The NHL season is not too far away and the free agency craze has all the fans of various teams excited for the new season. Whether it’s a new free agent signing or a huge trade that could alter their team’s chances at hoisting lord Stanley’s Cup this year, everyone gets excited. You cannot deny it’s a great time to be a fan of whatever team it is you cheer for.
The only other time in the NHL season that has the ‘what ifs’ and rumours going crazy is the trade deadline. With all the deals that have been inked and all the trades that have been finalized there are some clear winners and clear losers of any signing. Every fan from the hard-core experts to the noobs will always argue and debate every teams move. The only way that any arguments can be settled is to have the season and see, this list is comprised of teams that have made big moves, trades, and picks in the draft. This will list some teams that were winners and will be winners and some teams that will be clear losers that will be nowhere near the Stanley Cup this year. Will it be star power? Will it be grit? Will it be goaltending? Or will it be a new coach? No one can know for certain until the end of the season.
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17 HEADED FOR THE CUP
16 Pittsburgh Penguins
The winners of last year’s Stanley Cup cannot be overshadowed in anyway for this upcoming season. The Pens proved this year that you don’t need an all-star caliber team to win it all, especially when it comes to the stellar goaltending they received in this year’s playoff run from Matt Murray. Not since the playoffs in 2010 that an unknown goaltender can do so well for their team. Murray very much deserved the Conne Smythe Trophy this year as playoff MVP, he had a playoff run that even established goalies in the league only dream about. Will the biggest surprise for the Pens Stanley Cup run last into next season? I believe so, and it’s not only Murray that was a surprise it was also the stellar play of Phil Kessel that had to shake his critics coming into the pens lineup in the off season. With the system being set in place last year one of the dark horses for this coming season will be Sid the Kid and the rest of the Pens.
15 Ottawa Senators
Let’s continue with a controversial entry on this list, shall we? The reason why the Ottawa Senators didn’t perform as well as they have in recent years is due to numerous situations, including a revolving door of coaches, drama behind different players like Spezza and their former franchise player Daniel Alfredsson, and mostly their special teams.
The recent hiring of Guy Boucher will boost the morale of the dressing room and will make the players play together better. With his no nonsense approach to special teams he will install a system that works much the way he did in his tenure in Tampa Bay. The system in Tampa Bay that he installed still works to this day as Tampa has been on a tear as of late. It is also the hiring of former Avalanche coach and Stanley Cup champion Marc Crawford that was met with the most controversy as he hasn’t coached in the NHL in a few seasons but has the same mentality as Boucher.
The biggest part of the Sens is if they can get behind their new coaching staff that will improve their dismal power play from last season and shake the cobwebs from a failed season; you will see them become a contender. Not only with the coaching staff, will they get help from their core with the young players along with two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson? Only time will tell.
14 Montreal Canadiens
Yet another rather controversial entry on this list, with the disastrous season they had last year the Habs are very much contenders. They may have lost players like Norris trophy winner P.K. Subban in the biggest trade to hit the NHL in a very long time and they lost Lars Eller at the draft, however the return they got for those two deals plus the deal that brought Andrew Shaw to Montreal will be beneficial.
The Subban trade will be beneficial to both parties as it will give both players Subban and Weber a new place to play and a fresh face for each city. Weber could possibly be the better of the two but only time will tell. The addition of Shaw to Montreal’s already stellar lineup will only add fuel to their scoring fire, which is aching to burn this year. Through all the trades and add-ons the biggest question is, will Carey Price be healthy and at 100% for the long haul? Again, only time will tell.
13 Dallas Stars
With the addition of Jason Spezza the season before the Stars came under a lot of criticism for the addition of Spezza stemming from his lack of work ethic during his tenure in the nation’s capital. While being led by the most underrated player in the league Jamie Benn the stars proved to be a force to be reckoned with last season with a trip to the playoffs. They may have lost in the second round to the Blues, the series itself could’ve very easily tipped in the stars favor with a grueling 7 game series. The stars showed that they have a lot more to offer than meets the eye and if they can play like they did last year and the play off the Benn brothers continues like it has they will have no problem making it to the final.
12 San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks went the furthest they have ever been in the playoffs in the 2015-2016 when they lost in the finals to the Pittsburgh Penguins. This came in a big way with the veteran core of the sharks with players like: Thorton, Pavelskie, and Marleau, these players are in the prime of their careers. Big Joe Thorton has been a mainstay for a decade in San Jose since his big profile trade from Boston and has become one the go to players for team Canada. The biggest stregnth of San Jose going forward is not just only in their core of veterans, its also a big part to the up and coming Tomas Hertl and other young and hungry players that want a piece of the limelight. This coming season will rely on the play of these top players including the stellar play of Logan Couture and goaltender Martin Jones. If all these players can click this year they can become a force to be reckoned with and will have no problem winning their first cup.
11 Chicago Blackhawks
With arguably the best overall team in the last decade Chicago has proved to the hockey world that the bad times don’t last. Since the drafting of their big players like Kane and Toewes this franchise has been a mainstay of playoff hockey with 3 Stanley Cups to show for it. They have become the first dynasty of the NHL of the new millennium and there is no stop in what they can do together. It seems that no matter what they do and what players they lose in trades, the depth of this franchise goes deeper than the surface of the big guns. With their incredible defensive depth lead by Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith its seems that their defence will be one of the toughest to beat in the upcoming year because Keith keeps getting better year after year and don’t be surprised that he is called to the stage to accept his Norris Trophy next June. With the Hawks always on the radar of anyone that likes to predict the Stanley Cup champion, it won’t be a surprise in anyone’s mind that they will make another cup run this year.
10 Washington Capitals
When it comes to the Caps, there are many unanswered questions that criticize their play such as the play of their top players. On the heels of a career season in Braden Holtby that seen the goalie win his first Vezina Trophy and yet another unbelievable scoring year of Ovechkin its no surprise that the caps are in the hunt for a cup. The biggest criticism of the caps is the play of their captain Alex Ovechkin and if he really and truly has the passion to want a Stanley Cup victory, the blame falls completely on his shoulders unfortunately. With the veteran presence of players like Richards and Orpik they will be able to guide all the young players they have coming up from their minor league system, it is with no doubt that the caps will be very close to winning their first cup this year.
9 Tampa Bay Lighting
The day the Bolts inked Steven Stamkos to an 8-year deal is the day a lot of souls in Maple Leaf land were crushed. Stamkos is without a doubt the face of the Bolts franchise and will be for possibly the rest of his career much like the Bolts GM Steve Yzerman was the face of the red wings. Along with the signing of Stamkos and Hedman to 8 years they have their top 2 for the coming future along with the signing of Vasileskiy they also have their one two punch for goaltending with Ben Bishop being their starter. The lighting have been close on many occasions of obtaining their second Stanley Cup win with losing in the finals last year to the Hawks and coming up short with the Pens this year.
The recent signing and other free agents like Cory Conacher and the add one of the young guy Eric Condra they will be good for a very long time. They are a definite pick this year to take home the cup and finally give Stamkos his first cup, and I can promise you one thing, this year will not be the only cup that stammer brings home to Tampa Bay.
8 FINISH IN THE BOTTOM
7 Boston Bruins
The Boston bruins have been steadily getting worse since their cup win in 2011; many fans can admit that truth while talking through their teeth especially when it comes to pointing the finger for who is to blame. With the grunt of the blame being put on head coach Claude Julienne it does not stop there, while julienne is an incredible coach with a huge pedigree to his name he also has some of his players for less than stellar game play. With the weight of a franchise with history with captains at defence, a lot of the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of former Norris Trophy winner Zdeno Chara. Chara gets a lot of blame for his play not only because he hasn’t been getting it done on the points side but also due to his lack of mobility in front of his own net. With one problem there is another with the lack of offensive scoring talent and the always a thorn in everyone’s side Brad Marchand there is little hope that the bruins will return to their once dominate time a top of the mountain without making some huge decisions on many players and maybe a trade of the captain will send a huge message to the rest of the locker room.
6 Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings have made history with having the longest consecutive streak of making the playoffs for the past 25 years. This historical feat is under fire this coming year with the 26th year in jeopardy due to many factors that have happened over that past couple of seasons. Not only with the loss of sniper Pavel Datsyuk being a huge loss to their fire power upfront, it’s the less than good play of their captain Henrik Zetterberg and their lack of defence in front of the revolving door of starters with Howard and Mrazek. If the Red Wings want to salvage this season and make it to the playoffs for an unbelievable 26th year in a row they will need to rely solely on the play of their young guns like Tatar and their new sensation Dylan Larkin, but for now they aren’t going anywhere near the cup.
5 Los Angeles Kings
With the amazing play of previous years behind them, the once juggernaut team from LA have fallen on hard times as of late since their cup win in 2014. While the play of their top tier players remains the same, it’s the play of some of their second tier scorers and defenders that has brought them down so far. While the re-naming of a captain is always risky when they stripped Dustin Brown of his captaincy, many believe that Anze Kopitar will lead them to the cup again. This may be a controversial pick in some hockey fans' minds, as they did make the playoffs last year; however, it was not as smooth as it was when they won the cup in 2014. They may have lost their size in Milan Lucic, but they haven’t lost much skill with their core, who are either in or just out of their primes. The biggest part of the King’s season will be consistency; can they stay in Cup form? There is a small chance they may make the playoffs but it is highly doubtful that they will be hoisting the cup in 2017.
4 Colorado Avalanche
The Avalance have been an up and down team ever since their first season back in 1997, with a couple Stanley Cups to their teams history along with numerous hall of fame players they have always been a middle of the road kind of franchise. With addition of Duchene in 2005 and the phenomenal Nathan Mackinnon in 2013 they have had two franchise players that have held their own in the new NHL. The down part about the team as a whole is the fact their depth only goes so far, their goaltending hasn’t been the greatest in the last 5 years, and their coach former Avs favorite Patrick Roy has made headlines with his aggressive style some changes need to be made. While they haven’t had a successful playoff run in some time there is some hope that they might be able to trade 2005 first round pick Matt Duchene elsewhere in exchange for a hopeful player either a number 1 defenceman or a top goalie. If something doesn’t change soon then they may finish lower than some of the other teams on this list, which in the past few years hasn’t been all that bad, can it be that bad?
3 Columbus Blue Jackets
While the other teams on this list have tons of history behind them, the blue jackets have yet to make any kind of history other than drafting Rick Nash. Where to begin with the jackets? They have a dependable captain in Nick Foligno and dependable goaltender with Bobrovsky, after that it all falls apart. The Scott Hartnell experiment is proving to be a bust, he hasn’t performed as well as his days back in his time with the flyers and its proving to be a burden on the team. They did some fire power with Brandon Saad and resigned Brandon Dubinsky to a long term contract and with the drafting of Pierre Luc-Dubois in this year’s entry draft they could be a threat for the cup in the coming years but as for this year there is nothing there that says they will finish anywhere but the bottom.
2 Toronto Maple Leafs
A team where many would have thought would’ve been number one on this list, there is a lot of work for Lou Lamoriello to do in Toronto before they can be a contender. They have however taken the right steps by getting the right coach, trading away Kessel and Phaneuf, they are relying more on youth than experience with their draft picks this year. These steps have been taken for them to be a force in the future. The biggest questions with the Leafs stay the same as before when it comes to consistency and overall skill when it comes to winning games.
With the draft of Matthews and the disappointment of not signing Steven Stamkos it has been a topsy-turvy summer for maple leaf fans but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. This is however, whether they have a decent goaltender or not they will finish no better than 28th but that’s ok because they will win the cup in the coming few years.
1 Edmonton Oilers
This pick and result should come to no surprise to anyone as the Oilers have been nothing but bad ever since their huge cup run 10 years ago, however they haven’t made the playoffs since. It is no question the skill in players they do have with the likes of McDavid, Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins amongst others, on the other side of the argument is the fact that they are top heavy with forwards. The biggest problem plaguing the Oilers for numerous years is not having a star caliber goaltender and have little to no defence to speak of. The addition of Eric Gryba from the Sens last year was a definite step in the right direction but there is still a lot of work to be done. The locker room in Edmonton was definitely shaken when it was announced that former number one draft pick Taylor hall was traded to new jersey for defenceman Adam Larsson and definitely announce to the entire team that things are changing and no one is safe. Will Larsson be the missing piece to the Oilers puzzle? The answer is a huge no because there are a lot more problems like finding the top caliber goaltender they’ve been looking for and a number 1 and 2 defencemen. So for the next few seasons the Oilers will remain in the doghouse of the NHL.
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