This upcoming NHL season will be an interesting one as there has been more change than usual over this past off season. Players have changed teams, teams may have changed names (Arizona or Phoenix?) divisions have changed shape and teams have changed conferences. I wanted to take a few moments and look at what I think could be interesting developments in this up coming season.
The goaltending mess and drama is over in Vancouver….or is it? With Roberto Luongo now entrenched as the starter in Vancouver, I don’t believe that we will have quiet on the goalie front on the Canucks. Will Luongo be fully focused and committed to the Canucks? Was trading Schnieder the right move? How long until the fans and the press turn on Luongo wwhen he hits a tough stretch? These are all questions that will arise this season and we will need to wait and see how they are answered.
This has to be a bounce back season for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as the young Edmonton Oilers are poised to step into the play-offs this season. To say that he struggled last season would be a huge understatement and the sophmore jinx hit RNH hard as it seemed that he was struggling to keep up to the game last year. I believe that he could bounce back fo 60 to 70 points this season, as I believe that he now understands how much hard work is involved in taking his game to the next level.
Sidney Crosby is poised to have a monster season this season and it could lead him to another Hart and Art Ross winning season. Crosby has been the best player in the world when he has been healthy and he only lost the Art Ross last season due to a fluke injury. If he is healthy, he could easily put up anywhere from 120 to 140 points this season. Pascual Dupuis and Chris Kunitz have developed into the perfect wingers for Crosby and he has elevated their game.
How much fun will it be to see the Detroit Red Wings in the Eastern Conference battling he original 6 rivalries will be alive and well for these four teams and the intensity of the games between them all will be off the charts! It will be odd to see the Red Wings on the Eastern sside of the play-off bracket but this re-alignement had to happen and was the right move by the NHL.
I can not wait to see Nathan MacKinnon begin his NHL career with the Colorado Avalanche. I was lucky to see the native of Nova Scotia (I am Nova Scotian as well) play last season for the Halifax Mooseheads and this kid is the real deal! The way that he changes the tempo of the game, slows it down to where he wants it, reminds me of Mario Lemieux. He is a natural goal scorer and is creative in the offensive zone. He is coming off of a Memorial Cup championship in Halifax and will bring that to the locker room.
Imagine the fun it will be to watch Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Jonathan Druin on the powerplay in Tampa Bay this season. Druin is the former linemate of Nathan MacKinnon from the Halifax Mooseheads and this guy has speed to burn. He can snap off a shot as he races down the wing at top speed with the best of them already. Stamkos is a pure sniper and having playmakers like St. Louis and Druin could have him top out at 65 goals this season.
There are so many stories to play out this season in the NHL. Will Alexander Ovechkin return to his 50 goal form? Will David Clarkson be worth what the Maple Leafs have paid them? Will John Tavares continue to push the New York Islanders to be a better team? Will Marc-Andre Fleury return to form after a second play-off melt down?
I can not wait to find out!