OTTAWA, ON (CP) First-ballot Hall of Famer Alexandre Daigle told the media assembled for the press conference that kicked off Ottawa's 2013 training camp that this would be his last NHL season. The Senators' captain has only one goal to finish his storied career: hoisting the Stanley Cup for the third time come the end of June...
Seems bizarre to think about, but like the conquest of Peru, the sinking of the Spanish Armada, or the battle for Stalingrad, there are events (albeit far more trivial) that may have altered the course of history in the NHL. Allow me creative license to speculate on the timeline:
- The Madness of Mike Milbury - since Mad Mike traded Luongo and Olli Jokinen, thus relying on Rick DiPietro to take them to the promised land, the franchise has most recently appeared in the playoffs for only the fourth time having never won a series. If, say, Mike Smith had been GM of the other New York franchise, the Isles could've been the team to beat post-lockout, featuring a lineup of Roberto Luongo, Todd Bertuzzi, Jason Spezza, Zdeno Chara, and Dany Heatley. The storyline to begin the '13-'14 season might've been about the slow decline due to age of that fabulous core who would've likely made the playoffs more than twice over the last decade.
- Maple Leafs on the rise - it's hard to imagine what Brian Burke was thinking when he risked two first rounders on Phil Kessel. To Kessel's credit he almost seems poised to cover the bet on the deal, but if he gets to UFA next summer Leaf Nation will forever wonder what might've been had they built their lineup around Nazem Kadri, Tyler Seguin, and let's say Jonathan Huberdeau and Morgan Reilly, assuming no other major changes were made to force this team into a false sense of competitiveness. One thing's for sure: Leaf fans would've missed out on the taste of playoffs in Spring, 2013, although in hindsight that's probably not a bad thing.
- Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler, Patrick Kane, and Sean Couturier = keep your head up coming through the neutral zone. The Jets boast a big top-6 ... and they could've been even bigger. Imagine a Jets team with Couturier instead of Olli Jokinen centering Evander Kane, and that money applied to another scoring winger like Nathan Horton. With Dustin Byfuglien, Zach Bogosian, and soon Jacob Troubadour* on D, we'd pretty much be talking about the Boston Bruins of the West**.
And finally ...
- "With captain Chris Pronger having retired after eight seasons in Edmonton, the Oilers look to youth on the blueline." The Oilers don't have Sam Gagner, Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Nail Yakupov or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Ladislav Smid never comes over from Anaheim. Ryan Smyth never leaves. Instead, they drafted Riley Nash, Zach Boychuk, Nick Leddy, Mark Pysyk, Mark McNeill, and Tom Wilson. They've been in and out of the playoffs over the past seven seasons, perhaps winning a series or two, perhaps not. Kevin Lowe has presided as GM for the entire tenure, failing to obtain a coveted seventh ring, cycled through a few coaches and traded a number of young players and picks in an effort to win now with a team built around 44. Things would be much different - the aging Oil Drop would have spared the fans many embarrassments, but I can't say that as a fan of the team I'd trade where we are now, in spite of the agony, the Tambellini-years, the sadism, for what this team is poised to deliver over the upcoming seven seasons.
Hope you enjoyed the read, and feel free to offer up other "woulda' coulda' shoulda's" in the comments section.
**Albeit with terrible goaltending
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