Cleat Geeks

5 biggest stories of 2014-’15 NHL season

The NHL season officially came to a close Saturday night. Here are some of the top stories from this past season. The headlines are in no specific order for a very specific reason. Re-tweet @Cleatgeeks to let us know how you would rank these stories, or if there are any others you may add.

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Ottawa’s wild card run.

It took a full 82 games for the Senators to clinch a playoff spot. Often the NHL season is described as a marathon, however, it was a sprint to the end for Ottawa who enjoyed a storybook like finish to the regular season. At one point in January the Senators were a full 14 points out of a playoff spot. When starting goaltender Craig Anderson went down with a hand injury on the 29th of January, Andrew Hammond was called up from the Senators American Hockey League affiliate, Binghampton Senators. Then when Ottawa’s second goaltender Robyn Lehner injured his shoulder early in February, Hammond, or “the Hamburgler” stole the show -all puns intended. Hammond wouldn’t loose a regulation game until March 26. He may not be the only reason why the Sens are going to the playoffs, but without his 20 wins, and one regulation loss the Sens would be the center of “rebuild rumors.” Instead, thanks to his 1.74 goals against average and .941 save percentage Ottawa fans are murmuring something else. And it sounds alot better than a franchise overhaul.

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John Beliveau

Whenever the sports world looses a member as talented and popular as John Beliveau, its always a sad and emotional time. When the world looses a man like John Beliveau, its absolutely heartbreaking. On December 2, 2014, it was anounced by the Montreal Canadians that Mr Beliveau had passed away at the age of 83. The hockey world could have collectively celebrated the influence he had on the game, but alternatively, focused on the people he had touched throughout his life. During his nationally televised funeral, there were few stories of his brilliance on the ice. Instead a flurry of personal stories flooded in from players to broadcasters to fans, all expressing how their interaction with Beliveau was always welcoming and left an enduring impression. Before joining the Montreal Canadiens, John left money and hockey notoriety on the table to stay one more year in junior hockey playing for the Quebec Aces, just because he had made them a promise. Potentially be the best player in hockey, but not in the NHL. On the ice Beliveau may have been the first real superstar the NHL had ever seen. He amassed 507 goals and 1219 points in 1125 games, all for the Montreal Canadiens from 1952-’71. After his passing, the seat Beliveau occupied at every Canadiens home game -just a few rows up from the home bench- was re-upholstered with his #4 jersey and was illuminated and empty for the remainder of the season.

Leafs Meltdown.

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Few professional teams have ever gone through the tumultuous season the Toronto Maple Leafs just experienced. The Forbes most profitable sports franchise of 2014 endured its worst season in team history. Simply put, this season was an embarrassing one for any player or personnel involved with the Leafs. It wasn’t just that the Leafs lost that made the season so abysmal, its how they managed to do it. During the lowest point of the season in January, the Leafs made loosing look like art form. Toronto managed just nine even strength goals in 13 games. It was the franchises lowest offensive output in its almost hundred year history. A history which includes a short period where professional hockey did not allow forward passes. Overall it was a year underlined by more off field issues than on-ice positives. Fighting amongst players during practise, refusal to speak to the media and Phil Kessel blaming everyone but the doorman is what NHL fans had to look forward to every week out of Toronto. In the past Leafs faithful have been criticized for their constant support for a team that has just one playoff appearance since the lockout season of 2004-’05, but that all changed this season when blue and white jerseys began flying onto the ice at home games and away. Toronto forward Nazem Kadri blamed the arena security for allowing patrons to get close enough to throw the garment on the ice. This pass-the-blame mentality is why President Brendan Shanahan had a fire sale the day after the season ended. Head Coach Peter Horachuk was fired, along with General Manager Dave Nonis and a few assistant coaches and scouts. The decision by Shanahan marked the second time in three months, a leafs Head Coach had been fired. Shanahan was given the go ahead to begin a complete overhaul of the franchise and the tenures of Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf, Nazem Kadri Joffrey Lupol and Tyler Bozak will almost certainly be up in Toronto. However, with alot of talent in the system ( Forwards William Nylander, Josh Leivo, Brandon Kozun, Frederik Gauthier Carter Verhage and defensemen Matt Finn, Stuart Percy) the Leafs may not be as far off as some fans believe. As for the season, Toronto finished second last in the Eastern Conference, second worst in shots allowed on their own net per 60 minutes, and 26th out of 30 teams in goals allowed per game.

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2015 Draft

Last season many teams began preparing for the Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel sweepstakes. Loading themselves up on picks and talent, incase a deal with the basement dwellers of the league could be swung to get rights to one of two generational talents. As soon as the 2014 draft was finished in June a year ago, the official 2015 draft watch began. Everyone knew the Eichel and McDavid would be close but no one knew who would be the clear number one pick. All season the hockey world has watched the two 18 year-olds blossom into some of the best amateur hockey players in the world. Now just two months away from the NHL draft, McDavid has separated himself as the consensus number one pick. But not before logging one of the most anticipated junior hockey games in the entirety of the World Junior Championships. 8 million people worldwide tuned in on a mobile device, computer or television, making it the most watched qualifying (or preliminary) game in the tournaments history. McDavid plays in the Ontario Hockey League for Pennsylvanias Eerie Otter’s, and is enjoying a playoff run which included a five goal single game performance, cementing his bid to be first overall pick. Not to be outdone though, Eichel led all NCAA players in scoring as a freshman and took Boston University to a National Championship game were they eventually lost. Eichel in his own right would be a first overall pick in any other draft and the level of talent past the top two does not slip dramatically like you would expect. All in all, the 2015 draft is sure to keep fans talking well into early summer and past the end of the NHL playoffs.

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2016 World cup of Hockey.

The last time there was a world cup of hockey, it took place in five different countries around North America and Europe in 20004. The tournament was won by Canada after they defeated Finland in the final game in Toronto. Despite the positive reception from players and fans all over the hockey world, it would take another 12 years until another world cup would be set to take place. Announced at the begining of this calender year the 2016 World Cup of Hockey had fans worldwide abuzz about another international hockey event just two years after the Olympics. One of the reasons the world cup has been such a big story is because of the teams announced to participate. Of the eight teams slated to skate in the tournament, two will be more like all-star teams then national entries. A team of European stars not represented in the cup will make up one team while the other will be a 23 and under team. The news was not exactly welcomed with open arms by the hockey world, which is what has sparked such debate amongst analysts fans and players. Because the NHL was close to not participating in the 2014 Olympics, this could be the only chanse for a tournament pitting the worlds best nations… and 23 year olds and Europe’s best, in a two-week event.

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