The year of the “WTF” team

14 02 2012

Has anyone else noticed a strange pattern in the NHL lately?  And by pattern, I mean freak occurrences that no one could have predicted (unless of course your name is Miss Cleo).

CALL ME NOW FOR YER FREE TAROT READIN!

By now you should have deduced that I’m talking about the success of teams in strange hockey markets like Miami and Phoenix.  I know San Jose is playing well too, but I’m leaving them out of this because they’ve been a contender for the last few years.

Anyone who has read a post of mine on Hockey’s Finest knows I’m only slightly obsessed with any member of the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks.  So, as you can imagine, I’ve been following the Florida Panthers closely this season, considering about half of that championship team took their talents to South Beach.

South Beach, BRING THE HEAT

At any rate, the Florida Panthers are on tope of the Southeast division, have 65 points on the year, and should be on pace for a franchise-high point and win record.  But, for some reason, they’re consistently flying under the radar.  You never hear anyone talking about this team because, let’s be honest, southern Floridians know next to nothing about hockey.  And I say that with the utmost respect because, again, Florida is simply not a hockey market.  It’s a basketball town and always will be.  Thanks a lot, Lebron.  Long story short, it’ll be interesting to see the reaction to the Panthers next season, especially depending on their playoff run (provided there is one; I know it’s still early).

Now, onto Phoenix.  This is truly the island of misfit toys.  When you used to think of the Phoenix Coyotes, there wasn’t any one particular person you thought of.  Then came Shane Doan.  Mike Smith.  And, thanks to Twitter, Paul Bissonette.  They’re beginning to form a true identity, beginning with their solid play up to this point.  Other teams in weird hockey markets that started quickly (I’m looking at you Dallas), have fallen off the map, making room for Phoenix to take their place.  I mean heck, just last night they took Vancouver to a shootout.  A shootout!  If a team like Vancouver can’t put away the Coyotes in regulation, you gotta hand it to them in that they’re playing with purpose.  Kudos to them and the fans; they’re fighting to keep the franchise where it is.

Now, the only question is:  will they keep it up?  A hockey season is a long 82 games, and we’re at about #55.  It’s always interesting to see the playoff race shape up the closer we get to springtime, so make your predictions now, ladies and gents!  You never know what might happen.

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