If there’s one thing Canadians do not take lightly, it’s hockey. There have been some big changes since last season, including major trades, new rules and the complete and total Rogers takeover. The new season starts tonight with the Toronto Maple Leafs hosting the Montreal Canadiens and we didn’t want to waste any time. We know you want your hockey info and you want it now. Here are the 10 things to know about this year’s season.
Six Teams Have New Coaches
Out with the old and in with the experienced at winning stuff. A few teams are making a change heading into the 2014-2015 season and there’s no better place to start than at the top. It’s important to note that 5 of the 6 did not make the playoffs last season. And people wonder why coaches are so on edge. The teams with new head coaches are:
Washington Capitals – Barry Trotz
Vancouver Canucks – Willie Desjardins
Pittsburgh Penguins – Mike Johnston
Nashville Predators – Peter Laviolette
Carolina Hurricanes – Bill Peters
Florida Panthers – Gerard Gallant
Off Season Rule Changes
The NHL rule-makers are cracking down on some major issues this season. First, spin-o-ramas are now a thing of the past in penalty shots/shootouts. A lot of fans have already deemed the spin-o-rama an illegal move since the puck isn’t always moving forward, but now it’s official. The move was regularly thought of as unfair to goalies since it’s almost impossible to stop if done perfectly. Highlight reels will never be the same.
Second, the league has instituted rules against repeat divers and embellishers (it’s not just a soccer issue anymore) that will culminate in fines handed down to players. Everyone’s first offence garners just a warning, but the second offence has a $2,000 price tag. Each offence after has an extra $1,000 tacked on, but once a fourth dive is on record, the player’s own coach will also be fined.
The Bottom Teams Will Be the Ones to Watch
With two huge prospects finally eligible for the draft NEXT season, teams that don’t make the playoffs might try to drop to the bottom in order to be the first to nab them. Junior players Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel are top NHL prospects and will be in a lot of teams’ sights. McDavid in particular, has practically been touted to be a number one pick since he was 14. There hasn’t been so much hype about a young up-and-coming player since Sidney Crosby was eligible for the draft.
Rogers Has Changed Everything
You would think that an institution like Hockey Night in Canada would be damn-near untouchable, but Rogers might disagree. Rogers won exclusive Canadian rights to the NHL with a blockbuster 12-year, $5.2-billion deal that starts with this season. The CBC signed a sub-licensing agreement to carry games, but control of HNIC has been surrendered. Talk about a game changer.
Expect A Lot From the Kings & the Blackhawks
What exactly does a dynasty entail? Because these two teams are coming awfully close. With the league being so damn good in the past few years, it’s no longer common to see one team win consecutive cups. In the last 5 seasons, however, the LA Kings and the Chicago Blackhawks have each won the Stanley Cup twice. If either of them win it all this season for a 3-cups-in-6-years run, we might just have another dynasty on our hands. Some might say the last ‘true’ dynasty was the Edmonton Oilers in the 80s who took home 4 cups in 5 years. But, then, they had a Wayne Gretzky something-or-other.
Martin Brodeur Is Still Teamless
It’s pretty crazy that arguably the best goalie in the game is still waiting to be picked up by a team. Even if he is 42 years old. As the all-time wins AND shutout leader in the league, Brodeur is still a free agent looking for the right fit, he just needs an offer to come in. While the future-Hall-of-Fame goaltender has a secure job with the New Jersey Devils after he retires, he’s not ready to hang up his skates just yet. Don’t get too hopeful at an acquisition though, any team that signs him will most likely only use him as a backup.
Big Names In New Places (Signed as UFAs)
A few unrestricted free agents have found new homes. Most notably, the Vancouver Canucks (now without Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider) signed veteran Ryan Miller to a three-year, $18 million deal. A big step in the right direction for Vancouver who also tellingly replaced their head coach. Other UFA changes include:
Paul Stastny – St Louis Blues
Jarome Iginla – Colorado Avalanche
Thomas Vanek – Minnesota Wild
Other New Faces Thanks to a Trade
After being with the Ottawa Senators his whole career and having a heap of pressure and attention put on him, Jason Spezza has been traded to the Dallas Stars where many think he will thrive. As a 2nd line guy in a city without the loom of Canadian hockey media, Spezza has the chance to live up to his full potential.
West is Still the Best
If you’re a betting man, take a look at the Vegas odds to win the Stanley Cup this season. Four out of the top five teams are from the west. Year after year, the Western Conference has such great teams that it’s always hard to narrow it down to the best 8 to go to the cup. With so many real contenders from the west, you can’t go wrong rooting for one of them.
Sidney Crosby is Healthy
If you routinely have him on a fantasy league, you know this isn’t always the case. While Crosby may have missed a bit of the preseason, he’s expected to have a great season. Last year he played his highest total of games since 2010 – 80 out of 82 – and went on to win the scoring race and MVP. With a new coach (see #1) and a healthy Crosby, the Penguins could break their streak of bad luck that has seen them perform really well during the regular season just to disappoint during the playoffs. Even with the golden boy of the league in their corner, the Penguins haven’t won a Stanley Cup since 2009.
Bonus: The Winter Classic
The Washington Capitals will host the Chicago Blackhawks for next year’s outdoor Winter Classic, which takes place on January 1. But while everything surrounding the game might seem like business as usual, one aspect will be glaringly absent: HBO’s 24/7, an uncensored documentary following the two teams through the regular season and to the Winter Classic, won’t be happening. Unable to reach a deal, the NHL and HBO decided to cut ties for the 2014-2015 season.