The Popsicle Brothers present NHL ’09-10 (Part Two)

By Michael-Louis Ingram and Gary Norris Gray, BASN Staff Reporters
Updated: September 30, 2009

NHL OAKLAND & PHILADELPHIA (BASN) –This could be the best year ever for the National Hockey League, now if only the American public could see it! The pre-season is winding down, and man it’s been a short and interesting off season with trades.

Yesterday, we began our 2009-10 NHL preview with 10 questions that will be answered this season. As the season is set to begin on Thursday night, here are 10 more:

1) Can the Columbus Blue Jackets and Vancouver Canucks continue their rise to the top with their young talent? This could be the next stop for new faces of the NHL. Blue Jack City and the Pacific Northwest will get their share of positive headlines this year.

2) Will the Toronto Maple Leafs finally turn the corner and get into the first round of playoffs? The Mats Sundin trade really hurt them last year. Vesa Toskala will be in net and might stabilize this team. Defensemen Ian White, Andy Rogers, Mike Van Ryn must help their goalie. Left Winger Jason Blake has to pick up his scoring power for the Leafs to move forward.

3) Will the Ottawa Senators stop their downward spiral? We like their new slogan – Toujours Rouge (Forever Red). This year there were many major off season trades. Alexei Kovalev and Daniel Alfredsson will have to captain this team back to health. Rookies Eric Karrison and Peter Regin, along with Jonathan Cheechoo will add heart to the Sens offense. Players from Binghamton will be called up this year. Goaltending is now a very big question. The Cup is not won without a good net minder; and the Sens have two unknowns in goal, Brian Elliott and Pascal Leclair. So the question looms will Ottawa return to the playoffs in 2010?

4) Will the Western Division Champion and Presidents’ Trophy winner (team that has most wins – regular season) San Jose Sharks shake off the playoff loser mentality? Maybe with the recent off season trades the team has solved this problem?

With this year’s retirements of Rob Blake and Jeremy Roenick and the multitudes of changing players the Sharks will look and play differently.

Big Dany Heatley should improve their scoring power while Patrick Marleau, Devin Setoguchi, and Joe Thornton will lead this team to another Western Division Title. That will not be enough. The Sharks have to win the Cup.

Goalie Evgeni Nabakov will once again stand as the last line of defense in the Sharks’ net. San Jose must acquire a backup so Nabakov can rest in the middle of season. Nabakov, like New Jersey’s Brodeur, plays too many games and tires in playoffs.

This is a make or break season for San Jose because the window is slowly closing in on the Sharks for their first Stanley Cup.

5) Will first round draft pick, Goal Brother Wayne Simmonds continue his improved play for the Los Angeles Kings. Hockey fans have called him the Black Great One because of his speed. The Kings have had a good pre-season, losing one game so far. Veteran Left Wingers Ryan Smyth and Sean O’Donnell will help lead this team out of the Western Division Cellar.

6) Will the St. Louis Blues return to the playoffs with Chris Mason in nets? Last year Mason was very inconsistent and it cost the Blues at the end of the season. Defensemen Darryl Sydor, left winger Paul Kariya, and left winger Keith Tkachuk should lead this team into the playoffs. Other Blues players are going to have to step up to the blue line and score consistently.

7) Will the Phoenix Coyotes stay in the desert with its financial instability or move back to Canada where they belong. A team cannot concentrate on hockey when they are worried that they might not get paid for services rendered.

8) Now that the Great One, Wayne Gretzky, has stepped down from the Coyotes’ front office, will a sale and move (likely to Hamilton, Canada) finally happen? Coyotes have no playoff appearances, no solid fan base and a long uphill struggle ahead.

9) How will Atlanta use first round pick Evander Kane? Will they raise Kane to the big club? And if they do, will they pair him with Captain Ilya Kovalchuk, or let him get ice time on a second or third line as the Thrashers go to an OJT mode with their talented goal scorer? Hockey has failed in Cold ‘Lanta once before – Thrashers need to succeed; or suffer a possible consumption in flames – like Phoenix.

10) Why can’t we in the States get quality analysis like TSN or Hockey Night in Canada delivers? Don’t bother – we already know the answer.

But now HNIC has more flavor to savor in the form of Goal Brotha Kevin Weekes, who has been added to the broadcast team, along with Glen Healy and Guy Carbonneau.

We will wait with bated breath whenever we get the Canadian feed on Versus.

And now the Popsicle Brothers meet at Center Ice for predictions:

Eastern Conference

Atlantic:Gary says the New Jersey Devils and Pittsburgh Penguins should fight for one and two all year long; but Mike likes those Nasty Ass Flyers with Pronger and Emery back in net. We agree from top to bottom, this is the best division in hockey.

Northeast: We agree that the Bruins and Canadiens should fight for one and two in their respective division – and a repeat of last year’s battle.

Southeast: Gary says the Washington Capitals should run away with this division; Mike says only if their goaltending holds up – and don’t count out the Carolina Hurricanes.

If the ‘Canes don’t get a dominant scorer, then it’s Ovechkin and the gang; and because no one in hockey plays with the passion and creative flair that the Great Eight does, we are making Alex Ovechkin our first Honorary Goal Brotha, an award we will give at each Popsicle Bros. Report to any hockey player (or players) we feel exhibits why we love (and you should love) puck!

Outlook: Gary likes New Jersey Devils vs. Washington Capitals for the Eastern Conference Championship: Mike says Flyers/Capitals.

Western Conference

Central:Gary says the Chicago Blackhawks might overtake the Red Wings this year with their trades; Mike says the old men in Hockeytown want some payback, and he expects a big year from Rick Nash and Columbus in Blue Jack City. We were “bang on” when we declared the Central was the hotspot last year – and we predict even more heated competition this year!

Northwest:We both love the Calgary Flames. Mike sees a breakout year for Nigel Dawes, a natural goal scorer. With their speed the Flames should pass the Vancouver Canucks and the brilliant Roberto Luongo.

Pacific: Gary’s homeboys, the San Jose Sharks are still the class of this division. They just have to shake the Anaheim Duck jinx and defeat them in the first round. Mike says those damn Ducks are harder to get rid of than in-laws, but they will miss Pronger – big time.

Outlook: Gary says Chicago Blackhawks vs. San Jose Sharks for the Western Conference Championship; Mike says Calgary over Chicago for the West – and the Saddledome horn is his most favorite sound in hockey!

So let the games begin. We all hope for a great season in the NHL and the Popsicle Brothers will be there.

First Period: Goal Gray 1 (Ingram, McClean) Time: 3:00 (and counting!).