-fan syndrome and the symptoms seem eerily similar.

No matter how poorly the person is treated, they’re always ready to give the abuser “one more chance.” This is now the NHL’s third chance fans are giving it – stand up for yourselves people!

The worst part about the lockout is that barely anything was resolved! So instead of 10-year deals you can only sign free agents to seven-season pacts – that’s still too long! So contracts can’t backdive as much as before – you can still circumvent the cap with it! Why not have the player’s cap hit equal how much they make that season? Is that too complicated of an idea?

There was a big issue they didn’t even address: Realignment. Now the Detroit Red Wings, Columbus Blue Jackets and Winnipeg Jets will have to play a super-condensed schedule while travelling more than any other teams in their division since it is only intra-conference play. Sounds like a recipe for disaster and a lot of pain.

Did the NHL not learn from last year’s condensed NBA season? Injuries sky-rocketed, players were worn out and the quality of play suffered dearly. Most games were unwatchable, even for the most die-hard fans. So the NHL decided to copy that model even though ice hockey is a much more physically demanding sport? Brilliant move! I’d be very surprised any team can survive more than a week without seeing a player hurt.

And when the Stanley Cup is awarded, Gary Bettman will be booed. The sad thing is that has always happened and always will. And isn’t that a sign enough that things need to change with the NHL? The league needs to care about its fans but it knows that it can get away with treating them like garbage. Because if they come back after this, the third lockout in 18 years, they’ll always come back. That just shows the sport that no matter how many times they can beat down fans, they’ll always come crawling back.

As for predictions, I’ll put as much thought into this as the owners and players thought about the fans during the lockout – barely any.

Northeast division: Boston Bruins

Southeast division: Washington Capitals.

Atlantic division: Pittsburgh Penguins.

Pacific division: Los Angeles Kings.

Northwest division: Vancouver Canucks.

Central division: St. Louis Blues.

Eastern Conference champs: New York Rangers.

Western Conference champs: Chicago Blackhawks.

The Maple Leafs will finish: 7th in the east and lose in the first round.

Most goals: Steven Stamkos, TB

Most points: Sidney Crosby, PIT

Most surprising: Edmonton Oilers.

Most disappointing: Detroit Red Wings.

Worst team in the league: Columbus Blue Jackets.

Stanley Cup champions: New York Rangers.

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