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The Straight Edge: Finding a fresh start in a new place

Todd Bertuzzi had 15 goals and 44 points for the Flames last season, but has yet to find a new team. (Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Todd Bertuzzi had 15 goals and 44 points for the Flames last season, but has yet to find a new team. (Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

Technically I’ve been on vacation for the past two weeks, but since I spent that time moving into a new house and renovating it, the time was anything but relaxing.

Don’t get me wrong; the new place is fantastic and once the work is done it’ll look great, but that time in between is messy and tumultuous. May I stretch this anecdote into a hockey analogy? Of course!

New beginnings often have their genesis in the summer and there have been no shortage of moving trucks filled with NHLers’ belongings hitting the highways of North America lately.

To me, the team that improved itself while also ensuring jersey sales will skyrocket is Philadelphia. Goaltender Ray Emery and defenseman Chris Pronger represent everything Flyers hockey has been known for – surliness, physicality and questionable netminding (ba-dum-ching!). Seriously though, I’ve always liked Emery and think he got a bad rap from crusty old media types and, likely, the local authorities more often than not. Razor’s no saint, but he’s no devil, either.

Emery already boasts something no other recent Philly goalie can, which is an appearance in the Stanley Cup final. True, his Sens were unceremoniously dumped in five games by the Anaheim Ducks in that series, but it was hardly his fault. The Ducks didn’t score more than three goals in any game until the final contest, at which point the conclusion was more than foregone.

As for Pronger, his reputation speaks for itself – Stanley Cup champion, minute-muncher, all-around terror to play against. All this adds up to what I believe will be a groundswell of No. 29 Emery and No. 20 Pronger jerseys being sold in the Greater Philadelphia Area. In fact, I’m going to go ahead and say that barring injury or shoddy play, both sweaters will crack the top 10 in NHL sales this season.

The current titleholders include usual suspects such as Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Henrik Lundqvist, but those jerseys have been popular for several years now, so most of those players’ fans already have their souvenir. Looking at the top 15 from last May, new names such as Jeff Carter and Milan Lucic emerged. Flyers captain Mike Richards actually came in third, behind Sid and Ovie, but ahead of Malkin, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

And if you think that’s too much Orange and Black to go around, think again: back in 2006-07, when Buffalo was really good, the Sabres had an incredible six of the top 10 NHL jerseys, including Daniel Briere, Ryan Miller and (wait for it) Maxim Afinogenov.

And while Emery has a new home, two other substantial names with question marks surrounding them do not. Todd Bertuzzi has officially given up hope of getting a phone call from the Calgary Flames and has said he has had enough of Canada anyway. Big Bert will likely play in the American South and I can only speculate his two options are Nashville and Atlanta. After all, the tarnished winger already had one unsuccessful (albeit abbreviated) stint with Florida, while the Lightning already has Ryan Malone in the lead power-forward role.

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Ironically, the Bolts recently parted ways with the other name in this equation, Vaclav Prospal. Can the former 80-point man find his way back to prominence? Rumblings have Detroit interested and if any team can turn around a wayward player (except Bertuzzi, naturally), it’s the Red Wings.

Little moves can often have a big effect on a team, just as little things can affect a move. For me, the fun surprise (as opposed to the weird, hairy surprises) in my new house was finding two mid-80’s Chicoutimi Sagueneens mini-sticks in the basement closet, one autographed by a bunch of the players. The 1986-87 squad was led by 201-point scorer Marc Fortier, who went on to play for the Quebec Nordiques, as well as future NHLers Daniel Marois and Jimmy Waite.

At the time, none of those players knew their futures, but they all knew they’d be moving on somewhere.

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Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear regularly in the off-season, his column - The Straight Edge - every Friday, and his feature, The Hot List appears Tuesdays. 

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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