It seems like only yesterday that we were watching Alex Ovechkin doing kegstands on the Stanley Cup from all around the world (way to ruin it for everyone else, Ovie). Now, with the NHL season starting up again this week, some questions can only be answered as the season unfolds. Here are our Top 5 Questions for the upcoming season:
#5. Will there be a Stanley Cup hangover?
This is not a literal question – we are sure many of the Capitals players were hurting from all the partying after their win over Las Vegas in the Stanley Cup Final. However, now that the team has this huge monkey off their backs, what do they do for an encore? It was easy to see the look of relief on the faces of many of the players, but with their coach leaving, what effect will that have on the locker room?
Tom Wilson earned himself a shiny new contract almost solely off the back of shutting down Sidney Crosby but has already found himself in hot water for another headshot. Will Ovie, Holtby and Backstrom all come back with the same motivation to get out of a very tough conference?
#4. Was the Vegas season a fluke?
Wow. Well, the league couldn’t have scripted it better for its expansion team, could they? Not only did the team draw great numbers in a city that not everyone believed the NHL would do well in, but the team also made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals! Now, the inaugural season started with a speech about how every player in the locker room was there because their old team didn’t want them, and this “underdog” strategy played out almost to perfection. There have been some minor changes to the team, including the addition of Max Pacioretty. However, the core of the team is still intact on the ice…what remains to be seen is if the team will continue to play with the same fire like last season.
#3. What is in store for the Montreal Canadiens?
It sure is shaping up to be another ugly season for the fans of the Blue, Blanc, and Rouge. The Habs have not done themselves any favors over the last few years, including trading P.K. Subban, Mikael Sergachev and the aforementioned Pacioretty. They have turned the captaincy over to Shea Weber, who is likely out of the lineup until December at the earliest.
The team is a shell of its former glory days, and it looks like a rebuild is in order. However, the biggest question is what the team dows with Carey Price. Having locked him up to a contract worth 10 million a year, he is going to be hard to trade, and one wonders how long he will want to play with this team in front of him. Perhaps we will see another Patrick Roy-style incident with Price…unless Roy himself comes in to be the savior in Montreal.
#2. Do the Sharks have more bite this year?
This will not be the last pun you hear about the Sharks this year, this we promise. With the re-signing of Evander Kane and the massive coup of acquiring Erik Karlsson, San Jose looks poised to take a run at an elusive first Stanley Cup again this year. With Karlsson and Brent Burns anchoring the blue line and Martin Jones in goal, stopping pucks shouldn’t be an issue.
However, the forward lineup has had its fair share of ups and downs, and the team is going to have to give more support to Kane, Couture, and Pavelski if they are going to make their offseason moves pay off in June.
#1. Is this FINALLY the year for the Maple Leafs?
Fans in Toronto have heard this song and dance before, but this time may be the most likely the song reaches the end. The team made the biggest splash this offseason by luring coveted free agent John Tavares to come home and play for the Leafs.
This puts Toronto in the discussion that has been reserved for teams like Pittsburgh for the last decade – having to game-changing centers on the same team. Adding Tavares to a lineup that already has Auston Matthews, Michael Nylander and Mitch Marner only serves to make the offense potent.
However, despite the heroics at times of goalie Frederik Andersen, the team was very weak defensively last year, and unless the Leafs plan on winning a bunch of playoff games 6-5, there is still a little work to be done before we see a parade down Yonge Street and all over the city for that matter.