Lace Them Up – The 2021 NHL Season Preview

Apparently the Zambonis have all been finally fixed and are able to smooth the ice so the NHL can begin their season January 13th. Luckily the 13th is not a Friday, but it may as well be. Yeah I know, it’s not the Zambonis’ fault they haven’t started the season. It was NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s fault. Fine, it was COVID… or how best to navigate COVID. But, Bettman is such an awful commissioner he’s always the person to point at for NHL problems.

Last year, as you may recall it since the season just ended in the middle of September, the Tampa Bay Lightning took home Lord Stanley’s Cup. It’s so 2020 to have a team that never has any ice outside of its arena claim the Cup.

Yeah, I know. That was so last Fall. So who’s going to hoist the Cup this year… whenever the season ends given the specter of COVID? The season is slated for 56 games, roughly 2/3rds of a normal season. But for the NHL, 56 games is enough to determine who should make the playoffs and who shouldn’t since nearly every team makes the playoffs anyway. A full 16 out of 31 teams make the playoffs. Next year it’ll be a full 50% as the Seattle Kraken are coming. Damn it I love that name.

A side note: before we get into the deep chasms of ice and hand out predictions easier than a dirty carny hands out tainted sno-cones, we have a couple rule changes to go over.

Number 1 – Offsides is now determined to not occur until the offensive players last skate completely crosses the blue line. Ergo, if a skater’s foot is in the air, but still behind or above the line when the puck completely crosses the blue line, he is onside. I am dubbing this the “phantom foot” as I can envision a lot of extended time being allotted while the NHL replay monitors in Toronto spend minutes drinking Labatt’s and deciding if the foot was or wasn’t over as it hovers in frozen time threatening to cross it.

Number 2 – the Colorado Avalanche are allowed to play with an extra attacker the entire season.

Fine, the second one doesn’t exist. It should though. It’s only fair as their goalie situation is still as shaky as spring pond hockey. That’s the reason why they didn’t make it to the final and soundly whip that team from the south. Should I go on with my predictions? Isn’t that enough?

No. Let’s talk division realignment for a moment. What you say? Are they doing it again? Of course they are, this is hockey. Why continue to have serious rivalries like the Blackhawks-Blues when you can completely separate them? OK, give them SOME credit – they FINALLY put the Blackhawks and Red Wings back into the same division but right at the time they both pretty much suck. For the love of frozen ponds, the NHL is completely idiotic when it comes to realigning divisions. Don’t ever let anyone responsible for NHL division realignment touch MLB. They’d move the Red Sox to the NL East and drum up a Phillies rivalry and quash the Yankees one. The NHL is all excited over intrastate rivalries like Flyers-Penguins and completely crapping all over the classic country battles such as Buffalo-Toronto. What this will probably promote is more fighting, which is the ‘sssh’ topic at NHL HQ, but they want it.

Stop dancing, Sidney and Alex! FIGHT!!

Let’s check out those divisions and pick winners.

The Scotia North Division – what the hell is Scotia? Scotiabank a Canadian Bank conglomerate and yes, the NHL has sold the rights to the divisions. Told you there are worse licensing names. The good news is ‘The Scosh’ (hard ‘o’ like hard ice) is all Canadian teams which gives them a better chance to make the playoffs and they need that. This division sucks. Of the pre-season Top Ten, only one of these teams is there- The Vancouver Canucks. However, I think the eventual winner will be the Calgary Flames only because I like to hear people pronounce it “calGARY.”

The MassMutual East Division – An insurance company. Great. Every team will need some insurance to try and make the playoffs at all. With the Bruins, Sabres, Islanders, Penguins and Capitals etc here this is a tough motherfucking division and one that may knock the Penguins out of the playoffs for this first time since my son was 1 – he’s 26. Winner? Oof – I’ll take the Bruins.

The Discover Central Division – sounds more like an odyssey, a trek to find all that’s great about the Midwest. Nope, it’s the damn credit card that was once Sears’ great asset and they sold off, losing millions. Sears was so dumb. On to the teams! Apparently, geography was not a requirement for the realignment as three of these teams are on the East Coast, including the 2020 Cup winner Tampa Bay Lightning. They ought to win this division, even though the geniuses who did the realignment placed the other Stanley Cup finalist, the Dallas Stars, in the same division. Who else is in here, the hapless Red Wings and the now hapless Blackhawks. Sorry, but your goalie retired. Happy retirement Corey Crawford earned it.

The Honda West Division – yeah when someone thinks hockey and cold and ice, the first thing they think of is Honda with their big trucks and… wait, yeah their truck isn’t really a truck at all. The Honda Ridgeline’s bed is so short Carolina Hurricane Nathan Gerbe has to lay in it at an angle and he’s only 5’4”. As for the division? 3 of the Top 7 teams are here – Las Vegas, St. Louis and Colorado. Colorado should take it.

Colorado should take it all. I – like the Las Vegas bookies – are picking the Colorado Avalanche to be the team to beat. They have everything going for them except a reliable tandem of goalies. Their #1 goalie, Philipp Grubauer (2 pp’s for extra Padding Protection), has got to stay healthy. And they have a new arena – Ball Arena. I’m kidding, it’s still the ‘Pepsi Center’ only Pepsi’s contract went flat (see what I did there?) and Ball came in and took the sponsorship. Ball, if you don’t know, is an aerospace company yet they’re best known for making canning products such as glass jars. I am not kidding. So NHL.

OK, that’s it. I’ll keep giving you updates during the season after most of the teams reach Game 20, 35, and 50 before we roll into the grueling journey known as the Stanley Cup playoffs slated to begin mid-May… when most of the country should be COVID-inoculated.

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