Hockey is back and this time, it’s here to stay. There’s no more lock out and players seem genuinely happy to be back on the ice this time around. I’m always really excited when the Winter Olympic year rolls around. These are the NHL seasons where players are at the top of their game to ensure themselves a spot on their country’s roster. Top that off with the first full season since the lock out, and players are going to be hungry for glory. I’m no psychic, but here’s what you might see this season.
The Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks have a good chance of being the top team not only in their division, but in the entire league. They are the best all-around team in the league as of right now, with an offense and defense that’ll surely strike fear into their opponents. However, the St. Louis Blues also have a chance of taking the division. The Blues have the nicest mix of old and new talent and sometimes that creates a storm capable of throwing the opposition off. The Nashville Predators could take the division too, but that is completely dependant on Pekka Rinne’s performance.
Granted the injury status of the team, which hasn’t been phenomenal these past couple years, the Pittsburgh Penguins seem to be the most poised to take the division However, I do think the New York Rangers will certainly be in the running until the end for the division title. Teams with new coaches tend to always be better than the season prior. Not to mention there are several UFAs on their roster, which means they are all going to be playing their best in order to get the best contract they can. The New York Islanders will be very competitive this year; their dark days are coming to an end, with the light at the end of the tunnel drawing nearer.
The Pacific Division will be similar in the sense that it’s going to be a fight between the Vancouver Canucks and the San Jose Sharks for the top spot. The Canucks will have the benefit of the Sedin Twins being UFAs and having John Tortorella as their head coach. However, San Jose, who is always strong competition, will have their three best players, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle as UFAs. In the end, Vancouver will be the team that wins the division. The starting goaltending spot for Canada in Sochi 2014 is his for the taking, but Roberto Luongo will be playing his absolute best.
I am anticipating this will be the division that will produce the tightest race and best storylines throughout the season. There are some teams that did well last season that I think were total flukes; the Toronto Maple Leafs is not one of them. Boston will always be a strong competitor with a team that clicks better than most, but Toronto will be the best team in this division. Phil Kessel is going to be the most consistent forward in the entire league, and the rebuilding the team has done is finally going to pay off in huge dividends in 2013-14. The Montreal Canadians will be good, but they’re not going to be anywhere as good as they were last season. It’s likely they will do well the first month or two, and then they’ll lose steam sooner rather than later.