“Hockey Nite Here”
It’s opening night in the National Hockey League tonight, and two nights later, hockey is back on the ice in San Diego, as the Gulls start their 2nd season in the American Hockey League.
As they drop the puck tonite, a close up look at storylines worth following.
The LA Kings, once a Stanley Cup winner, are no longer the same franchise.
They are saddled with some ugly contracts. It’s almost as if everyone on the team makes 8M a year. GM-Dean Lombardi spent lavishly a couple of years back, but now has mega money deals with aging players, hanging around his neck.
Anzi Kopitar is a star, but Dustin Brown is not any longer. And Brown is making north of 7M a season, and not scoring. A griffy leader, it’s as if he woke up one morning an older player with eroding skills.
It will be a season to start without Marian Gaborik, and his hefty contract. Out with a broken foot suffered in the World Cup tournament. And fiesty Milan Lucic wears Edmonton Oilers colors tonite, having jumped for bigger money than LA was willing to give.
The Anaheim Ducks bring back Randy Carlyle as head coach, the guy who led them to a Stanley Cup, only to get fired a couple of years later. He replaces Bruce Boudreau, whose Ducks teams failed to win the 7th and deciding games of playoff series at home, four, yes four years in a row.
The Ducks have big money aging players, but still productive guys like Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. They think they have a star on the horizon in Nick Ritchie, and have a sensational first round pick in 19-year old defenseman Jacob Larsson.
But Anaheim has issues. Two of their better young players remain restricted free agent holdouts. Hampus Lindholm and Rikard Rakell are still in Sweden. A headstrong GM-Bob Murray refusing to give them 6M a year contracts, the going rate for top young stars who merit extensions.
The Ducks need to shed the label as being cheap, and get them back from Scandanavia. They say ‘cost conscious’. No one I know agrees with that description.
Lots of the NHL attention will be on what’s going on in the Eastern Conference, where the top teenage draft pick in the NHL, Austin Matthews debuts with the Maple Leafs.
The spotlight will glare on Pittsburgh because of the revelation of more concussion problems for superstar Sidney Crosby.
The Western Conference is loaded with firepower and talent, and year two, hopefully a full year for Edmonton Oilers sensation Connor McDavid, could bring big time stats. He set an NHL record, being named captain of the Oilers at just age 19 this week.
Add in the excitement in Las Vegas, where they have sold over 16,000-season tickets for an expansion team that plays a year from tonite.
And off ice, the on-going debate, will the NHL allow its players to take part in the next Olympics? What happens with the ugly Concussion lawsuit that now involves the NHL? And what will the league do about the equipment changes they want to invoke at mid-season on goaltenders?
So they drop the puck with some fun storylines to follow, if you like hockey.
In LA and in Anaheim, they sellout games, and the fans love the action.
And San Diego can get its fill of puck because the Kings are on Time Warner Cable…and Ducks games are piped in here thru Fox Sports San Diego.
And San Diego is a melting pot of fans for sure. Just think, the San Diego Gulls, in the AHL, were second highest in attendance last year in an aging Sports Arena. Fans showing up wearing all types of jerseys from the teams they rooted for back home , before moving here.
Hockey Nite is Here. And it’s great..