When NHL commissioner Gary Bettman handed a heavy favorite to the heavy favorites of these playoffs — the Stanley Cup changing hands to the Los Angeles Kings — all I could wonder is, what just happened?
It took a mere 20 games to crown the Kings champions. Aren’t the playoffs supposed to take longer? Aren’t number-eight seeds supposed to be done in the first round? Aren’t teams from Los Angeles only supposed to win championships in basketball and baseball and college football? Aren’t the fans supposed to riot in the streets afterward? Isn’t Terry Murray the head coach? Isn’t Jack Johnson on the roster? Aren’t championship hockey teams supposed to employ the dominant superstars of their day — a Crosby, a Gretzky, an Orr, a Richard (Rocket) or Richard (Pocket Rocket)?
Since the NHL lockout in 2004-05, several unlikely foes have faced off in the Stanley Cup Finals. But all of those prior match-ups pale in comparison to this year’s duo, which pits the sixth-seeded New Jersey Devils (48-28-6) from the Eastern Conference against the eighth-seeded Los Angeles Kings (40-27-15) from the West.
When either team is crowned champion, that squad will be the lowest-ranked ever to hoist the Stanley Cup, surpassing the 1995 Devils, who entered the postseason seeded fifth before sweeping Detroit to capture the franchise’s first Stanley Cup.
The moment hockey fans have been waiting for all season has finally arrived: Two talented teams — lower seeds, at that — will face off for the Stanley Cup. And both still haven’t quite earned the respect they deserve.
One of the National Hockey League’s worst-kept secrets is the teams and location for the next Winter Classic (A faceoff between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor). However, no set plans have been reported for the 2014 showdown and beyond.
Therefore, I decided to put together a list of potential games I would like to see that make the most sense for the league, both in terms of local interest and television revenue.