...Made Glorious Summer by this Son of Sam."*
With the pre-season about to get underway, all the Season Preview magazines have been published and purchased, and another year's supply of unbridled optimism is flowing free through the streets of Your Town Here. For instance, one television station predicts Dallas to finish fourth in the West, the Rangers fifth in the East. One magazine says Buffalo is finishing sixth in the East, and the Kings finaly get back to the playoffs in the West.
Optimistic? Sure, but why not?
Dallas had huge injuries to vital players last season: Manhattan added one of the most exciting players in the league and has new hard-line coaching that isn't going to let any player on the team take a single day off. Los Angeles has been a fashionable "dark horse" pick for years, and they've added veteran leadership (and scoring) up front, a steady Cup-winning defenseman and have the best goaltending they've seen in a while, plus their youth has another year under their belt. Buffalo is hoping to get a full season from anyone in the alphabet coming before "Lydman".
Then again, perhaps the tone is a bit more, well, fatalist. Pretty much everyone is expecting a "rebuilding" year from the Avalanche and the Islanders. (Okay, make that a "building" year for Long Island.) Even so, does that have to mean a bottom-of-the-league finish? Neither team is going to have any pressure on them this year, from fans or from management. Both teams have excellent young players making their big-league debuts this season, and both those players look like they can handle the workload. Long Island also now has what can only be described as rock-solid goaltending, and Anderson is a huge step up for Colorado, even if he can only manage 60 games before melting.
Phoenix has been declared by another television station to be the worst in the league this coming season: They've also shored up their defence, have a fantastic goaltender and a captain who should be a Team Canada shoo-in, their Future Superstar (Turris - remember him?) is a year older and comes in with lowered expectations, and you can just imagine the relief of FINALLY talking about hockey for all the right reasons! Heck, they were a game over .500 from March until the season's end. That's gotta be better than some of the other guys, right?
Point being: when it comes to my team and my town, the fanaticism knows no bounds. There are no actual people who play for Vancouver, per se: only Gods and Villians who will lead us to either Paradise or Damnation. Think I'm kidding? In a town that's near-legendary for eating goaltenders, there were a lot of calls for (arguably) the best in the league to be traded away so our hopes could rest on the shoulders of an AHL tender whose stats were not exactly electrifying in his NHL tryout last year. The signing of a second-line winger sent us, if not into a paroxym of extacy, then at least a polite golf clap for the GM and knowing nods to each other: "Ah! Wisely done! This could be the Final Piece..."
*Yeah, it's Shakespeare, and yeah it's misquoted. Yer point? He's the Best Villan Ever, Baby!