NHL Season Preview and Predictions
It’s been a full year since the last NHL game was played on American soil. Since that time the league has not just revamped the salary system, but has changed the rules to create a new, faster league to try to recapture the glory of the golden days.
The speed increase will be accomplished by the redrawing of the rink, the elimination of the two line pass rule, not allowing teams that ice the puck to change lines, not allowing goalies to handle the puck outside of the ‘trapezoid’ and offsides now allows for players who enter the attack zone in front of the puck to have the opportunity to ‘tag-up’ at the blue line. Most importantly, there is now a zero-tolerance policy on any obstruction play including interference, hooking and holding. Look for more cherry pickers and breakaways as a result of these new rules.
Other major rule changes that will impact the game: games will now end in shootouts after a short overtime, all goalie equipment has been reduced in size and the ‘Vlade Divac’ approach of acting out a penalty will result in a unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and fine.
Most of these rule changes are designed to speed up the game and allow for more scoring. Look for a boost to players’ points stats – any records ‘broken’ may have to be kept in a separate record book after these vast changes. This boost may not happen until next season, though-getting used to the new rules and getting rid of the rust of having taking a whole year off may take a while.
Here are my predictions for the upcoming year, keeping in mind that the entire idea of the new collective bargaining agreement (think salary cap) was to even out disparities among teams and that the league’s playing dynamics have been completely revamped. Only time will tell how teams truly respond to these challenges.
The number next to the team name denotes their playoff seeding. The best eight teams from the West and the East make the playoffs. Of the 82 games in the season, 32 are now played against rivals within the division so divisions that are strong may have a more difficult time sending multiple teams to the playoffs.
San Jose Sharks (2)
Are the vacancies of the departed veterans going to be filled? No key signings for the Sharks