How does the NHL look after the divisional shake-up? Check out our preview.The NHL’s power brokers got busy during the offseason, realigning the league’s divisional structure, with the results set to provide fans with a bevy of new rivalries and match ups.
The most notable move was the Red Wings shift to the Eastern Conference. Sure, they’ll play the Blackhawks less frequently (now the only original-six team left out West), but seeing Detroit play New York (Rangers), Boston, Montreal and Toronto on a regular basis is something any hockey fan would be salivating over.
These moves have also addressed the long-term growth and marketability of the sport. Less travel within each division should ensure team’s are better rested, hopefully avoiding injuries in the lead up to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which would of course provide a more interesting spectacle for the NHL faithful.
Here’s a look at what you can expect when the season kicks off in a week’s time!
All three Californian teams are looking to bring some heat this season, with the LA Kings still fancying themselves as Cup contenders, while the Ducks and Sharks should be considered a genuine threat to anyone venturing out west.
Smart trading (such as the addition of seasoned D-man Andrew Ference) and a slew of talented youngsters may see the Edmonton Oilers break their playoff drought this year.
Vancouver could truly go either way. The team can either respond to new coach John Tortorella’s brash approach or crumble under his iron-fisted reign. Both the playing group and the front office know the Canucks window for a Cup is closing (if it isn’t already), so either way, it’ll be interesting to watch the whole thing unfold.
Calgary are in for another rough year while they rebuild, which just leaves the Phoenix Coyotes. They’ve traded solidly over the past few months however many involved in the league are still doubtful this desert-dwelling team can truly capture the hearts and minds of their prospective fan base. Another shocking season or two and you could very well see these guys make the move to either Portland or Seattle.
The Blackhawks must be loving this. Regular games against league lightweights like Winnipeg, Dallas and Nashville are going to do wonders for their record, although injuries, quickly developing prospects and the up and down nature of the league can truly make a game, anyone’s (not to mention the St Louis Blues are capable of toppling anyone when they bring their A game).
Look for Minnesota’s highly paid duo of Parise and Sutter to lead the resurgent Wild a little deeper into the playoffs this season too.
Expect some real heat out of the revamped Metropolitan Division. Sure, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia will duke it out (both on the scoreboard and in the penalty minutes column) like they always do, but the vastly improved Blue Jackets and feisty Capitals (seriously, have you seen their preseason games?) are going to put some real pressure on Sid Crosby’s and the Penguins.
The Devils will be desperate to atone for last season’s woeful performance, while the Rangers are looking to silence the critics, with Ryan Callahan, Rick Nash and Brad Richards expected to lead the way.
Tempers have already run hot in the new-look Atlantic Division (did you catch our post covering the Toronto and Buffalo bust up?) and you should expect plenty more of that this season. The addition of Detroit to an already stacked and gritty collection of teams will make the Atlantic a guaranteed crowd pleaser.
Toronto’s improvement over the last 12 months should continue, same goes for Montreal, just as long as Carey Price can hold it together between the pipes. No one is expecting a hell of a lot from Florida or Ottawa, but stranger things have happened and yes, it’ll be interesting to see how Tampa Bay functions without the big-bodied Vincent LeCavalier kicking about.
It goes without saying though, that the marquee match up is Boston and Detroit. Both are well-balanced teams that have the personnel and the playing style to challenge the Blackhawks for the Cup. Expect nothing less than hockey brilliance each and every time these two square off.
Are you keen on the upcoming NHL season? Let us know in the comments!