The NHL starts tonight. Our hockey experts gives you what you need to know before the new season.
#1 Dallas Stars
Head coach: Ken Hitchcock
Stadium: American Airlines Center, Dallas
Last year: 6th, Central
Stars flopped big time last season and didn’t even make the playoffs. That was much due to some injuries, and a not top notch Lehtonen in goal. This year they have shipped out injury plagued players like Hudler/Eakin/Hemsky/Sharp, and made some (in my opinion) very good transfers. Bishop is a top goalie, Radulov fits into the 1st line with Seguin/Benn like a hand in a glove, Hanzal is a very good 2nd line center and Methot polsters the defence. In my mind, this looks like a comeback in all ways. Look out for the Stars!
#2 Nashville Predators
Head coach: Peter Laviolette
Stadium: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville
Last year: 4th, Central (Stanley Cup runner-up)
On the contrary, Preds were last season’s biggest surprise. And boy, how they delivered in countryland! The rock solid defence is still there, and that might be the best D in all of NHL. They made some good trades for Johansen/Forsberg/Subban etc and it paid off. Now, can they do it again? The stones are still in place, they just need some reshuffling. I Don’t think Arvidsson can live up to his good last season, but Johansen/Forsberg with that D and Rinne in net, will still be up there. For sure.
#3 Chicago Blackhawks
Head coach: Joel Quenneville
Stadium: United Center, Chicago
Last year: 1st, Central
Hawks is a fallen giant. They now have to pay for their victories, little by little, every year, because of the cap hit. And it seems that the people on top is not making the best decisions this season. In my mind, why change Panarin for Saad? For just 1 year? Naaah. And then they send Hjalmarsson to the Coyotes as well? For no reason? Hossa, Darling, Kruger, Campbell++ also gone. The struggle is clear, and this season could be the toughest in a while. They still have some very good quality players upfront in Toews/Anisimov/Saad etc, but who is gonna play with Kane? Playoffs? Yes, but not without a fight.
#4 Minnesota Wild
Head coach: Bruce Boudreau
Stadium: Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul
Last year: 2nd, Central
Hmm, Wild is a tough one. Last year they flew on a wave, and made the playoffs eeeeeasy. Good D, and Dubnyk was good as well. Then, they just lost it completely against Blues in PO. Now suddenly, they have some pressure on them to do even better. They might just do that, but I have a feeling that players like Parise/Suter/Staal/Koivu is not getting any younger. They also lost Scandella & Hanzal, and i think It’s up to Coyle/Niederreiter/Granlund & Dumba to stand up, and take over. If they do, and Dubnyk is as good as last year, they can be up there.
#5 St. Louis Blues
Head coach: Mike Yeo
Stadium: Scottrade Center, St. Louis
Last year: 3rd, Central
Sorry Blues, but I feel for you. Before the season has even started, they have injuries like hell. Fabbri is out for the season, Berglund is out for months, and Steen/Bouwmeester is out for weeks. Oh my. They don’t have THAT deep of a squad, so the start to the season could easily be do or die for them. Tarasenko is a one-man-attack himself, and if the “oldies” like Stastny and newcomer Schenn is up for the task they might fight for the last spot, but I think its an ungrateful fight in the end. Summary, ok in goalie and D, but too much injuries at F.
#6 Winnipeg Jets
Head coach: Paul Maurice
Stadium: Bell MTS Place, Winnipeg
Last year: 5th, Central
Jets. They’ve done a goalie swap, (“meh” for “meh”), and that’s it. Anything else is really about “How many goals will Laine score, and how many points will Scheifele get? They dont have that “we need to make the PO” up there, and they are a slooooow work in progress. Yes, Laine will score around 40 goals, Scheifele will get his 70p, but what about all the rest? Ehlers will have a slump (my feeling), and Wheeler/Little/Byfuglien/Myers is not enough to get me THAT excited.
#7 Colorado Avalanche
Head coach: Jared Bednar
Stadium: Pepsi Center, Denver
Last year: 7th, Central
Avs is completely lost. And I don’t know if there’s an easy way out. They just need to rebuild, and take the time, but they can’t even get Duchene traded. And the value is just going down, down, down. They have some good youngsters in Rantanen, MacKinnon, Zadorov, Landeskog, and the prospects are there. However, they lack quality in D, and thats the biggest issue. They just added Nemeth, but its not enough. Give them a few years, and their time will come. Until then… next!
#1 Edmonton Oilers
Head coach: Todd McLellan
Stadium: Rogers Place, Edmonton
Last year: 2nd, Pacific
The McJesus-era has started! For years, Oilers was clueless. They were the team with young, fast players, who NEVER succeded because of horrible defence/goalie. Then McDavid showed up. And the leagues BEST player will change any team. Last year he was amazing, and transformed Oilers into a team we want to see. Fast, technical, offensive hockey. Oilers IS McDavid, its as easy as that. They gave Penguins a battle last year, and this year they have changed Eberle for Jokinen/Strome. If McDavid stays healthy all the way, Draisaitl continues to impress, and Lucic/Maroon do their job, it could go a long way, even if Im not sold on the D & Talbot in net.
#2 Anaheim Ducks
Head coach: Randy Carlyle
Stadium: Honda Center, Anaheim
Last year: 1st, Pacific
Ducks has, (as a contrary to many others) the base of their last years squad still intact. That means the chemistry will be there from the start. Getzlaf is still the leader, Perry is still there, last seasons rocket Rakell is still there, and the youngsters are one year older. I still miss the last link to the Getzlaf-Perry line though. One big note is that Vatanen/Lindholm/Kesler will all be out for a while. Anyway, still a contender.
#3 San Jose Sharks
Head coach: Peter DeBoer
Stadium: SAP Center, San Jose
Last year: 3rd, Pacific
Sharks. They just find their place in the middle every year it seems. Without any big mistakes, and not any big “wow’s” either. The problem is, every year the “big” routined players get older, and this year even Marleau has left the ship. That leaves Thornton/Pavelski/Burns/Couture, and the rest just don’t cut it for me. Bødker is not a no. ONE for me, same goes for Hansen, Martin & Jones. Just not top notch. But, not bad enough for a rebuild either. They will make the playoffs again, but the rebuild is getting closer.
#4 Calgary Flames
Head coach: Glen Gulutzan
Stadium: Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary
Last year: 4th, Pacific
A team that HAS done a rebuild though, is the Flames. And I really like them this year. What do you get when you mix one of the best D in the league (Brodie/Hamilton/Hamonic/Giordano), a new and better goalie (Smith), some up and coming youngsters (Gaudreau/Monahan) and an old fox like Jagr? Yes, a dangerous team, (if it clicks). They are still unproven, but the chances for a playoff spot is suddenly there. It will be a fight that goes down to the wire, but I’m rooting for them this year. Nice rebuild.
#5 Los Angeles Kings
Head coach: John Stevens
Stadium: Staples Center, Los Angeles
Last year: 5th, Pacific
Kings is still fighting some heavy contracts, and with that in mind, they have some kind of an unbalanced squad. The best ones is gold, like Quick, Carter, Kopitar, Toffoli, Doughty, and then the rest is more cheap “fill-ins” due to the Brown/Gaborik/Martinez contracts. The D is not good enough, and I think they will have to fight hard for a spot this year. A rebuild is calling.
#6 Arizona Coyotes
Head coach: Rick Tocchet
Stadium: Gila River Arena, Glendale
Last year: 6th, Pacific
The Coyotes has made some of a splash this off-season, and even if it doesn’t pay off, I like the offensive mind of the chairman/GM. They have tried to build a team from the back, and they have traded for both Raanta, Hjalmarsson and Demers in defence. Add in Ekman-Larsson and Goligoski, and you already have a much better team than last year. When it comes to forwards it’s more difficult, but they traded for a leader in Stepan, and he has to take that role. They lost Vrbata, but they have a veeeeery interesting rookie in Keller, and if he and Domi has breakout years, it could be a ok season for the team from the desert.
#7 Vegas Golden Knights
Head coach: Gerard Gallant
Stadium: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas
Last year: –
Well. The city that never sleeps now has a hockey team. Everything is new, and everything else than rock bottom would be a surprise. They have some quality in Fleury, Neal, Marchessault, Shipachyov & Schmidt, but they will have to go the painful way of “learning by doing” in every single way. I think that the “new team, nothing to lose” factor and a good Fleury could give them some points, so I dont think they will be rock bottom, but they are close.
#8 Vancouver Canucks
Head coach: Travis Green
Stadium: Rogers Arena, Vancouver
Last year: 7th, Pacific
Vancouver is in decline, and a work in progress. The Sedin’s are getting older, and behind them there’s a big step to the next ones. Some more washups in Gagner/Vanek/Del Zotto, a maybe-baby Eriksson and then a new step down to the exciting, but still too fresh group of Virtanen/Boeser/Horvat/Stechler etc. Miller is not in goal anymore, and the D is not loooking good at all. Canucks has some good prospects on the way, but this season will just be another step on the way.
#1 Pittsburgh Penguins
Head coach: Mike Sullivan
Stadium: PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh
Last year: 2nd, Metropolitan (Stanley Cup winner)
Last year’s Stanley Cup winners Pittsburgh Penguins have to stand as favourites even this year. They won last year even when Crosby where missing from the start and both Letang and Malkin where injuried. The line with Sheary, Crosby and Guentzel will be one of the best in the NHL and a second line with players as Kessel, Hörnqvist and Malkin are good enough to go all the way this year. They will fight for the division win here with Caps.
#2 Washington Capitals
Head coach: Barry Trotz
Stadium: Capital One Arena, Washington D.C.
Last year: 1st, Metropolitan
Capitals where favourites last year to lift the cup, but they failed again. Ovechkin didn’t start scoring until the end of the season and other star players where pretty up and down in their performances. This year they had to drop Johansson and Shattenkirk, but with players as Holtby, Bäckström, Ovechkin, Oshie, Carlson and Kuznetsov, there is no doubt that Washington will be one of the best teams this year too.
#3 Columbus Blue Jackets
Head coach: John Tortorella
Stadium: Nationwide Arena, Columbus
Last year: 3rd, Metropolitan
Columbus switched Saad against Panarin with Chicago Blackhaws, and I think that was a smart move. Panarin is a scoring machine and will come closer to 30 goals this season. Columbus also have one of the best goalies in Bobrovsky and great defence in Jones and Werenski. I would say that their roster is filled with players that are pretty even, good depth and hard to beat. Maybe they won’t win a lot of games with big numbers here, but they will be hard to defeat.
#4 Carolina Hurricanes
Head coach: Bill Peters
Stadium: PNC Arena, Raleigh
Last year: 7th, Metropolitan
Carolina have worked with the same roster for a couple of years now, and this might be the year when they will finally take a big step forward. They have a young squad with many talented players and they play offensive hockey. The biggest doubt for Carolina have been in the net, where Ward hasn’t been as good as a goalie have to be for a team to make the playoffs. Eddie Läck have been traded and Scott Darling have arrived in the goal. Let us see if Darling can take the spot as number one keeper here. Carolina should be able to challenge many teams with their forwards and the many talented offensive defenders.
#5 New York Rangers
Head coach: Alain Vigneault
Stadium: Madison Square Garden, New York
Last year: 4th, Metropolitan
I always expect New York Rangers to be like Real Madrid in football. They should have star players and always be up among the best teams in the NHL. Right now, if feels like Rangers are satisfied and I cant see them go all the way here, I rather think they will have problems reaching the play off this year. Stephan have left for Arizona and Shattenkirk have come from Washington Capitals. So, the roster is almost the same, and I can’t see any big stars in the team, except Henrik Lundqvist in the net. And Lunqvist had problems last year from time to time, and Raanta stepped in and did a great job as a replacement, but Raanta is gone now and how good will Rangers be in the defence this year? I expect them to struggle to get to the play off this season I’m afraid.
#6 New York Islanders
Head coach: Doug Weight
Stadium: Barclays Center, New York
Last year: 5th, Metropolitan
Islanders had a bad start last season and after some changes, they played very good at the second half of the season and finished in a positive way. They have traded for Eberle from Edmonton and that is a class transfer for Islanders that will contribute to the offensive and power play. Islanders also have one of the best centers in the NHL in Tavares and he should have good chances to reach at least 75 points this season. The depth in Islanders are a little bit weak here over the lines and I think that might just be the reason why I can’t see them go all the way to playoffs this year neither.
#7 Philadelphia Flyers
Head coach: Dave Hakstol
Stadium: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia
Last year: 6th, Metropolitan
When we talk about Flyers you only think of Simmonds, Giroux and Voracek. But what about the other players? Well, Philly are missing some good players here to be contenders for play off, and maybe a new goalie? Gostisbehere couldn’t follow up his first great season last year, could he bounce back? Think Philly will need two-three more years to build the team, but it will be interesting to follow Nolan Patrick who got picked second in the draft this year. He might be something for the future. If everything works for Philly this year, they might have a chance on the play off, but for now, my tip is that they won’t reach it.
#8 New Jersey Devils
Head coach: John Hynes
Stadium: Prudential Center, Newark
Last year: 8th, Metropolitan
According to me, Devils will finish last in the Metropolitan. If we start with the positive news for this season, they got to pick first in the draft and took Hischier who have looked really good on the pre season. They also have one of the best goalies in the NHL in Schneider and they have a star player in Taylor Hall. They have also traded for Marcus Johansson from Washington and he should be good for 20-25 goals on a good season, but this team still needs one or two more seasons before they will be good enough, in my opinion. They are missing depth on the roster to be able to compete with the other teams. But, New Jersey have been looking good on the pre season for sure, so I might be totally wrong.
#1 Tampa Bay Lightning
Head coach: Jon Cooper
Stadium: Amalie Arena, Tampa Bay
Last year: 5th, Atlantic
Tampa Bay aren’t just favourites to win the Atlantic Division, they are one of the favourites to win the whole Stanley Cup. Kucherov and Hedman took big big steps last season and if they can be as good this year, Tampa will be really dangerous. Stamkos was one of the best players in the NHL last year before his injury, which made him miss almost the whole season, and in the net Vasilevski took the first spot and made Bishop leave for Dallas Stars. Tampa have good depth in the forwards, it’s just some questions for the defenders here, otherwise Tampa would have been clear favourites. But, they will be hard to beat for sure this season.
#2 Toronto Maple Leafs
Head coach: Mike Babcock
Stadium: Air Canada Centre, Toronto
Last year: 4th, Atlantic
Toronto is the team that are expected to improve most this season according to almost everyone. Matthews, Marner and Nylander had a great show last year, and with one season of extra experience they could be really really great for Toronto this year. The roster is very young and very talented and they also have players like Brown and Hyman that we shouldn’t forget about. Andersen are a good last outpost in the net and Toronto have a lot of routine in Marleau (new from San Jose), Bozak, Van Riemsdyk, Martin, Kadri and the captain Rielly. Toronto could be fun to watch this season, no doubt!
#3 Montreal Canadiens
Head coach: Claude Julien
Stadium: Bell Centre, Montreal
Last year: 1st, Atlantic
For me, there are three players that have to be good this season for Canadiens to work here. Weber, Price and Pacioretty. But they also have Gallagher, Galchenyuk, Droiun, Lehkonen and good routine in Plekanec. Montreal will play very psychical hockey with a lot of heavy players. They will be hard to go up against and I think they will make it to playoffs thanks to good defence. But they have a pretty old team and they will be outskated in some games to when they will meet teams with a lot of youngster. Can’t see that Habs should have any chance on the Stanley Cup though.
#4 Ottawa Senators
Head coach: Guy Boucher
Stadium: Canadien Tire Centre, Ottawa
Last year: 2nd, Atlantic
One of the biggest surprises last year. Ottawa came all the way to the semi finals and lost against the Stanley Cup winner Pittsburgh, with 3-4 in games. Ottawa have a mixed team with a lot of players in a good age. They have a great goalie in Craig Anderson who kept some clean sheets last year, and they have Karlsson, one of the best defencemen in the world. On attack they have Brassard, Ryan, Hoffman, Turris and Stone among others. They’ve also got good defensive defenders, mixed with some offensive ones. Think Ottawa could make it to the playoffs this year as well. A great team in a great age here, will be both power and speed.
#5 Buffalo Sabres
Head coach: Phil Housley
Stadium: KeyBank Center, Buffalo
Last year: 8th, Atlantic
It must be time for Buffalo now. This could be the year where it turns for them, and they can start look up in the table and chase playoff spots. Buffalo have really great offensive players in Eichel, Kane, OReilly, Pominville, Okposo and Ristolainen among others. Lehner is a very good goalkeeper with his psychique as well. They had some bad luck with Eichels injury last season, but after he came back, he was one of the best players in points per game. This Buffalo could beat a lot of teams in the NHL, the big problem has been the defenders. They have good offensive defenders, but the defensive ones isn’t enough. However, I think Buffalo will be close to playoffs this year.
#6 Boston Bruins
Head coach: Bruce Cassidy
Stadium: TD Garden, Boston
Last year: 3rd, Atlantic
Boston is all about three players here. Pastrnak, Marchand and Bergeron, if you don’t count Tukka Rask in the net. Bergeron took his time last year before he started to perform as well. I can’t see that Boston should surprise and make it to the play off easy here. I think they will struggle and I think they will miss. An injury on one of these players I just mentioned would be devastating because the roster if thin here. Always hard to play against Boston but this year will be hard for them in my opinion.
#7 Florida Panthers
Head coach: Bob Baughner
Stadium: BB&T Center, Sunrise
Last year: 6th, Atlantic
Florida had bad luck last year, they had a lot of injuries on important players, but others stepped up instead. They have traded some good players away from the team ahead of this season and the roster looks weak this season. They have good defenders but I can’t see any good depth in the forwards and the goalie are just okay. Think Florida will miss play off here and struggle for a bit at the beginning of the season before they find how to play this season.
#8 Detroit Red Wings
Head coach: Jeff Blashill
Stadium: Little Ceasars Arena, Detroit
Last year: 7th, Atlantic
Red Wings should have started the rebuild earlier, they should have taken some years off to rebuild the team and get good draft positions, but maybe they were too proud of never missing out on playoffs. Well, now they have a roster with old players and young players that aren’t developed yet. Zetterberg is the best player in the team but he is getting older and slower. Larkin haven’t gotten the development that many fans hoped to see and the defence and goalie aren’t among the best either. Detroit will struggle, for sure, and if they reach playoffs I’m the first to admit that I was wrong.
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