Brian Duff's Blog: Is this the year?

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The Hockey News

The Hockey News

One of the league’s post-lockout marketing campaigns revolves around the question “Is this the year?”

About seven months ago we put together an hour-long season preview show on the NHL Network based on those four little words. The other day I was trying to remember all the questions we tackled and had come up with a few, such as, “Is this the year Ovechkin scores 70?” or, “Is this the year Mike Green scores 40?”

But my memory isn’t what it used to be. Parenting is only partially to blame, so I naturally sought out the answers from show producer Tom Masters.

Via email Tommy responded with “Is this the year Ovechkin wins the Cup? Is this the year the Kings or Panthers make the playoffs?” And my favorite, “I’m trying to remember the rest.”

Tommy never did come up with any more and now he’s gone to Paris, presumably working on a network feature about how the locals can’t wait to see their native son, Cristobal Huet, hoist the Stanley Cup and perhaps the Conn Smythe. Or, he’s gone to interrogate club officials with CSG Grenoble, now HC Grenoble, demanding they turn over Huet’s numbers from the 1997-98 season, which to this day read as “statistics not available” in the NHL Guide and Record book.

Anyway, because nobody uploaded the show to YouTube, we’ll never know what questions were asked.

But now seemed like a good time to use hindsight (and sarcasm) to our advantage and come up with questions we should have asked back in late September.

Is this the year Jay Bouwmeester gets his first taste of the Stanley Cup playoffs?

Well unless he buys a ticket or gets credentials, the answer is, again, no. I’m guessing we didn’t ask the question at the time because everyone thought it was a no-brainer.

Now you have to wonder if this guy is cursed and is the modern day Guy Charron. Charron played 734 regular season games, but not a single playoff game over his 12-year career. Bouwmeester is up to 553 and counting.

Is this the year Chris Osgood becomes the 10th goaltender in NHL history to reach 400 wins?

Again, it was a no-brainer. The question, if asked, could have been, “How many games will it take for Osgood to get the 11 wins he needs?”

Instead, Osgood finished the year with just seven in 23 appearances with one year to go on his contract.

Here’s hoping he doesn’t have to wait too long next season.

Is this the year a bunch of 2009 award winners struggle to maintain their status in 2010?

It’s not a question worth asking, because who wants to predict a player’s demise? But it is disappointing to not see Tim Thomas back as a Vezina finalist and to also watch Steve Mason fully embrace the term “sophomore slump.” Evgeni Malkin’s quest for another Art Ross was derailed by injuries. Zdeno Chara has tried to persevere, but has ultimately been upstaged by a younger group of sure-fire Norris contenders.

And if Thomas and Chara are part of this answer, one has to note Claude Julien, the 2009 Jack Adams winner. I’m sure he hasn’t changed that much, but at the end of the day it comes down to the players and for a variety of reasons the Bruins didn’t come close to 2008-09. But the B’s did make the playoffs and may yet go as far as they did one year ago.

Is this the year Steven Stamkos scores 50?

ARRGH…why didn’t we ask that?

Is this the year Martin St-Louis and Brad Richards finish the season as top-10 scorers?

It happened only once before: the Lightning Cup year of 2004, when St-Louis won the Art Ross with 94 points and Richards was 10th with 79.

Fast-forward to 2010 and St-Louis continues to be an annual force for Tampa, reaching 94 points again, while his former teammate matched a career best with 91 this season in Dallas.

The two finished sixth and seventh in the race for the Art Ross.

Is this the year Jeff Schultz wins the Enterprise Plus/Minus honor?

The who; the what?

It may not be an official award and Schultz may still be one of the most unknown big men in the game, but whoever presents the Capitals defenseman with the award better look way up, given his 6-foot-6 frame and ridiculous plus-50 rating.

Is this the year we stop asking “Is this the year” when it comes to San Jose?

We can’t answer that one yet – though they have started on the wrong foot – but we do know what to do in September if the Sharks come up short again this spring.

Highlight the question, hit ctrl-C, then ctrl-V, then ‘print.’

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Brian Duff is a host of On The Fly on the NHL Network. Like his minor hockey days (playing goalie, defense and forward) his broadcasting career has been all over the map. In radio and TV from Medicine Hat to Edmonton, Toronto to Ottawa and back, Brian has been with the NHL Network since 2007 and has been covering the game for nearly 15 years. Read more of his Blog HERE.



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