And so it begins. Another NHL season is upon us and the clock is ticking toward the next Stanley Cup parade.
Sorry Red Wing fans.
While you still have bragging rights you're yesterday's news. We are officially in the "what have you done for me lately?" mode.
That's not to say Stanley Cup t-shirts won't be printed in Motown again this year. It's just that this is a new season.
No team has repeated as champs since the Red Wings took home back to back Cups in '97 and '98 but maybe this is the year we get a repeat champ again.
Let's take a closer look at one of many questions we asked this season at the NHL NETWORK as part of our "Is This the Year?" preview show.
Here are a few of them.
Both analysts Gary Green and Dave Reid feel the Wings have a great chance to repeat. As Gary says, "the Wings haven't lost anything on paper and in fact they've added Marian Hossa to their lineup."
Unlike Anaheim, Gary doesn't expect Detroit to feel the effects of a long Stanley Cup run because the travel schedule was comparatively light. Mike Babcock has said that the Wings only had seven fewer days off from 2007 (113 compared with 106) when they lost in the Conference final. Not bad.
Dave agrees, adding that with players like Lidstrom, Rafalski, Draper and Maltby there won't be a Cup hang-over. One is not enough.
Let's move on.
"Is this the year" someone other than Niklas Lidstrom finally wins the Norris Trophy?
The man owns the award. Six of the last seven seasons he's needed to find a place on his mantle. The feeling is he'll likely make it seven of eight but if there is someone who is to take the hardware away from the Red Wing blue liner, Dave believes it will be Dion Phaneuf while Gary feels it could be Zdeno Chara.
Both will have to stay out of the box more often though. Chris Chelios, in 1995-96, is the last rearguard to win top honors while sitting in the "sin bin" for 100 or more minutes in a season. Chelios clocked in 140 minutes in penalties that year.
Last year Phaneuf was sentenced to 182 minutes of "shame" while Chara was penalized for 114 PIM. Lidstrom was nicked for only 40 PIM.
As well, Phaneuf was only PLUS-12 and Chara a PLUS-14 compared to Lidstrom's PLUS-40 so those numbers have to improve.
What's next, ahhh lets see... "Will this be the year Martin Brodeur breaks through the top three records for goaltenders?"
Coming into the season Marty is 61 games shy of tying Patrick Roy for most games played by a goaltender, 13 wins shy of tying Roy for most wins by a netminder and seven shut-outs short of equaling the record of Terry Sawchuk.
Survey says yes to at least two records.
Seven shut-outs might be a stretch but Dave feels a maturing defence and a Devils system could put that mark within reach as well. Brodeur has played over 70 games the last 10 seasons, has won an average of almost 40 games the last 10 seasons and has seven shut-outs six times in his 14-year career. Hail Marty this could be your year!
Enough defence let's put the puck in the net and no one did that more than Alexander Ovechkin last year. "Ovie's" 65 goals were the most in a single season since Mario Lemieux's 69 in 1995-96.
"Is this the year" Ovechkin scores 50 in 50?
First off it's a rare feat. We're talking 50 goals in the teams first 50 games. It's been done eight times by five players. Rocket Richard set the standard with 50 in 50 in 44-45 and he's been followed by Mike Bossy in 80-81, Wayne Gretzky with 50 in 39 in 81-82, 50 in 42 in 83-84 and 50 in 49 in 84-85. Mario Lemieux with 50 in 46 in 88-89 and Brett Hull with 50 in 49 in 90-91 and 50 in 50 in 91-92.
Sunday February 1st marks the Caps 50th game of the season. It says here Ovechkin won't have 50 goals at that time.
Is this the year Ovechkin scores 70? He had 65 last year and this year he'll have set-up man Nicklas Backstrom for a full season. Backstrom matured quickly under Bruce Boudreau. A set-up man is crucial to hitting 70. Teemu Selanne and Alexander Mogilny were the last players to hit the 70 goal mark when they each found the back of the net 76 times in 1992-93. Selanne was the beneficiary of Alexei Zhamnov feeds while Mogilny drove home the passes of Pat Lafontaine. Dave says Ovechkin hits 70 or more. Gary is not quite so sure. Checking will be much more intense and Ovechkin is going to have to stay healthy. Overall survey says no but he'll be close.
There's not enough time to go over all the topics we covered in the show but let's skip to the last question we asked because it involves playoff hockey and that after all is what it's all about.
The question is "Is this the year" the Columbus Blue Jackets finally make the playoffs? Sorry Jacket fans.
The crew says no.
Season 8 is not expected to go any differently than seasons 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 or 1 although the Jackets could be closer to printing playoff tickets without lighting the cigar.
While Ken Hitchcock is a great coach in Gary's words, "he's not a magician."
The defence is improved but R.J. Umberger and Kristian Huselius are not enough offence to help Rick Nash outscore the opposition while Pascal Leclaire kicks them out.
Of course there is always next year. . .