While most Americans have settled into a Sunday routine of kicking back, eating wings, crushing beers and watching some good old American football, our Canadian brethren are rejoicing the opening of their favorite season today: hockey season. For everyone who loves to see dudes carving up the ice, body checking each other into walls and slapping a puck into the goal faster than you can say, “I love maple syrup,” this NHL season preview is for you.
Frontrunners for the Hart Trophy: The Hart Trophy is the NHL’s MVP award for the player who is most valuable to his team during the regular season. Look for last year’s winner and runner-up, Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers and Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, respectively, to be the top two guys looking to earn this trophy. But watch out for Auston Matthews of the Maple Leafs, a team that had surprisingly good season last year, to take another step and fight for bragging rights.
Frontrunners for the Vezina Trophy: The Vezina Trophy is given to the best goaltender in the league each year. Last year’s winner was Sergei Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets, a team that should have a shot at the top spot in the East and the player who should be the favorite for this trophy. Keep tabs on a healthy John Gibson of the Anaheim Ducks, a team that will be doggedly fighting to get to the Stanley Cup after last year’s bad luck with injuries, and Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens, a goalie who will play hard for a team that won the Atlantic Division last year and should advance further in the playoffs this season.
Frontrunners for the Stanley Cup: Winning the Stanley Cup means you won it all, and although the Pittsburgh Penguins went through some roster changes this offseason, they remain the favorites here to three-peat, as they’ve won the Cup the past two years. Besides the Penguins, the Nashville Predators, last year’s runner-up, are still a threat along with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Anaheim Ducks, Edmonton Oilers and the San Jose Sharks.
The Blue Jackets lost in the playoffs to the Penguins last season and should be looking to advance even further this time around with help from the best goalie in the league. The Ducks could’ve made it to the Stanley Cup final with a healthy Gibson, so watch out for this rejuvenated team to make a push for the Cup. The Oilers have the reigning Hart Trophy winner who will be wanting to take his team to glory this season. The Sharks have the longest odds of all these teams, but after advancing to the final two years ago and wielding an experienced core, San Jose will be fighting to win as their title window starts to close.
The Cellar Dwellers: I’ve covered the frontrunners already, but how about those teams in the back of the league that are trying to crawl to respectability? I’m looking at you, Colorado, Vancouver, Arizona and New Jersey. The Colorado Avalanche look to be the worst team in the league once again this year after an offseason where not much changed. The Vancouver Canucks finished second-to-last this past season and don’t look to make a charge much higher in the standings this time around.
The Arizona Coyotes made some changes this summer, obtaining a new coach and goalie, but it remains to be seen whether this will take them out of the bottom-five. As for the New Jersey Devils, winning the draft lottery gave them an 18-year-old Swiss rookie who could make this team somewhat respectable.
Biggest Mystery:In a league that previously had only 30 teams, this is the first year in which that number bumps up to 31. The Las Vegas Golden Knights are bursting onto the NHL scene for their first year as a franchise, and question loom everywhere. How much chemistry will the players have together? Will the excitement of being a fresh squad energize the team and propel them into the playoffs? Will players struggle to mesh, dropping this team to the bottom-five in the league in their first year? No one is quite sure how this will play out, but everyone is excited to watch.
Zac Lane is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.