The season is upon us!
From the looks of things, it's going to be one helluva season. At this point, all of the speculation, all of the predictions, everything that has been talked about means absolutely nothing. The Ducks and Kings have kicked the season off in London and, despite all of the scheduling problems that it caused, it was extremely successful. The fans really embraced the games and came from all over to see hockey played at it's highest level.
The Wild kicked off what I believe will be the franchise's best season yet with a bang by making a surprise move; keeping young playmaker James Sheppard with the team and opting to send Benoit Pouliot and Petr Kalus back to the AHL. It was a move that surprised many and a move that I feel will be beneficial to all invovled. Pouliot has shown a great deal of inconsistency over the last couple seasons and must prove that he can perform at the level he did in training camp on a regular basis. In order to do so, he would need to get ice time; a great deal more than he would playing with the Wild. With the Wild he would, most likely, only get 8-12 minutes of ice time per game whereas, with Houston, he could potentially be one of the ice time leaders amongst their forwards. Also, he began playing center, a position that he has not had a great deal of experience with, during the preseason. Extra experience in Houston at this position will likely allow him the opportunity to learn one of the most important positions on the ice. As far as Kalus, the same ice time principle applies. Kalus was acquired in the trade for Manny Fernandez because of his scoring touch; something that he did not exhibit in the preseason. Kalus had difficulties finding the net and, despite strong play, didn't have that finishing touch that he needed in order to make the team. Ultimately, the decision to send him down was most likely based upon where he would benefit most; under Lemaire's tuteladge or getting more ice time in Houston.
Also, it appears as if, what I like to call the "Kyle Wanvig Principle," has taken effect again with the Wild. A couple seasons ago, Wanvig made the team based primarily on the fact that he would have to be waived if they sent him down and they didn't want to risk losing him. Ultimately, Wanvig was a large disappointment for the Wild and was let go at the end of the season. Enter Matt Foy; the player that I think many Wild fans wanted to see up a couple seasons ago instead of Wanvig. Foy Toy is going to get his shot this year, much like Wanvig did two years ago and, much like Wanvig, it's time for Foy to s*** or get off the pot. Now I'm a huge Matt Foy supporter. I like the energy that he brings to the ice and I like that he could provide some tertiary scoring to the Wild's attack on the fourth line.
The NHL has also, hopefully, set a precedent for head shots in the league. I do think that the penalty that Steve Downie got was a little too severe (are we saying that this is as bad as Chris Simon trying to chop down Ryan Hollweg's neck?), but I have no problem with the suspension IF the NHL remains consistent. I don't have much faith that this will happen, however. I would expect that, once a star player gets called for a head shot, the suspension will go down exponentially. This is exactly why the punishments handed out by Campbell are a joke. There is absolutely no consistency in his decisions. A great example this preseason was Chris Simon being allowed to play while Sean Hill had to watch from the press box. The only explanation offered by the NHL? They were different suspensions. Now, I have no problem with this if the NHL can offer some substantial explanation for it, but simply saying that they were different suspensions? Ridiculous. The NHL needs some consistency and someone with some "rocks" to step up to the plate and actually hand down suspensions based on the offense, not on the player.
On a side note, the Cleveland Indians have made the playoffs once again! After years of rebuilding, the franchise is finally back on track and poised for a run at the World Series. Their first test is a MAJOR roadblock in the red hot New York Yankees, but we have two of the hottest pitchers in baseball right now with C.C. Sabathia and Faustino Carmona. This should be a highly entertaining series to watch and I think the winner of this series has a great shot at winning it all.