After raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for Hurricane Sandy relief last Saturday night, Brad Richards, Scott Hartnell, and other players who have not left to play overseas are hoping for the best. But on Black Friday, it seemed as if the NHL was selling, not buying on a day of spending. The NHL cancelled another batch of games and cancelled the 2013 NHL All Star Weekend in Columbus. For a city that is already struggling with hockey, this may have been the last blow. Clearly Columbus is on the down, but who else is struggling?
#5. The Los Angeles Kings
The Kings rode one of the most triumphant and unexpected runs in NHL history to the Stanley Cup last season. As the eighth seed in the Western Conference, few expected them to advance past the first round, let alone to the league championship. The Kings rode goaltender Jonathan Quick’s back all the way to the finals, disposing of the Presidents’ Trophy winning Vancouver Canucks, two-seeded St. Louis Blues, and third-seeded Phoenix Coyotes en route to defeating the Devils in the finals. With all of this improbable momentum, what could potentially stop them from making another run at the beginning of the season into the summer? Only a lockout.
#4 The New York Rangers
For the Rangers, the 2011-2012 season represented a result of long, hard work by the front office. The Rangers put off their free-spending ways ever since the contract of Wade Redden backfired, and instead chose to grow their minor league system through drafting. The Rangers finished atop the Eastern Conference, but ultimately fell to the Devils in the Eastern Conference Finals. Rangers fans are most excited for the long-awaited arrival of superstar winger, Rick Nash. But, their demands to see him play will have to wait. This Rangers team is relatively young and the rate at which their Vezina Trophy winning goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist, can play at is sure to start declining. This team is in their prime, and the faster the league gets back to hockey, the better it is for New York City.
#3. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings
Fans of Toronto hockey have very little to get excited about anymore. Under current ownership, the team has failed miserably over the past few seasons, despite fans’ extreme hopes. But the one good thing about Toronto fans is that they will keep coming back, no matter how badly their team’s play gets. The fans finally had something to cheer about, as the team was selected to play in the Winter Classic, the NHL’s biggest event, on New Years day at the “big house” in Michigan. But, the Maple Leafs still found a way to lose a game that will not be happening… The same goes for the Red Wings – backed by superstars Pavel Datsuyk and Henrik Zetterberg, their aging team cannot compete for much longer. The Winter Classic was a chance to get fans excited again, despite the team’s first round exit. Hockeytown is looking for a bounce back year, but may get nothing instead.
#2. The Minnesota Wild
In the “land of 10,000 lakes”, professional hockey should thrive. However, the Minnesota Wild have never been able to reach the next level. Over the offseason, the Wild were able to attract two of the top free agents on the market – former captain of the New Jersey Devils Zach Parise, and top pair defenseman of the Nashville Predators, Ryan Suter. Both signed deals for 13 years and $98 million. Not only were Wild fans excited to watch this team play, but also all of hockey was, as the Great White North had sky-high expectations. Fans will just have to wait to see the dynamic players change the fate of the Wild.
#1. The Columbus Blue Jackets
It could not get worse for the Blue Jackets. They lost the face of their franchise after he forced a trade to the New York Rangers. In return, the Blue Jackets only received middle aged Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, prospect Tim Erixon, and a draft pick. Much to Ranger fans delight, they gave up very little for the potential 40-goal scorer. They finished with 65 points, coming in last place in the Western Conference and the entire league last season, and they have little to show to fans to give them hope for the next season that will be played. On top of all this, the cancellation of the NHL All-Star weekend leaves Blue Jacket fans with nothing. The organization had something to help popularize hockey again and suddenly, the opportunity vanished, just like many fans’ hopes for a 2012-2013 season.