According to Sports Business Journal, “Questions Will Be Answered” has been selected as the theme for the NHL’s latest marketing campaign.
Which, I suppose, is a good strategy for any professional sports league. You never want your product leaving its purchasers with more questions than a typical M. Night Shyamalan film – chief among those questions: ‘how does this man have the cachet to keep making preposterous movies?’ – and there’s no doubt NHL fans have more than a few inquiries that demand definitive replies.
Luckily for some of you, the regular season doesn’t have to end, or even begin, for you to get answers for pressing questions.
1. Was Roberto Luongo Right To Give Up The Canucks’ Captaincy?
Of course he was. And that’s regardless of whether his stats and status as Vancouver’s savior improves this season.
Fact is, Luongo would have been in an no-win situation had he retained the captaincy: If he came out of the gate strong, the expectations and spotlight on him would get higher and hotter; if he faltered, there would have been talk about making the ‘C’ change in mid-season.
Now, there is no easy excuse for Luongo or the franchise. He’s got one job and one job only – and he’ll deserve to be praised or panned for his play, not for the vague concept of ‘leadership’ that’s always overblown (particularly in Canada).
2. Who Will Be The First Coach Fired (And Replaced By Ken Hitchcock?)
Given the continuous carousel of NHL head coaches, there aren’t too many places where, at least at first glance, the current bench boss is on the hot seat.
Some will point to Ron Wilson in Toronto as the obvious candidate, but as I mentioned in Friday’s mailbag, I don’t see that happening.
To me, the coaches who could be de-employed are Carolina’s Paul Maurice (who’ll almost certainly be replaced eventually by assistant Ron Francis and bumped up into the higher echelons of Canes management) – and, more likely, Anaheim’s Randy Carlyle.
That’s not to imply Carlyle has lost his ability to coach, but he’s entering his sixth year with the team, wasn’t hired by current Ducks GM Bob Murray and is in charge of a group that many feel will be in tough to make the playoffs.
Sometimes, that’s all it can take for a change to be made.
3. Will Nathan Horton Return To Being The Goal Scoring Threat He Was?
Yes, yes he will.
It was only four seasons ago that Horton broke the 30-goal barrier with Florida. His scoring totals have fallen each year thereafter, but that was when he was part of a Panthers organization that isn’t known for its winning environment.
The Bruins aren’t exactly the Detroit Red Wings in that regard, but Boston’s current talent level is far more impressive than Florida’s ever was when Horton was there. He’ll benefit from playing in a city (a) where the game matters; and (b) isn’t a hockey fishbowl where all eyes are on him. That’s a great situation for a guy who still is only 25 years old.
4. Can Tomas Kaberle Really Last The Whole Season As A Member Of The Toronto Maple Leafs?
No, no, a thousand times, no. Of course, I’ve been expecting the Czech blueliner to be traded the past two years, so there’s a slim chance he finishes the season (and then leaves Toronto as an unrestricted free agent).
However, the regular season hasn’t yet begun and we’ve already had a pair of front-line NHL defensemen (Ottawa’s Filip Kuba and Columbus’ Kris Russell) sustain significant injuries, leaving some to speculate the likes of Sheldon Souray will now be more attractive to teams that wouldn’t bite on a large salary during the summer.
In my mind, Kaberle is in the same predicament as Souray. The longer the year goes on, the less those two will cut into another team’s budget – and sooner or later, they’ll both be wearing new uniforms.
Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears regularly, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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