Wednesday, August 31, 2011

30 Fans in 30 Days: Laura & the Montréal Canadiens

As a lead-up to the new season, here at HockeyBroad we'll both be reviewing How Teams Spent Their Summer Vacation, and also profiling one fan from each team's fandom, covering 30 Teams In 30 Days. The teams will be profiled in order determined by their points standing last season, highest to lowest, with the exception of Chicago, which will be profiled last to coincide with the date of their Training Camp Festival.

Team 13 of 30: the Montréal Canadiens


Photo courtesy of Bridget Samuels/Flickr

HOW THE CANADIENS SPENT THEIR SUMMER

For the fourth year in a row, heartbreak: this one coming in a tight, highly emotional first-round loss to the Boston Bruins in game 7.

It isn't easy to be a Habs fan these days; the oldest and most storied team in the NHL is also the most decorated, with 24 Stanley Cups to their name - the most recent coming in 1993. Jokes about size (the Habs are the shortest average team in the league) and fan rioting aside, there has always been much to be proud of as a Montréal fan.

Recently, the team has found new flourish and new life, and they've been helping to keep things interesting in the Northeast. P.K. Subban, love him or hate him, is one of the exciting younger faces of the NHL; Carey Price is a stud in goal (and a rodeo cowboy out of it); and the team keeps trying to find the right pieces to send them back to etched-silver glory at the top of the NHL.

The Habs re-signed some players such as defensemen Hal Gill, Josh Gorges, and Andrei Markov, and forwards Andrei Kostitsyn and Ryan White. Fans and players around the league won't soon forget the hit on Max Pacioretty by Boston's Zdeno Chara during the March run to the playoffs. Pacioretty's neck was broken, but he is back to health, re-signed, and expected to make a solid contribution to the team this year.

Not a lot of new signings for the team; the biggest names the team picked up were Erik Cole from Carolina and Peter Budaj from the Avalanche; of the two, Cole will probably made the biggest immediate and long-term impacts. The team needs more scoring, and that's clearly what Cole is there to provide.

Price had an outstanding season in 2010-11, going 38-28-6 including 8 shutouts, with a .923 sv% and just 2.35 GAA. Early in the preseason exhibition games, Montréal's passionate fans had booed Price after a 2-4 loss to hated rivals, the Boston Bruins. “Relax, chill out,” Price told fans via the media, “We’ve got lots of time. We’re not winning the Stanley Cup in the first exhibition game.”

With some new pieces in place and most of the departing players being replaced via the team's depth charts, it'll be an interesting year for the Canadiens. The Habs will likely make the playoffs for the fifth year running, but can they surprise people again the way they did with their unlikely playoff run of 2009-10? Time will tell.
New to team - listed on current roster/team acquired from: Erik Cole (CAR), Peter Budaj (COL), Alexei Yemelin (KHL)
Players who appeared in games for the team during the 2010-11 season that have been traded or not re-signed/(team now signed with): Alex Auld (OTT), Jeff Halpern (WSH), Roman Hamrlik (WSH), Alexandre Picard (PIT), Benoit Pouliot (BOS), Tom Pyatt (TBL),Brent Sopel (KHL), James Wisniewski (CBJ)

Photo courtesy of Bridget Samuels/Flickr

* * * 

For the Montréal Canadiens, we talked with Laura, a.k.a. Habbykins, who blogs over at The World According to Laura.

Let's talk about your fandom - 52 years! That's pretty impressive.

Have been a Hab fan since birth - it is in the genes as they say. Once I was visiting a convent and was introduced to an elderly nun in Montreal who would listen to her Habs while on her knees saying the rosary - secret to all those cups - perhaps. I am sure she was not the only one who did that - and a lot of them loved Jean Beliveau. He was and is a gentleman.

I have met a few of my heroes, and met Mr. Beliveau in a mall in Burlington, Ontario. My daughter was about two, she was awesome in line - stayed close and was good as gold. There was a huge line up and when we got to the front of the line - we were next in line. She said very loudly so everyone could hear, "Did he play for the Blue Jays?" He laughed at that one as did all those who were around. He chuckled and answered her - the great guy that he is, said "Not quite - I played hockey for the Canadiens." He signed my puck and I thanked him, and left rather quickly. Quite embarrassing.

At least she did not ask if he played if he played for the Leafs.

Which player that your team signed/acquired this summer are you most excited to see take the ice this season?

Erik Cole, I think he will provide some of the even strength scoring that this teams lack. The only other acquisition was Peter Budaj - hopefully he does well in the backup role to Carey Price.

Taking into consideration your team's performance last year/recently, and any player/personnel (coaches, GMs, ownership) changes made in the past few months, talk about your team in 2011-2012: How do you think they've improved (or made worse)? What do they need to work on?

Health will be the key. Of course you could say that about any team. Habs went through 12 defensemen last year and some were not pretty. The emergence of young defencemen and the return from injury of Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges will help tremendously. There are some in-house viable options this year to cover for injuries which is great. The five-on-five scoring has to improve to be sure.

Whether or not you think your team will make the playoffs, where do you predict your team will place within their conference?
5th in the Eastern Conference

What existing hockey rule would you change (and how) if you could?

Trapizoid for goalies - let them handle the puck for better or for worse.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

30 Fans in 30 Days: Eric & the Los Angeles Kings

As a lead-up to the new season, here at HockeyBroad we'll both be reviewing How Teams Spent Their Summer Vacation, and also profiling one fan from each team's fandom, covering 30 Teams In 30 Days. The teams will be profiled in order determined by their points standing last season, highest to lowest, with the exception of Chicago, which will be profiled last to coincide with the date of their Training Camp Festival.

Team 12 of 30: the Los Angeles Kings



HOW THE KINGS SPENT THEIR SUMMER VACATION

After having a benchmark season and making it into the playoffs for the second year in a row (but once again being knocked out of the first round), one of the biggest questions of the off season still hangs over the Los Angeles Kings: the ongoing saga of when will RFA defenseman Drew Doughty sign, and for how much and how long? Doughty won gold with Team Canada in 2010 and was a Norris Trophy finalist the same year, which was only his second year in the NHL and made him the second-youngest nominee for the award; he's averaged 11 G / 31 A per season in the NHL.

Some of the Kings' playoff struggles can be chalked up to missing top center Anze Kopitar due to injury, but LA has proven to have a lot of grit and mettle in the midst of the very competitive Pacific division.

The Kings have quietly built themselves a very talented - and very young - core that should keep them consistently in the playoffs for many years to come. Doughty, Kopitar, team captain Dustin Brown, defenseman Jack Johnson, goaltender Jonathan Quick, Jarret Stoll, end of season trade acquisition Dustin Penner, Willie Mitchell - a lot of parts are there and primed for success.

LA did not make a lot of moves in the off season, but the ones they did were blockbusters. There is no doubt that LA lost some talent this season; shock waves rippled across the league when the trade that brought Mike Richards from the Flyers and sent Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn to Philadelphia. Team veteran Michal Handzus signed with cross-state (and division) rival, the San Jose Sharks.

While some prime talent was sacrificed, the Kings brought in some valuable veteran leadership with Richards. They also acquired Richards' 2009-10 teammate from the Stanley Cup Final Flyers squad, Simon Gagne, who spent last season in Tampa Bay. Gagne and Richards have previously played under John Stevens, who is now LAK's assistant coach, so they should assimilate into the team's systems quickly.

LA also has one of the youngest and most talented goaltending duos between the pipes. Their #1 goalie is Jonathan Quick, 25, who went 35-22-3 including 6 shutouts, with .918 sv% and just 2.24 GAA. Quick also led the league in shootout wins last season with 10 and a .818 sv%. (Particularly noteworthy - he was undefeated in home shootouts, with 5.) Quick is backed up by Jonathan Bernier, 23, who went 11-8-3 with a .913 sv% and 2.48 GAA, including 3 shutouts.

New to team - listed on current roster/team acquired from: Colin Fraser (EDM), Mike Richards (PHL), Simon Gagne (TBL)
Players who appeared in games for the team during the 2010-11 season that have been traded or not re-signed/(team now signed with): Michal Handzus (SJS), Alexei Ponikarovsky (CAR), Brayden Schenn (PHL), Wayne Simmonds (PHL), Ryan Smyth (EDM)

In short, LA is where this season roughly where Chicago was in 2009-10: a young, talented team that has been playing together for 3-5 seasons, that added a solid dash of valuable, experienced leadership. Expect there to be a constant, season-long battle between San Jose and Los Angeles for the top spot in the Pacific division; and I wouldn't be surprised to see both teams both earn home ice advantage. It's going to be a very exciting year for California hockey.

* * *
We interviewed Eric Roberts of Sin Bin Sports Blog and RinkRoyalty.com. You can also find him on Twitter at @_iRoberts.

Let's talk about your fandom for the Kings and how that developed.

I have been a Kings fan for as long as I can remember. I was born into a Buffalo [Sabres] family since my dad grew up there, but my loyalty to the Kings has slowly pushed the Sabres onto the back burner.

It seems like every year my allegiance and support for the Kings grows stronger and stronger. I find myself attending more and more games every season, and spending immeasurable amounts of time reading up on the Kings online.

I attended my first Kings playoff game two seasons ago, unfortunately it was game six against the Canucks. But that was by far my best experience as a Kings fan, the atmosphere, the support from the fans, and the passion seen all around LA during that time was awesome.

I have stayed loyal through the thick and thin, I have defended the Kings in countless arguments that have started off with, "Well the Ducks have a Cup...". Whenever I leave town, my Kings gear goes with me, and is worn like a badge of honor. My neck tattoo is going to be a sort of shrine towards the Kings and the city of Los Angeles, I see that as the ultimate commitment.

Which player that your team signed/acquired this summer are you most excited to see take the ice this season?

Well, the Kings didn't go crazy with their signings this off-season, but quality is much better than quantity. While a lot of Kings fans are caught up in the Mike Richards whirlwind, I'm actually looking forward to seeing Simon Gagne take to the ice in October. Gagne in my eyes needs to prove that he can still be an offensive threat, and show that he can make it over the injury problem that has hindered his playing ability in recent years. If he is in good shape and can get over the injuries he will fill the hole on the left wing that has haunted the Kings in recent history. How great would it be to have a 30 goal scorer skating down the left wing in Staples Center.

Taking into consideration your team's performance last year/recently, and any player/personnel (coaches, GMs, ownership) changes made in the past few months, talk about your team in 2011-2012: How do you think they've improved (or made worse)? What do they need to work on?

The 2011-2012 season will prove to be a leap forward for the Kings. They have got perhaps the top group of three centers with Kopitar, Richards, and Stoll. They have the team defense led by Drew Doughty (if he ever signs the damn dotted line) that will match the best offensive unit they have had in years. Also the Kings finally have found an answer in net, and no longer have to bounce from shaky goaltender to the next, with Quick and Bernier in between the pipes. You have no idea the headaches I had when Roman Cechmanek maned the crease.

With the acquisition of Richards, Kopitar will have a good amount of pressure taken of his shoulders which can only result in better play. With Richards in the line up, captain Dustin Brown won't be the only body flying into the corners and dropping bodies. The golden lining to all of this is that the Kings have one of the deepest prospect pools in the league led by Tyler Toffoli and Linden Vey. So the Kings could be set for years to come as well. If the Kings stay healthy and avoid late season injuries like those that took out Kopitar and Justin Williams, things can only move forward for the Kings, and their development into a Cup contender.
 
Whether or not you think your team will make the playoffs, where do you predict your team will place within their conference?

The Kings will win the Pacific Division, and go into the playoffs as the number 2 seed in the Western Conference.

What was your favorite moment for your team last season?

Back in December, Quick turned out one of the best performances of the year and his career, when he stopped 51 shots in a shutout win against the Detroit Red Wings. That game was unbelievable, after that game it seemed like there was a buzz surrounding the team that has lead to the Kings becoming known around the league.

Update: 30 Fans in 30 Days schedule

Eleven teams and fans profiled; nineteen to go! I am still looking for a Buffalo fan to interview. Are you a Sabres fan? Submit your entry here!

Countdown to the 2011-12 season:
- 20 days til the first preseason games (September 19)
- 36 days til 2011-2012 Opening Night (October 6)

On a side note, as the season approaches, we've also updated our pro hockey players on Twitter list.




Many thanks again for prizes donated from Gongshow Gear & IceJerseys.com for this survey! 

30 Fans in 30 Days: Yotesgurl & the Phoenix Coyotes

As a lead-up to the new season, here at HockeyBroad we'll both be reviewing How Teams Spent Their Summer Vacation, and also profiling one fan from each team's fandom, covering 30 Teams In 30 Days. The teams will be profiled in order determined by their points standing last season, highest to lowest, with the exception of Chicago, which will be profiled last to coincide with the date of their Training Camp Festival.

Team 11 of 30: the Phoenix Coyotes



HOW THE COYOTES SPENT THEIR SUMMER VACATION

When your best-known player is a 3rd/4th-line player who's better known for his Twitter skills than his puck handling, it's just one sign of many issues plaguing your team.


Nor does it help to have the vultures circling to pluck up your carcass and waiting deliver it to the far side of the the continent. (We see you, Nordiques fans.) The ongoing saga between the Coyotes and the city of Glendale is not only a thorn in the NHL's side, but you have to wonder what kind of toll that takes on the players from day to day. Will the team still be in Phoenix next year? Will bringing home a Cup make a difference to the team's future? Can the team put together a product on the ice that has the collective talent to win a Cup?

Last season, the 'Yotes carved out 99 points in the ultra-competitive Pacific Division, where last season 4 of the 5 teams went to the playoffs (the fifth, Dallas, missed out with a loss in game #82). 

Players say it all the time: it's far more fun to play in a full building than an empty one. And while the Coyotes have gone to the playoffs for the past two years (Dave Tippett has posted a winning season all three years he's coached the team),  there's still often more visiting fans in the stands than local ones.

Phoenix's strongest man for the past couple of years has been Ilyz Bryzgalov. But this summer, the team traded his rights to Philadelphia (where he consequently signed), and the Coyotes had already traded away Scottie Upshall and Sami Lepisto to Columbus.

The Coyotes have a diamond in the rough with Keith Yandle, the team's lone All-Star candidate. Yandle was third in the league among defensemen for scoring last season; the team signed him to a new 5-year contract. It's good they did; with the departure of Bryzgalov in combination of longtime Coyotes Ed Jovanovski, there are going to be some glaring holes on the back end.

Mike Smith has not had a particularly remarkable career with Tampa Bay, but now he will be expected to provide top-notch goaltending; he'll be the #1 over the team's other summer acquisition, Curtis McElhinney, who split the 2010-11 season between St. Louis and Ottawa; and Jason LaBarbera, who was Bryz's backup for the past two seasons. If Smith falters, expect there to be some fierce competition between these two.

The Coyotes added grit and physicality (Torres, Chipchura, Gordon) to a team that has some nice young talent in the making. Keep an eye out for Martin Hanzal, Lauri Korpikoski, Andy Miele, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and Taylor Pyatt to continue to develop. 

Just announced in the past few days: in an end-of-summer trade, the Coyotes sent winger Lee Stempniak to the Flames and got back center Daymond Langkow in return. Langkow missed last season after a neck injury that happened late in the 2009-10 season; he reports feeling "100% healthy" and ready to go for the season.


New to team - listed on current roster/team acquired from: Boyd Gordon (WSH), Curtis McElhinney (OTT), Mike Smith (TBL), Raffi Torres (VAN), Kyle Chipchura (ANA)


Players who appeared in games for the team during the 2010-11 season that have been traded or not re-signed/(team now signed with): Eric Belanger (EDM), Dane Byers (CBJ), Ilya Bryzgalov (PHL), Vernon Fiddler (DAL),Ed Jovanovski (FLA), Nolan Yonkman (FLA)

Can the Coyotes work their magic this season and make the playoffs once again? Can they be more than just a thorn in the side of their division? Can they be more than simply the "Cinderella story in the desert"? Can they make hockey relevant - and wanted - in a market that has long-favored football, baseball and basketball? Will the Coyotes still be in Phoenix when the puck drops on the 2012-13 season?

We'll find out starting in a few short weeks.

* * *

For our 30 Fans in 30 Days, we interviewed Yotesgurl, who writes a hockey-dedicated blog at The Good, The Bad, And The Coyotes.

Let's talk about your fandom a bit first; you've been following the Coyotes for about 4 years now.

I am the biggest Phx Coyotes fan that I know, and I think I know most of the crazy ones. Last year I traveled to Prague to see the Coyotes open the season against the Bruins. Two seasons ago I was the team's season ticket holder of the year. I have also spoken at about 8 Glendale City Council meetings to try to keep the team in Arizona. I haven't missed a game in two and a half years and plan my life around the schedule. I also have a pretty sick hockey room with custom Coyotes paint.

Which player that your team signed/acquired this summer are you most excited to see take the ice this season?

While he is low-key, I am totally stoked to get Boyd Gordon. He's a PK and faceoff warrior and I love the blue collar guys.

Taking into consideration your team's performance last year/recently, and any player/personnel (coaches, GMs, ownership) changes made in the past few months, talk about your team in 2011-2012: How do you think they've improved (or made worse)? What do they need to work on?


Breakups are hard, especially when your main man leaves you because he wants someone with more money. It didn’t take the Coyotes long after kissing Bryzgalov goodbye to move on to their rebound man. Mike Smith, who is already comfortable operating in Tippett’s system, will likely be the man that Phoenix lives and dies with. Jason LaBarbara also looks to increase his playing time in a more tandem-like system, as opposed to gathering rust on the bench. Both goalies are big and athletic, much like goalie coach Sean Burke and fans are hoping that goalie coach Sean Burke can work similar magic with them that he did with Bryzgalov.

The defensive core for the Coyotes will look very similar to last season. The only loss was Ed Jovanovski to the Shady Pines pre-retirement center in Florida. The regular playing spot will be battled for between David Schlemko and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. While Schlemko picked up his play significantly at the end of the season, OEL’s offensive upside is DESPERATELY needed. Derek Morris, Adrian Aucoin, Rostislav Klesla, and Michal Rozsival aren’t exactly known for their offensive prowess and Keith Yandle needs someone else on the blue line to share the point burden with. On the downside, Coach Tippett doesn’t have a strong history of giving young players much ice time. OEL may have to play without mistakes and to the level that will simply not allow Tippett to bench him, which is a lot to ask from a second year pro.

Who cares about goalies and defense when you have the most potent offense in the entire NHL? Wait, sorry, I had a minor stroke there....... OMG, WHERE WILL THE GOALS COME FROM?!?!?! It’s likely that many prayers will be uttered to the hockey gods for scoring. Phoenix saved themselves from being utterly screwed by re-signing Radim Vrbata, who has the “shoot first” mentality on a team of passers. Lee Stempniak and Ray Whitney will also be looked to to provide some offense. The “Kid Line” of Kyle Turris, Mikkel Boedker, and Brett MacLean will be counted on to greatly increase their contributions.

A youth movement? Crap, they’ll be killed in the corners! Cue the Coyotes signing Raffi Torres, who hopefully keep the other teams a bit more honest with the kids. While he is a known d**********, Torres also brings the ability to score and it remains to be seen how he will impact the ice time of BizNasty [Paul Bissonnette]. Hanzal and Korpikoski significantly increased their goals last year and maintaining those points in addition to their defensive contribution would be greatly welcomed. Boyd Gordon, PK and faceoff warrior will fill the empty skates of Vern Fiddler and be a bit of an upgrade.

Whether or not you think your team will make the playoffs, where do you predict your team will place within their conference?

8th in the Western Conference

What was your favorite moment for your team last season?

Opening the season in Prague was amazing for our three Czech players. My absolute favorite moment was when Radim Vrbata scored in that first game and the crowd just went wild. It was so cool for him to play and score in his homeland and I'll admit, I got a little misty-eyed. I'll never forget it.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

30 Fans in 30 Days: Rebecca & the Nashville Predators

As a lead-up to the new season, here at HockeyBroad we'll both be reviewing How Teams Spent Their Summer Vacation, and also profiling one fan from each team's fandom, covering 30 Teams In 30 Days. The teams will be profiled in order determined by their points standing last season, highest to lowest, with the exception of Chicago, which will be profiled last to coincide with the date of their Training Camp Festival.

Team 10 of 30: the Nashville Predators




HOW THE PREDATORS SPENT THEIR SUMMER VACATION

The Nashville Predators have gone to the playoffs in six of their past seven seasons - which is a pretty good record (.500) for a team that's only been in existence since the 1998-99 season. For some reason, however, the Predators being in the playoffs always seems to draw scoffs from around the league, perhaps because of Nashville's history as a "sunbelt expansion" hockey team.

Nashville has only had one coach in its history: Barry Trotz, who has coached the team to a 455-407-60-76 record. His time with the Preds gives him the second-longest tenure in the NHL (Lindy Ruff of the Sabres is first), and is only the 10th coach in NHL history who's coached 750 games for a single team. Although Trotz has finished strongly in the Jack Adams being ""adjudged to have contributed the most to his team's success") voting both in 2007 and 2010, the only award he's gotten for his work has been NHL’s Coach of the Year (2007) by The Sporting News -- which, by virtue of being based on the votes of his peers, may be an even more valuable recognition of what he's achieved than the Jack Adams, which is voted upon by the NHL Broadcasters Association.

This spring, Trotz coached the Preds to their first ever second-round appearance in the Stanley Cup playoffs, beating the Anaheim Ducks in the series 4-2. While the Predators lost in the second round to the Vancouver Canucks 4-2, that matchup may have been the best thing to ever happen to the team and its fan base. 

For starters, while the Preds are a perennial thorn in the Central Division's side, if you ask their fans who their biggest rivalry is, they'll probably answer with the Detroit Red Wings, who knocked them out of the playoffs both in 2004, and again in 2008 en route to a Cup victory. Nashville has also developed a strong secondary rivalry with the Chicago Blackhawks, especially after Chicago knocked them out of the playoffs in 2010 en route to their own Cup. 

But the Canucks? At best, a sort of cautionary respectful nod of conference rivals from across the continent.

So when the Predators dropped the puck against the Vancouver Canucks in the second round this spring, it had the potential to be a real Cinderella story for Nashville - the team least-expected to get out of the first round going up against the west coast President Trophy winners. For both teams, there was also the undercurrent of what was very nearly a friendly playoff series -- the Canucks were coming off the euphoria of finally beating the Blackhawks; and the Predators were riding the high of their first-ever Semi-finals appearance.

When the hockey press - especially the Canadians - descended upon Nashville, it thrust the Predators finally into the spotlight of the NHL stage due to the historical magnitude of the match-up. And they discovered what an enthusiastic fan base the Predators have; what a fun city Nashville is to visit; and Pred players like defenseman Shea Weber and goalie Pekka Rinne got plenty of long-overdue attention. While their 2010 series against the Blackhawks had put the team on the hockey radar, the 2011 series gave the city and its team far more attention.

For Nashville, the biggest question of the summer was getting team captain and RFA Shea Weber re-signed. Weber has spent his career in the Preds system, starting with their AHL affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals, but has been in the NHL since the 2005-06 season. He's taken home gold with Team Canada both in the 2010 Olympics and 2007 World Championships; and has gone to the NHL All-Star Game in 2009 and 2011. He was a strong favorite for the Norris Trophy this year, losing out to Nicklas Lidström by a very narrow margin. The Predators took him to arbitration to avoid other teams being able to give him an offer sheet - which also meant that whatever the arbitrator decided, the team would have to give him.

The Predators have long been known as a team that has achieved a lot on one of the lowest budgets in the NHL; but even so, it was a bit shocking to hear the disparity of salary figures submitted in the Weber arbitration case. In the end, however, the arbitrator set a new standard: instead of splitting the difference between the team figure and Weber's figure, he set the figure awarded ($7.5M) based on the actual salary (vs cap hits) for those defensemen closest to Weber's status in the league - Chicago's Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith. It was probably more than Nashville was hoping to pay, but it was an honest indicator of Weber's worth. Next season, the Preds will be faced with re-signing Weber, as well as coming to an agreement with Vezina-candidate goalie Pekka Rinne.

While Nashville's core is small - Weber, Renne and defenseman Ryan Suter, and to a lesser extent players like Patric Hornqvist, Martin Erat, Jordin Tootoo, Kevin Klein, David Legwand, and Colin Wilson - the players buy into a system that works for them.

The two biggest moves for the Predators were up-and-coming defenseman Cody Franson (to Toronto) and the departure of Joel Ward to the Capitals. Ward had his breakout as a player in the playoffs, and he will no doubt make an immediate impact in Washington. Nashville had one of the smallest acquisition lists of the offseason, picking up just three players - none of whom are exactly household names yet. They bought out J-P Dumont, who had a terrible season. It is a testament to both Coach Trotz and to Nashville's farm system that they will fill roster holes predominantly through call-ups from their AHL affiliate, the Milwaukee Predators, such as Jonathon Blum.

New to team - listed on current roster/team acquired from: Niclas Bergfors (FLA), Zack Stortini (EDM), Kyle Wilson (CBJ).
Players who appeared in games for the team during the 2010-11 season that have been traded or not re-signed/(team now signed with): J-P Dumont, Cody Franson (TOR), Marcel Goc (FLA), Matthew Lombardi (TOR), Shane O'Brien (COL), Steve Sullivan (PIT), Joel Ward (WSH).
There's no doubt that the Predators have the skills and hunger to carry them into the playoffs yet again in 2012. The question this year will be: can they make it past the second round?


* * *

For , we talked with Rebecca, who covers the South Eastern Collegiate Hockey Conference (SECHC) for TheHockeyWriters.com and also for Scribeandscrum.com.

Let's talk about your fandoms and your favorite teams.

I actually have two favorite teams, the Blackhawks and the Predators. Originally from Chicago, I’ve been a longtime Hawks fan. However, my Predators fandom came about relatively recently. To use a GRE-type analogy, I love the Hawks like family, and the Preds like a serious boyfriend.

I went to my first Predators game in April 2010. However, the next two times I was in Bridgestone Arena was to root against them (Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Blackhawks). I liked what I saw and enjoyed the atmosphere at Bridgestone. That summer I became a Predators partial-season ticket holder.

I became a fan while watching them play against the Hawks. They were really the only team that gave the Hawks a challenge during their Stanley Cup run. That fall I had a research project to do for a graduate seminar and decided to research Nashville’s hockey history. The more time I spent on that paper, the more I really got into Nashville hockey and, eventually, the Predators. By September I bought a Preds jersey. Even at the Hawks-Preds games I’d cheer for every goal and every save.

.

Which player that your team signed/acquired this summer are you most excited to see take the ice this season?

During this offseason, the Predators didn’t sign some of the players I’d really come to enjoy watching on the ice. However, like many Preds fans, I’m probably most relieved they resolved the Shea Weber situation.

Taking into consideration your team's performance last year/recently, and any player/personnel (coaches, GMs, ownership) changes made in the past few months, talk about your team in 2011-2012. How do you think they've improved (or made worse)? What do they need to work on?

The Predators have always been pretty strong on defense, so although I may not have agreed with some of the changes (for example, I wish they had re-signed Shane O’Brien), I think they continue to strengthen there.

Offense and goal scoring. I am a bit concerned at the loss of Joel Ward – he’s a player who finds the back of the net. I am still disappointed in the Mike Fisher acquisition. I don’t think he contributed like he was expected. Hopefully, after his offseason shoulder surgery, he will look more like the player everyone expected him to be. I’m also worried they overspent on Sergei Kostitsyn. On the bright side, I look forward to seeing Blake Geoffrion on the ice this season.

They didn’t lose their “C” but did lose an “A” with Steve Sullivan gone. A number of players have worn the alternate, from Martin Erat to Francis Bouillon. For some reason, it would not surprise me to see Fisher with an “A” (whether or not he’s earned it).

Whether or not you think your team will make the playoffs, where do you predict your team will place within their conference? (1st-15th)

Once the Preds settle in to the personnel changes, I think they are going to be difficult to beat and will only build on their successes from last season. I expect them to, at a minimum, get to the second round again. I’d pick them at either 5th or 6th in the Western Conference.

What was your favorite moment for your team last season?

There were actually two moments from last season: 1) Watching Shea Weber’s winning goal against the Boston Bruins on St. Patty’s Day; and 2) Watching the Preds make team history when they beat the Ducks and advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time.

 * * *


Rebecca was our winner for a T-shirt from Gongshow Gear.
Our thanks again to Gongshow!









30 Fans in 30 Days: Samantha & the Anaheim Ducks

As a lead-up to the new season, here at HockeyBroad we'll both be reviewing How Teams Spent Their Summer Vacation, and also profiling one fan from each team's fandom, covering 30 Teams In 30 Days. The teams will be profiled in order determined by their points standing last season, highest to lowest, with the exception of Chicago, which will be profiled last to coincide with the date of their Training Camp Festival.

Team 9 of 30: the Anaheim Ducks



HOW THE DUCKS SPENT THEIR SUMMER VACATION

In 2007, the Anaheim Ducks hoisted the Stanley Cup; then they were knocked out out the playoffs for the next two years. After a disappointing season in 2009-10 where they did not qualify for the playoffs, they racked up 99 points and became a dark horse candidate when an end-of-season gave them enough points in the tightly-contested Western Conference to be able to grab home ice advantage (4th place) in the playoffs. Unfortunately for the Ducks, they came up against the hungry Nashville Predators in the first round, and were eliminated 2-4.

Corey Perry has played his entire NHL career with the Ducks, but his sixth season was his best by a wide margin: coming off a 27 goal, 49 assist season in 2009-10, Perry surged to 50 goals and 48 assists in 2010-11. Perry was also the only player to hit the 50-goal mark last season. It was his play and scoring, coupled with linemates Ryan Getzlaf (19 G/57 A) and Bobby Ryan (34 G/37 A) that helped lead the way to Anaheim's successful season; and Perry was rewarded with the Hart Trophy as the National Hockey League MVP for the season. If last season was Perry's coming-out season - much as it was for Patrick Sharp on the Blackhawks - he needs to prove he can consistently perform at that level, especially if Selänne opts for retirement; there should be little doubt he can.

There's two big questions leading into the 2011-12 season: the primary one is whether the timeless Teemu Selänne will return for one more season to finish out his outstanding career. While the newly-reformed Winnipeg Jets fans would love to see him put on a Jets uniform to finish out his career, it's a safe bet to say that if Selänne does return, it would only be with the Ducks. Other Finnish players have reported that Selänne has been practicing in Finland; and it's been reported that "the Finnish Flash" will make his final decision in mid-September once training camp is underway.

The other question is the state of goalie Jonas Hiller, who missed most of the second half of the season, and the playoffs, due to vertigo. Hiller has been reported as healthy and ready to go for training camp. While Ray Emery put in an outstanding performance to close out the season, the Ducks definitely missed Hiller in goal.

Other than that, the Ducks have their already high-scoring core (Getzlaf, Perry, Ryan, Selänne, defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky) and they've added some good pieces to suppliment their blue line. Perhaps the biggest acquisition has been center Andrew Cogliano; he provides more solid depth up the middle for the Ducks. Most of Anaheim's other acquisitions were "depth signings", meant to round out a pretty good core of players.

The most interesting acquisition to watch will likely be Andrew Gordon. Gordon, 25, has been a fan favorite during his past two years with the Washington Capital's AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears, putting together a collective 58 goals and 58 assists in two seasons, not to mention an average of just over 1 point per game. Although he's seen a dozen games at the NHL roster, this should be his first full rookie season at this level, and he will definitely be one to watch. I'm going to put him on the early season watch for Calder discussions.

New to team - listed on current roster/team acquired from: Mark Bell (Suisse), Mathieu Carle (MTL), goalie Jeff Deslauriers (EDM), Andrew Cogliano (EDM), Kurtis Foster (EDM), Andrew Gordon (WSH/AHL), Jean-Francois Jacques (EDM), Bryan Rodney (CAR), Matt Smaby (TBL)
Players who appeared in games for the team during the 2010-11 season that have been traded or not yet re-signed/(team now signed with): Kyle Chipchura (PHX), Ray Emery (CHI), Josh Green (EDM), Jeff Jaffray (WPG), Andreas Lilja (PHL), Todd Marchant (retired), Andy Sutton (EDM)

The Pacific division is going to be all about "the battle of California" this season. Expect San Jose and Los Angeles to slug it out all season for the division title, but if the Ducks can produce all year like they did in the spring, there's a chance Anaheim could steal that honor away.

* * *

For Anaheim, we talked to Samantha, who has been a fan of the Ducks for 12 years.

Which player that your team signed/acquired this summer are you most excited to see take the ice this season?
Fingers crossed! Hasn't necessarily happened yet. But if Teemu Selanne inks playing again for another season, I won't be able to describe how happy I will be.

Other than that, probably Cogliano.

Taking into consideration your team's performance last year/recently, and any player/personnel (coaches, GMs, ownership) changes made in the past few months, talk about your team in 2011-2012: How do you think they've improved (or made worse)? What do they need to work on?

2010-2011's season was nerve-wracking. The beginning of the season for the Ducks looked like a joke. The big players were never on the ice because they were constantly in the box. Slowly, things turned around and started to look up. Hiller boosted everyone's confidence and the top line did its job. Perry turned on his extra gear and helped the team into 4th place in the Western Conference.

The last few months of the season were probably the most exciting months of hockey I've seen in a while. Growing from your team being the joke of the league to maybe possibly getting into the post season, to getting all the way to 4th was definitely amazing to watch. Hopefully this next season, we can get the third line to be a little more consistent, get Selanne back, and fix Hiller's vertigo... then we can put up an excellent fight in the Western Conf.

Whether or not you think your team will make the playoffs, where do you predict your team will place within their conference?

6th in the Western Conference

What was your favorite moment for your team last season?

My favorite moment of last season was the Ducks/Sharks game in Anaheim the last week of the regular season. CP got goal #50 on a hatty AND from a pass from the great #8. It's always a good time in the Honda Center when the Ducks can beat a Cali rival but it's even better when the league MVP shows up big time and the arena starts shouting "MVP, MVP".



Friday, August 26, 2011

30 Fans in 30 Days: Cory & the Tampa Bay Lightning

As a lead-up to the new season, here at HockeyBroad we'll both be reviewing How Teams Spent Their Summer Vacation, and also profiling one fan from each team's fandom, covering 30 Teams In 30 Days. The teams will be profiled in order determined by their points standing last season, highest to lowest, with the exception of Chicago, which will be profiled last to coincide with the date of their Training Camp Festival.

Team 8 of 30: the Tampa Bay Lightning



HOW TAMPA BAY SPENT THEIR SUMMER VACATION

Several years ago, when hockey was still relatively young in Florida, the "Bolts" shocked the NHL (well, those people not paying attention that season) by winning the Stanley Cup - much to the angst of our friends north of the border. The Lightning have made the playoffs more times in the years since they won a Cup (2) than the Toronto Maple Leafs have.

As the Lightning begin their 19th season, it's worth taking a look back at the franchise. They started out playing in the Norris Division, which at the time was also comprised of Chicago, Detroit, Minnesota (North Stars), St. Louis, and Toronto. After their inaugural season, the NHL was reformatted into 4 of the 6 divisions we recognize today: Eastern (Atlantic, Northeast) and Western (Central, Pacific). For most of its first decade, the team was a mess financially, and on the ice as well - in 2001, the Lightning became the first team in NHL history to have four straight 50-loss seasons. Think about that for a moment.

Things began to click in the 2002-03 season, and the team not only posted 90+ points for the first time, but made it as far as the playoff semifinals. Their 2003-04 was even better - breaking the 100 point barrier (106) before barreling through the Islanders and sweeping the Canadiens before a classic 7-game series against the Flyers. The Final round was against the Calgary Flames, who they defeated in 7 games at the St. Pete Times Forum. The team was just 12 years old; there are teams older than the Bolts who still haven't won a Cup yet, or since before the team was founded. The Lightning didn't get to defend their title until the 2005-06 season due to the lockout, however.

After another solid year, the team plummeted to the bottom of the league, which then directly attributed to their receiving the top pick in the 2008 Draft, which they used to pick a fresh-faced kid from the Sarnia Sting of the OHL - Steven Stamkos.

Stamkos, of course, has risen quickly to the top of the league. He earned the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy in 2010 (given to the league's best scorer), which was just his second year in the NHL, sharing it with Sidney Crosby, who also had 51 goals that season. He was named to the 2011 All-Star game, and has been named the cover athlete for EA Sport's NHL 12.

One of the major questions of the Lightning's summer was the "Stamkos watch", with much speculation about his re-signing with the team. The questions finally ended in mid-July, with "Stammer" signing a 5-year contract with the team.

Steve Yzerman signed on as GM and Guy Boucher was brought in as head coach for the team in 2010. Between the two of them, they have clearly put the team onto a solid path. The Lightning was outstanding this year, roaring to 103 points and a 46-25-11 record. The lost out in 7 games to the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference finals, and there is little doubt that the Lightning will be contenders again, not just this season but for many to come.

The Lightning is not stacked with a star-studded core the way teams like Chicago and Detroit are, but clearly Boucher and Yzerman have created a buy-in team spirit -- not surprising, as Yzerman spent his illustrious player career with Detroit, and Boucher has a degree in sports psychology. The team is built around the core of long-time Lightning teammates Martin St. Louis and team captain Vincent Lecavalier; add to that Stamkos, and players who have been solid for the team for the past couple seasons, like Ryan Malone, Adam Hall, Mattias Ohlund, Nate Thompson, and Victor Hedman; throw in late-season acquisitions like Eric Brewer, Marc-Andre Bergeron, and Bruno Gervais, and you have some pretty interesting building blocks for the future in Tampa Bay. 

With the retirement of Boston's Mark Recchi, the Lightning's starting goalie Dwayne Roloson becomes the oldest active NHL player. With a shutout against the Penguins in the 2011 playoffs, he also became the oldest goalie to have a shutout in the playoffs. He's also the last active NHL player that was born in the 1960s, but to watch him play, you wouldn't guess he's about to turn 42 in mid-October. "Rollie the goalie" was an excellent mid-season trade for the Lightning.
New to team - listed on current roster/team acquired from: Matheiu Garon (CBJ), Matt Gilroy (NYR), Michel Ouellet (EU), Richard Petiot (AHL), Alexandre Picard (AHL), Tom Pyatt (MTL), Ryan Shannon (OTT), Trevor Smith (AHL), JT Wyman (AHL)
Players who appeared in games for the team during the 2010-11 season that have been traded or not yet re-signed/(team now signed with): Sean Bergenheim (FLA), Simon Gagne (LAK), Randy Jones (WPG), Mike Lundin (MN), Mike Smith (PHX).
In addition to a shorter summer than they've become accustomed to in Tampa Bay, this summer, the St. Pete Times Forum has been undergoing a $35M facelift, making it more fan-friendly and comfortable, and enhancing the area with such features as a scoreboard that shoots actual lightning. (Cannot wait to experience that in person!)


* * *

For the Lightning, we talked to Cory, who is one of our newest hockey fans profiled in this series, being a Tampa Bay Lightning fan for just 2 years.

Let's talk about your fandom a bit.

My hockey fandom is not as long as some, but it is just as passionate.  As a member of the military, I've moved around quite a bit since my infatuation with hockey began in 1993 when I was stationed just outside of St Louis. Because I first loved hockey there, I called the Blues my favorite team for quite some time. With their gradual decline over the past decade, I fell out of complete love for the Blues, but never finding another team to re-ignite my passion.

That all changed in 2009 when I got stationed here in Tampa, and my 3 year-old son has joined me on the ride.  It's a blast sharing my love for hockey with him as we follow the Lightning.  It's a love we won't be giving up--the entire organization is wonderful, from the approachability of the players at the local rink where they practice to the ticket staff I talk with on the phone, to the fabulous community presence they've built in Tampa.  There's a lot to love about the Lightning!

Which player that your team signed/re-signed/acquired this summer are you most excited to see take the ice this season?

Steven Stamkos. For new signings, I do think the signings of Shannon, Gilroy and Gervais could be good ones.  With Guy Boucher's emphasis on speed and puck-carrying ability, they could be in for breakout seasons.  In net, I do like the signing of Garon--mainly because of the complete turnaround in net the Bolts had last year after starting with the unsuccessful tandem of Smith and Ellis.  Roloson was a huge part of the team's playoff push, and Garon fills the #2 spot quite nicely.

Taking into consideration your team's performance last year/recently, and any player/personnel (coaches, GMs, ownership) changes made in the past few months, talk about your team in 2011-2012: How do you think they've improved (or made worse)? What do they need to work on?

I think the Lighting--and GM Steve Yzerman in particular--have done a great job with maintaining a good depth of talent and managing the cap (what with significant contracts on the books to Lecavalier, Malone, Ohlund, St. Louis, and Stamkos). Last year they completely outperformed anyone's expectations, and I believe that's in large part due to coach Guy Boucher's ability to impart his structure as well as connect and teach players on an individual level.

The 2010-2011 season was great, and I expect similar results in 2011-2012. I do think there's a small chance of better performance this season--the Bolts will not have to suffer through half a season of goalie roulette as they did last season (until the arrival of Dwayne Roloson).

Whether or not you think your team will make the playoffs, where do you predict your team will place within their conference?

3rd in the Eastern Conference

What was your favorite moment for your team last season?

My favorite moment for the Bolts last season was being in the stands as the Lightning swept the Capitals in Game 4 of the ECSF.

What existing hockey rule would you change (and how) if you could?

I don't think the game needs any rule changed or implemented. If I had to pick one, however, I would remove the trapezoid behind the net. I think the trapezoid as it exists now is silly, because goalies have figured out how to work around it.

* * *


Thursday, August 25, 2011

30 Fans in 30 Days: Kenisha & the Boston Bruins


As a lead-up to the new season, here at HockeyBroad we'll both be reviewing How Teams Spent Their Summer Vacation, and also profiling one fan from each team's fandom, covering 30 Teams In 30 Days. The teams will be profiled in order determined by their points standing last season, highest to lowest, with the exception of Chicago, which will be profiled last to coincide with the date of their Training Camp Festival.

Team 7 of 30: the Boston Bruins

HOW BOSTON SPENT THEIR SUMMER VACATION

Well, in case you've somehow missed it, the Bruins did something the summer they haven't done since 1972: brought home Lord Stanley's Cup to Beantown after an amazing and nail-biting 7-game series against the Vancouver Canucks. (And if you don't know that, I have to guess you live under a rock, because NHL plays the Bruins Win The Stanley Cup/buy your gear now!commercial roughly three thousand times a day.)

Unlike 2010's Stanley Cup champions (you remember them - the Chicago Blackhawks), the Bruins weren't faced with the same salary cap challenges. Not only were most of their players signed to contracts that last at least through the 2011-12 season, but the salary cap boosted enough for the Bruins to make smart choices in the off season, and the team is mostly intact. Little wonder, then, that Boston is currently considered the favorite in pre-season odds to win the Cup again next June.

Mark Recchi went out on top, having won his third Stanley Cup - and joining the tiny membership of just 10 players who've achieved that feat in the modern NHL with three different teams. Michael Ryder signed a nice deal with Dallas.
New to team - listed on current roster/team acquired from: Joe Corvo (CAR), Benoit Pouliot (MTL).
Players who appeared in games for the team during the 2010-11 season that have been traded or not yet re-signed/(team now signed with): Mark Recchi (retired), Michael Ryder (DAL), Tomas Kaberle (CAR), Shane Hnidy
Other than that, not a whole lot to be said about the team that has filled our hockey news this summer as they have toted the Cup around the world. The Bruins are this year's champions, and if they can avoid the Cup hangover and injuries that plagued the Blackhawks last season, then we can expect the Bruins to make another solid run into the playoffs next spring.



* * *

For the Bruins, we talked with Kenisha, who does a Bruins fan Tumblr called BruinsOfBoston. She's been a Boston fan for five years.

Tell us about your fandom with the team.

I became a hockey fan when I started playing hockey. wanted to learn more about the game I was playing so I decided to turn on my TV. Best decision I've ever made. I'm a huge Bruins fan. I'd spend my last buck if that meant getting my hands on some more merchandise. I've met many players on the Bruins and I can say they are all nice gentleman, they really care about the fans.

Which player that your team signed/acquired this summer are you most excited to see take the ice this season?

Benoit Pouliot

Taking into consideration your team's performance last year/recently, and any player/personnel (coaches, GMs, ownership) changes made in the past few months, talk about your team in 2011-2012: How do you think they've improved (or made worse)?

Bruins just won the Cup, so no qualms here! I love Julien's way of coaching, defense first. That's how I play.

Whether or not you think your team will make the playoffs, where do you predict your team will place within their conference?

2nd in the Eastern Conference.

What was your favorite moment from last season?

Winning the Cup!



30 Fans in 30 Days: Melissa & the Detroit Red Wings

As a lead-up to the new season, here at HockeyBroad we'll both be reviewing How Teams Spent Their Summer Vacation, and also profiling one fan from each team's fandom, covering 30 Teams In 30 Days. The teams will be profiled in order determined by their points standing last season, highest to lowest, with the exception of Chicago, which will be profiled last to coincide with the date of their Training Camp Festival.

Team 6 of 30: the Detroit Red Wings

HOW DETROIT SPENT THEIR SUMMER VACATION

It wasn't much of a surprise - Detroit made the playoffs again last spring. They easily swept the Phoenix Coyotes out of the first round, then came head to head against the San Jose Sharks. It actually looked like San Jose would repeat the favor, going up 3-0 over the Wings; but like their historical rivals the Blackhawks did to the Canucks, the Wings surged back to force a game 7 - and for the second year in a row, the Sharks took a bite out Hockeytown, eliminating them in the second round again.

One of hockey's "Original Six" and as iconic as they come, Detroit is a "career" hockey destination. Players go there for a variety of reasons - they want to be under the guidance of respected head coach Mike Babcock; the team's winning history; the dedication the team gives to the players. Whether you love or hate the team, you have to admit that if you're a player, it's an honor to get to play for Detroit - so much so that players will sign long-term contracts to play there when they could've made more money somewhere else.

Players buy into the team systems, and all the Wings do is win, win, win. The Wings have 11 Stanley Cup championships, the most out of any US-based NHL franchise, and are third in the league after Montréal (24) and Toronto (13). The Red Wings have made the playoffs for 25 of the last 27 seasons (including every single season since 1991), making theirs the longest streak of post-season appearances across all sports in North America. (The next longest streak in the NHL? The Sharks, with just 7.)

So it should not be much of a surprise that there was very little turnover in Detroit this summer, and three of the five players leaving the team are heading into retirement (Kris Draper, Chris Osgood, Brian Rafalski), and a fourth (Mike Modano) a possibility as well. The last, Ruslan Salei, departed for the KHL.
New to team - listed on current roster/team acquired from: Mike Commodore (CBJ), Ty Conklin (STL), Ian White (SJS)
Players who appeared in games for the team during the 2010-11 season that have been traded or not yet re-signed/(team now signed with): Kris Draper (retired), Mike Modano (retired?), Chris Osgood (retired), Brian Rafalski (retired), Ruslan Salei (KHL)

In fact, the biggest question of Detroit's summer was whether ironman blueliner and team captain Nicklas Lidström, fresh off his 7th Norris Trophy win, would return for one last season. That question was answered in late June when Lidström signed for one more year. He's in such great shape and still playing so well that it's not impossible to think that he could even play another two or three years if he so chose; he's a guaranteed shoo-in for the Hall of Fame the moment he hangs up his skates.

While Detroit may have one of the oldest overall average aged rosters in the NHL, it has intangibles beyond all the things listed above. The bulk of Detroit's players tend to be cultivated within the system, and many have played most if not all of their career for the winged wheel. Detroit's core consists of players like Pavel Datsyuk, Valtteri Fiilppula, Johan Franzen, Tomas Holmstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall, Brad Stuart, and of course, Nicklas Lidström. Those eight players have all been with the team for at least five seasons; a few of them have been with the team for a decade or more. There are men coming into the league now who speak of idolizing these players as they grew up. Datsyuk, 33, is so amazing with the puck that that "dangling like Datsyuk" and "Datsyukian deke" are commonly heard within hockey terminology.

The only question mark on their season - and it's not even a very big one - is in goal. After a stellar rookie year (37-15-10, .924%, 2.26 GAA with 3 SO) Jimmy Howard (.908%, 2.79 GAA, 37-17-5 with 2 SO last season) is the undisputed starter. Detroit brought in Ty Conklin to replace the retiring Chris Osgood. Conklin had a rough season in St. Louis last year - going 8-8-4 with a .881 sv% and 3.22 GAA with 2 SO. Conklin's performance has not been particularly stellar the past few years, but he posted one of his best years the last time he played for Detroit (2008-09). Plus, his main purpose is to be a solid backup to Jimmy Howard, who is likely Detroit's new career goalie. Detroit's defense is such a work of art that goalies behind it don't need to be spectacular, but Howard will only continue to improve. As we saw last season, any depth that the Wings have in goal isn't quite ready to step into the NHL, so as long as Howard and Conklin both manage to stay healthy, the team will be fine.

Detroit has had an undeniable impact on the league as a whole for many years. It is the aim of every team to inspire the kind of dedication and team-first winning attitude that is strongly cultivated year after year by the Red Wings. With so little turnover, and without the injuries that plagued some of their top players last season, Detroit will undoubtably be in line for yet another playoff season in June.

* * *

For the Detroit Red Wings, we talked to Melissa, who posts at The Yost Post (covering Michigan hockey) on AerysSports.com. She has been a Detroit Red Wings fan for 16 years.

Let's talk a bit about your history as a Wings fan.

Ice skating/hockey has always been a part of my life. My dad used to be a ref. When I was in middle school his friend invited us to go to a Red Wings game. He also asked my dad if he was serious wanted to use the ticket for his daughter (me)! Dad said, you don't know my daughter!

Spent years watching the Wings through the good times and bad. Going from the extreme joy of winning the Cup, to the extreme sadness of the car accident on June 13 that ended the hockey career of Vladmir Konstantinov. It's always special going down to the Joe with my dad and having a daddy/daughter night.

Which player that your team signed/acquired this summer are you most excited to see take the ice this season?

Mike Commodore

Taking into consideration your team's performance last year/recently, and any player/personnel (coaches, GMs, ownership) changes made in the past few months, talk about your team in 2011-2012: How do you think they've improved (or made worse)? What do they need to work on? Discuss anything related to your team's performance for the 2011-12 season, good or bad.

Rafalski retired and so did Osgood and Draper--but they were more forced out than retired. The Wings will have the youngsters in their line up this year and will make the playoffs. I can't see them winning the Stanley Cup though. Not enough depth even with Lidstrom staying for another year. I really think the only reason he stayed was because they all knew they couldn't lose Rafalski and Lidstrom in the same year.

Whether or not you think your team will make the playoffs, where do you predict your team will place within their conference?

2nd

What was your favorite moment for your team last season?

Being at the Joe sitting in the 6th row for the game against the penguins. The pens were up 4-0 and Detroit finLly showed up with a minute to go in the second. They played lights out in the 3rd period to tie the game before losing in overtime! My voice was gone from all the yelling/cheering!