No matter how you define a dynasty, there’s no denying the Chicago Blackhawks have been among the best franchises in hockey – in all of pro sports, in fact – over the last several years. Their amazing run of recent success culminated in a Stanley Cup victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in June.
On Wednesday, three days after the Blackhawks received their lavish Stanley Cup rings, the team raised their 2014-15 Stanley Cup banner to the rafters at the United Center before taking on the Rangers.
With another season just hours away, the excitement is palpable. Jaromir Jagr is growing his mullet and Erik Karlsson is cutting his. We’re on the verge of 3-on-3 play in overtime and, admit it, you’re probably on the edge of your set at this very moment, wondering who will issue the first coach’s challenge.
With a new season come all kinds of possibilities, both good and bad. And we have you covered for both. To that end, we present the absolute best and worst headlines you might read for each team this season:
Separated by only a couple of hours and about 150 miles, two of the greatest players of their generation were born on this day in 1965. So, Happy 50th Birthday to Mario Lemieux and Patrick Roy.
Google tells me that Andy Griffith and Marilyn Monroe were born on precisely the same day. So were Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln. But the best parallel we can make for two people of bound by precisely the same birthday and excellence in the same craft are B.B. King and Charlie Byrd, who were a couple of pretty decent guitar players.
In the spring of 2002, back in the day when mastodons roamed the earth and the Toronto Maple Leafs were good, Alex Mogilny sat dumbfounded at his stall in the Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs had just defeated the Ottawa Senators in Game 7 of the second round of the playoffs, again, to advance to the Eastern Conference final.
As bedlam surrounded him, Mogilny wondered aloud, with a genuine look of bewilderment on his face, “Why is everyone so excited? We’ve only made it halfway through the playoffs.” You had to forgive Mogilny. It was the end of his first season in Toronto and he wasn’t accustomed to people getting so excited after watching their team almost come close to just about winning something.
For the record, Fredrik Andersen has indeed stepped on a piece of Lego in bare feet. “Not fun,” he reports.
It seems Andersen is never far from the plastic interlocking bricks that have kept children occupied for years. He grew up about an hour from the original Legoland in Billund, Denmark, where the toy was invented and plays and lives in a place that is about an hour north of the California Legoland resort. Andersen still has his Lego from when he was a child stored away in the attic at his parents’ home and said the family where he stayed his first couple of years in Anaheim had kids who had Lego around all the time.
And following up on his mask design from last season that featured a goalie building a Lego wall, Andersen will brandish a mask this season that will feature the Batman character from The Lego Movie, adorned with the old-school Anaheim Ducks logo and going by the name Duckman. “Last year it blew up a little bit and it got pretty popular pretty quickly,” Andersen said. “So we (he and mask designer David Gunnarson) said, ‘Why not run with it and keep the theme going?’ and it’s cool how it turned out.”
So it’s only fitting that he plays for a team that is a lot like Lego. All the pieces are there and they seem to fit together most of the time, but it’s a matter of finding the right combination of pieces to build the perfect structure. Sometimes you get almost finished and decide to pull it apart a little and make some additions. Whether or not the Ducks have the winning combination this year remains to be seen, but we at THN have declared the Ducks our pick for the Stanley Cup. (Just so you know, for 2014-15 we picked the Chicago Blackhawks to win the final over the Tampa Bay Lightning.)
“That’s where we’ve picked ourselves,” said Andersen, who was part of the NHL pre-season media tour in Toronto on Tuesday. “We expect it ourselves.”
That the Ducks will start with one too many pieces at the foundation of their structure could either be a problematic distraction or a strength. Nobody is sure what it will be at this point. Andersen was terrific through the first two rounds of the playoffs, but looked worn down by the time the Ducks faced the Blackhawks and like his teammates, faltered as the series went on. But he was still very, very good and at 25, looks to be headed in the right direction.
It seems ludicrous that there was a time when Duncan Keith refused to get a summer job. After all, it’s pretty clear he’s anything but averse to heavy lifting. But there was a time, right around when Duncan turned 15, that his father, David, thought it might be a good idea for his son to learn the value of a dollar earned.
Impossible, Duncan said. Getting a job would get in the way of training. Training for what, his father asked. Training to be an NHL player was the answer. After all, Duncan had made the proclamation in large letters on a big piece of paper when he was just seven or eight years old, “Duncan Keith will make it to the NHL,” which his parents still have framed at their home in Penticton, B.C.
By the time he was a teenager, Duncan was studying the training methods used by the likes of Jaromir Jagr and Pavel Bure.
“When he told me he had to train, I said, ‘We’ll talk about it when I get home,’ ” David said. “When I got home from work, he was running around the yard with a rope and three tires he was dragging around on the grass.” Read more
If goals are the currency of the league, then the Stanley Cup is what teams are saving their pennies for. Great teams have great goal differentials and those teams tend to win the Stanley Cup. The better a team’s goal differential is, the more likely they are to win it all. To show that, here’s every team’s era adjusted goal difference compared to how often those teams won the Cup. Read more
As Antoine Vermette made his way through the mass of humanity in the cramped visitor’s dressing room at Amalie Arena after Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final, he was unfailingly polite.
“Sorry for the sweat,” he said as he brushed up against people on his way to the door. “I probably stink, too. But I guess that’s a good thing at this time of the year.”
There were games during the playoffs when Vermette didn’t stink at all. That’s because he was likely wearing expensive cologne under his designer suit while sitting in the press box. Check that. He kind of did stink, which was why he was in the press box wearing the expensive cologne under his designer suit in the first place. Read more