When the puck drops next Tuesday night at the United Center to officially start the 2013-14 NHL season, it will have been exactly 99 days since they circle the ice in Boston with Lord Stanley hoisted above their heads.  By far and away that is the short gap between celebration and the beginning of a next campaign in the history of North American professional sports. 

Historically, the summer after winning a Stanley Cup is fraught with parties and appearances that make things like “training” and phrases such as “recovery” or “rest” just become buzz words in the grand scheme of things.  NHL players work extremely hard and put themselves through perhaps the most grueling of playoff experiences on the planet to reach the top of their sport.  In turn they celebrate with the best of them as well. 

Repeating a Stanley Cup run in the NHL is damn near impossible.  In fact, no one has won back to back Cups since the Red Wings 1996-97 & 1997-98 which came before the NHL implemented its salary cap era. 

With all of that said, I have to agree with Vegas, Sports Illustrated, and  most anyone else who has an informed opinion on the subject that the Blackhawks are the odds on favorite to celebrate next summer as well. 

Unlike the 2010-11 season where the team that took the ice on opening night looked nothing like the one that celebrated in Philadelphia four months before, this year the Blackhawks are back just as we left them.  The core of the team is still in place, and in the case of many of them, they are just heading into their primes.  Much as the Cubs are attempting to pull off on the Northside of the city, the Blackhawks organization is able to reap the benefits of their farm by filling in vital roles from within, using cheap homegrown talent, while pricy veterans get shipped out to greener pastures.  Instead of Dave Bolland, Michael Frolik, and Viktor Stalberg young men by the name of Brandon Pirri, Jeremy Morin, Ben Smith, and Jimmy Hayes will be filling in their place at a fraction of the price.  Outside of the inexplicable goaltending contracts doled out to Corey Crawford (6 years for $36 million) and Nikolai Khabibulin (1 year $2 million) I agreed with every move the Hawks made to restock their pantry for another Cup run.  The beauty of this time around is that this team is here to stay.

So while I don’t anticipate any 24 game non-regulation loss streaks or even a #1 seed heading into the playoffs this year, I think when push comes to shove there’s no more talented and experienced team in the league when it comes to playing hockey in the spring. 

I’ll give the boys a break if they play just above .500 hockey before the calendar turns to 2014.  Some part of me also would not be terribly upset if Marian Hossa, Michal Handzus, Michal Rozival, and anyone else for that matter don’t make their respective Olympic teams in February either.  For as much of a sprint as last season was, this year will be the definition of a marathon, one in which it is not crucial for this team to set the pace from the outset. 

The key is to be healthy when the real hockey arrives and no one knows that better than the men in the home locker room on West Madison.  While admittedly it’s an uphill battle and the vast majority of my instincts tell me that the task of repeating is just too much to bear, I have yet to see the lineup of any opponent that fields more talent than the Blackhawks will dress on any given evening.  Because of this I think the odds are in favor for another celebration in our fair city Blackhawks fan.  Someone might want to put a hold on the double decker buses the second or third week of June… just to be safe.

 

I asked my friends over at FanDuel.com for their opinion of the upcoming season from a fantasy prospective and it would appear that we’re in alignment.  I knew there was something I liked about these guys…

Blackhawks Among Those Who Will Benefit Most From Realignment 

When the NHL decided to switch things up with realignment before the 2013-2014 season, there was bound to be some mild controversy in the beginning. Some teams will benefit from their new home, while others will struggle with additional hurdles. Here’s a look at the five teams who will enjoy realignment the most, and in turn, teams who could have slightly better fantasy hockey player options now.

Chicago Blackhawks 

The defending Stanley Cup champions might be traveling a bit more now, but their schedule just got a bit easier for the time being. This is a young team with a chance to contend for the Stanley Cup the next few seasons. No team has repeated in the NHL since 1998, but Chicago will get a great shot.

Winnipeg Jets 

Sure, the team is destined for a pretty poor season, but at least they can save on travel quite a bit. Thanks to taking over the Atlanta franchise, they were stuck in the Southeast Division up until now. The Central Division will be much more manageable for the fan base.

Pittsburgh Penguins 

The Penguins might be the team that benefitted the most, simply because they were able to keep the travel light, and they were able to stay in a winnable division. Only the Washington Capitals have really shown they could push in the Metropolitan Division. As long as the Penguins can stay healthy, they should be in the thick of the Stanley Cup hunt in their new home.

Detroit Red Wings 

The Red Wings were placed in the Atlantic Division, which might not make a lot of sense initially, but the team is not complaining. They get to avoid what is becoming a loaded Central Division, and they besides the Canadiens and Bruins, this is a fairly easy set of teams to deal with.

Dallas Stars 

Ask any Texan, and they will tell you that they are nothing like the Pacific Coast. That is why just about everyone is happy to be in the Central Division starting this season. The Central will be down, and realistically the team could finish anywhere from 2nd to 5th. Perhaps the lighter travel will help the team pick up a few extra wins throughout the year.

 

 

Bears Week 4 Prediction

After a lengthy NHL season preview who doesn’t want to put a cherry on top with a Bears week 4 preview?  The two go together like peas and carrots really.  Unfortunately Bears fans I don’t have as good of news for you as I did the Blackhawks fans above.  At least for this week that is.  As the Bears head to the Motor City to take on the 2-1 Lions, they are dressing a squad that is not at full strength.  Peanut Tillman will be operating at 70% at best if you read between the lines of the injury report and the loss of Henry Melton last week will have a ripple effect on an already under-producing defensive line.  These are not the ideal conditions to go into Detroit’s indoor field and challenge Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, and a healthy Reggie Bush with first place in the division on the line.  This is a game that the Bears as we’ve known them in the past 30 years will lose for the sole reason that they can never make anything easy for themselves.  In a game where a win would give them a two game lead in the division and a claim as one of the top teams in the entire league, historically they find ways to come up on the short end of these affairs to ensure maximum stress and consternation within Halas Hall and the fan base alike.  Due to this this very well may be the truest test of the Trestman Effect to date.  If Marc can rally the boys to a win that history says they have no business attaining then we may really have something here ladies and gentlemen.  Unfortunately that is something I can’t believe until I see it.  

Prediction: Bears 24 – Lions 32

Bears Record: 3-0

Chi-Guy Record: 3-0