NHL Previews: Part 1

The weekly sports column from the 100 Mile Free Press

It’s like Christmas. The NHL season is here which means everyone’suncle is picking who they think will win hockey’s biggest prize. So dang nabbit! So will I.

I will break it down in groups over the next few weeks, the No Way Jose’s, the Dark Horses, the Could-Dos and last but not least, the Big Kahunas.

No Way Jose!

There should be no surprise that the Ottawa Senators are here. They are the literal picture of a dumpster fire after off-ice trouble last season tore the team apart, leading to the trade of Mike Hoffman who was traded to the San Jose Sharks, who then sent him to the Florida Panthers a mere two hours later. Captain and arguably the team’s best player in franchise history Erik Karlsson was also eventually traded to the San Jose Sharks (who will oddly not be in this section) during the off-season. In September, they put Zach Smith, an assistant captain and very popular guy in the locker room, on waivers which pretty much angered every player, including Matt Duchene and Mark Stone. He was brought back up to the big club almost immediately because not a single club in the league wanted to take on his contract. Stone and Duchene are also in the last year of their contracts, so they’ll probably be traded at the trade deadline if not before. Also, owner Eugene Melnyk is as likeable as an angry opposum trapped in a shower stall.

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It pains me to say this, but the Detroit Red Wings will find themselves on the bottom this year. But unlike the Senators, there are some bright spots. Several young players have been bled in the first few games of the season and the young players already in place (Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou and Tyler Bertuzzi) have continued to improve and impress. However, Henrik Zetterberg has officially retired, leaving ageing defenceman Niklas Kronwall last player from Detroit’s golden years. It will be at least a couple of years before Detroit can reach the playoffs again, but it will be a very interesting year to watch for fans.

The Vancouver Canucks are also likely to find themselves on the floor of the standings, even though they had a decent showing against the Calgary Flames, winning 5-2, on their opening night. Like Detroit, the Canuckls are trying to get younger. After the departure of the beloved Sedin twins, the Nucks are looking for rookie 19-year-old Elias Pettersson and young-stars, Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat to continue where they left off. They also need Ben Hutton to step it up a notch and rebound from a horrid season last year and Jake Virtanen to realize his potential.

It’s going to be a rough year in New York, with the Islanders and Rangers rounding out the bottom five. The Long Islanders may have the worst of it, after letting franchise icon John Tavares walk away to Toronto during free agency.

Henrik Lundqvist is still in between the pipes for the Rangers, but he’s now 36 and his decline as already started. He still has enough in him to get the club 30 wins, but he’ll probably have to rest quite a bit. Plus there is the aging group of defencemen in front of him that struggled last season, allowing 268 goals. Only Ottawa and Buffalo allowed more goals.



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