Hockey action is coming back soon,yo! In past years I’ve wanted to do an NHL preview and just wasn’t sure how to do it,this year I’ve figured out how. I hope you enjoy it and enjoy the upcoming season.
The Ducks were one win away from getting to the Stanley Cup Finals and this year hope to take that extra step to claim Lord Stanley’s Cup. Ryan Getzlaf,Cory Perry,and Ryan Kesler will lead the charge and the Ducks have added veterans Shawn Horcoff and Mike Santorelli with center Nate Thompson recovering from shoulder surgery. What could be this team’s Achilles heel is the fact that they lack an elite-level puck mover,something that in past year’s has defined a Stanley Cup champion. But this team can no doubt contend for a Stanley Cup and fans are hoping they can “Paint it Orange” come June.
I had the Blues winning it all last season and it all fell apart for them,losing in the first round for the third consecutive year,this time to the Minnesota Wild. Fan favorite T.J. Oshie was shipped to the Washington Capitals in exchange for right winger Troy Brouwer. Coach Ken Hitchcock says this Blues team is the best yet and will rely on David Backes, Vladimir Tarasenko,and newly-signed Kyle Brodziak to carry this team to their first ever Stanley Cup win. I absolutely think this team has what it takes to be successful in the postseason, they just need to execute a lot better.
The Predators had a monster season last year,but their run for the Cup was upended by the eventual champions,the Chicago Blackhawks. This year they hope to get much farther than they did last year and potentially bring Lord Stanley’s Cup to the Music City. Filip Forsberg hopes to continue to be an offensive force. Pekka Rinne will continue to be the Human Eraser between the pipes. Shea Weber is another year older,but should still be productive. Their weakness may be at center with Mike Ribeiro and Mike Fisher both at age 35,but it should be enough power to pack a punch in the postseason.
This team is way too talented to miss the playoffs for a second year in a row. After winning the Cup in ’14, the Kings fizzled down the stretch and missed the postseason, but this group is hoping to get back to their winning ways and trading for Milan Lucic from Boston is one move the Kings are hoping will pay off. Jonathan Quick will continue to be one of the league’s best netminders and Anze Kopitar is hoping to have a rebound season as he is in a contract year. Like I said, I find it hard to believe a group such as the Kings is going to be bad enough to miss the postseason, they’re too talented to do so. This isn’t Edmonton!
The Stars are going to be a fun team to watch. They traded for Chicago’s Patrick Sharp in the offseason, got Antti Niemi from San Jose to add to a line-up that has Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Johnny Oduya also comes over from Chicago. Dallas was on the brink of making the postseason and this year,they should break through. One question mark is goaltender Kari Lehtonen, he was hurt last year and Niemi was brought in as insurance in case it happens again. Overall,this should be a good team to watch in the regular season and in the postseason,too.
The defending Stanley Cup champions will try to defend their title,but it’s gonna be a lot tougher. Gone are Patrick Sharp,Brandon Saad,Kris Versteeg,and Johnny Oduya. Also,Patrick Kane is going through legal trouble as rape allegations in Buffalo continue to haunt him. Many questions surround his situation,including “Will the NHL suspend him even if he’s innocent?”. Duncan Keith,Jonathan Toews,and Brent Seabrook still lead a talented team that’s only going to be together for so long. I think Chicago will have a very good season,but in the playoffs they will more than likely be ousted in the first round.
Vancouver didn’t get any better in the offseason,but they didn’t get any worse,either. They’re also getting older and it’s time for their young guns to start taking the lead. The Sedin twins are 34, goaltender Ryan Miller is 35. Guys like Brandon Sutter and Bo Horvat will be looked at to take charge and have more of a leadership role on the team. They will,however,be a good enough team to be in the postseason and will maybe even win a series.
The Sharks collapsed as bad any team who has been in the playoffs year in and year out could. Todd McLellan is in Edmonton now and new coach Peter DeBoer is in. Antti Niemi was traded to Dallas and Martin Jones was brought over from Los Angeles to be the team’s No. 1 goaltender. Jones did well while giving Jonathan Quick regular breathers, but is he equipped to handle 60-65 games? Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are getting up there in age and the time may be now for guys like Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl to take more of a leadership role on the team. Joel Ward was brought in from Washington to provide more scoring. I think the Sharks will have a bounce back season,they’re too talented to miss the postseason for a second straight year.
The Oilers have new life and a new regime in place after a ninth consecutive losing season. They drafted Connor McDavid first overall and have a new coach in Todd McLellan and GM Peter Chiarelli. Also coming over is Cam Talbot,who did a masterful job with the Rangers in Henrik Lundqvist’s absence. I think this is a season where fans will finally see some growth with this young nucleus and they surprise a lot of teams. McDavid should have a 75-80 point season and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will have a great year as well. While they’ve done a lot to change the roster, the winning ways are yet to come. I think they remain in playoff contention until the final week or two and barely miss. At least that’s how I,the King of Wishful Thinking,am hoping things will go.
The Jets were swept by the Ducks in the playoffs last season,but hey,they got to the playoffs,and in the West. That’s not easy to do. They did lose some role players in free agency,but are getting Alex Burmistrov back after his two-years stint in the KHL. Dustin Byfuglien looks to have a 50-point season and should do that if he stays healthy. The goaltending on this team has been questioned,but Ondrej Pacvelec did have a decent save percentage last season (.920) in 50 games. He did,however,lose and then regained his starting gig. If Pavelec can regain the job for good and perform well,then the goaltending may have been addressed once and for all. I don’t know if Winnipeg will be playoff-bound,but they should be competitive.
I really wanted to put the Wild back into the postseason,but since the Central is loaded with talent and is expected to be competitive, I just couldn’t do it. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have a shot. After all,Devan Dubnyk had a monster year in Minnesota and looks like he’s found a full-time home so long as he plays at a high level. Zack Parise,Mikko Soivu,and Ryan Suter will continue to be excellent players. One player to watch is Mike Reilly who came over from Columbus as a college free agent and should be a polished first year player. The Wild didn’t get any worse,but didn’t any better,either while other teams in their division did,and that’s why I have them in 11th place.
Yes,the Flames were in the playoffs last year and you could argue that they got better by getting Dougie Hamilton,but something tells me that Calgary’s going to regress. If they’re to get back to postseason play,they need to keep Mark Giordano healthy and overcome poor analytics,which they were a victim of last season. Sean Monahan should continue his offensive production and have a 30-goal and 40-assist season yet again and Jonas Hiller will be a player to watch. I think Calgary starts off strong,but fades down the stretch this year,but they’ll be a competitive team.
13. Colorado Avalanche, 77
The Avs last made the playoffs two seasons ago when Patrick Roy took over as head coach. In year three,he hopes his developing squad can get through a competitive Central division and get back. I don’t think that’s happening,though. Carl Soderberg comes over from Boston after Ryan O’Reilly became expendable and off to Buffalo. Francois Beauchemin is a solid defenseman,but his best days are behind him. As are Jarome Iginla’s (I was wondering what happened to him!). Overall, this is a team that is rebuilding and needs to be better defensively and will need more time before they qualify again for postseason play.
The Coyotes were not very good last season and landed Dylan Strome with the third overall pick. Strome will more than likely spend time in the minors before coming up. Shane Doan is in the tail end of his career. Arizona declined on re-signing many veteran players in order to give the younger players a chance to shine. Mike Smith had one of the worst save percentages among starting goaltenders. We’ll see if his reversal of fortune as he performed well for Team Canada in the World Championships in May. Overall, look for the Coyotes to continue to develop and rebuild and maybe even relocate?
The Capitals are a legit Stanley Cup contender. While Joel Ward and Troy Brouwer are gone,T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams are in and should make this team better than they were before. Oshie and Williams are added to the mix of Alex Ovechkin,Braden Holtby and Nikolas Backstrom. This team has been strong on the power play and should continue that as they have the last three seasons. I think this team looks great on paper as they have for the past few years, but this year looks to be the year for the real thing.
The Eastern Conference champion Tampa Bay Lightning came up short against the Blackhawks,but showed the hockey world the contenders that they are and will continue to be. Ben Bishop had a great season last year,but will he be sharing time with Andrei Vasilevskiy,who filled in for him in the Finals? Steven Stamkos will continue to be outstanding and Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov will continue to be a top quality line. The Bolts will continue to be a contending team in the East and they may even get back to the Cup Finals. We shall see,though!
The Penguins squeaked into the postseason last year and GM Jim Rutherford knew that the roster needed to be shaken up and improved. They made a big splash by acquiring Phil Kessel from Toronto and winger Sergei Plotnikov comes over from the KHL,he is expected to play alongside Evgeni Malkin. And of course,Sidney Crosby is there. Kessel’s presence alone makes Pittsburgh a team to watch and I think they have enough tools to succeed in the Eastern Conference in what might be a make or break year for coach Mike Johnston.
The Rangers are still one of the East’s best teams, but they are falling off a bit. Henrik Lundqvist needs to stay healthy if they want to contend for a Stanley Cup, his back-up Cam Talbot is now in Edmonton and if he goes down, his spot is gonna be taken by either Antti Raanta or Magnus Hellberg (such a cool name,by the way). Rick Nash,Derek Stepan will continue to lead New York in their quest for their first title since 1994 and all eyes will be on Jarret Stoll,who is looking to rejuvenate his career following a guilty plea in a cocaine charge. I think the Rangers will be in the playoff mix again this season, but will fall short of contending for a Cup.
The Canadiens always look like they’re on the brink of being a Cup contender and the team to bring Canada its first Stanley Cup since 1993. Reigning MVP and Vezina Trophy winner Carey Price looks to continue his dominant ways as he is regarded as one of the best,if not,the best goalie in the league. He,along with P.K. Subban, and Max Pacioretty are expected to lead this team back to the postseason. It is a make or break season for coach Michael Therrien as this team’s window to win a Cup is narrowing. If the team doesn’t make it to the Finals or wins the Cup,he could be gone. He also needs to rely less on Price and to not overuse him.
After 43 years on Long Island, the Islanders now call the Barclays Center in Brooklyn home. The roster looks about the same from last year,but still loaded with talented players like John Tavares. Kyle Okposo was reportedly shopped during draft day and his future with the team is uncertain. Michael Grabner and Frans Nielsen are unrestricted free agents come next July. One thing the Isles need to improve on is their power play,they were in the middle of the pack last season and if they want to be an elite Eastern squad, that has to get better. I think they make the playoffs this year and will go after a lot of free agents as they have the cap space to acquire talent for next year.
Mike Babcock is in Toronto now and the Jeff Blashill era is alive and well in Motown. The Red Wings wasted no time improving the roster by adding Brad Richards from Chicago and Mike Green from Washington Gustav Nyquist was given a contract extension. But leading the way as always will be the talented Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. I think Detroit’s question mark is the goaltending. Will Jimmy Howard be healthy enough to be the No. 1 netminder for the Wings or will Blashill go to his guy from Grand Rapids, Petr Mrazek? In any case,I think the Red Wings get to the playoffs again for an astonishing 25th straight year,it’s what they do!
I was unsure of who I would have in the eighth spot,but acquiring Brandon Saad from Chicago was a big move for Columbus and may put them in the final Wild Card spot. He’s a young forward who already has a ring and is a quality player at age 22. Ryan Murray and David Clarkson need to stay healthy if the Blue Jackets are to play past the regular season. The scoring depth on this team is insane and it might be a make or break year for coach Todd Richards if the Jackets miss the playoffs. I think they get in,the Metro division is just too good.
The Panthers were just seven points away from making a rare playoff appearance and just missed out. They have a great mix of young guys and veterans. Jaromir Jagr,43,is back for another season in South Florida as is Roberto Luongo who provided a spark for this team as well as a great veteran presence in front of the net. You also have Aaron Ekblad and Jonathan Huberdeau who are just getting their careers going and have some great mentors to help guide them on this team. The roster as a whole,however,didn’t get much better in the offseason and that could hurt Florida’s postseason hopes. Also,don’t look for many sellouts in Broward County, people don’t go to hockey games there!
The Sens were beneficiaries of an historic run down the stretch which resulted in their getting to the postseason. Most of this team from last season is back,but can they keep the magic from last season going? My question with this team is the goaltending. Who’s the regular starting goalie, Andrew Hammond (who by the way has the coolest nickname for a goalie in The Hamburglar) or Craig Anderson? I think Ottawa will definitely be in the hunt,but with so many good teams in the Metro division they will be on the outside looking in. But look for Erik Karlsson and company to be as competitive as they were last season.
The Bruins fell hard last season and missed the playoffs and fired GM Peter Chiarelli and enter new GM Don Sweeney. Sweeney was busy trading Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton and stockpiling draft picks which they hope will become the future. They still have talent on the team like Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron,Brad Machand, and Tuukka Rask,but it’s going to take Rask being healthy and the defense to step up for Boston to take a big step forward and get back to postseason play.
The Flyers didn’t get too much better this offseason because the hope there is that Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux will be counted on to carry the load and that the secondary scoring is going to come around on its own. Wayne Simmonds is going to continue to be productive and his best years are still ahead of him. Vincent LeCavalier is still there and is in the sunset of his career. While Giroux and Voracek are a great one-two punch, the defense on this team is not the best and that’s probably going to hinder any kind of talk of postseason for them. Plus coach Dave Hakstol is in his first year and he’s gonna need some time to get these guys back to the playoffs.
Jack Eichel is in Buffalo now and looks to prove himself that he is better than Connor McDavid and maybe should’ve been the top overall pick. He joins a Sabres squad that acquired Ryan O’Reilly from Colorado and Cody Franson from Nashville.They also hired a respected head coach in Dan Bylsma. People everywhere will be looking to see if Buffalo’s defense has improved and to see what kind of depth they have,if any. Make no mistake about it,the Sabres are light years away from being playoff contenders, but I think they’ll make some strides this year,especially with a guy like Eichel on their roster.
There’s a reason why coach Mike Babcock was given an eight-year contract-The Leafs are terrible. Phil Kessel is in Pittsburgh and Toronto is left with young pieces still finding their way at the NHL level. Dion Phaneuf will lead this team along with Jonathan Bernier and Nazem Kadri. The product on the ice may not be very good yet, but the team is littered with Hall of Famers on the coaching staff and in the front office. Not to say that’s any recipe for success (See: Edmonton Oilers before this upcoming season),but it’s a start in the right direction. I think they’ll improve somewhat under Babcock in the first year,but as I stated,he’s got an eight-year deal,so there’s plenty of time for him to make this team better.
The Devils are in rebuilding mode, it may be two more seasons before they reach the playoffs. Patrick Elias is turning 40 this season and I’m sure he’d like one more postseason run before calling it quits. Cory Schneider is a great goalie,but on a bad team. Pavel Zacha will be a guy to watch for New Jersey as well, the sixth overall pick in this draft has been compared to Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf. Overall,expect the Devils to be in the running for a top pick.
It’s gonna be another rebuilding season in Carolina,and honestly,it might be a good thing for them to not be as good in order to grabs the keys to the Auston Matthews sweepstakes. The Staal brothers are still there,but I have a feeling one or both of them will be dealt to contenders come February. Cam Ward will definitely be a player to watch for the Hurricanes and they’ve added Kris Versteeg from Chicago. Overall,its going to be a down year for the Canes,so hang in there,fans.
Anaheim over San Jose
Los Angeles over Vancouver
St. Louis over Chicago
Dallas over Nashville
Washington over N.Y. Islanders
Pittsburgh over N.Y. Rangers
Tampa Bay over Columbus
Montreal over Detroit
Anaheim over Los Angeles
St. Louis over Dallas
Washington over Pittsburgh
Tampa Bay over Montreal
Western Conference Finals
St. Louis over Anaheim
Eastern Conference Finals
Washington over Tampa Bay
Stanley Cup Finals