Exactly what do you call the first decade of this century? The ohs, oughts, zeroes, zilches, zips, nadas?
Seems there is no consensus. Not even on the Internet.
There is, on the other hand, agreement in the hockey world the past 10 years has been has been home to events and that will impact the game for years to come and be talked about beyond even this century. We’ll commemorate the decade’s best storylines and fete the best players in a special upcoming issue of The Hockey News.
To whet your appetite, and to provide some balance to all that back-patting we’ll be doing in the magazine, here are the 10 most disappointing tales of the oh-ohs, the dramas that burst elevated expectations.
1. The lockout. Nearly five years later, this still evokes bitter memories. Astoundingly wealthy owners and players couldn’t figure out how to split more than $2 billion, simultaneously ignoring the collateral damage they were inflicting in terms of job loss and heartache. And the kicker is it was all so unnecessary. The union buckled and agreed to the salary cap they vowed they’d never accept – and have been reaping the benefits ever since.
2. Bertuzzi attacks Moore. The severity of Steve Moore’s career-ending injuries were of gravest concern following Todd Bertuzzi’s assault, but the stain it put on the game was highly troubling. News followers around the world picked up on the nasty incident, one that helped undermine the game’s many positive attributes.
3. Ownership sinking ships. Date the wrong person once or twice and it’s a mistake. Do it repeatedly and it becomes a trend. So it went with the NHL and some of its owners this decade. Men such as John Rigas (Buffalo) and William Del Biaggio (Nashville) fought the law and the law won. Jerry Moyes (Phoenix) fought the league itself. These debacles came on the heels of the Bruce McNall and John Spano scandals in the 1990s. The repeated messes were unseemly and embarrassing.
4. The Ottawa Senators. The team that coulda, woulda, shoulda – didn’t. One playoff bust followed another, until they finally qualified for the Stanley Cup final in 2007 – only to be easily quelled by Anaheim. They lost Zdeno Chara, blamed Ray Emery, fought with Dany Heatley and enter 2010 with little reason to believe that elusive championship is on the horizon.
5. Team Canada, 2006 Olympics. Seventh place? Really? The nation that invented hockey and prides itself on producing the world’s best players saw its heroes fall flatter than ever in Turin. Oh, the horror. Oh, the shame.
6. The Edmonton Oilers, post-2006. Oiler fans may be the most passionate in the NHL. And, crikey, did we ever hear it when, following their 2006 Stanley Cup final appearance, we predicted the team would finish 12th the following season. The vitriol spewed in our direction from Alberta was laced with acid. Sadly for Oiler Nation, we were right. And Edmonton hasn’t been ever since.
7. Dismantling of the Sabres. Buffalo was a tremendous happy-face story in 2006-07, the little guy who made good, a small market with amazingly loyal and rabid fans. Then the air escaped from the feel-good blimp, as leaders Chris Drury and Daniel Briere bolted as free agents and the Queen City wept. At least they still had Brian Campbell. Never mind.
8. The 2008-09 Montreal Canadiens. Conditions were perfect for the Habs to author a story even the most cynical could appreciate. The league’s most revered franchise was coming off an regular season Eastern Conference championship and was amping up celebrations for their 100th anniversary season. All-star weekend rocked. Could they possibly be headed for their first Cup of the decade? Never mind.
9. The San Jose Sharks. Are these guys allergic to playoff success? What gives? How many times can they fool us in the regular season, only to meekly disappear come springtime? We’ll find out in six months.
10. Kari Lehtonen. Harsh? Perhaps. But the No. 2 overall pick in the 2002 draft was supposed to be the next great goalie, the Finnish stopper who would take Atlanta to rarefied heights. Instead, a string of injuries and inconsistent play is part of the reason his franchise has never won a playoff game.
Jason Kay is the editor in chief of The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Fridays.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.