Friday, October 2, 2009

2009-2010 Storylines...

The Wings open the regular season today, and I couldn’t be more excited. In light of that, and because I’ve run out of players to profile, I bring you a list of storylines to watch throughout this season, for both the Wings and the NHL in general:
  • The Wings have vowed to tighten up their defense this year and I’m going to hold them to that promise. The defense was embarrassing at times last season, and they’re not going to be able to just float by this time around.
  • Special teams: The powerplay and PK have historically been points of pride for the Wings, but last season, the PK was dismal all year long, and the powerplay dried up when it was most needed. Thus far during the pre-season, the PK has been good, and the powerplay seems to have figured things out based on the last couple of games. Hopefully this is a sign of good things to come.
  • Nick Lidstrom: He’s in the last year of his contract and he hasn’t committed to play in the Olympics yet because he’s concerned about his health. He’s said that his elbow injury that nagged him all season is feeling better, and with any luck that won’t continue to hamper him. Nick’s already being written off by some, but I think we’re going to see him return to form. He’s still the best in the business.
  • Injuries: They doomed the Cup run last season and have already plagued the Wings throughout the pre-season. Is this the three consecutive lengthy playoff runs finally catching up to them, or just a bump in the road? Only time will tell.
  • Redemption stories: Detroit appears to be the place that guys come to resurrect their careers. That works for me. It’s an appealing storyline for a lot of Detroiters right about now. If you’re one of those people out there who things that second chances are beautiful things, then you’ve come to the right place this year. Todd Bertuzzi, Patrick Eaves, even Jason Williams and Jimmy Howard to an extent. They’ve all been written off by others (and me, admittedly) and now have a shot at contributing to a successful team. Here’s hoping the way their seasons play out the way they’ve been scripted in all of our imaginations.
  • Revenge: It’s pretty clear that the Wings are not okay with the way their season ended last year. They battled through injuries, the stacked Western Conference, and some questionable refereeing only to fall one game short of repeating (in the Joe, no less). Then the media went ahead and vilified them as sore losers for calling out Sidney Crosby for the Handshake Incident and wrote them off as “old” and “washed up.” They’ve got an axe or three to grind this season, and I can’t think of a better source of motivation for a hockey team.
  • The kids: Helm, Howard, Ericsson, Abdelkader, Leino, etc. ought to provide an influx of new energy to the team. They give Wings fans plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the team’s future.
  • Ozzie: One of the biggest questions facing the team this season is which edition of Chris Osgood we’re going to see this time around. Jimmy Howard’s looked pretty good through the pre-season, but I can’t shake the feeling that there’s less of a safety net this year if Ozzie falters. I have faith, though. I’ve always been an Ozzie supporter, and I’ll remain as such until he convinces me otherwise.
  • I would suggest keeping a tally of how many innocent bystanders accidentally die from Mike Babcock’s evil eye. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t take rifles on his famous big game hunting trips. He just stares the animals down. Like Davy Crockett without the smile.
  • It will be interesting to see how full the Joe is this season. We all know that times are tough, but the Wings can usually be counted on to provide pretty good bang for your buck. I, for one, fully intend to take advantage of any ticket bargains they offer.
NHL miscellany:
  • The Central: It’s the best division in the league. Last season, the Central came pretty darn close to putting all five teams into the playoffs, and as far as I can tell, it’s only gotten better over the summer. Remember those days when we’d complain about being forced to endure countless division matchups that would put you straight to sleep? When the Wings were accused of padding their point totals by beating up on their weaker competition within the division? Yeah, not so much anymore. A pretty good portion of people are predicting that Chicago is going to dethrone the Wings atop the division, but I’m not sold on that yet. The Blackhawks are going to give the Wings a run for their money for sure, but I’ll wait until they have an accomplishment other than being league-wide media darlings under their belts before I’m willing to cede bragging rights.
  • One of the great joys of being an NHL fan is that every season, you get to look forward to the watching the league doing everything in its power to make itself look bad. There’s no telling how they’ll manage to do it this season, but it’ll happen. There are just so many possibilities. If you turned it into a drinking game, all of Canada would be perpetually sloshed.
  • The biggest question heading into this season is how long it will take for non-Pittsburgh fans to start offing themselves thanks to being inundated with advertisements featuring Sidney Crosby hoisting the Cup. Anyone want to take an over/under? This is probably the worst part of the Wings’ loss.
  • Phoenix: I haven’t mentioned it much on here because it’s not directly related to the Wings, but this continues to be a PR disaster for the league. No matter how it’s resolved, it’s going to take years to fix. Luckily for us, the saga seems poised to drag on interminably. Fun times for everyone.
  • Chicago: There’s a sense that the Blackhawks have a one-year window in which to make a run for the Cup before salary cap Armageddon strikes next summer. I’m not sure that that’s necessarily the case, as they’ve got more than enough offensive talent to survive losing one of their impending free agents. A lot of folks are picking them to dethrone the Wings from the Central Division title, but they’ve still got plenty of questions on defense and in the net. At the very least, they should be, dare I say, entertaining to watch this season.
  • The Sharks: Dany Heatley got his wish and ended up about as far away from Ottawa as you can get in the league. San Jose is certainly stacked, but until they do something worthwhile in the playoffs, they’re going to remain a punchline. The fact that they went out and added a guy widely regarded as a locker room cancer to a team whose character was already much maligned amuses me too.
Five hours until the puck drops in Stockholm. I'm beyond ready. Let's get this season going.

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