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It was quite the year in the world of hockey. There were some good, some bad, and some downright ugly moments that happened around the rink.
So, while you’re relaxing over the holidays, or perhaps even gearing u- for the 2023 World Junior Championships take some time to reflect on one heck of a year for hockey.
Here’s a roundup of our picks for the best and worst that the hockey world had to offer in 2022.
Best: Colorado Avalanche
It was just a matter of time before the Colorado Avalanche hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup for the third time in franchise history. That time came this year when they held off the Tampa Bay Lightning’s three-peat bid in a 6-game series.
It was clear all season that the Avalanche were the team to beat out of the Western Conference. They had a lineup polluted with stars like Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar, Gabriel Landeskog, Nikita Zadorov, Mikko Rantanen, and Nazem Kadri.
Meanwhile, Darcy Kuemper backstopped the team most of the way, but on the occasions, he needed a rest Pavel Francouz did a more than serviceable job.
The Cup win capped off one of the most incredible turnarounds a team has ever had under a coach. During the 2016-17 season —the first season after bench boss Jared Bednar took over — the Avs posted just 48 points.
Smash cut to several years later and they put up a whopping 119 points, which put them behind only the Florida Panthers who had 122.
A lot of the credit has to go to legendary Avs captain and current GM Joe Sakic who has given Bednar the pieces he needed to turn things around and bring a third cup to Denver.
Worst: Boston Bruins And The Mitchell Miller Debacle
One of the biggest PR flubs in NHL history happened this year.
The Boston Bruins signed defenseman Mitchell Miller to their AHL affiliate the Providence Bruins.
Here was the rub: Miller had been drafted by the Arizona Coyotes in 2020, but they relinquished their rights to him after his history of bullying a Black classmate came to light.
The Bruins signed him in 2022, clearly thinking the head had died down on the D-man who was putting up solid numbers in the USHL.
It had not.
What followed was a “What not to do” fiasco for the ages that should be used as a case study in college public relations classes for the next 40 years. Team president Cam Neely apologized and announced that the team had severed ties with Miller after obtaining “new information.”
They never revealed what exactly that was.
Then instead of putting the situation behind them, the Bruins announced an independent investigation by a law firm that includes former US Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
Just abysmal handling of the fiasco from start to finish.
Best: Iron Men
It was a heck of a year for guys who for whatever either don’t get hurt or just play through it better than everyone else.
First, we had Keith Yandle breaking Doug Jarvis’ all-time streak of 964. Yandle’s streak came to an end at 989 later in the year after the FLyers scratched him for an unceremonious end to an incredible streak. He retired during the offseason.
Unfortunately for the Yands, he was only the NHL’s all-time Iron Man for a few months because Phil Kessell was on his heels the entire time.
Kessel broke Yandle’s record in October and his streak is still growing. Phil the Thrill is the only player in NHL history to skate in over 1,000 consecutive games.
Worst: Leafs Playoff Woes Continue
Ah, the Maple Leafs.
Never has a team inspired so much hope for a deep playoff run every year, despite not winning a series in nearly two decades.
The Leafs had a tough task ahead of them if they wanted to buck that trend, but ended up falling to the eventual Eastern Conference champion Tampa Bay Lightning in the process.
Have no fear, Leafs fans, because somehow, the Leads still entered the season as Cup favorites behind only the Avalanche.
Will 2023 be any different for the NHL’s longest playoff series win drought?
Perhaps, but there’s a good chance that streak reaches the big 2-0.
Best: Reverse Retro Jerseys
Back in October, Adidas delivered an early Christmas gift to jersey nerds the world over. It was the second edition of their Reverse Retro program which first popped up 2020 season.
In that first batch there were some real winners (Ducks and Coyotes) and some real losers (Detroit), but this time around — dare I say — we had 32 strong sweaters.
Sure some were better than others, but there wasn’t a clunker in the bunch, My favorite was San Jose’s glorious ode to the California Golden Seals of yore. There were some other beauts though: the return of the Islanders’ “fish stick” jerseys, the Flyers bringing back Cooperalls for warmies, Chicago going full barber pole, and the Robo-Penguin coming back for the first time in two decades.
Even the new teams hit pay dirt. Vegas blew minds with glow-in-the-dark sweaters as a nod to the while the Kraken unveiled a tasty number that made it look like the Kraken eye was peering above the dark, North Pacific Waters.
Adidas bows out of the NHL in 2024, but hopefully, the next jersey supplier will have a program like the Reverse Retro that was an undeniable fan favorite.
Worst: 2022 Stadium Series Jerseys
Alright, enough Adidas tire pumping. They didn’t have a flawless 2022, because they made the Predators and Lightning take the ice at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium in some garish duds.
That’s kind of the point of the Stadium Series, but these just missed the mark. The Predators wore jerseys that harkened back to the days of the Eastern Hockey League’s Nashville Dixie Flyers. They kept the stripes but added a big blocky wordmark of the team’s “Smashville” nickname.
Meanwhile, the Lightning brought back their “BOLTS” wordmark that has appeared on several third jerseys and added massive lightning bolt stripes on the hem.
They just didn’t look right together, and unfortunately, Nashville used the Dixie Flyers design that would make for a killer Winter Classic sweater.
Oh well. they can’t all be classics. the Lightning disappointed the home crowd of 68,619 by beating the hometown Preds, 3-2.
Best: Battle Of Alberta
We don’t hear a lot about intra-provincial rivalries here in the states. It’s not like people stateside get pumped when the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats meet up with each other.
However, one that does move the needle here in the States is the fabled Battle of Alberta between the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames.
These two teams do not like each other, so when they met up in the 2022 Stanely Cup playoffs the entire hockey world had its popcorn ready.
The second-round matchup promised a lot and the fact that it even happened is enough to be on the “Best” list.
It started with a real hum-dinger. A 9-6 Flames win at the Saddle dome. It was a fairly back-and-forth affair until the Flames locked it up with three straight in the third stanza including an empty-netter.
…now, if we’re talking about the rest of the series…
Worst: Battle Of Alberta
What should’ve been the marquee matchup of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs turned out to be about as lop-sided a series as it could be without being a sweep.
That first game was a doozy, but after that, it was four straight for the Oilers who capped off the series with an OT win in Calgary.
If ever there was a series that we all wanted to go seven games it was this one and it disappointed in that respect.
The Oilers lost in the Conference Finals to the eventual champions Avalanche, but it was the Flames who suffered the most damage from this series.
It signaled the end of an era for the Flames as star Johnny Gaudreau signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
While that was expected, Matthew Tkachuk telling the team he wanted out was. The skilled agitator was part of arguably the offseason’s biggest deal, which saw him shipped to South Florida in a deal for Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar.
Another brought moment for the Flames: the internet dragging their locker room.
Best: The 2022 World Juniors
The 2022 World Junior Championships will always be for being strange.
The tournament began as it usually does, immediately after Christmas. However, a COVID outbreak forced the IIHF to cancel the tournament after it had already started.
So what were they to do/
They said. “Remember that tournament around the Holidays? Yeah, it never happened.’\”
That’s right they just completely scrubbed the first attempt and held the 2022 World Juniors in August.
The entire tournament was held at Rogers Place in Edmonton and was won by the Canadians. Finland took silver, while the Swedes locked up the bronze.
Worst: NHL Goes Woke On Trans Players, It Backfires
The NHL learned firsthand about the perils of getting involved in political issues when the league through its support behind a trans hockey tournament, only for it to backfire.
The NHL’s official Twitter account tweeted its support of an all-trans hockey tournament. When someone asked if this meant that men were simply playing on the women’s team the league responded thusly:
Supporting trans athletes is one thing. Telling fundamental biology to pound sand is another.
Of course one of the greatest concerns about men playing physical sports — y’know, like hockey — with women is the increased risk of injury.
Whaddya know? That’s exactly what happened at the tournament the NHL supported.
However, as the heat increased the tournament organizers released a statement making it clear that the league was not involved in planning the event. This came after erroneous reports that the league had put together the event.
Did the NHL ask the trans-hockey organization to clear the air? We may never know, but this year the NHL certainly learned what can happen if you insist on getting involved in politics.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Here’s to a great year of hockey in 2023!
Follow on Twitter: @Matt_Reigle