I'm sorry but this year's Winter Classic is a joke. It's all about the marketing and nothing to do with the hockey this year, and I hate to see the NHL waste one of it's few opportunities to rope in casual hockey fans by overexposing the same U.S. media markets. What does the state of Pennsylvania have on Gary Bettman? I mean 4 Winter Classic appearances combined between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh? Here's my quick fix for the next couple years to make everyone happy...intriguing story lines for the media, and passionate hockey for the fans:
2012 Winter Classic:
Let's face it Baseball stadiums suck for hockey, I'm not saying everyone at Ralph Wilson Stadium could see the game well at the first Winter Classic, but I'm pretty sure nobody could see the game from historic Fenway Park. So if we go back to football stadiums, what venue has the panache to match Fenway...hmmm Lambeau Field! That's right...a hockey game on the frozen tundra. It's a neutral site but make the Minnesota Wild the home team, and have them play the division rival Avalanche. Minnesota Wild against the Colorado Avalanche on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field...love it. I just wanna see a bunch of cheeseheads at a hockey game.
2013 Winter Classic:
Believe it or not Cincinnati and Nashville are only 275miles apart, a paltry 4 and 1/2 hour drive. Wanna drum up attention in two smaller hockey markets? How about the Columbus Blue Jackets hosting the Nashville Predators at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. The proximity means it should draw fans of both teams and put two teams that don't get as much national attention on the biggest stage of the regular season. Hockey purists would love the game, the NHL marketing department might cringe...but the Winter Classic needs to be purged of it's corporate mentality, give us this game and you can have your Flyers/Pens game back in another couple years.
In my last blog here I begrudgingly offered my projections for the Eastern Conference, specifically the Northeast Division. Another preseason requisite for most hockey writers are they're "Players to Watch" or "Breakout Performers" pieces. I'm not going to subject anyone to a long spiel lauding the future exploits of Tyler Ennis or Luke Adam, or "insert young exciting Sabres player here". Instead I do want to point out that I could really see Brad Boyes having a big year. It's essentially a contract year for him, and he has a lot to prove that he can be the goal scorer he was earlier in his career. He'll have the experience of Lindy Ruff's system under his belt from the start of the season, and he'll be back on the wing which he's more accustomed to than playing Center.
Remember Brad Boyes has had 3 NHL season with over 25 goals scored, and once eclipsed 40. He has also had 3 seasons with at least 30 assists including a single season high of 43. I'm not expecting a 40/40 year out of Brad, but if Lindy can find the right line combination for him, I could see Boyes potting 22-27 goals with 30+ assists. Somewhere around 55-60 points would be a great year for Brad and the Sabres. He could parlay an outing like that into a decent NHL contract somewhere else next year, or *gasp* take a pay cut and re-sign with Buffalo. (go ahead and slam me for saying it, but stranger things have happened)
Hey if he has a monster year and everyone wants him back remember I was the only guy not driving him out of town before the season. Then again if he is the Brad Boyes from the Philly series remember that I was the moron wanting to keep him...haha.
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