Some weird, wild, wacky, surprising, expected, happy, annoying and sad things are bound to happen during the 2023-24 National Hockey League season and now that the campaign is nicely underway, here’s a guide to what we can expect in the next six months or so:
— Unless a serious injury occurs causing him to miss some games, Connor Bedard will be the league’s rookie-of-the-year, but Logan Cooley of Arizona, Matt Coronato of Calgary, and Matthew Knies of the Leafs will earn their share of rookie votes.
— The Leafs will not, repeat not, end their nightmarish streak of not winning the Stanley Cup; 1967 seems like yesterday, right?
— It’s just about time for Bruce Boudreau to get hired again as an NHL coach. Mike Babcock won’t be.
— Edmonton fans will be praying for a Stanley Cup victory for their Oilers, concerned that the prime years of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are being wasted.
— Ottawa will be the surprise team among the Canadian entries, but that theory was presented in this space last year and it didn’t pan out, so don’t take that info to the bank, or your local bookie.
— Boston Bruins will have a different look, with the retirement of Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci and the trading of Taylor Hall. Another 135-point season is unlikely.
— Besides McDavid, Bedard and Colorado’s Nathan McKinnon, the league’s most exciting player will be Kirill Kaprizov of the Minnesota Wild.
— They’ll want to, but brothers Brady of Ottawa and Matthew Tkachuk of Florida will not drop the mitts and start swinging at each other because their mother has outlawed it, and Mom’s edict rules.
— The Penguins powerplay, spearheaded by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, has been bolstered by the explosive Erik Karlsson and will be dynamite.
— Alex Ovechkin, 38, starts the season 72 goals behind Wayne Gretzky for the NHL’s all-time goal-scoring lead and while he won’t get there this year, he’s almost guaranteed to be No. 1 sometime in 2024-25. And just like Gordie Howe was on hand to congratulate Gretzky when Howe was surpassed, the Great One will be on hand to put the crown on the Great 8’s head when the inevitable happens.
— T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas will remain the most rambunctious, boisterous and raucous arena in the league and it may play a role in a Stanley Cup repeat for the Golden Knights.
— Auston Matthews’ name will be the one most frequently mentioned on Sportsnet and TSN this winter, followed by Mitch Marner, John Tavares, Sheldon Keefe and Brad Treliving.
— Arizona owner Alex Meruelo will tell Coyotes’ fans and the league that a new 20,000-seat arena is in the planning stages. Next year, he’ll say the same thing. The year after, ditto. Meanwhile, the 5,000-seat Mullet Arena, one of the NHL’s biggest embarrassments, will remain the cozy little home of the ’Yotes.
• Janice Hough of leftcoastsportsbabe.com, after San Francisco Giants fired manager Gabe Kapler with three games to go: “Not always fan of Gabe Kapler’s decisions and not sure how much he was told to make those decisions. But this 2023 SF Giants season feels a bit like putting a bus together with cheap spare parts and then firing bus driver when bus breaks down.”
• Super 70s Sports, on Twitter: “It’s going to be interesting explaining to someone why Pete Rose isn’t in the Hall of Fame when we inevitably end up at the 2040 DraftKings Hall of Fame Induction Weekend Presented by FanDuel.”
• Headline at the onion.com: “Stephen A. Smith Recalls Rough Childhood Having To Debate Gang Members.”
• Writer Tom Kershaw of The Times of London: “(American golfer Brooks) Koepka . . . seems to pride himself on bearing all the charm of a bush of thorns.”
• NBC late night host Jimmy Fallon, on getting back to work following a five-month writers’ strike: “I’m more excited than a Jets fan during the first three plays of the season.”
• Vancouver comedy guy Steve Burgess, on X: “Jays’ season is over. Once again it’s time to transition to getting punched in the face by the Canucks instead.”
• Headline on the Canadian parody website The Beaverton: “Blue Jays admit the only reason they made playoffs was so bigger audience could experience frustration of watching them.”
• Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden about one of his players: “He doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘fear’. In fact, I just saw his grades and he doesn’t know the meaning of a lot of words.”
• Headline at the onion.com: “Ben Simmons Posts Video Of Himself Prepping For Season By Sitting On Bench In A Suit”
• Steve Simmons of SunMedia, on Blue Jays’ GM Ross Atkins telling the media that management had nothing to do with the decision to pull starter Jose Berrios in the fourth inning of a 0-0 playoff game with the Twins: “He would also like you to believe in Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, weather reports and the Easter Bunny.” Care to comment? Email firstname.lastname@example.org