The NHL Storylines That Will Affect Betting This Season
by Trevor Whenham - 9/12/2011
It seems hard to believe because the weather is still so good in traditional hockey markets, but the NHL season is now just around the corner. Training camps are underway for a lot of teams -- though it’s mostly only rookies who are on the ice so far. By early next week teams will be playing NHL Preseason games, and before we know it the regular season starts. As we get ready for the start of another long and hopefully exciting season, let’s take a look at six storylines that will be of interest for bettors throughout the year:
Crosby’s head - There is no better or more popular player in the league than Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby. Since suffering blows to his head twice in a short time at the beginning of the year, though, Crosby has been unable to play with concussion issues. It’s a massive blow to the Penguins and the league -- obviously. Sadly, it doesn’t seem like things are going to return to normal in a hurry.
Crosby is working out and improving, but he is still dealing with issues, and he has not put a timeline on his return. Last year the Pen’s dealt with his absence -- and the absence of Evgeni Malkin as well -- because they had to. They were never nearly as good as they could be, though.
This year they have had more time to brace for it, and they have upgraded the power play that struggled badly without Crosby, but there is still inevitably going to be a big void until Sid the Kid returns to action. Determining how big that impact will be is one of the biggest tasks looming for hockey handicappers this season.
How will the Canucks’ rebound - The last time we saw the Canucks on the ice they were finishing off a truly epic collapse in the Stanly Cup finals -- the kind that crushes the souls of players and fans. That kind of situation -- and the flaws that were exposed -- can have a serious lasting impact on the psyche of a team.
On paper the Canucks are still one of the most talented teams in the league, but do they have what it takes to pick themselves back up and achieve their potential again? We’ll also have to keep an eye on how the Bruins handle their success, but there is far less to be concerned about there than there is in Vancouver.
The Jets are back - Hockey has left the unwelcoming Atlanta market for the second and hopefully last time. They have been welcomed to Winnipeg with open arms by a hockey-mad city that has never recovered from the loss of the original Jets to Phoenix years ago.
Enthusiasm will be high, and the stadium will be insane every night in Winnipeg. The team will get a very warm reception in many places on the road as well -- especially in Canadian markets. That could be enough to give this team a massive boost.
There are some issues, though. First, Winnipeg is a barren wasteland of misery during the winter, and that is going to require some adjustment for players who are used to living and playing in Atlanta. More significantly, they will still be playing in the Southeast Division like Atlanta did for this season. That means that they will face a schedule that is brutal to an unprecedented extent.
It will be a challenge to determine how long the adrenaline can overcome the reality of what the team is up against in their first season.
Edmonton’s youth movement - The Oilers have an incredible collection of young players -- by far the best group of under-25 youngsters in the league. They are absolutely a team of the future.
They are incredibly raw right now, though, so the future is likely not here yet. When this team figures things out they are going to be deadly. The trick will be to figure out when the future will arrive, and how good this team can be when that happens.
Washington is getting serious - The Capitals have the most explosive offensive player in the league, and a whole lot of talent around him. They always find a way to disappoint in the playoffs, though. More than ever before they have shown signs that they are tired of losing and plan not to do it this year.
They have been aggressive in the offseason, and the attitudes of the stars match the hunger of the front office. If Washington can finally get on track they are going to be tough to beat. Is this finally the year that the Caps reach their potential?
Philadelphia’s bold moves - Jeff Carter and Mike Richards were the two offensive stars that the Flyers were built around, and they were expected to be the foundation of the team for years to come. After a bizarre offseason, though, Carter now plays for Columbus and Richards is with the Kings.
It’s all but impossible to think of another time when a good team blew apart their core like this when the players were in their prime. There were obvious chemistry issues with this team last year, and rumors have long circulated that these two players were at the center of the issues. Not only are they gone, but the team has signed Maxime Talbot form the Penguins and, in a blast form the past, Jaromir Jagr has been brought back from the KHL.
Will these moves pay off? Is this team better than they were? It’ll be fun trying to figure that out.
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