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Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Top 10 NHL Stories of 2012

For the majority of 2012 there hasn't been any actual NHL hockey and as the final seconds ticked off the clock into 2013 there was still no sign of hockey. With the deadline for the season just 2 weeks away no one knows whether we will actually see NHL hockey or not. Hockey fans and frankly the hockey world in general is in a fragile place as fans are slowly losing hope for hockey. But since there's no present NHL stories, beside the lockout, to talk about let's take a look back at the most memorable moments from 2012. While the lockout has certainly been dominating the news as of late, there is more to remember from 2012, so here are the top 10 NHL stories of 2012.

Top 10 NHL Stories of 2012

10. Shane Doan's Future

There has been a lot of drama surrounding the Phoenix Coyotes over the last couple of seasons. But this off season the pot thickened when long time Coyotes captain and franchise player Shane Doan announced he would test the free agency markets once July 1st hit. Immediately this news sent the hockey world into a buzz and sent Coyotes fans into a tail spin. If it wasn't bad enough that their star player was considering leaving the desert, he held the league and the organization hostage by not making up his decision until he knew the certainty of where the Coyotes would be next season. He forced the NHL to make up their mind about the Coyotes being in Arizona, he made it clear he wanted to stay but only if he knew what was happening.

It appears Doan found the answer he was looking for and signed a 4 year $21.2 million deal to stay with the Coyotes, wherever that may be, on September 14th 2012. Both the Coyotes organization and their fans were able to breath a sigh of relief as their captain decided to stay with the team. Did he ever really plan on leaving the dessert, we'll likely never know but he did turn down a 4 year $30 million offer from another team earlier in the summer.

9. Tim Thomas Says No to Obama

When news of this story hit the media it got completely blown up and there was so much drama surrounding the Boston Bruins they got lost in the middle of it all and ended up going 5-7-1 afterward the incident and it ultimately drove a riff between Tim Thomas and his teammates. As is tradition the championship team gets an invite to the White House to visit with the President of the United States, it's a great day for the team, the players and the president get's some more air time, everyone wins. Only problem was one key member of the Bruins was not in attendance during the visit to the White House.

Thomas, who won the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP, Vezina Trophy and was the biggest key in the Bruins winning their first Stanley Cup in 39 years decided he would not accompany his teammates to the White House to celebrate their victory. The goaltender stated political beliefs as the reason for him not

[caption id="attachment_1774" align="alignright" width="300"] Tim Thomas taunted by Obama Signs[/caption]

attending the event as he wasn't in favour of the presidents policies. The event shamed both the Bruins and the NHL but also opened up the media and the fans to the political side of the goaltender.

Thomas skipping the event had major consequences and virtually put an end to his career in Boston as he declared he would be taking the 2012-2013 season off from hockey to "re-evaluate" and "find himself". But it appears Thomas can see into the future as all NHL players are taking a break from playing.

8. Sam Gagner goes Gretzky-esque

Imagine a feat so rare that only 11 players have managed to accomplish it, a feat that neither Sidney Crosby nor Alexander Ovechkin have been able to claim and a milestone that hadn't been reached since Mario Lemieux in 1989. On February 2nd 2012, Edmonton Oilers forward Sam Gagner recorded 8 points (4 goals and 4 assists) to add himself to an exclusive list of players. Gagner became just the 12th player to record 8 points in a single game, a feat Wayne Gretzky himself accomplished twice.

Gagner was 22 at the time and tied the Oilers franchise record shared by Gretzky and Paul Coffey, not bad for a guy whose name was being tossed around in rumour after rumour leading up to the trade deadline!

7. Detroit Red Wings Defend Home Turf

Home ice advantage has become a thing of the past, in today's game great teams can go into any arena and grind out the win. But the Detroit Red Wings made a case that the Joe was a scary place for the opposition to play. The Red Wings put together a streak that lasted 4 months and saw them win 23 consecutive home games at Joe Louis. It was an awesome story for the Wings, who have been one of the NHL's elite for the last decade but still play the game "the right way" so it was awesome that they were able to break the record for consecutive wins at home.

Just how dominate were the Wings during their win streak? During those 23 games, they won 19 of them in regulation, outscored their opponents 89-34 and the last 6 games of the win streak came with the help of their back-up goaltender! Sure anyone can get lucky while playing at home but away from the Joe the Wings were a loess than stellar 13-11-1 during that same time.

6. Penguins/ Flyers rivalry

For any hockey fan who likes old time hockey the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers rivalry is for you. If you remember the days of the Broad Street Bullies you know the Flyers have always played a style of hockey where they like to intimidate or beat up opponents. The 2011-2012 Flyers went back to their roots and once again became the Broad Street Bullies during their playoff series against the Penguins. The Penguins are a team of

[caption id="attachment_1775" align="alignright" width="300"] Crosby and Giroux go toe-to-toe in the 2012 Playoffs[/caption]

finesse, they don't get involved in the rough stuff as they focus on pretty scoring plays and beating opponents on the scoreboard. During their first round playoff match, the Flyers drew the Penguins into playing the Flyers rough style of hockey, a style completely out of the Penguins element.

The most memorable game in the series was game 3 in which tempers finally boiled over and the Penguins fully lost it. The Flyers won the game 8-4 and both goalies have had better games but that wasn't the main storyline. The two teams racked up 158 penalty minutes including 4 10 minute misconducts! Even Sidney Crosby and Claude Giroux mixed things up during the game which proved the Flyers had officially got under the Penguins skin. To follow up the 158 PIM game, the Penguins returned the favour and won game 4 by a score of 10-3, that game featured 100 PIM. The Flyers would take the series 4-2 but would fall in the 2nd round as all their emotion was thrust into the Penguins series.

It was some great old time hockey, that featured fights and players who really didn't like each other. One of the most memorable moments, Giroux hit Crosby into the boards and while Crosby was still getting up, Giroux had scored a goal for the Flyers. When the NHL eventually gets back it will be interesting to see these two teams square off again!

5. Phoenix Coyotes Best Season

The Coyotes are kind of like the orphans of the NHL, they don't really have an owner and there's always talk about moving them from their current home to a new home with a new owner. With so much un-certainty following the team it can be hard to focus on the hockey, but the Coyotes players put aside all the distractions and made the 2011-2012 season their best!

Throughout the regular season the Coyotes earned 97 points which ranked them 3rd in the Western Conference poised for a playoff birth. Going into the playoffs the Coyotes franchise had never won a playoff series, but the Coyotes managed to win not just 1 but 2 against the Chicago Blackhawks and the Nashville Predators. From phenomenal goaltending by Mike Smith to the veteran leadership of Shane Doan something clicked and the Coyotes worked their way to the Western Conference Finals where they lost to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions the Los Angeles Kings. With their best season ever the Coyotes managed to win over the support of the fans and played in front of sold out crowds in the dessert during the playoffs.

4. Steven Stamkos Scoring Sensation

Other than maybe Evgeni Malkin there is not a more natural, consistent goal scorer in the NHL than Steven Stamkos. He is already on his way to have a career for the record books and he's only 22, but seems to improve every season. In his 4 years in the NHL he has scored 179 goals including the 60 he scored in 2011-2012. Yes Stamkos reached the mark of 60 goals in a single season becoming just the second player to reach the feat since 1996. With the average first liner

[caption id="attachment_1780" align="alignright" width="300"] Stamkos Celebrates His 60th Goal[/caption]

scoring between 25-35 goals, Stamkos being able to reach the coveted 60 is a tremendous achievement and with his team being out of the playoff race he managed to keep things interesting. Of his 60 goals, 48 of them came while playing at even strength, showing he can still dominate at 5 on 5.

Stamkos became just the 19th player in history to score 60 goals in a single season and he accomplished it in game 82 on the road in Winnipeg. His 60 goals were enough to earn him his 2nd Rocket Richard Trophy. If Stamkos can stay healthy over the next 10 years he may become one of the most prolific goal scorers in NHL history. With his surging popularity and improvement each season, the NHL will look to him to help dig themselves out of the lockout hole with the fans.

When talking about Stamkos you also have to give a little stick tap to his new off-season trainer Gary Roberts, who Stamkos credits for taking his game to the next level. With Roberts help who knows where his development would be.

3. Nicklas Lidstrom Calls it Quits

May 31st, 2012 one of the saddest days for Red Wings fans and hockey fans, the day legendary Nicklas Lidstrom announced his retirement from the NHL. It came as a surprise to many as he was still one of the best defenceman in the league and had talked about retiring for a few years but always came back. But after 20 seasons Lidstrom decided enough was enough and he had accomplished enough in his career to call it quits. 

Just like that one of the games all-time great deafenceman and all-around class acts was gone from the game, but he remained in the hearts of Red Wings fans after playing his entire career with the wings. When the dust cleared on Lidstrom's career he had racked up 1,142 points, 4 Stanley Cups, 1 Conn Smythe and 7 Norris Trophies. He will no doubt one day be a first-ballet Hall of Fame Inductee and is arguably one of the best defenceman to ever play the game. He will be missed by everyone but will never be forgotten.

2. Wild Offseason

The two biggest names during free agency were Zach Parise and Ryan Suter who had both made it clear they would be leaving their teams and testing the free agency market. At first teams were sending offers to each player depending on which they could afford and what they needed. But the longer free agency lasted some teams started to offer a deal to both players, which started the rumour that Parise and Suter would like to play on the same team if at all possible.

That of course would come with a major price tag which in turn knocked out a lot of the smaller market teams. Near the end of the saga it was rumoured Parise was headed to Pittsburgh to join forces with Crosby and Suter was headed to Detroit, but the two players had other ideas. They signed identical 13 year $98 million contracts with the Minnesota Wild.

Looking at their singings and the immediate turmoil of the NHL CBA, it's wouldn't be a a far stretch to say this deal was what jump-kicked the NHL lockout. As owners felt they were paying too much for their big stars and as a result losing money.

1. Kings Get Their Crowns

I refuse to let the lockout be the biggest hockey story of 2012, for the true fans of the game the biggest story needs to be the Los Angeles Kings Stanley Cup victory, that's hockey not all this silly CBA talk. The Kings were able to make history with their Cup win, entering the playoffs as the 8th seed in the Western Conference they not only knocked off the 1st seed Vancouver Canucks but also the 2nd St. Louis Blues and 3 Phoenix Coyotes, to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. 

The Kings jumped out to a early 3-0 series lead over the New Jersey Devils and once the Devils had brought it back to a 3-2 series the Kings closed the deal with a dominating 6-1 victory in game 6. Throughout the playoffs the Kings went a remarkable 16-4 including a 10-1 record on the road on their way to turning Los Angeles into a hockey city. The victory meant a lot of things for different players: for Jeff Carter and Mike Richards it meant redemption after being traded away from the Flyers after they were deemed as not being the "right guys" to make a cup run, for Trevor Lewis it meant celebrating with family.

There you have it folks my list of the most memorable and best moments from the NHL in 2012. Right now the NHL is in limbo but you can still look back on what was one of the best NHL seasons in the history of the game.

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