I figured the first month everyone was going to be on their best behavior no matter what, like the beginning of class with a substitute teacher. After that, though, it's game on.
The NHL could have evolved into glorified pick-up hockey in that second month, with absolutely no contact. It could have turned into the Federal League, with bench-clearing brawls. Or worse yet, it could have reverted to its pre-lockout yawn-a-thon, in which case I would have been out like The White Stripes at a Bay Area concert.
Anybody's guess really.
That being said, I'm pleased to report the NHL has won me back. Well, sort of.
-"The ice looks bigger.": A friend told me that after the first week of games. Translation: Finally, there is flow, there is skating, and there is end-to-end action instead of four guys mucking along the boards. (Good thing the Sharks realized that despite what the front office was saying over the last year and a half, the team wasn't equipped for the changes and acquired Joe Thornton.)
A quick story. Monday night I watched the Penguins-Red Wings game and within about a two-minute span in the second period, I saw a breakaway by Pittsburgh's Tomas Surovy get stuffed and a short-handed 2-on-0 chance that Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg finished with a wicked backhand move. Enough said.
-Elimination of the two-line pass: I'm still not sure why this rule was instituted to begin with. Whoever thought it up should be locked in a room with the creator of "Wife Swap" so they can never populate the earth.
-Sid the Kid: There has been several Next Ones. Eric Lindros. Alexandre Daigle. Vincent LeCavalier. It's probably too much to ask Sidney Crosby to save hockey, but he absolutely is the real deal.
The 18-year-old phenom is scoring more than a point per game (13-18-31 in 30 games), and the worst thing I can say about him is that he sees the ice too well.
-Hit somebody! With all the open ice and emphasis on skating, there are stretches where players act as if hockey is no longer a physical sport, or it's the All-Star Game. Then again, I'd rather see no hitting than what we had before.
-Those poor defensemen: I've seen more rebound goals so far than in the last two years combined. You can no longer hook, hold or clean out someone from in front of the net, which is something you're taught to do as a mighty mite at 5 years old. Then again, I'd rather see no hitting than what we had before.
-"Is that a rhombus?" Goalies can only handle the puck behind the goal line in the trapezoid-shaped area. Hockey already has two of the most confusing rules in sports (offsides and icing), so why alienate any potential new fans? Besides, it's just lame.
-"What channel is OLN?" I think Norman Chad pretty much covered this in Tuesday's Turn2.
-Replenish the talent pool: For years, teams drafted players who fit in with the old NHL. Except for an occasional Paul Kariya, Brian Gionta or Martin St. Louis, that meant larger, often less-skilled players, who were strong enough to battle through the bumping and grinding. Most of those guys are obsolete now, however.
-Get rid of'em: Two teams in Florida? Atlanta? Washington, D.C.? Thirty teams is still too many.
David Schoen can be reached at