We’re closing in on our first month of the season, and it’s shaping up to be a great one! The teams all over the board have surprised us, and shaken their opponents. It’s a whole new game, ladies and gents, and we’re just getting started. So I pose this question to you: is it the veterans stepping up their game, or the rookies completely changing it? Last season, the name of the game was the rookies. With the Ovechkin/Crosby showdown, all eyes were on the younger players. But this year, there is a different idea floating around.
Although rookies have been the exciting new talent for years, more and more we find ourselves behind the veterans. Why? Because these are the men that have carried us through game after game, rarely wavering in their determination to win the big one. But are they actually better players? Sometimes. Yet it appears to me that it’s the rookies that are succeeding best with the new NHL. The veterans are still stuck in their ways, having trouble shifting from the old to the new. Look at Todd Bertuzzi, for example, taking useless penalties because of the old knock-’em-down, clear-a-path style of play. Darcy Tucker of the Toronto Maple Leafs seems to have trouble adjusting to the new goalie rules, seeing as he spends a large amount of his ice time in the net.
The rookies, however, soar through their games with fewer penalties and more goals. Is it because they are better, younger, and faster? I doubt it. It’s more about the way they were trained throughout the years. The minors had adopted the new rules long before the NHL made its adaptations, so the rookies knew only that style of play. It probably doesn’t hurt that the new players have not sustained near as many injuries as the veterans, and do not suffer the long term effects as these injuries come back to haunt the older players.
Personally, I think the best teams are those that combine rookies and veterans. A younger player’s speed, agility and ease with new rules, combined with veterans’ finesse and stick handling can create an unbeatable team. Take Kyle Wellwood and Darcy Tucker of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Separately, they are decent players, but together, almost unstoppable. And Jerome Iginla of the Calgary Flames can count on his rookie counterpart, Dion Phaneuf, to have his back. Overall, the Canadian teams have put together some daring player combinations that just may be the winning set to take home the big prize. But I’m not going to predict anything yet. After all, we’re just getting started!