Monday, September 23, 2013

Grantland: The NHL Volatility Index

The 2013-14 NHL season is almost here, and it won’t lack for positive story lines. We have the farewell tour of Teemu Selanne, the inspiring return of Paul Ranger, Jarome Iginla continuing his quest for a Cup in Boston, and any number of long shots and underdogs who’ll be making unexpected runs at jobs over the next two weeks.

And that’s all well and good if you’re the sort of person who enjoys happy stories. But what about the other 99 percent of us? What about the fans who want to see a good old-fashioned debacle? Luckily, the NHL seems like it should have plenty of those to offer up too.

As we head toward opening night, here are some of the story lines that are simmering now, but have the potential to boil over some point during the season.

Schneider vs. Brodeur

The story right now: The Devils were part of the offseason’s most stunning trade, acquiring Cory Schneider from Vancouver in exchange for their first-round pick. Schneider is one of the best young goaltenders in the game and became available only because the Canucks couldn’t move Roberto Luongo (more on him in a second), so it was a perfect move for a team in need of a starting goalie.

But the Devils don’t need a starting goalie, at least in theory, because they still have Martin Brodeur. You may remember him — three Cups, all-time leader in wins and shutouts, arguably the best who’s ever played the position. He hasn’t been dominant or even especially good for years now, but he’s entering what will probably be his final season. Having some kid show up and steal his job wasn’t supposed to be part of the script.

The worst-case scenario: Brodeur wallows through a painfully bad "Chris Chelios as a Thrasher"–style final season. He’s done, but won’t admit it. Everyone knows that the Devils should just give Schneider the undisputed starter’s job, but they can’t bring themselves to do it because of Brodeur’s legacy.

Odds of it happening: Slim. Brodeur’s 20-year career has been remarkably free of hockey-related drama that didn’t involve Sean Avery, and Schneider already has experience with diffusing a goaltending controversy. Plus, if things start getting bad then Lou Lamoriello could just come down and crack some skulls. But chances are everyone figures out a way to share the workload for one year before Schneider takes over full time in 2014-15.

But if it did: The whole thing could turn into the NHL’s version of Rodgers vs. Favre.

>> Read the full post on Grantland

1 comment:

  1. What if NHL players could put player submitted nicknames on the back of their jerseys for a game, like the NBA is considering? What would people get? #TeemuForever? King Henrik? What about Tim Thomas? Would he try to put the Bill of Rights? "Tea Party Patriot"? "Defund Obamacare"?