10 NHL Teams That Want to Get Back to Work
10 Teams That Want to Go Back to Work
All 30 teams in the NHL are looking forward to the eventual end of this NHL lockout. The benefits of playing games are obvious for everyone: players, front office, team and arena workers, fans, owners, you name it. But there are some teams in the league that made some really big changes this past season or over the offseason and, because of this lockout, those teams can't show the results of those changes to their fans just yet.
Some teams made it further into the playoffs or higher up in the standings than they had gone in a long time. Other teams changed up their lineups by trading for big names. Still other teams made changes behind the bench, bringing in new front office people to shake things up a bit. One team made league history. Two teams have beneficial new owners. These are all big changes that could potentially shape brighter futures for each team.
Also, many of these teams are in nontraditional hockey markets and their fans are still itching for their hometown team to return to the ice and reap the benefits of their offseason additions and subtractions. No matter what the reason is, though, fans of these 10 teams are just impatiently waiting to see what will happen with these changes once the doors open again at NHL arenas, whenever that may be.
The Sabres have a deep-pocketed team owner, Terry Pegula, who is surely itching to start his second season at the helm. When Pegula purchased the team last year, he said that its entire existence is to win a Stanley Cup, something that no team established in 1970 has managed to do yet. He's invested in developing the team and its surroundings, recently announcing plans to develop part of Buffalo's waterfront into a mixed-use development featuring a hotel, ice arena and parking. That existence-defining goal, though, is quite hard to achieve when no games are being played.
When the Avalanche named Gabriel Landeskog to the position of team captain, joining the likes of Adam Foote and Joe Sakic, the team made NHL history. Landeskog became the youngest captain in league history because he was 11 days younger than Sidney Crosby was when he was chosen as his team's captain in May 2007. The 2012 Calder Trophy winner, who had 52 points last season in Denver, is playing out the lockout in his native Sweden, but Avs fans are ready to see their youthful leader take their team out of the playoffs-missing doldrums.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets didn't win the draft lottery last summer, but they did score some other prizes when they traded away Rick Nash. The trade brought in three players from New York and a draft pick next year that could help even more down the road. Sergei Bobrovsky brings some potential in goal. There's also the excitement of hosting the 2013 All-Star Game, a fancy new digital video display for Nationwide Arena and the new president of hockey operations, John Davidson, in the front office. Columbus has a lot to prove, but the lockout needs to end before they can start proving.
Like the Sabres, the Dallas Stars have a new owner in Tom Gaglardi, who took over in November 2011. Gaglardi, a lifelong hockey fan who takes the ice himself every week, is part of the ownership group for the WHL Kamloops Blazers and whose mother hails from Texas, may just have what it takes to help build interest in hockey deep in the heart of the Lone Star State. It's pretty hard to build interest, though, when the team's not playing and other teams like the Mavericks and Cowboys are around to keep piquing Dallas sports fans' interest.
The Florida Panthers had a big year of it last season. They brought in a new coach, redesigned their jerseys, rebranded their image and welcomed more than 10 new players for the 2011-12 campaign. These were big bets, but they paid off as the Panthers took the Southeast Division crown for the first time in the history of the team. Then, they advanced to the playoffs for the first time since the turn of the century. Though they did lose in the quarterfinals, they still made huge gains in South Florida—and resurrected the playoff tradition of throwing plastic rats on the ice. Attractively-priced ticket packages have also helped raise interest in hockey. Now Panthers fans are waiting longer than usual to see that division banner raised to the BB&T Center rafters.
Los Angeles Kings
Like their fellow warm-weather team in Florida, Kings fans are waiting anxiously to see a banner rise to the rafters. This one, though, is the biggest one of all, the Stanley Cup championship banner. After close to 50 years of existence, the Kings finally won it all for the first time last summer—but now no one is entirely sure when the Cup celebration inside Staples Center will be held. Considering all the buzz the Kings generated during their playoff run, and the fact that LA is a busy city, the lockout is hurting them by keeping them out of the headlines.
The Wild made quite a few big waves during the summer, bringing on Mikael Granlund and selecting Matt Dumba at the draft. But it was what they did on Independence Day that made the most headlines: the twin long-term signings of Minnesota native Zach Parise and Wisconsin native Ryan Suter, pictured above. The Wild, who have made it to the playoffs just three times in their 11 years to date, immediately saw a huge boost in season ticket purchases and jersey sales for Parise and Suter. In hockey-wild Minnesota, the State of Hockey, people will always be interested in the sport at some level, but they're ready to see 'Minny' hit the ice again.
The up-and-down complex saga of the Coyotes ownership recently showed promise when Greg Jamison expressed interest in purchasing the team, but keeping it rooted in Glendale, Ariz. The fact that the team is not playing right now is probably not helping him in his quest to find more investors willing to go in with him on the deal. Much like the Panthers, the Coyotes won their first-ever division title in 2012 and made it all the way to the Western Conference Final, heating up Arizonan interest in and support for a cool sport. Elections in Arizona resulted in Glendale residents picking a new mayor who has told the Coyotes that the city is not their cash register, which could further complicate the issue.
St. Louis Blues
The Blues made a big change when they brought in 2012 Jack Adams winner Ken Hitchcock as the new head coach in November 2011. They emerged from a slump, hit 100 points in the standings, earned a playoff berth and won the Central Division for the first time since 2000. They were then swept in the conference semifinals, but still have a division title banner that needs raising and St. Louis hockey faithful ready to see their team try for the biggest prize of all—they are the last team established in 1967 with no Stanley Cup wins yet.
June 26 was a huge day for Adam Oates (pictured at left). Not only was he elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame, he was named the Capitals' new head coach, replacing Dale Hunter. Oates has experience behind the bench with Tampa Bay and New Jersey, and the Capitals organization is letting him co-coach the AHL Hershey Bears during the lockout, but after missing out on the Southeast title for the first time since 2007 and seeing Braden Holtby's performance in the playoffs, Caps fans want to see what the future holds for their team.