The Cup champs have had their summer with Lord Stanley and the beginning of the NHL season will be upon us before you know it.
In the now we have the World Cup of Hockey which they have already begun the warm-up games for.
This is an opportunity to view the world’s fastest team sport played at its highest level. Where the games truly most skilled and talented are asked to play different roles and put their egos aside. Typically the team that wins is the team who has the best leadership from the GM down.
What I mean by this is which coaches can get through to their players and convince them to go from top power play minutes to none at all, yet still be ready to go and make valuable contributions. To become a checker when you are a scorer, to play for the crest you are representing on the front of your jersey instead of the name on the back.
Any team in this tournament has a chance to come away as the champions. I truly believe that. There is so much talent and skill on every team. The ones who come away victorious are going to be the ones who are able to gel together at the right time.
Peak too early and hit a plateau for the elimination round and you’re done. Come up against a hot goalie and all of a sudden you are playing for the bronze medal instead of the gold. These contests are all single game elimination until the final which is the best of three.
What makes this tournament so difficult to predict is the unknowns which is why you won’t see many if any from me, unless something really stands out and catches my eye.
NHL Preview 2016-2017
It doesn’t seem that long ago that Sidney Crosby’s Pittsburgh Penguins earned the right to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup, and in actuality it wasn’t. However, in the world of hockey that was then and all that matters now is what is in front of us.
It was a busy off-season and with a few key free agents still waiting to be signed there are lots questions to be answered.
Where will Kris Russel the NHL’s leading shot blocker over the last three years be signed and why hasn’t he gone already?
It seems inevitable that Ben Bishop the Vezina nominated goalie for the Tampa Bay Lightning will be dealt, but will he go to a contender or to a team in the rebuild and will the return be for a playoff run.
On the subject of the Lightning are they ready to break through, I mean look how close they came to going to the Cup finals again and they did it without Steven Stamkos one of the game’s very best who is in his prime.
This team has been knocking on the door for years and seen the Cup and conference finals numerous times over the last 5 seasons. Settling in their corner doesn’t seem like a bad idea if you’re a betting man.
It took Steve Yzerman a number of tries as a player before he got to the top of the mountain and it appears he is going through the same struggles as a GM, however he wasn’t denied as a player and his nucleus is fairly young plus they have plenty of playoff experience.
Does Pittsburgh have what it takes to repeat, and if things aren’t going well at the mid-season mark should they fire their coach? That’s how they won the playoffs both times in the Crosby/Malkin era. In 2009 Dan Bylsma took the over reigns from Claude Julien and this year we saw Mike Sullivan push out coach Johnston.
Where does Marc-Andre Fleury go and do the Pens trade for the now, the future, or the near future? After Matt Murray’s performance down the stretch and through the playoffs the NHL’s first overall pick from the 2005 draft will be on his way out. His contract is fair and he has proven that he is not only a great goaltender, but a great teammate. The return for Fleury should be high.
The losing team in the Cup finals the San Jose Sharks got blown out in the fourth round. The Sharks should feel lucky they weren’t swept. They just didn’t have the team speed to keep up with a fast Penguins team.
They have done a decent job addressing that in the off-season by adding Mikkel Boedker up front and the underated David Schlemko to the back end. Will they break the California curse by being the most successful of the three franchises over the last 25 years as far as games won goes, but the only team without a Stanley Cup?
And what will become of the Ducks and Kings. Anaheim’s nucleus is getting on and they still rely on them for the majority of their scoring. Things look bleak for a team that is getting older in a game where getting younger is the name. The kids who should be taking some of the burden away from Getzlaf, Perry, and Kesler haven’t proven that they can step up and fill the net with any consistency.
The Kings have had great success winning the Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014 by icing a big fast team. But last spring L.A looked big but they weren’t quite as fast as they once were, and although they won the physical battle against the Sharks they didn’t win the one that really counts which is scoring goals.
Let’s also keep in mind that Kings head coach Darryl Sutter’s style usually falls on deaf ears by now as history has shown with the numerous teams he has coached in the past, especially with a veteran laden team.
Which of the Canadian teams will make the post-season in 2016/17 after being shut-out last year, and will they make a splash if they do. Certainly Montreal will make the spring dance with the changes they have made and if Carey Price can stay healthy they have to be considered a real threat to challenge for the prize.
Predicting a champion in the fall is terribly difficult because there is so so much that can happen and change between now and then. The team that wins the Cup is typically a team that has good to great goaltending, depth, skill, adequate coaching, and who hasn’t been bitten by the injury bug.
I know, thanks for stating the obvious right?
Having stated that there are a handful of teams that you could count on now who will be in the running and the squad that has all of the above and is able to go into the post-season with momentum will win.
We saw that this year with Pittsburgh. The 2012 Kings are the only team in NHL history to win as the 8 seed. Both of these teams though came in hot, rode good goaltending, played all four lines, and received contributions from everybody on the roster.
One thing is for certain that there has been a shift in power where we once called the West a far more dominant division I believe that the East has more potential champions. Their top teams are faster and more skilled.
From the East expect T. Bay, Pitt, Washington, and Montreal to be in the conversation.
The West can’t be talked about without mentioning Chicago, San Jose, Dallas who is on the rise, and Nashville is half step behind but with the right trade could be a contender.
I look forward to making picks for you throughout the season. Keep checking the site as I will give some tips as to my approach before the puck drops and how I break down the long difficult season.
Keep your sticks on the ice,
— Cam Gore