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Top Shelf: Sleepless in every NHL city

Miikka Kiprusoff is notorious for his slow starts to the season. (Getty Images)

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Miikka Kiprusoff is notorious for his slow starts to the season. (Getty Images)

As per our most recent issue, fans are under direct orders to get excited about the NHL season that is now nearly just a month away.

Not that you needed any prodding, but THN provided one reason per franchise to embrace the notion that this could, possibly, just maybe, you never know, be the year everything falls in line for your team.

But you don’t have to work in a tollbooth to know coins come with two sides. Journalists are always after another angle and fans, even those with rose-colored glasses thicker than Harry Carey’s spectacles, know what-ifs come in both good and bad models.

As such, I give you one reason for unrest in every NHL locale.

Anaheim Ducks Scott Niedermayer is one incredible defenseman, but what if Chris Pronger’s absence proves he was the blueline’s real stud all along?

Atlanta Thrashers Kari Lehtonen’s groin goes once again and so does Ilya Kovalchuk, either before the trade deadline or as a UFA next summer.

Boston Bruins
While I don’t see the B’s taking a major step back, fans of the Black and Gold have to be a little leery of a letdown after such a strong showing last year.

Buffalo Sabres A team that missed the playoffs the past two years made no major off-season acquisitions. What if the internal growth being counted on to advance this team simply doesn’t happen?

Calgary Flames Consistency continues to elude Miikka Kiprusoff.

Carolina Hurricanes The defense that overachieved last year lives up to its lack of name recognition.
 
Chicago Blackhawks The real season picks up right where the off-season left off.

Colorado Avalanche The team drafts any lower than third overall next June, thus inhibiting what has become a complete rebuild.

Columbus Blue Jackets A proper power play quarterback is never uncovered or acquired.

Dallas Stars Last year wasn’t just an anomaly for 34-year-old Marty Turco.

Detroit Red Wings Playing 66 playoff games over the past three springs finally catches up with them.

Edmonton Oilers The bounce back we’re all expecting from Sam Gagner doesn’t happen until next year.

Florida Panthers See every year since 1996.

Los Angeles Kings Rob Scuderi has to make more kick-saves in lieu of the team’s goaltending.

Minnesota Wild After playing in the other team’s zone for two minutes, the forwards get confused and homesick, prompting a return to the defensive zone.

Montreal Canadiens
Paul Mara and Hal Gill play up to their capabilities.

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Nashville Predators The offense continues to be worthy of the saddest plucks on a country song riff.

New Jersey Devils The Jacques Lemaire trap returns, but with Minnesota-esque results.

New York Islanders Victor Hedman was supposed to go No. 1 after all.

New York Rangers We actually come to refer to Marian Gaborik’s time in Minny as his “Doug Jarvis years” after he barely touches the ice on Broadway.

Ottawa Senators Jason Spezza follows Dany Heatley’s lead and demands a trade after determining the seats on those exercise bikes the Sens are always riding simply aren’t comfortable enough.

Philadelphia Flyers Ray Emery’s rage-to-save ratio is still out of whack.

Phoenix Coyotes The league’s bid to buy the team is successful and Gary Bettman decides to add NHL GM to his portfolio.

Pittsburgh Penguins The NHL continues to be the no-repeat zone it’s been since 1998.

St. Louis Blues The team regresses slightly and gets swallowed up by the division of death known as the Central.

San Jose Sharks Another showing of Groundhog Day come spring.

Tampa Bay Lightning Matt Duchene was supposed to go No. 2 after all.

Toronto Maple Leafs League continues antiquated system of awarding wins based on which team scores more goals.

Vancouver Canucks Roberto Luongo, set to become a UFA next July, decides he’s not crazy about the direction of this team.

Washington Capitals
Sid gets the best of Ovie when it counts once again.

Ryan Dixon 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 and his column, Top Shelf, appears Wednesday.

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

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