Mind the Gap! (in Pro Hockey, That Is)

Posted June 12, 2012

We won! We're free! (Photo Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE)

Congratulations to the LA Kings on defeating the New Jersey Devils and thus becoming the 2012 Stanley Cup Champions.  While the Capitals have been done for exactly a month now, the Kings’ victory marks the start of the true off-season.  No fresh hockey will grace our tvs, radios, or computers for (roughly) the next three months.*

That’s not to say that there won’t be hockey-related events – the NHL Awards, the Draft (held this year in Pittsburgh), and Development Camp are all on the summer’s agenda – but the closest we’ll come to anything outside of rec hockey will be the Red v. White scrimmages held in mid-July amongst prospects and invitees.

It’s been suggested before that a break in the constant grind of hockey is a good thing for both fans and players, allowing everyone to come back refreshed and rejuvenated in the fall.  That the break is, in fact, a necessary part of the cycle.  As fans, it can be a lot easier to know intellectually that a break is a good idea than it is to think about that gaping empty summer where you only get the Olympics as a distraction once every four years (and let’s face it, most of the population isn’t anxiously anticipating the K-1 and C-2 events).

This is the part of the article where I should probably make a big deal about the draft – the Caps currently have TWO PICKS in the first round (#11 & #16)! Rah! Rah! Take that, Colorado!  Look where that series win got you, New York!  Etc, etc.

The truth of the matter is that the draft is a bit of a crapshoot – a team can do all the research that they want, but any prospect is a maybe at best when it comes to the future.  So it’s fun to spend the next ten days spinning wild theories about who might save the franchise and magically bring us the cup, but it’s all just tossing spitballs at the wall – there’s every chance at least some of the Caps draft picks will be long gone before the team’s name is ever called, in exchange for warm bodies who have proven able to play at the NHL level.

Even downplaying the draft, the trades surrounding it and the ensuing UFA-Day promise to provide plenty of fodder for hockey-hungry fans out there.  This summer’s real gap is only ten days in length, which means that we all need to make the most of it.  Get out, remember what the sunshine feels like, and maybe take in a baseball game if you feel so inclined (I hear the Nats are having a decent season, so far).

In two weeks, we’re all going to descend into the madness of “What will the roster look like this year?” again, and the opportunity will be lost.  Enjoy it while you can.

*It should be noted that the KHL‘s preseason starts in August, with the Finnish SM-Liiga, German DEL, and Swedish Elitserien not far behind.  There will be hockey come September.  It just might not be NHL games for a few months until things between the NHLPA & the League get sorted out.  In a show of optimism, the Caps have posted their 2012 Pre-Season Schedule here.