Ah the dawn of another season of NHL hockey. A day when every franchise has hope. By Spring we’ll see which team gets to sip from Lord Stanley’s Cup, but for today the playing field is even.
Hockey is Canada’s game and I generally tend to cover our Canadian clubs. So the question today is which of our city’s will make the Play Offs?
Montreal: Yes, they’ll make the play offs, but so far this is not looking like a deep run team unless the hockey gods really shine and GM Marc Bergevin makes a strong move or two.
So far the key issue of a big centre has not been addressed. As I write this Tomas Plekanec’s contract still hasn’t been resolved. The D, even though strong on paper, is kinda frightening to me and the team relies too much on Carey Price carrying them.
What needs to go right: Max Pacioretty needs to get at least 72 games played this year with at least 35 goals. Galchenyuk needs to stick at Centre and put up 60 points. Semin needs to score 20 or more. Jeff Petry needs to be the real deal.
What could go wrong: Patch needs patches, Semin is Semin. Markov is injured or shows his age.
Surprises? Smith Pelly notches 15 goals and elevates his game. Eller puts up over 50 points on the wing. One of the kids gets into the line up before game 40. The Big Trade. Bergevin has a lot of depth and needs to consolidate some of it to make a run this year.
Ottawa: Maybe? It’s a tougher division this year and you can’t count on Columbus being injured and Kessel is going to rock it in Pittsburgh. Florida and Buffalo are going to be moving on up as well. There’s very little room for error for the Sens. They can’t afford any extended struggles.
What needs to go right: Bobby Ryan needs to rebound and get back to 30 goals. Zibanejad needs to grow into that big number one centre. Hoffman needs to play with a bit of a chip on his shoulder and hit the back of the net 25+ times. Curtis Lazar needs to up the ante. Patrick Wiercioch needs to solidify himself for a new contract and Craig Anderson needs to give the Sens one more good year for Bryan Murray.
What could go wrong: The kids lighten up and don’t evolve. Any serious loss of time by Karlsson or Cody Ceci on D. Anderson fail.
Surprises? Chris Wideman has a strong impact and puts up 25+ points. The Hamburglar turns in a good season.
The Sens are a good club in good cap shape too. While restricted to budget there’s room for a strong deal or two if they’re close at the deadline.
Vancouver: Yes. It’ll be close, but Vancouver should have enough left in the tank to hold on. Again, the team will ride the Sedin’s and that should be enough looking at the cast surrounding them.
What needs to go right: The Sedin’s They need to keep up their production. Anything less than 140 points in total for the twins and they miss the cut. Brandon Sutter. Is he the 2C or the winger for the Sedins? Bo Horvat is clearly on the rise and will make some Canuck fans sting over losing Kesler dimmer down. Ryan Miller needs to be able to put in 50 strong games for this team to make the play offs. Tanev needs to get to the next level of his evolution.
What could go wrong: Injuries and age catch up with the Nucks. The D is shaky over all unless Ben Hutton turns into a top 4 guy. Burrows and Vrbata are both 34 to start the season.
The Canucks are a bubble team. Bubble teams can be lots of fun. If things go right they are in the play offs. If things go bust and the team can’t adjust it’s an early season.
Winnipeg: No. Simply put they didn’t do enough in the off season and the Byfuglien mess is still lurking as well as the status of Andrew Ladd.
Winnipeg is in a very deep and talented division. They don’t have franchise players like the Sedin’s or a goalie of Ryan Miller’s pedigree. Drew Stafford is not a replacement for Evander Kane.
What needs to go right: Some career years from some of the key players. Winnipeg overall needs to exceed their average performance to make the play offs. The Ladd & Buff situations can’t hurt the team’s play. Nikolaj Ehlers needs to have a break out year. (Makes you wonder if there’s a trade possibility with Montreal to bring Lars Eller to the Jets?)
What could go wrong: Contract distraction, Pavelec reverts to form. Tyler Myers plays like he’s back in Buffalo. Goalie dysfunction.
It’s a challenge to build a dynamic NHL squad year in and year out. Winnipeg’s core is about to transition with most of its best players near or over 30. There needs to be some young blood carrying the load.
Toronto: Nope, nada, maybe never. The next 5 year rebuild mission. It’s like Star Trek without hot green alien chicks.
Toronto fans deserve special consideration. They support their team year in year out with a full range of excuses. Brian Burke is not chopped liver. How did he turn Calgary around so quickly yet Toronto failed? Are the Leaf’s cursed?
Now it’s Mike Babcock’s turn. My biggest question was whether it was his idea to have Lou Lamoriello show up?
Too many cooks can spoil the dish. For this year it’s going to be a very long season filled with players to be traded for draft pics and future stars.
Toronto literally has stacked its shelves with tradeable contracts. Right now there really is no apparent core of talent that will evolve with Toronto on the roster that will see the puck drop tonight vs Montreal.
The irony is that Dion Phaneuf will probably stick through the rebuild. The team will not have to tank this year as they really are a terrible club.
What needs to go right: N/A
What could go wrong: The Leafs realize they are the Leafs and have career years and make the play offs just to be themselves and thus hurting the rebuild.
Surprise: They bring the kids up early to get seasoned. Gardiner and Reilly actually become top 4 D.
Why did Babcock pick Toronto over Buffalo again?
Calgary: Maybe. I know, that’s fence sitting. I’m rooting for the Flames. I think Brian Burke has done a great job of rebuilding this squad. I’m really liking that they didn’t fire their coach when Burke came on board. Calgary has done something very special. They’ve created a culture of winning and are slowly filling the team with stronger caliber players.
What needs to go right: Johnny Hockey needs to maintain and a full year of Sam Bennett needs to be worth the price of admission.
What could go wrong: Goal tending. Hiller and Ramo will earn $8.3 Million this year. That’s more than Montreal pays for its two goalies. Jiri Hudler will be resigned or traded. How that plays out should be interesting. His production will need to be replaced if he’s moved.
Dougie Hamilton and Mark Giordano on the same D squad is exciting. Calgary’s D is its strength. Dennis Wideman might also be moved to fill a hole. It should be an interesting season for the Flames.
Edmonton: Yes, and about bloody time! Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin or Ryan Johansen? RNH or Landeskog or Hamilton? Yakupov or Galchenyuk or Linholm? And now one Connor McDavid. Has any team ever compiled so many top picks in such a short period of time and not made the play offs? If the Oilers don’t make it this year some major heads should roll. There simply is no excuse.
What needs to go right: The stars simply do the basics. Nail needs to assert himself finally at the NHL level and with the injury to Eberle there should be some ice time to fight for. Leon Draisaitl looks great on the ice. He needs to make the jump. Cam Talbot has to not be Ben Scrivens. Griffin Reinhart needs to earn top 4 time.
What could go wrong: Cam Talbot. The Oilers need a plan B to make sure this season is successful. Anything other than reaching the play offs is a failure. Protect McDavid. How many years to Semenko float around Gretzky?
Surprises: McDavid doesn’t rock it. Anton Lander scores more than 40 points. Cam Talbot really is a #1 goalie.
Why didn’t Edmonton sign Cody Franson? On this team his skills would be a nice fit and compared to some of the contracts they’ve given out wouldn’t it have made sense to add him to the squad?
Making it: Montreal, Vancouver, and Edmonton
Maybe: Ottawa, and Calgary.
Nope: Toronto, and Winnipeg.
Now if we can get Quebec into the league…..
What do you think hockey fans? You can post your comments below.