Tonight is the start of the NHL season, with the puck dropping in Toronto, Vancouver and Boston (who will see the banner raise). I wanted to write a quick list of 10 things to expect to see in the 2011-12 season.
1. I basically agree with everything Steve Lepore from Puck The Media wrote the other day. The NHL will take advantage of the NBA not being around this year. Especially come playoff time, since college basketball will get its share of attention most of the year. Expect the biggest ratings ever for Versus/NBCSN as well as the games on NBC.
2. This is something we are already seeing, as now there is more accountability in terms of headshots. Brendan Shanahan is already upping the suspensions for players targeting the head. Plus, his video explanations on why someone is suspended is must-see TV.
3. I've seen a bunch of experts saying that Henrik Lundqvist will win the Vezina this season. I have no choice but to agree with them.
4. I think Jeff Skinner sees a little sophomore slump, while Logan Couture will be just as good as last year. However, Tyler Seguin will be the breakout star this year. Expect him to play more consistent this season for the defending champs.
5. Shea Weber will be your Norris winner. He's the best defensemen in the league and getting some national spotlight (at least in Canada) during the playoffs will give him a chance at winning, not just being a finalist. I also have Barry Trotz as my Adams winner, another one long overdue for his award.
6. I see too many people picking Adam Larsson for the Calder. Can't get myself to pick the Devil, so Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is my guy.
7. No repeat for Corey Perry in terms of being the Hart winner. I think Jonathan Toews has his best regular season, and adds a Hart trophy to his already extensive trophy case.
8. Sidney Crosby returns in January, but doesn't help the Pens win the Atlantic. Instead, it's Hank and the Rangers winning the division. My East standings: 1. Caps 2. Bruins 3. Rangers 4. Bolts 5. Pens 6. Sabres 7. Flyers 8. Canes 9. Leafs 10. Habs 11. Isles 12. Devils 13. Panthers 14. Jets 15. Sens.
9. You would think the Canucks would drop off, but I still say they are the best team in the regular season, since they still have plenty of depth. 1. Canucks 2. Sharks 3. Hawks 4. Kings 5. Wings 6. Preds 7. Jackets 8. Blues 9. Oilers 10. Ducks 11. Flames 12. Wild 13. Yotes 14. Avs 15. Stars.
10. The Caps reach their first Stanley Cup Final with Alex Ovechkin, but it's not enough as the Blackhawks win their second Cup in three years. Enjoy the hockey everyone!