Perhaps one of the most disappointing things in a lost NHL season would be the cancellation of the 2013 Winter Classic. Not only will there be over 100,000 fans on hand to take in the game at The Big House in Michigan, but the alumni game looks to be shaping up quite nicely. In fact, there are so many players participating, they are planning on playing two separate games. That's even more nostalgia that hockey fans get to enjoy over that weekend.
With names like Mats Sundin, Felix Potvin, Doug Gilmour, Frank Mahovlich, Darryl Sittler, Lanny McDonald, Paul Coffey, Chris Chelios, Igor Larionov, Mike Vernon, and Alex Delvecchio participating, it should be a star-studded affair.
Here are some questions that will probably be asked leading up to the game.
Will Bryan McCabe finish the game with two power play goals and a minus-5 rating?
How long before Brian Burke realizes the alumni team could probably beat the current Leafs squad in a best of seven series?
Will Petr Klima bring back that ridiculous helmet he wore during his playing days?
Can Darryl Sittler break his 10 point game record?
Who in the world is Kevin Maguire?
How long after the game before Scotty Bowman gets the itch to coach again?
If the Winter Classic is cancelled I would hate to be in charge of issuing refunds for tickets and hotel rooms. All I can say is please let there be a season.
Now let's continue our look at bounce back player candidates with the Northwest division.
Last season it became evident that Cammalleri needed a change of scenery and out of Montreal. He managed just 41 points last year, but started to pick it up a bit after he returned to Calgary. Cammalleri had 11 points in his last ten games and raised his shooting percentage from 8.1% in Montreal, to 17.2% with the Flames. He also saw improvement in goals, power play goals, plus/minus, and PIM after the trade.
The speedy center also seemed to really benefit after reuniting with Jarome Iginla, and honestly who wouldn't. Cammalleri had ten points playing with Iginla which accounted for nearly 25% of his production on the campaign.
Injuries limited Duchene to just 58 games in 2011-12 and pretty much derailed any chance of him having a strong season. Just staying healthy alone should see a substantial improvement in the 28 points he posted. It will be interesting to how he reacts to Gabriel Landeskog being awarded the captaincy and becoming the youngest captain in NHL history. Many people would have pegged Duchene to receive that honour from the Avalanche. He may be able to use that as some motivation for 2012-13.
Speaking of Landeskog, Duchene didn't play a lot with him in even strength scenarios, but the two did see time together on the Colorado power play fairly frequently. A full season together should see Duchene's man advantage totals take a significant leap.
Even though many people feel that Devan Dubnyk is the new number one goalie in Edmonton, I'm not convinced Khabibulin is done as an NHL starter just yet. Although he had a record of 12-20-7, his save percentage and GAA were his best since he arrived in Edmonton. The seven overtime losses are what really hurt him, and if the Oilers improve in the standings next year like many feel they will, then Khabibulin's record will no doubt improve.
If the Oilers are pushing for a playoff spot, the veteran Russian netminder should get plenty of playing time because of his experience in pressure situations. Conversely, if they plan to shop him in a trade it would benefit Edmonton to give him some playing time to showcase what he has left. Either way Khabibulin should see lots of action in 2012-13.
Heatley had his lowest point total last year since the lockout. With Zach Parise arriving in Minnesota it should take a lot of pressure off Heatley. As good as Heatley is, he has always benefited by not having to be the main focal point of the attack. In Atlanta he had Ilya Kovalchuk, in Ottawa it was Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson, and in San Jose he had Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Now Parise should hopefully be another weapon the opposition will have to look out for.
Heatley also fired 238 shots on goal in 2011-12 which was an area he did improve in after leaving San Jose. Adding Ryan Suter should help the Minnesota's 27th ranked power play also, and help Heatley's production in that area in the process.
If you ignore the playoffs, there are not too many things the Canucks need to improve on this year. Mason Raymond, however, saw his production take a hit mainly due to missing time from a gruesome back injury he suffered in the 2010-11 Stanley Cup final. Raymond tallied just 20 points in 55 games, but still managed to average over two shots per contest.
Raymond should benefit from Ryan Kesler being out until at least December by receiving some time in Vancouver's top six forward group. He should also see increased time on both the penalty kill and power play with Kelser sidelined. Combine that with an offseason that saw a new contract and time to fully heal, and you should get a recipe for a better campaign from Raymond.
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