It is finally over.
The NHL and NHLPA reached a new 10 year CBA agreement, in the early morning hours on January 6th.
The agreement does include an opt-out clause (for either party) after eight years.
The hockey world has waited more than 100 days, but now can look forward to the return of the fastest game.
Los Angeles Kings fans will finally see that banner raised in Staples Center. The L.A. Kings players have been anxious to prove last year was no fluke. They are going to get that chance.
The grumblings from Kings fans was understandable.
They had waited all these years to see their team hoist the Cup, only to be robbed of the opportunity to see them take the ice as champions for a full 82 game season. That is a bit hard to take.
As for the team itself ? The Lockout may very well work in their favor, here's why.
There will be a heightened importance on every game, due to a shortened season. Should a team get of to a horrible start in the first 20 games, they will not have the normal 60 plus games to make up for it.
Getting out of the gate quickly is the key, and the Kings are poised to do just that:
The core group of Kings are 27 years old and under. They will not only get in shape quicker than veteran teams, but there is also the injury factor. Because of the truncated season, we may see NHL players pushing the body too hard, too fast, and this may very well lead to a rash of injuries, in the early going. This is less likely to happen with the Kings, because of the youth of their roster, and if it does, younger bodies will heal more quickly.
The Kings will also benefit over the long haul:
It is a given that the Kings will make the playoffs. They will not however, have to enter the playoffs, having dealt with the physical grind of an 82 game schedule. Yes, one could say the same thing applies to every team, but the defending champs are the class of the league and the fresher they are for the playoffs, the better.
Kings fans can now begin dreaming. Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards are as good (or better) than any 1-2 center combo in the Western conference. Jeff Carter has had time to rest up and become fully healthy. He showed glimpses of his sniper ability last season, look for a true breakout this season. Drew Doughty is amongst the elite defensemen in the league, and goaltender Jonathan Quick, is the reigning playoff MVP.
The season has yet to begin, but I like the Kings chances. It is hard to imagine them losing a seven game series to any team in the Conference.
Maybe that dream stanley Cup final matchup with the New York Rangers is going to happen this year. Jonathan Quick vs Henrik Lundqvist, would be magical. Only time will tell.
For now, rejoice because the lockout is over, it is time to start circling dates on calendars, and getting tickets well in advance.
A Stanley Cup championship is a very special thing.
There has been talk of fans possibly boycotting the NHL, in protest of the lockout. That may happen, to some degree, but I will be shocked if Staples Center is not standing room only, on opening night.
Finally that banner will be raised to the rafters : "Los Angeles Kings, Stanley Cup Champions 2011-2012"
I was unable to be in Staples Center for the decisive game six last season. There is no way I will miss the raising of the championship banner.
Let the games begin.
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