The 2013 NHL Season Preview You Never Knew You Needed: A Chat Amongst Hockey Bros


The NHL lockout was an excruciating and infuriating experience for hockey diehards and NHL fans across the world. Thankfully, albeit later than we'd all like, the two sides came to an agreement, and there will be hockey. And soon. In fact, the puck drops on the 2013 NHL season in a couple of short days — Saturday to be exact.

With that in mind, two of The Sports Fan Journal's resident hockey fanatics — the Rev and Dillon Friday (who both happen to live the Philadelphia area) — saddled up to the bar and discussed how we'd like to approach an unconventional season preview. Over a few beers, Mr. Friday suggested an email exchange a la the one we had earlier this year, as the Rev and Justin Tinsley trash-talked their way leading up to the final meeting of the season between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles.

So without further ado, here is the absurdity that ensued, including our very likely to be horribly wrong predictions to wrap it all up. Hockey is back, and we couldn't be more excited.


Dillon: Alright Rev, we finally have NHL hockey, or we will once the players sign the new CBA [Ed note: Done]. I guess we shouldn't get too ahead of ourselves considering the last six months have featured their fair share of Shyamalan twists. But barring what would be a shocking resolution from the players, the regular season will begin in a week. You and I will watch. Will other fans come back, and should they come back? I think that's the biggest question coming out of this lockout.

Rev: Wait, the lockout ended? I just assumed Punxsutawney Phil was gonna see his shadow, spring was going to roll around, March Madness would take hold, then first pitch, the NFL draft and the Lakers Clippers would be crowned NBA champs before Donald Fehr and Gary Bettman got back to the bargaining table.

In all seriousness, I personally couldn't be more excited for the season to start, if for no other reason than the Eagles were trash, the Phillies are old and the Sixers suck balls. To answer your question: I do think fans will come back. All of them. Fans came back to baseball. Fans came back to the NFL. And fans came back to the NBA, even after two shortened, lockout seasons. People who love hockey love to watch the best players play hockey, and the place to see that is the NHL.

Now, should fans come back? Maybe, maybe not. It's like that ex you always seem to slide back to: You know she's terrible. You know she's going to break your heart. But god damn is she fun in the sack. Should you go back to her? Probably not, at least without some concessions on her part ... but you just can't help yourself. Agree/disagree/want to tell me to shut the hell up?

Dillon: Somehow I know exactly what you're talking about. But hey, we don't mind a little infidelity from our top athletes, so why should we mind it from our top leagues? The fans will come back because nothing compares to live hockey. Once you've experienced it, it's hard to ignore. I guess that's the sex part of your analogy. Plus Gary Bettman absorbs most of the derision that should be directed at the owners and to some extent the players. Luckily our brave commissioner had the balls to issue this apology:

I feel underappreciated as a fan, but I'm a lifelong Flyers fan so you could say I'm used to it. The team makes the playoffs with star-studded rosters every year only to bow out in some embarrassing ways. Scott Stevens KO'ing Lindros put the exclamation point on that 3-1 series collapse, we got Fedotenko'd in the Eastern Conference Finals, and of course there's the Michael Leighton debacle of the 2010 Stanley Cup. Ironically, if I loved my girlfriends as much as I love the Flyers I might have a ring on my finger even if my favorite players don't have one on theirs.

Fun fact for our resident Flyers fans (you, Ed, Trible and myself): Did you know that the Flyers have the record for longest losing streak in championship series across all four major sports leagues? We've lost six straight Stanley Cup Finals dating back to 1976. Why? In a word, goaltending. Ever since Pelle Lindbergh drunk drove his Porsche into a wall at 200 MPH, we've been on endless search for a quality tender. Our Cosmonaut incumbent Ilya Bryzgalov had more memorable quotes than games last year. Can he turn it around this short season, or will he receive the dreaded amnesty in the summer? The hockey world needs to know.

Rev: Oh, I know all about the Flyers' never-ending goaltender search. Don't read that link unless you have an iron stomach. As for Bryz … I don't know why but I get the feeling the constant games and a year to acclimate to Philadelphia will do him well. I expect him to play exponentially better in 2013 than he did in year 1 as a Flyer.

Of course, he's a goalie and he's on the Flyers, so anything is possible.

Speaking of goaltenders … the Rangers and Kings have themselves pretty damn good ones. Do you see anyone out there who could potentially wrestle the Vezina away from King Henrik or the Quick King?


Dillon: Yes the Vezina Trophy, named after the guy who may or may not have fathered 22 children, given to the guy who best prevents others from scoring. Something doesn't add up about that.

Pekka Rinne is easily the best goaltender that has yet to gain mainstream attention. Quick just won a Cup, and Lundqvist is, ah, easy on the eyes to go along with his stalwart play. If anyone is going to steal the award from those two it's going to be Rinne. The Predators' number one lost Ryan Suter off his blue line, but he retained Shea Weber for the next, what? 14 years? He's been a Vezina finalist each of the past two seasons. Expect him to be one of the league's best again in 2013.

I'll tell you who won't win the Vezina, Rev: Marc-Andre Fleury. The man his teammates affectionately call "flower" wilted like a dead daisy against the Flyers in 2012. I'm not a horticulturist so if daisies don't wilt, I'm sorry. The point is he sucked. I love hating the Penguins, and it's even better when we beat them in the playoffs like we did last year. But Fleury aside, I can't ignore the Pens' talent. Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, James Neal, Kris Letang ... sunuvabitch they're good. I think Crosby wins the Art Ross this season as the league's top scorer, unless of course he suffers another concussion. You gonna argue with that? Cindy whines with the best of them, but over his last two regular seasons he's averaged 1.63 points a game. That's dumb good. I hate to say it, but the Penguins might just be the favorites to come out of the East. Thoughts?

Rev: The Penguins are all sorts of good, there's no doubt about it, but I have a feeling that another team I despise just may come out of the East. I hate John Tortorella. I hate those Blue Shirts. I hate New York. And there's nothing I hate quite as much as the Rangers, but I think this is finally the year they can put it together and get out of the East. Rick Nash adds another dimension to a team that has a world-class netminder and solid defense, and he just may be the missing piece. I hope I'm wrong. And I hope you're wrong. And I really hope the Orange and Black can come out of the East. But dear lord, the East is loaded.

Then again, so is the West. Honestly, I have no idea who "the favorite" is coming out of the left coast. You have the standards in Vancouver, San Jose and Detroit, all playoff teams last year, but there's still that whole Luongo situation with the Canucks, the Sharks are the Sharks and Detroit is playing without Nick Lidstrom for the first time since the stone age.

Of course, the Kings are the defending champs and will have a full season with Jeff Carter in tow and more confidence than anyone possibly could. Phoenix and St. Louis are young teams well on the rise, and the Preds are solid through and through, though minus Suter as you said. I say the team to really keep on an eye on is the Blackhawks, who underachieved last season but are just a couple years removed from a Cup. Toews, Kane, Keith, et al could be in for a surprise run.

Dillon: The West is wide open, isn't it? That's what happens when an 8th seed wins the Cup as the Kings did last year. On top of that Nick Lidstrom retired in Detroit, Roberto Luongo looks like he's on his way out in Vancouver, and the Wild added Suter and Parise. I think the Kings are the favorites just because they ended the year playing the best hockey. But if the Blackhawks solidify their goaltending as well as their defense they'll go far. And then there's the Blues who surprised many last season by finishing in second. So yeah, the West is wide open.

That being said, Rev, I want predictions. Give me your Stanley Cup match-up and Hart, Calder, Norris and Art Ross trophy winners. Give me a bold prediction as well that if you're right you'll look like a genius but if you're wrong you will relinquish your hockey fandom.


Rev: Relinquish my hockey fandom, huh? Only if you join the Sidney Crosby fan club and move into a flat with Steve Avery. Then maybe I'd consider it … if the Flyers moved to Adirondack or Peter White somehow made it out of retirement and back onto the roster. I really disliked Peter White.

Anyway, it's predictions you want, so predictions you'll get. And they'll all be wrong. Every last one of them. Because I'm an idiot. But here goes:

Stanley Cup Prediction: Los Angeles Kings vs. Philadelphia Flyers

You are all gonna call me a homer on this one, but I think I'm finally ready for the first time in my life to declare the Flyers ready, and on top of that, they'll meet the defending champs who just so happened to be dubbed Flyers West. With a young core of forwards and a crazy goaltender who actually is at his best when he plays a lot, I think the Flyers, so long as they hold up on the back end, can get to the Final. Now, this is going out on a limb big time, seeing as the defense is thin and relying on a very old Kimmo Timonen and banking on a quick and full recover from Andrej Meszaros, who underperformed last season as it is. And then there is Bryz, who has been so up and down that it's maddening. But for some reason I just like this team's make-up in the shortened, condensed season. If this was an 82-game season, I think I'd actually say the Rangers, but I'm letting my fandom get the best of me here and picking the Flyers to make the Cup.

As for the Kings, I just think they were as good as it gets defensively last season, thanks to Jonathan Quick and a stout defense, and now with a full season of Jeff Carter balancing the scoring, LA has the make-up of a team that could repeat: Kopitar, Richards, Carter, Brown, Penner up front and Doughty and the criminally underrated Scuderi on the blue line, not to mention as good of a goaltender as it gets. So there's my match-up … with the Kings repeating. Yeah, I'm not that optimistic about the Flyers.

Now the awards:

  • Hart: Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
  • Norris: Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins
  • Vezina: Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings
  • Selke: Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings
  • Calder: Nail Yakupov, Edmonton Oilers
  • Art Ross: Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning

And my bold prediction, beyond a very homerific Stanley Cup Final prediction, is that Bobby Ryan won't be traded in-season, and the Ducks will make the playoffs. Talk about crazy.

Your turn.

Dillon: "Move into a flat with Steve Avery" he says. I'm sure you meant Sean Avery instead of Steve, the former left-hander for the Braves. I like to think you meant Steve though. And living with Sean Avery wouldn't be so bad. He pulls all kinds of hot chicks and knows fashion which is not one of my strong suits (pun intended). I'd be on the cover of GQ in no time.

But that's not relevant to the hockey talk. I'd like to think your Flyers prediction will come true, but I just don't see it. I happen to believe our defense is better than most people think, and your spot on about Bryz. You saw last year's postseason, though. The first-round win against the Penguins was probably the best I've felt watching hockey in a long time, but it physically, mentally and emotionally drained the Flyguys. We had nothing left against the Devils.

I see the three best teams in the Atlantic finishing 1, 4,and 5 in the East with the 2-3 spots given to the other division winners. That means the 4-5 teams would likely have to beat two chief rivals to even reach the Cup. Knife to my throat, the Rangers will finish tops in the East with the Penguins and Flyers taking the 4th and 5th seeds, respectively. Can we beat both teams in the postseason? Yes, but as we saw last year it will be very difficult.

The Rangers will win the Eastern Conference and advance to the Stanley Cup to play the repeating Los Angeles Kings. This match-up needs to happen for the good of the league. Great goaltending, big forwards, unheralded d-men, the two largest cities in America ... this series would have it all. I'll take the Kings in 7, just because it's much harder to emerge from the East unscathed.

As for awards:

  • Hart: Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings (my head says Crosby, but Datsyuk has a chance to carry the Wings and he's the best player in the world, in my opinion)
  • Norris: Drew Doughty, LA Kings (should've won the Conn Smythe in 2012)
  • Vezina: Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
  • Selke: Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
  • Calder: Justin Schultz, Edmonton Oilers
  • Art Ross: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
  • Rocket Richard: Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning

Now for my bold prediction. I think Stamkos scores 40 in 48 games. Is that bold enough? Should I go 50? Fine. Steven Stamkos will score 50 goals this season. Someone get Sean or Steve Avery on the phone and tell him I'm moving in.

Any last words on the lockout or season before we give this to the people?

Rev: OK, so I definitely meant Sean Avery … but fuck it, I'm going with Steve Avery anyway because you're right, it'd be much more unbearable to live with one of those smug 1990s Atlanta Braves (Hi, Ed) than the man who made a mockery of the goaltender screen.

Hell, you almost sold me on moving in with Sean Avery myself. Almost. I still hate him too much to pull the trigger.

Anyway, last words … how about this: Just watch hockey. Do it. I know the lockout was long and absurd and it's the second one in less than a decade, but trust me, hockey is awesome. And it will be on every single night. If ever there was a time to get yourself into the sport, it's now. You'll get familiar with everyone real quick, and the fast-paced action will pull you in. Because hockey is awesome.

That's all I got. The final word is yours, Mr. Friday.

Dillon: I believe it was Zack de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine who said, "It has to start somewhere/ it has to start somehow/ what better place than here/ what better time than now." And it was Wayne Gretzky who said, "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." In other words, take a shot on the NHL because you'll regret it and Rage Against the Machine says so. Or something like that.

I love hockey. As you say Mr. Revere, it is awesome. I've never met anyone who tried hockey and didn't take an immediate liking to the game.

Saturday, January 19th, cannot come soon enough.

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