The folks who generate NHL trade rumors get full marks for volume.
But creativity is sadly lacking.
You hardly ever see a real trade rumor anymore.
A real rumor is one that names two teams and at least one guy from each team:
Sources say the Sidewinders could trade goaltender Gord Hudpucker to the Lawnmowers, for a package that includes forward Stumpy Brillo.
These days, most rumors are merely lists of players said to be available and teams believed to be interested.
And most such lists are entirely predictable, especially as the trade deadline approaches.
- Teams headed to the playoffs are "buyers."
- Teams likely to miss the playoffs are "sellers."
- The sellers could move any player headed for unrestricted free agency, anyone over 30 who's not scoring much, and anyone who makes too much money.
- From that list, take the biggest names and link them to the top five teams in the standings.
Stick to those rules, and you'll guess most of the daily rumors without looking them up.
Not much intrigue to it. This is the era of rumor-by-number.
With that said, here's the latest.
(Photo: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
The NHL has shuffled the deck.
When you check the standings next season, you'll see four divisions instead of six, with teams divided into groups we've never seen before.
The idea is to reduce travel and time-zone hopping, and take better advantage of geographic rivalries.
But the 2013-14 divisional realignment represents a major makeover for the NHL.
The schedule changes, a "wild card" twist gets added to the playoff race, and there's a new method for seeding of the 16 playoff teams.
- A History of NHL Divisions and Conferences: Alignment and realignment since 1917.
Photo: Drew Miller and the Red Wings head East next season, along with Sergei Bobrovsky and the Blue Jackets. (Kirk Irwin/Getty Images).
If you're new to hockey, you'll want to get acquainted with the giants of the game.
That search will inevitably lead you to Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, and Mario Lemieux.
Are they the best players in hockey history?
That's a problematic question in a sport that dates back to the 1800s.
There aren't many left who saw the prime years of players like Maurice Richard and Gordie Howe, let alone a guy like Howie Morenz, who starred in the 1920s and 1930s.
But if you're looking for men who defined and dominated the NHL as we know it today, the Big Three stand head and shoulders above the rest.
Photo: Bobby Orr as a Boston Bruins rookie in October of 1966 (Hulton Archive/Getty Images).
In hockey, as in any sport, a team can go on a winning streak or a losing streak.
Such streaks are self-evident, with no need for explanation or qualification.
In sports that accept a tie as a result, a team can also go "undefeated" or "winless" for a while.
Which brings us to the 1979-80 Philadelphia Flyers and the 2012-13 Chicago Blackhawks.
Back in '79-'80, the Flyers rang up an undefeated streak for the ages.
It's a good year for draft junkies.
The new CBA adds a new level of intrigue to the NHL Draft Lottery.
The redesigned lottery gives nearly half the teams in the league a shot at the coveted number-one draft pick.
In previous years, the lottery winner jumped no more than four spots in the draft order.
(As an example, the Devils won the lottery in 2011. Because they were originally set to pick eighth, they could only move up to number four.)
That restriction is gone.
As of this year, the team winning the draft lottery leaps straight to the top.
If the 2013 lottery took place today, a traditional fat cat like the Flyers would have a crack at the top pick.
Or, thanks to trades with the Rangers and Kings, the Columbus Blue Jackets could end up with the first two picks.
How's that for a final twist to your NHL season?
The lottery remains "weighted," giving the worst teams the best chances.
Each team's odds of winning the lottery are unchanged.
The only part of the lottery that's changed is the most important part: the prize you claim if your number comes up.
That makes the NHL Draft Lottery a new wild card in always tricky business of building a champion.
Photo: Seth Jones has reportedly emerged as the top commodity available at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images).
After winning a couple more on the weekend, the 2013 Chicago Blackhawks have claimed a place in the NHL record book.
15-0-3 to open the season. It's never been done before.
Chicago's streak includes a pair of wins in overtime, a couple more in the shootout, and three shootout losses.
Under the old system, all those games would have gone down as ties, giving the Blackhawks an 11-0-7 mark.
Making that adjustment still leaves them with at least a point in 18 straight games.
So even compared to previous eras, it's the hottest start in NHL history.
That sort of unquestionable record is a rarity in the hockey world.
Many NHL records are relatively meaningless these days, especially playoff records and "all-time" marks.
There might have been a time when the record book told a plausible story of the league's greatest players and greatest teams.
But that time is fading.
Photo: Terry Sawchuk, shown playing for the Red Wings in the 1950s, is among the greatest goaltenders in NHL history. But he barely gets a mention in the record book (Pictorial Parade/Getty Images).
Time to address some of hockey's perennial mysteries.
Today, we bring you answers to a few of the game's most commonly asked questions.
New fans, in particular, often write to ask:
- What's a Hab?
- Who was the Last Goalie to Play Without a Mask?
- Why is a Three-Goal Game Called a Hat Trick?
- What's the Most Goals Ever Scored in an NHL Game?
- What's the Origin of the Detroit Red Wings' Octopus?
Photo: An Islanders Ice Girl deals with the fallout of another three-goal game. (Paul Bereswill/Getty Images).
Canadians like to brag that they could send two mens' hockey teams to the Winter Olympics, and both would have a pretty good shot at winning gold.
That's arguably true, and mostly irrelevant.
Canada's celebrated depth comes into play if injuries strike in the days and weeks leading up to the tournament.
But when the Games start, you don't earn points for the quality of the guys you left home.
Cut each national pool down to a single team, and the skill difference between Canada and the United States becomes very thin.
For starters, the Americans will head to the 2014 Olympic Winter Games with what might be the world's best goaltending tandem.
That's the best news you could hope for in a short tournament with single-elimination playoff games.
So who else should represent the United States in the quest to turn a 2010 silver medal into a 2014 gold?
Here are 23 early picks for Team USA.
See also: A Projected Team Canada Roster for 2014.
Photo: Is T.J. Oshie a 2014 Olympian? (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Crosby, Toews, and Weber can't play every shift.
So when it's time to roll out the third and fourth line, or when injuries create a lot of ice time for the seventh defenseman, who do you want on your bench?
With the 2014 Winter Olympics one year away, that's the real question facing Canada.
Assuming the NHL agrees to participate - and the signs look good - Team Canada has many tough choices to make.
Those questions aren't at the top of the roster. You could list eight or ten names that just about everyone in the country will agree on.
The competition for jobs is in the lower range of the depth chart.
That's where names like Eberle, Hall, Seguin, Getzlaf, Lucic, Letang, Boyle, and Fleury will generate much debate in the months ahead.
Here's out first crack at the projected 2014 Team Canada Olympic roster.
See also: The Olympic Hockey Guide
Photo: Is Logan Couture good enough to play for Canada in 2014? He just might be. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images).
It ought to be simple.
Keeping track of wins and losses, letting the numbers decide who is better than who.
That's what the standings are all about.
But it turns out that every sport is different when it comes to ranking its teams.
The NHL standings might be the strangest of all, with its infamous "loser point."
Thanks to the lockout, this NHL season is a mad dash instead of a marathon.
The shortened schedule has many predicting that teams will be bunched within a few points of each other when the final standings are set on April 27.
With that in mind, here's a review of how the numbers are crunched:
Photo: Brad Marchand and the Boston Bruins are atop the Eastern Conference, but just five points clear of ninth place. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images).