These previews are just short bursts of information because you don’t want fancy stats and numbers. You want quick talking points so you look less dumb in front of your friends. Fancy stats and numbers just makes you look like an asshole.
Carolina Hurricanes: The Hurricanes are the definition of a “hit or miss” team. They’re loaded with young talent. If that talent lives up to their potential and it all comes together for them, they’re a team that will surprise everyone. But, if that young talent hits a wall and falters, they’ll be at the bottom of the league. I think they’ll hit. Sebastian Aho is going to be a stud and Teuvo Teravainen has proven he can be a game breaker. They don’t have that #1 scorer (unless Jeff Skinner finally takes the reigns) that you fear, but they could potentially roll out three solid scoring lines. Their young defense will concern some, but they’re well coached and if they continue to develop and build on last season, they’ll be fine. Cam Ward is the old man now, and while I wouldn’t hold my breath on him regaining his Stanley Cup form, he no longer has to worry with the trade distraction or living up to a big contract.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Remember the guy who coached Team USA in the World Cup? He coaches the Blue Jackets. I’m trying to think of the positives in Columbus, and well, I don’t have any. If Sergei Bobrovsky doesn’t give up a goal all season, I think they can win some games. They’ve got a lot of good second line guys up front, led by Brandon Saad. I love Seth Jones, but he hasn’t proven he can anchor a defense quite yet. Ryan Murray and Zach Werenski are good young players, but they’ll have to play way above their head if Columbus hopes to contend for a playoff spot. But this really comes down to coaching. I don’t think Tortorella’s old school style works anymore and the Blue Jackets don’t have enough talent to overcome his poor coaching.
New Jersey Devils: THEY GOT TAYLOR HALL! I’m a huge fan of Taylor Hall and really can’t believe the Oilers traded their best player not named Connor McDavid for a #3 defenseman. Unfortunately for Devils fans, they don’t have much outside of Taylor Hall. Cory Schneider is a great goaltender, but it’s a poor defense in front of him and this isn’t a team that will score 3-4 goals a night in support. The Devils play a very defensive system, which certainly helps Schneider, but at the end of the day, the talent just isn’t there.
New York Islanders: I loved this Islanders team in the playoffs, and it all starts with John Tavares, another one of my favorite players. Yes, I have a lot of favorite players because hockey is awesome and there’s a ton of talent and none of them are bitchmade. They lost some key pieces in the offseason in Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo, but Andrew Ladd and P.A. Parentaeu are solid replacements. If Jaroslav Halak continues to play like he did in the World Cup, the Islanders become a scary team.
New York Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist is still the best goalie in the league in my mind, but cracks are starting to show. He’s 34 and has a lot of milage on his pads with all of the regular season games, playoff series, and international play. Their defense is not what it once was as Dan Girardi and Marc Staal have slowed down. They have a talented and deep group of forwards, and it’s possible that they score enough and get strong enough goaltending from Lundqvist that they’re able to make the playoffs. But the days of Stanley Cup contenders appear to be done.
Philadelphia Flyers: The Flyers surprised a lot of people last year. Not only did they make the playoffs, but they gave Washington a scare in the first round. They’re returning much of the same team, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Claude Giroux will continue to be a force, Jake Voracek will be better, and guys like Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, and Sean Couturier will provide strong secondary scoring. Their defense is solid, but unspectacular. It’s the goaltending that is worrisome as they have two #1 guys, which means they really have no #1 guy.
Pittsburgh Penguins: The defending Stanley Cup Champions. As long as the Penguins have Sidney Crosby, the best player in the game, they’ll be fine. Along with Crosby they house Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel, two high-end offensive players. In the playoffs, the Penguins split up the three players, giving them three scoring lines that teams simply couldn’t match-up with. It’s a hell of a luxury. Their defense is solid, but Kris Letang and Olli Maatta have to stay healthy. If they miss long stretches, I’m concerned about their depth. Goaltending is a mystery. Marc-Andre Fleury lost his starting job due to injury, but Matt Murray dazzled in the playoffs. Can Fleury regain his job while Murray is out with an injury? And is Murray just a playoff darling who can’t consistently perform over the course of 82 games? The Penguins are returning all the key pieces to last year’s Cup team, so expect them to make another deep playoff run.
Washington Capitals: We know the story with the Capitals. They are going to be great in the regular season. They have one of the most talented rosters in the NHL, they have the best scorer in the league, and they’re well-coached. The regular season no longer matters for the Capitals. It’s all about what they can accomplish in the playoffs. Alex Ovechkin has never made it out of the second round. Last year looked to be the year as the Capitals ripped through the regular season, but then they ran into the Penguins in the second round. The Capitals are going to be great for 82-games once again. Can they be great for 16 games in the playoffs? I won’t believe it until I see it.