Remember me? Yeah. Not that I lead a busy life, but I needed time away to recharge the writing batteries. Still only working at half-power at best, but with the season about to start, it seemed time to make a post.
Rather than do a conference breakdown or analyze teams by division (as I originally planned on doing), I'm going to preview the season a little differently by sharing the things I'm either excited or curious about for the 2010-11 NHL season.
--First, on a selfish note, I'm pretty pumped about Pittsburgh's new arena. I can't and won't compare it to other places, as I haven't been to others, but it's worlds better than the Civic Arena.
--The progress of rookies and second-year players. How will Edmonton's young core (Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi) fare in their first season? Will Marc Savard's injury open the door for a breakthrough rookie year by Tyler Seguin? How will John Tavares, Matt Duchene and Victor Hedman develop now that they've had a full season in the NHL?
--I didn't mention guys like P.K. Subban, John Carlson, and that Doughty guy out in LA. Heard he's not bad.
--Steve Yzerman, on paper, seems to be building a solid team in Tampa Bay. If Carolina plays more like it did in the last four months of last season, the Southeast Division might actually be competitive. Might take the Capitals until Christmas to clinch instead of Thanksgiving.
--Will the Flyers follow Pittsburgh's lead of losing in the Final one year than winning the next? (God I hope not.)
--After a whopping 76-game season a year ago, how long before Marian Gaborik suffers a significant injury and wrecks the Rangers' season?
--Did the Penguins solve their major problems of a year ago with the signings of Zbynek Michalek and Paul Martin? Mike Comrie might also have filled that scoring winger hole (though he might be playing center with Evgeni Malkin on the wing.)
--Can Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk co-exist on the same line?
--The Northeast Division race. A lackluster regular season turned into a conference semifinals appearance for the Bruins, the Sabres still have Ryan Miller, Ottawa was somewhat feisty in its first round loss to the Penguins, and the Canadiens
--Oh, and the Maple Leafs will do their best to beat everyone up.
--Detroit might have been the hottest team down the stretch last season. Will the Red Wings rise back to the top of the West or will Chicago be able to hold them off?
--Seriously, what the hell was Darryl Sutter thinking with Olli Jokinen?
--Is Bob Luongo ever going to be clutch in the Stanley Cup playoffs?
--Special for my Wild fan friends: Does the preseason matter? One of my fantasy teams (with Niklas Backstrom, Mikko Koivu and Martin Havlat) sure hopes not.
--Can Phoenix duplicate last season's magic? What about Colorado? (OK, the Avalanche made the playoffs in large part because of Calgary's epic choke job, but last-to-playoffs is still pretty good.)
--Who will EA Sports pick to be on the cover of NHL 12, Marian Hossa?
--Will oft-injured goalies Kari Lehtonen (Dallas) and Rick DiPietro (Long Island) be able to get and stay on the ice?
--Do the Kings take the next step?
--Did the Sharks improve their goaltending or make it worse by acquiring two potential No. 1 netminders?
--Will Brian Burke ever smile?
--What team didn't I say something about yet? Atlanta I don't think will be good, Anaheim could be a sleeper, same with Columbus if Steve Mason bounces back, Florida could really struggle if David Booth goes down again, and St. Louis really needs its young players to progress, not regress.
--I forgot about Nashville. Um. Well, Barry Trotz is one of the best coaches in the biz. Continues to get teams not as talented as others to the playoffs. A lot of the Predators' season relies on now de-facto No. 1 goalie Pekka Rinne.
As with every season, the above doesn't come close to touching on all the story lines heading into Thursday's opening games, and there will be many more created as the days go along. So, sit back and enjoy the ride.