Now that the NHL season is officially over we can start looking forward to the craziness of what this off season is going to provide. But before we look forward to that let’s take care of some of the recent hot topics since the Cup returned to Pittsburgh:

Nashville Changed the Stanley Cup Game

Back in February our own David Wayne wrote a “to do” list for the NHL. On that list was “Embrace and Sell Non-Hockey Entertainment and Tailgaiting”. Host concerts and (I hope you’re sitting down) make the league fun and entertaining beyond the rink. Crazy idea, huh?!

It’s pretty obvious that the NHL has a marketing problem as it’s traditionalist mentality limits draw from the fringe fan as even prominent people in the game seem to think personalities like P.K. Subban aren’t good for entertainment. However, this Nashville/Pittsburgh Final had the highest TV ratings of all Final’s without an Original Six team involved. We have Nashville to thank for that.

What was going on in Nashville for Games 3, 4, and 6 was just amazing. It’s awesome for hockey. Even the hated ESPN was constantly talking about the atmosphere there. The casual fan could tune in and see a massive party going on outside the arena on Broadway. Free concerts before the game sold the event to everyone and of course the NFL’s Ryan brothers getting into a bar scuffle like they were college students was a nice touch.

The city of Nashville did it right and the NHL should encourage every team to do things like this. It was like a mini Super Bowl for each game in that city. More than a handful of our friends, who are Predators fans in that area, went to Nashville for Game 6 just to be there, party, and take in the excitement and entertainment.  One of my friends even travelled from Vermont to Nashville for Game 6.

Could you imagine Causeway Street being shut down to traffic and you have the Dropkick Murphy’s putting on a show before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden or any game for that matter? Maybe New Englander’s are too grumpy to participate, I don’t know. But it’s a trend that the NHL needs to encourage all their cities to copy. It’s exactly what the NHL needs more of.

Really? Sidney Crosby wins the Conn Smythe again?

There is no doubt that without Sidney Crosby the Penguins would have never won the Stanley Cup. Not just this year, last year, or in 2009. He’s a fantastic player. But should he have been the Conn Smythe winner? He was second in playoff scoring with 27 points, just one point behind teammate Evgeni Malkin. He was also on the ice for more goals against than goals for at even strength. For my money I would have picked Jake Guentzel for scoring 13 goals as a rookie, and I still would have had Malkin ahead of Crosby. You could say without Guentzel or Malkin the Penguins do not win the Cup either.

To me, it is almost comical that that Crosby won the Conn Smythe again. But after seeing Brad Marchand robbed of a World Cup MVP in September, and Phil Kessel robbed of his Conn Smythe twelve months ago, I wasn’t surprised. Anyone who follows the NHL could have predicted it. It is the same in the NFL when Tom Brady wins the Super Bowl MVP every year the Patriots win. Even though guys like James White or Malcolm Butler have terrific games. But James White and Malcolm Butler do not bring in the same amount of money or own real estate in the voters heads that Tom Brady does. It is the same story in the NHL. I just wish that the (Canadian) hockey writers would maybe think outside the box a little and just once give it the right player.

Erik Karlsson Received A Conn Smythe Vote

This shocked me. Never before has a non-Cup finalist received a vote. And call me crazy but I actually think he deserved it. Karlsson was absolutely THE most valuable player of the Stanley Cup playoffs.  If he’s not a Senator they aren’t even in the post season. But he is, and he carried them.

Had the Senators made the Cup Final I think he would have won the Conn Smythe if the Final series had been a close one.

The Value of a Backup Goalie Was On Display

Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray defined the benefit of depth at goalie. And the Bruins should take notice because if Murray wasn’t capable of coming off the bench the Pens were cooked. The Bruins would not be able to survive that same scenario whether it was due to a long-term Tuukka Rask injury or just an extensive cold streak. While most teams worry about having a solid #2 to relieve their #1 during spells in December and January, Pittsburgh has now changed that thinking somewhat for all teams league wide.

What’s more, Fleury passing the Cup to Murray during the on-ice celebration was pretty sweet. He sky rocketed up my list of likable NHLers with that move. And leaving the Penguins organization this summer will help his likability even more.

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