by Mike Chen on 09/17/08 at 11:32 PM ET
I like to think that the NHL season has four actual seasons: pre-season, regular season, playoffs, and the silly season. The silly season stretches from the day the Stanley Cup is awarded until three weeks after free agency opens up and is filled with pre-free agency trades and post-July 1 outrageous contracts. After the silly season dies down, then comes the actual off-season. You know, that boring stretch where the only interesting discussion is speculation about a potential third jersey or which player is dating which minor celebrity. I call this period of time the off-off-season, and it runs to about the second week of September, or just before training camp starts.
The off-off-season is a time for most hockey fans to take a step back and reinvest themselves in the other areas of their lives—for me, it’s watching baseball and US Open tennis while catching up on back-burner projects here and there. After all, during all other stages of the NHL year, you’re constantly bombarded with news and rumors and transactions. During the off-off-season, though, hitting reload on a hockey website or wishing for your RSS feed would deliver something, anything hockey-related is an exercise in futility.
With that being said, let’s review the headlines from this year’s off-off-season. A quick scouring of newswire archives gives you a good sense of what actually happened during this time—which isn’t a lot:
July 24 - 31: Avalanche sign Marek Svatos to extension, Patrick Roy’s son charged with assault in junior brawl, Oilers name Steve Tambellini new GM, Scotty Bowman joins Blackhawks, Senators sign Antoine Vermette to two-year deal.
While the Bowman and Tambellini news bits are pretty substantial, they’re kind of those one-and-done stories where you read it, digest it, and move on to the next page (at least for people outside of Detroit, Chicago, and Edmonton). The deal with Roy Jr. is a little off the wall but you take what you can get in the last week of July.
August 1 - 7: Sharks re-sign Ryane Clowe, Sabres re-sign Teppo Numminen, NHL promotes John Collins to COO.
Wow. A young player re-signs and a veteran player returns for one more year. And the league had a boardroom promotion. Woo hoo.
August 8 - 15: New entries into US Hockey Hall of Fame, Islanders name Scott Gordon as coach, Flyers extend John Stevens’ contract.
A little bit of coaching news here, and let’s not dismiss the accomplishments of Brian Leetch, Mike Richter, Brett Hull, and Cammi Granato in the US Hockey Hall of Fame. Leetch, Hull, and Richter were part of USA Hockey’s greatest generation and Granato is a legend in women’s hockey. As for the Isles naming Gordon coach, the only reason this move was made this late into the season is because Charles Wang and company dragged out the whole Ted Nolan thing more than they needed to.
August 16 - 23: Sharks extend Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Wild negotiate with Marian Gaborik, NHL turns down KHL compensation, IIHF suspends contracts in dispute.
Pretty standard off-off-season stuff except for the whole Russian league thing. In fact, this was the start of a war of words between the NHL and the KHL that’s extending into today’s news about Alexander Radulov. Boardroom activity, even for sports leagues, is pretty dull but hockey fans should continue to check the pulse of the NHL/KHL feud—there’s no telling how this will impact the league.
August 24 - 31: Stu Barnes retires, Andrej Meszaros sent to Tampa Bay, Kings sign prospect Teubert
You can tell how dry the well is getting when headlines tell you just about everything you need to know about the story. In fact, a quick look at August shows that most of the month’s news is like that. Prospects signed, old players retire, star players negotiate. However, the Meszaros deal was one of the few true jolts during the off-off season. From a hockey perspective, I still can’t quite figure out why the Lightning did what they did, but I could say that about a lot of their moves since the Stanley Cup was awarded.
September 1 - 7: Joe Sakic returns, Bryan McCabe to Florida, Bruins sign Stephanne Yelle, Red Wings re-sign Chris Chelios.
Ah, it’s September. Hockey season’s not quite here but the pieces on the board are moving into place. Now you’ve got just a little more roster movement as teams shore up their remaining veteran contracts, fill holes, or in the case of Bryan McCabe, dump salary. The news ticker during this time also included a few prospect/minor-league deals.
By the time the second week of September rolls around, team previews start to arrive on websites and in magazines while fantasy leagues begin to form and the new NHL video games appear on store shelves.
So what to make of this six-week stretch known as the off-off-season? For hockey obsessives like myself, it’s evidence that really, for a few weeks, it’s ok to let it go and remember there’s a pretty big world out there. Because really, if you went incognito during the off-off-season, there’s nothing you wouldn’t be able to catch up on with just a few minutes of clicking around the web. Of course, even if you went to the beach or visited some relatives, you’d still probably be wondering if any NHL news came down—I know I did.
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