Everything we learned about the NHL's present and future

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin brought yet another Stanley Cup to Pittsburgh. Dave Sandford/NHLI/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports

Now that the Pittsburgh Penguins have pulled off the increasingly rare Stanley Cup Final victory repeat, it is officially summer. All our favorite TV shows are on hiatus, everything smells like barbecue and hockey season takes a bow before taking a few months off.

The Stanley Cup Final is still the freshest in everyone's minds, as is the fact that nobody could have predicted how the NHL's wild postseason could have wrapped itself up. But actually, the final showdown between the Nashville Predators and now two-time champion Penguins provided a pretty good summary for the 2016-17 as a whole.

Let's take one last look before we leave the ice and head for the beach.

The good

Predators fans showed hockey is alive and well in Nashville during the Stanley Cup Final. Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports

The Predators' Cinderella-like playoff run was a perfect way to cap off a season in which we saw a new crop of teams flex some muscle. From the Columbus Blue Jackets' 16-game run to seeing teams like the Maple Leafs and the Oilers get back into the playoffs, it was interesting that on the 100th birthday of the league, a bevy of squads emerged to take some of the spotlight away from the established powerhouses.

That's not to mention how much fun it was to watch the crop of young players who got their first taste of playoff hockey (but more on them in just a little bit).

The bad

Winning back-to-back Cups has the never-wavering spotlight on Sidney Crosby burning even brighter. Yet all I see is him repeatedly banging P.K. Subban's head into the ice.

Not only was it terrible that the play went virtually unpunished — don't even get me started on that one — but it also got me thinking about head injuries. There seems to be no progress in the league both cracking down on punishment and doing a better job at protecting its players. (Remember, Crosby himself took a couple big hits to the dome in these playoffs as well.)

Even after the public shaming the NHL received when the concussion lawsuit became known, the league still hasn't done much to improve the way it handles hits to the head. Is there more research that needs to be done? Was the NHL too busy deciding not to attend the Olympics that all this head stuff got put on the back burner? What has to happen for the league to take the skull more seriously? Unfortunately, it's a frustrating string of questions that will continue being a problem no matter how far in the rearview mirror this season gets.

The ugly

Is the "intent to blow" call the new offsides? Or are the two equally as nefarious when it comes to rules that the NHL desperately needs to give a makeover? We have already done the deep dive into the offsides rule and how it's about as clear as mud. The "intent to blow" call isn't much better and leads to just as long and loathsome of a timeout while the officials scramble to figure out what is happening on their tiny iPads.

After seeing both calls overturn goals for Nashville in the Stanley Cup Final, it is even more clear that these rulings can be quite costly for a team. That is beyond terrible given how difficult they are to determine in the first place. (Not to forget that the Preds had bad brush-ups with these rulings during the regular season as well.)

To summarize before we let it lie for the summer: The NHL still has plenty of work to do when it comes to clarifying the rules around the crease. And will someone put a timer of how long these goal reviews take?

But on to happier things...

The rookies

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews lit up the NHL in his rookie season. Marc DesRosiers/USA TODAY Sports

The stellar performance that Pittsburgh's Jake Guentzel put on in the playoffs was a steady reminder that 2016-17 was "The Year of the Youngster." What's more is the promise that the 2016-17 crop of rookies will have continued success in this whole "changing of the guard" type of deal.

That means more Patrik Laine goal celebrations and, hopefully, Auston Matthews sing-a-longs on the bench.

The horizon

The Las Vegas Golden Knights will play their first season at T-Mobile Arena in 2017-18. Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

The 2016-17 completes itself with a lot to look forward to. The summer will be a little different than the past few with the expansion draft and formulation of the Las Vegas Golden Knights finally becoming a reality. It will likely make the midsummer opening of free agency even more interesting with so many players on the move.

One other thing in the future after the 2016-17 season to look forward to: All the hockey-centric music that is going to come out of Nashville inspired by the Predators first Stanley Cup Final run.

Chelena Goldman grew up on a street where the boys played street hockey and yelling at baseball and football over the radio was a standard -- making life as a sports geek the perfect fit. She believes in dominance on the blue line, good red wine, and the theory that you can never be too overdressed for any occasion. You can find her gabbing away on Twitter at @ChelenaGoldman.

Odds to win the 2017-18 NHL Stanley Cup
Name every NHL goalie in the post-expansion era to win the Stanley Cup

The NHL went from six to twelve teams starting in the 1967-68 season, in what many consider to begin the modern era of the league. How many of the Stanley Cup winning goalies from this time can you name in ten minutes?

CLUE: YEAR / TEAM. Note: To qualify for the list, a goaltender must have factored into at least one decision during the Finals while being a member of the winning team.

2016 / PIT
Matthew Murray
2015 / CHI
Corey Crawford
2014 / LA
Jonathan Quick
2013 / CHI
Corey Crawford
2012 / LA
Jonathan Quick
2011 / BOS
Tim Thomas
2010 / CHI
Antti Niemi
2009 / PIT
Marc-Andre Fleury
2008 / DET
Chris Osgood
2007 / ANA
Jean-Sebastien Giguere
2006 / CAR
Cam Ward
2004 / TB
Nikolai Khabibulin
2003 / NJ
Martin Brodeur
2002 / DET
Dominik Hasek
2001 / COL
Patrick Roy
2000 / NJ
Martin Brodeur
1999 / DAL
Ed Belfour
1998 / DET
Chris Osgood
1997 / DET
Mike Vernon
1996 / COL
Patrick Roy
1995 / NJ
Martin Brodeur
1994 / NYR
Mike Richter
1993 / MON
Patrick Roy
1992 / PIT
Tom Barrasso
1991 / PIT
Tom Barrasso
1991 / PIT
Frank Pietrangelo
1990 / EDM
Bill Ranford
1989 / CAL
Mike Vernon
1988 / EDM
Grant Fuhr
1987 / EDM
Grant Fuhr
1986 / MON
Patrick Roy
1985 / EDM
Grant Fuhr
1984 / EDM
Grant Fuhr
1984 / EDM
Andy Moog
1983 / NYI
Billy Smith
1982 / NYI
Billy Smith
1981 / NYI
Billy Smith
1980 / NYI
Billy Smith
1979 / MON
Ken Dryden
1978 / MON
Ken Dryden
1977 / MON
Ken Dryden
1976 / MON
Ken Dryden
1975 / PHI
Bernie Parent
1974 / PHI
Bernie Parent
1973 / MON
Ken Dryden
1972 / BOS
Gerry Cheevers
1972 / BOS
Eddie Johnston
1971 / MON
Ken Dryden
1970 / BOS
Gerry Cheevers
1969 / MON
Rogie Vachon
1968 / MON
Gump Worsley

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