The Sputnik’s NHL season preview

Another season is about to begin in the NHL. Every fan has renewed hope for their favourite team and players. Ultimately though, only one team will be able to win the Stanley Cup. Some teams may determine success to be reaching the playoffs, such as, Edmonton, Florida and Columbus. While other teams will be hoping to advance deeper into the playoffs such as, Winnipeg and Pittsburgh and the Islanders.


Eastern Conference

The elite teams in the east didn’t do much to change their rosters. Instead they will rely on the same players to be successful again this season. Montreal, Tampa Bay, Washington and the New York Rangers will hope that the formula that worked last season can do the trick again after all four made the conference semi-finals.

Tampa Bay will again hope that their young core of stars will help them reach the finals, this time using their experience to win the cup. The team is loaded with young stars like Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, and Nikita Kucherov at forward. Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman will lead the defence. In goal will be one of the top goalies from last year, Ben Bishop. Bishop was injured in the finals last season, the lightning eventually lost in 6 games. Steve Yzerman won GM of the year last season for the team he was able to put together and his plan was to rely on that roster again.

The Rangers added to their depth with the additions of two-time cup winner Jarret Stoll. The team also added Emerson Etem and Viktor Stalberg. The team is still built from the back out with future hall of famer Henrik Lundqvist in net for his tenth season as a Ranger. The Defence is full of top talent in veterans Ryan McDonagh, Keith Yandle, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal. The Rangers were the best regular season team last season and another quality season should happen this year.

Montreal will hope reigning MVP Carey Price has another amazing season to lead this team to another great season and hopefully further into the playoffs. Price will receive help from P.K. Subban, a Norris trophy finalist last season, and one of the top scorers in the league last season Max Pacioretty.

After struggling to reach expectations in the playoffs, Washington added Los Angeles playoff hero Justin Williams to add experience to the team. If Washington goes deep into the playoffs it will still be Alex Ovechkin carrying the team offensively. Goalie Braden Holtby signed a new contract in the offseason after a breakout season. Another strong campaign from Holtby is necessary.

The rest of the conference will be hoping to catch those few teams with a few making moves to try and pass them. The Penguins pulled off one of the biggest additions of the offseason with the addition of Phil Kessel, the lineup that was already stacked with elite playmakers. The Penguins will be hoping Kessel can score 40 goals while making their offence even more lethal. The defence should be improved with Kris Letang once again leading the group.

Another team that could make a big jump may be the Buffalo Sabres. A playoff spot may be just out of reach but after finishing last in the NHL last season. The poor finish allowed the team to draft Jack Eichel who may not be a superstar for a few years, but may be NHL ready now. The additions of Evander Kane, and Ryan O’Reilly will help the offence. Robin Lehner was added in a trade during the draft and should provide Buffalo with the quality of goaltending they lacked last season. The Sabres may be able to sneak into the playoffs this season with the talent they have assembled.

Boston missed the playoffs by two points last season and was faced with some tough decisions because of the salary cap. Peter Chiarelli was fired as GM after the Bruins failed to reach the playoffs. New GM Don Sweeney quickly made changes to the roster. Restricted free agent Dougie Hamilton was traded at the draft along with Milan Lucic in an attempt to create more cap room. After years of being a contender the Bruins have entered a rebuild and will likely be passed by Florida and maybe Buffalo in the standings.

The teams that should be locked in the playoffs are Montreal, Tampa Bay, both New York teams, Washington and Pittsburgh. A couple of teams will be competing to earn the wild card spots, Ottawa, Florida, Detroit and Columbus. Florida and Ottawa seem to be the two teams likely to take the final two playoff spots. Toronto, Boston, Buffalo, Carolina, New Jersey, Philadelphia fans shouldn’t be expecting to make the playoffs this year, but miracles are always possible.


Western Conference

In the west a few teams have created a gap between themselves and the rest of the conference. Chicago, St. Louis and Anaheim were all among the top teams in the league last season.

After three championships in six seasons, the Blackhawks should be considered a dynasty, especially in the salary cap era. This offseason the team lost a lot of the depth that helped them win not only last year but in previous years. Patrick sharp, Brandon Saad, Brad Richards, Johnny Oduya and Kimmo Timonen were only some of the key pieces the Blackhawks couldn’t afford to re-sign. A team with all-star talents Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook will always be one of the top teams. Chicago has managed to survive losing talent before due to excellent drafting and development and until proven otherwise they are a threat.

After pushing Chicago to seven games in the conference finals the Ducks added some depth to support their dynamic duo. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry will do their part to carry this team again. They have won before with Anaheim and gold medals with Canada proving they can win in big situations. The additions of Carl Hagelin and Kevin Bieksa should help spread the work so that Perry and Getzlaf can stay fresh for the playoff grind.

After being one of the top teams in the regular season again the St. Louis Blues struggled in the playoffs. With almost the same roster as last season the Blues will be hoping they can get over the playoff hurdle this season. An elite defence will be the key for the Blues who have one of the top four groups in the league. Kevin Shattenkirk, Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester provide experience and skill that leads the team. In net Jake Allen may be the next top young goalie if he can win the starting job over Brian Elliott.

The Dallas Stars have the potential to be one of the breakout teams this season. The addition of Patrick Sharp and Johnny Oduya will provide experience for a young team. WIth young talent in Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and John Klingberg, the Stars may push for a playoff spot this season.

New coach Todd McLellan and new general manager Peter Chiarelli are hoping to turn around the Oilers. The pair received some luck by winning the draft lottery and getting the chance to pick Connor McDavid. The OIlers are still likely a few years from being elite but they appear to be on the right track to success.

Calgary was a team that came out of nowhere last year to make the playoffs. Now they must prove it wasn’t a fluke and must grow off of last season’s surprise. The team added to their deep and talented blue line with the addition of Dougie Hamilton at the draft last spring. Another strong season from young forwards Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau would help Calgary solidify itself as a playoff team.

A few teams in the West appear to be locks for the playoffs, Chicago, St. Louis, Minnesota and Anaheim should be planning to be play in the spring. Even with improvement Edmonton and Arizona have only a slim chance of making the playoffs and should be focused on improving their young talent. The middle of the West is tightly packed, although Calgary, Los Angeles, and Dallas look a little better than the rest of the pack.

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