What came first: The chicken or the egg? Is hockey’s lack of popularity in the United States a result of lack of coverage by large sports networks like ESPN? Or do channels like ESPN not talk about hockey because the interest does not exist?
The game of hockey in the spring months is an entirely different sport compared to the winter season prior. While hockey is a winter game, the most exhilarating version of the craft comes to fruition when the weather heats up. The game changes to such an extent that the NHL’s regular season does not matter one bit.
The Wild Card winners, the Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche, took care of their opponents seamlessly. The Jackets swept Tampa Bay. Colorado only needed five games to extinguish the Flames and the Stars finished Nashville in just six. Not a single one of these surprising franchises needed even seven games to move past the heavy favorites.
Then the playoffs started, and they were promptly swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets. Got outscored 19-8 over the course of four games to a feisty Blue Jackets crew. Such is hockey. There is tremendous variance in playoff hockey. It is unpredictable and so-called inferior teams win all the time. Fine with me.
On Tuesday night, hockey fans, pundits and bracket makers were forced to reconsider, as the Columbus Blue Jackets pulled off one of the greatest upsets in the history of the game. They swept the Lightning in their first round matchup, outscoring Tampa Bay 19-8 in the series. It was the first time this entire season that Tampa Bay had lost more than two games in a row. The firepower of the Bolts made this outcome essentially unimaginable to the hockey world, initiating shock following a fourth straight resounding defeat.
College players, under the current collective bargaining agreement, have the power to choose what team they would like to play for. Once a college player is drafted, they have until the end of their graduating year to sign with the team that selected them. After that, they become a free agent, with the ability to sign with any team that offers them a contract.
The Columbus Blue Jackets made the biggest noise this trade season, popping up in notification after notification in the days leading up to the deadline. They relinquished a slew of future talent, shipping out Forward Anthony Duclair, two conditional first-round picks, two second-round picks, a fourth-round pick, a fifth-round pick and a seventh-round pick.
“The tank,” these days, is a fan’s favorite word. It provides solace for their teams’ losses, and hope for a better tomorrow. When a season takes a wrong turn, with the playoffs becoming a pipe dream, the modern belief is that a team is better off losing to improve their odds at a higher draft pick. While mathematically speaking, this is logical, the philosophy has gotten to the point where fans actually prefer that their team lose every game.
In July, the Toronto Maple Leafs signed superstar center, John Tavares, stealing him away from the New York Islanders, the team that drafted him first overall in 2009. Tavares flourished with the Islanders, establishing himself as one of the premier forwards in the league. With the move, he abandoned his NHL beginnings, looking towards his childhood home team.