As crazy as it was last year, the Las Vegas Golden Knights made the Stanley Cup Finals. I doubt we will see that in their sophomore season, though. Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty were definitely good pickups and the team remains mostly intact, although two major point contributors in James Neal and David Perron have moved on. They can still make the playoffs this year, but don’t expect a run to the final.
The Minnesota Wild have made the playoffs six years in a row, and there is no reason they shouldn’t continue that trend. The franchise ousted general manager Chuck Fletcher after their first-round exit last season and replaced him with Paul Fenton, who was the general manager of the Wild’s affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals. Fenton has maintained the core roster and hasn’t made any moves yet to change that. They won’t make any great headway and probably won’t get past the first round again.
Dallas will be an interesting team to watch, with Jim Montgomery helming the bench after Ken Hitchcock retired after the team failed to make the playoffs last season. Montgomery is part of the newest trend in the NHL, which is hiring NCAA coaches to helm the bench. After a successful reign with the Denver Pioneers, Montgomery will be looking to restore the winning culture in Dallas.
Gritty, the league’s newest mascot, may be the source of the most noise that the Philadelphia Flyers have made in a while, but they could make the playoffs this year. Former Maple Leafs scorer James van Riemsdyk ( who will miss five to six weeks due to injury) adds a much-needed punch.
Like the Flyers, it’s hard to say where the New Jersey Devils will end up. They have enough in them to get to the playoffs but it also depends on if they can outlast the ageing Pittsburg Penguins and Washington Capitals. The two latter teams, one of them the returning champions, have been operating at a dynastic level for some time now and should return to the playoffs.
The Anaheim Ducks are sitting at third in the Pacific Division as of Oct. 26, and it is likely they will still be there at the end of the season. They have been hit by the injury bug early on, with star players Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf and other players such as Patrick Eaves, Ondrej Kase and newcomer Carter Rowney out. The good news is the younger players, such as rookie Max Comtois, are stepping up. On the other end of the table are the St. Louis Blues, who are off to a less than stellar start. They also missed the playoffs last year, but despite their slow start they have the potential to return this season.