Breaking down all 32 teams


So as we go back to a semi-normal landscape this year, the NHL season is opening with the potential of a metaphorical ticking time bomb hiding in plain sight.

The Blackhawks have pledged to release the findings of the report of the “independent” investigation the franchise commissioned from former federal prosecutor Reid Schar and his law firm regarding the lawsuits filed by two former players alleging that the team took no action after they reported they had been sexually assaulted by an assistant coach in 2010.

It is unknown when the investigation will be completed by the firm of Jenner & Block LLP. There is no timetable for release of the report. The NHL has said it supports releasing findings of the inquiry.

The report could — could — contain revelations that impact then-and-now Chicago general manager Stan Bowman, who also holds that position for the USA Olympic Team; Florida head coach Joel Quenneville, who held that position with the Blackhawks at that time; and Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin, who was then Chicago’s director of player personnel.

It is, of course, entirely possible the report would clear these individuals. No evidence has been publicly produced that would implicate them in wrongdoing. Still, when the findings are released, the focus will be directed off the ice to an ugly arena.

On the ice, isn’t everyone who puts down good money for tickets thrilled with the fact that the Islanders and Rangers will meet a total of four times this year — twice until April — so that Coyotes, Ducks and Flames can come east? All your rivalry matches are once again far and few between.

Stan Bowman
Stan Bowman

Is the one shot at seeing Connor McDavid worth it? How do you think it would go over if the Giants and Dodgers, Yankees and Red Sox, Cardinals and Cubs squared off nine times instead of 19? But hey, now all of the NHL players are guaranteed their trips to Florida and southern California denied last season.

In conjunction with the NHLPA, the NHL’s management of the pandemic and implementation of protocols has been enlightened throughout. The league’s estimated 98-99 percent vaccination rate surely has been aided by the mandate enacted by the Olympics governing bodies.

A look ahead at the upcoming season, with a word to the wise not to use this preview as a guideline to enrich one of the myriad gambling operations whose come-ons clutter your multiple screens.

The Ne’er Do Wells

Here they are, all by their very own, the dysfunctional-from-the-top-down SABRES making the extremely strong case that despite all claims to the contrary, parity does not exist in the NHL. Or does going for an NHL record 11th straight season out of the playoffs not offer evidence enough?

Not that there’s much more at all to recommend the COYOTES, still wandering through the desert after all these years, as a credible threat to the established order while rummaging through the offseason bargain bin at the bulk store and presenting one of the weakest goaltending tandems in memory.

The DUCKS, late to the rebuild party, at least can point to kids like Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale to lead the flying Vee.

Slow and steady for RED WINGS general manager Steve Yzerman in the rebuild following the 1,000-year streak of making the playoffs that became as important as the current non-losing streak of the baseball Yankees, and did we mention slow?

Trevor Zegras
Trevor Zegras
Getty Images

The BLUE JACKETS, with John Davidson back in familiar territory as president of a team embarking on a long rebuild road, are going to be ultimately defined by whether they can prevent their best players from fleeing, not by whether they’re 27th or 30th overall.

The SHARKS, like the Rangers, like the Predators, came close over and over again not all that long ago, but this team is stuck in purgatory between the past and the future with a present that does not compute. Do they re-sign pending free agent Tomas Hertl, or deal him as a rental to jump-start a new era. Maybe someone is interested in trading for Evander Kane? Well, at least Martin Jones is no longer the goaltender.

This Brady Tkachuk contract stalemate is making quite the mess for the SENATORS, who won’t even have to turn to their screens anymore to hear Pierre McGuire reel off the names of their players’ coaches in Squirts.

It looks as if it will be at least another year before the KINGS begin to gain meaningful benefit from the load of upper-end prospects they have collected in the organization, and oh what a shame it is that Quinton Byfield suffered a fractured left ankle in an exhibition game.

True to the form he established in Carolina, KRAKEN general manager Ron Francis — who never made a single player(s)-for-player(s) trade during his tenure running the ’Canes — took a rather conservative route stocking the league’s 32nd team other than throwing money at free agent goaltender Philipp Grubauer.

The Seattle Kraken will make their NHL debut this season.
The Seattle Kraken will make their NHL debut this season.

The CANUCKS have a few high-end items in Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes and Bo Horvat but does anyone truly expect Oliver Ekman-Larsson to be a fix for the club’s staggering weakness on defense?

So the PREDATORS, as has been their wont, refused to break it all down last year at the deadline and did make it to the playoffs. But how does that improve their current and future outlook?

Maybe Marc-Andre Fleury can play well enough to boost the BLACKHAWKS, maybe Jonathan Toews’ return sparks a resurgence, but probably not.

The Mushy Middle

Tell us if Carter Hart is able to make a quick course correction and we will tell you whether Alain Vigneault will still be behind the FLYERS bench come the Olympic break.

Dougie Hamilton and Ryan Graves represent an upgrade on the blue line, Jack Hughes should break out and into the Team USA Olympic lineup, but wouldn’t everyone feel better about this if a different coach were leading the DEVILS? Apparently not the folks running the show in New Jersey.

No Shea Weber, no Carey Price for an indefinite period of time, and is there any indication — other than for maybe Cole Caufield — that the CANADIENS got a bump out of going to last year’s final. Wait a second? The Canadiens were in the Stanley Cup final?

So suddenly with Mika Zibanejad and Aleksander Barkov off the board, is it possible that Johnny Goudreau of the FLAMES is the league’s top pending free agent?

The BLUES got to the mountaintop, the STARS failed to take the final step, and now these remnants of the original ye olde’ Smythe Division are in no-man’s-land lockstep.

Billy Guerin, general manager of the WILD, does not have all that much time to think of something before his team gets hit with a combined dead cap hit of around $15 million for the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter buyouts for two years starting in 2023-24.

If Pierre-Luc Dubois has a breakout season to add something to the redoubtable Mark Scheifele-Blake Wheeler-Kyle Connor unit and the strong defensive corps and goaltending, the JETS could contend.

Can there be a more epic failure than the OILERS’ abject inability to build a team around the game’s greatest player? Have McDavid and Mike Trout ever been in the same room at the same time? Duncan Keith at 38 is supposed to be an answer?

The RANGERS could be poised to take a bounding step forward following a regime change at the top and behind the bench and a pointed change in attitude on the bench.

The Legacy Teams

So, the PENGUINS are trying again with their familiar core group, trying to squeeze one more Cup into the Sidney Crosby era. Evgeni Malkin’s anticipated absence into December probably won’t impact the team as much as Tristan Jarry’s presence in the nets throughout the year.

The CAPITALS are hanging on to Alex Ovechkin’s coattails after failing to win a playoff round since capturing the Cup in 2018.

Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby
Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby
Getty Images

And then the BRUINS are going without Tuukka Rask and David Krejci and with a defense that seems to lack a whole lot of depth while depending on Linus Ullmark as the No. 1 in nets.

The Contenders

Presuming that it does not go badly for Quenneville, the PANTHERS appear solid everywhere, strong from nets on out, if, that is, Spencer Knight is able to displace Sergei Bobrovsky as the No. 1.

We simply cannot wait for the HURRICANES to present a lineup with Antti Raanta in nets, Brady Skjei and Tony De Angelo on defense, and Brendan Smith, Derek Stepan and Jesper Fast up front. Freddie Andersen may or may not represent an improvement in nets.

Nothing will matter until the playoffs for the MAPLE LEAFS, who in that way are the 1979-80 Islanders, except they don’t have Billy Smith in nets but rather the Petr Mrazek-Jack Campbell tandem.

The odds are — see what we did there — that the GOLDEN KNIGHTS will be the team to find the way to pull off the deal for Jack Eichel, no?

They are elite at the top, both up front and on defense, but do the AVALANCHE have the goaltending prowess with Darcy Kuemper stepping in for Grubauer and, the key question, can Nazem Kadri avoid a suspension in the playoffs?

So now we will learn whether the formidable LIGHTNING feeder system and coaching staff can compensate for the loss of the entire third line (Barclay Goodrow-Yanni Gourde-Blake Coleman) that gave the team the edge in their 2020 and 2021 daily double. Of course, having Andrei Vasilevskiy in nets may have mattered, also.

Two years ago, 10 playoff victories (not including the qualifying round), last year 11, so the only question is whether the ISLANDERS can add five more this time? Zach Parise and Zdeno Chara are here for that express purpose, but the question is whether the Islanders, who wilted badly at the end of the truncated 2019-20 season and struggled down the stretch of last year’s 56-game schedule, can make it through 82 games with their grinding, playoff style. Oh, someone will need to replace Jordan Eberle’s regular-season output.


About the author


Kathy Lewis

Kathy Lewis is an all-around geek who loves learning new stuff every day. With a background in computer science and a passion for writing, she loves writing for almost all the sections of Editorials99.

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