Hockey prognosticators seem to agree that both the Central and Metro divisions are going to be very good, while the Atlantic will be led by the Lightning. The Pacific division is much more difficult to figure out.
Unsurprisingly, the Ducks will start the season as the favorites, while the Coyotes are expected to remain in the cellar for the next couple of years. Edmonton should be better (how many years have we said that?) with adding McJesus, but not nearly enough to compete for the playoffs. They still have questions in goal and on the blue line.
Perennial powerhouses, the Sharks and the Kings, both missed the playoffs last year. However, each still has rosters that could land them back in the postseason when this year's campaign draws to a close. There's also the surprising Calgary Flames and the hopeful Vancouver Canucks, both of whom saw returns to the playoffs in 2015.
Those last four teams are going to be locked in battle over two division spots. That's assuming, of course, that Anaheim remains regular season dominant, and the Central sends five teams to the playoffs.
Best Off-Season Acquisition
Not counting Connor McDavid? Unquestionably it was Calgary's larceny of Dougie Hamilton from the Boston Bruins. Three draft picks (a first and two seconds) were an unbelievably cheap price to pay for a 22-year-old defenseman who, on all accounts, is going to be an absolute stud. Especially when you consider the Bruins turned around and used the pick they got to draft a player that even Bob McKenzie had trouble identifying.
The Flames locked the RFA up to a six-year deal worth $5.75 million each year, and shored up one of the best blue lines in the league. (On paper, at least.) With the addition of Michael Frolik, Calgary might just be able to avoid Coloradoing themselves out of postseason contention, and instead build off what they did last year.
Worst Off-Season Acquisition
Even though the Canucks traded for and signed a bunch of hockey players that can't play hockey, the Coyotes still traded for Chris Pronger. I know it was a salary cap move but... the Coyotes traded for Chris Pronger. THEY ACTUALLY HELPED THE FLYERS. Jerks...
I really hope they retire his jersey in the desert.
Other Notable Additions
- Cam Talbot, Andrej Sekera, Lauri Korpikoski, Eric Gryba, Griffin Reinhart, and Mark Letestu, Oilers: Edmonton decided to revamp their defense with overpaid old guys and a kid even Long Island didn't want. The big question is whether Staypuft himself can actually be a full-fledged started for an entire year. Talbot performed well above expectations when Henrik Lundqvist was on the shelf, but the Rangers' defense (however overrated) is still better than what he'll have in The City of Champions.
- Antoine Vermette, Boyd Gordon, and Anders Lindback, Coyotes: Vermette got his Cup, then came back home, I guess. Gordon also returns to Glendale after collected a fat paycheck in Edmonton. Remember when we all thought Lindback was good?
- Paul Martin, Joel Ward and Martin Jones, Sharks: Wardo! The San Jose got themselves a defenseman and a starting goaltender to replace the Stars' $4 million dollar backup. Whether Jones is actually up for a starting workload remains to be seen.
- Milan Lucic and Christian Ehrhoff, Kings: LA swapped a goalie for the mouth-breathing Lucic, only to see said goalie head straight to the Bay Area. Ha. They did, however, sign Ehrhoff to a cheap one-year deal. He'll help on the defense, filling the void that scum-of-a-person left behind.
- Kevin Bieksa, Carl Hagelin, Shawn Horcoff, Chris Stewart, Mike Santorelli, Anton Khudobin, Ducks: Though they were a game away from heading to the Stanley Cup Final, Bob Murray decided to make more trades and bring in a number of relatively cheap players. The core player are the same, but the pieces around them are completely different. We'll call this the anti-Islanders plan.
- A whole buncha grinders, Canucks: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Breakout Player for 2015-16
Is putting Connor McDavid here cheating? It is? I don't care.
What about Tomas Hertl for no other reason than I get to include this tweet.
Today after exersice...i have a lot of new young friends:-D..fun must be alwalys:-)) pic.twitter.com/oM005RF2Py— Tomáš Hertl (@TomasHertl48) January 31, 2014
Fans Should Most Look Forward To
It's too bad McDavid has to play for the Oilers, because it's going to be so much fun watching him finally play in the NHL. But we get to see which one of these tire fires of a team is going to suck the least. Will Calgary hold off regression? Will the Sharks and Kings make it back into the playoffs? Will the Sharks and Ducks finally do something in the playoffs? Just how big of a jackass will Milan Lucic be this year? Does any body care about the Canucks?