NHL Preview

NHL Preview

Will Hayden , Staff Reporter

With the 2021-22 NHL season underway, here is an overview of what to expect from each of the 32 teams.

Anaheim Ducks
Last season: 17-30-9 (43 points)
2022 Stanley Cup chances: Very Low

With the Anaheim Ducks rebuild continuing to progress, expect step up seasons from some of the team’s young core such as Trevor Zegras, who is among the heavy favorites to win the Calder. Nonetheless, the Ducks are still in the very early stages of a rebuild. While young players within the organization have promise, the scoring is still among the worst in the league and goalie John Gibson, who has been in the organization since 2015, is getting older and regressed last season.

Arizona Coyotes
Last season: 24-26-6 (54 points)
2022 Stanley Cup chances: Very Low

With the Coyotes having lost Darcy Kuemper and Connor Garland over the offseason, the Coyotes are now left with a depleted team that will be among the basement teams in the league. If there is any team that can finish lower than the Sabres in the standings, it is the Coyotes, who have the bleakest looking future in the NHL.

Boston Bruins
Last season: 33-16-7 (73 points)
2022 Stanley Cup chances: High

The Bruins are as about as locked into a playoff position as you can get. While the core forwards in Bergeron, Marchand, and Pastrnak are all starting to get older, they can still produce well, especially the youngest of the three in Pastrnak, to make for one of the best top three combos in the league. The only question for Boston heading into the season revolves around goaltending, after losing Jaroslav Halak in the offseason and veteran starter Tuukka Rask, who is out indefinitely after having surgery over the offseason. Linus Ullmark, who is projected to be the Bruins starter, can fill in the void for a considerable time, but with no playoff experience, could be the difference maker in how far the Bruins could make it, depending on Rask’s health.

Buffalo Sabres
Last season: 15-34-7 (37 points)
2022 Stanley Cup chances: Very low

Things are… well… things are a mess in Buffalo right now, let’s put it that way. A team that just can’t seem to take the next step disbanded virtually the entire team once again after being the only team in the league last season to finish below 40 points in the standings. Even worse, one of the few players left from the previous rebuild, Jack Eichel, may not play a single game this year because the Sabres did not let him get surgery for a neck injury that kept him out almost all of last season. The former number two overall pick was also stripped of his captaincy over the offseason… safe to say it’s going to be another long season for Sabres fans.

Calgary Flames
Last season: 26-27-3 (55 points)
2022 Stanley Cup chances: 50/50

After being one of the most disappointing teams in 2021, the offseason didn’t treat the Flames kindly as they lost captain Mark Giordano in the expansion draft and really didn’t make any big moves in the to add to the team. If Calgary wants to return to the playoffs in 2022, they will need to have productive seasons from forwards like Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk. Jacob Markstrom, who was Calgary’s big move two off-seasons ago on goaltending, will also need a rebound campaign after a disappointing 2021.

Carolina Hurricanes
Last season: 36-12-8 (80 points)
2022 Stanley Cup chances: High

After letting go many key pieces to last seasons success, Carolina’s offseason raised many eyebrows as to what direction the team was heading. There were also questionable moves on signings such as Freddy Andersen, who has regressed quite a bit within the last two seasons, and Anthony DeAngelo, who is one of the more controversial players in the league. Despite the bad offseason, Carolina’s cup chances are still high because of the forward core and depth, but they certainly have much more potential for this season.

Chicago Blackhawks
Last season: 24-25-7 (55 points)
2022 Stanley Cup chances: 50/50

Despite going into a full blown rebuild last season and having expectations to finish among the worst teams in the league, the Blackhawks overachieved and were actually in playoff contention or battling for playoff contention for the majority of the season. This season, Blackhawks management made it clear that the team is in a win now mode having acquired reigning Vezina Trophy winner Marc-Andre Fleury, have major upgrades on defense in Seth Jones and Jake McCabe, and forward depth in Tyler Johnson. Despite this roster being good on paper, some wonder if it is enough to compete with the other powerhouse teams in the central division. Other teams who had down seasons last year like Dallas and St. Louis could also bounce back big. But if the guys who helped Chicago remain in the playoff race virtually all of last season contribute in big ways, along with the new star power they brought in, it could mean a return to the playoffs.

Colorado Avalanche
Last season: 39-13-4 (82 points)
2022 Stanley Cup chances: Very High

The reigning President’s Trophy champions will be looking to take the next step this season after they were eliminated in the second round for the third year in a row. After last year’s goalie Philipp Grubauer signed with the expansion Seattle Kraken, they made a big move to acquire Darcy Kuemper from the Arizona Coyotes, who will be even better with Colorado with their good defense behind him. Speaking of defense, 2019 first round draft pick Bowen Byram will play in his first full NHL season. It’s safe to say Colorado will dominate in the regular season, now they need to dominate in the playoffs.

Columbus Blue Jackets
Last season: 18-26-12 (48 points)
2022 Stanley Cup chances: Very low

The Blue Jackets have gone into full rebuild mode after missing the playoffs last season for the first time since 2016. They fired head coach John Tortorella and traded both Seth Jones and Cam Atkinson over the off season leaving the Blue Jackets with very little of their 2017-2021 core left. Like all teams dedicated to a rebuild, the Blue Jackets will most likely finish the season at the bottom of the league, and it could be a while before this team contends again.

Dallas Stars
Last season: 23-19-14 (60 points)
2022 Stanley Cup chances: 50/50

Ravaged by injuries and bad luck, the Dallas Stars were one of the most disappointing teams last season after making it to the Stanley Cup finals in 2021. The key to the Stars making it back to the playoffs is staying healthy, as there is no doubt, they have the talent (especially on defense). But until the Stars can prove that, there is still just as much of a chance they repeat the misfortunes of last seasons as a return to a deep playoff run.

Detroit Red Wings
Last season: 19-27-10 (48 points)
2022 Stanley Cup chances: Low

The good news for Red Wings fans, the worst years of the rebuild are officially behind them. While the Red Wings may not be ready to contend, this season will certainly be the most fun season of Red Wings hockey to watch in a long time. Two big additions make their Red Wings debut in 2021-22 which include 2019 first round pick Moritz Seider, who has potential to become an elite defenseman in the NHL, as well as exciting young goalie Alex Nedelijkovic, who was acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes over the off season. Again, Detroit isn’t ready to contend yet, but this should be a fun season to watch with the Red Wings slowly on the rise.

Edmonton Oilers
Last season: 35-19-2 (72 points)
2022 Stanley Cup chances: High

Some offseason moves addressing the depth were strange, such as adding a 38-year-old Duncan Keith, who won’t give them too much skill. But regardless of the depth, the Oilers have two of the best forwards in the league in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. The addition of Tyson Barrie from the Leafs also strengthens Edmonton’s top six even more. Edmonton’s Stanley Cup chances are high for 2022, but if they want to get to the next level, they will have to see more production from the bottom six and defense.

Florida Panthers
Last season: 37-14-5 (79 points)
2022 Stanley Cup chances: High

The most surprising team from 2021 made some big improvements to a roster that already proved they have a lot of talent. The addition of Sam Reinhart from the Sabres addresses a gaping hole Florida had at right wing and the signing of Joe Thornton gives the team more veteran presence. Aaron Ekblad, who missed the final stretch and the playoffs last season, will also return to the lineup. The offseason additions, plus the return of Ekblad, give the Panthers what could arguably be their biggest shot at a Stanley Cup in franchise history.

Los Angeles Kings
Last season: 21-28-7 (49 points)
2022 Stanley Cup chances: Low

Like the Red Wings, the Kings can put the worst years of their rebuild behind them. Along with one of the leagues best young cores, the Kings bolstered their goal scoring trading for veteran right winger Viktor Ardvidsson. But also like the Red Wings, the young prospects who are transitioning to the NHL level will have growing pains, meaning the Kings are not quite ready to contend. 2021-22 however is going to be a much more exciting season of hockey for Kings fans then the past couple of seasons and will see glimpses of the future many times.

Minnesota Wild
Last season: 35-16-5 (75 points)
2022 Stanley Cup chances: High

Kirill Kaprizov, the reigning Calder Trophy winner, signed a 5-year, $45 million extension with Minnesota over the off season. Kaprizov will help lead the charge for Minnesota this season in a very competitive Central Division as the Wild look for a return to the playoffs and win a playoff series for the first time since 2015.

Montreal Canadiens
Last Season: 24-21-11 (59 points)
2022 Stanley Cup chances: 50/50

It was an unimaginable and unforgettable run to the Stanley Cup finals last season for Montreal as they were just three wins away from their first Cup since 1993. But Montreal will have to navigate even more than being just the underdog again in 2022 as they will be without both star goalie Carey Price and captain Shea Weber for the foreseeable future. Some have even debated that game 5 of last year’s Stanley Cup finals might have the been the last game of Shea Weber’s career. The absence of the two players that arguably lifted them the most in the playoffs last year will be drastic on paper. But at the same time, who would have thought that the Canadiens, the worst team to the make the playoffs last season would go to the Stanley Cup finals. If recent history proves anything, it proves that Montreal can never be ruled out. But for now, they remain a 50/50 shot at the cup.

Nashville Predators
Last season: 31-23-2 (64 points)
2022 Stanley Cup chances: Low

Goalie Juuse Saros was the biggest reason Nashville slipped into the playoffs last season, and with the most consistent forward Viktor Ardvidsson dealt to the Kings over the offseason, an already weak forward core for Nashville weakened even more. Even if Saros can play at the level he did last season, the stacked Central Division and the loss of Ardvidsson will all contribute to Nashville missing the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

New Jersey Devils
Last season: 19-30-7 (45 points)
2022 Stanley Cup chances: Low

The Devils had a good offseason bringing in star defensemen Dougie Hamilton and landing defenseman Luke Hughes in this year’s draft, brother of current Devil Jack Hughes who was selected number one overall in 2019. There is a nice core coming together in New Jersey, but there are still many holes to fill and growing pains for some of the younger players.

New York Islanders
Last season: 32-17-7 (71 points)
2022 Stanley Cup chances: Very high

The time is now for the New York Islanders. Outside of Colorado and Tampa Bay, this team is possibly the heavy favorite for the Stanley Cup in 2022. They might not be the most talented team on paper, but they work with what they have well, and there is no other coach in the league like Barry Trotz, who has been a big reason to why the Islanders can win it all in 2022.

New York Rangers
Last season: 27-23-6 (60 points)
2022 Stanley Cup chances: 50/50

It’s been a slow process for the Rangers young core. After a slow start last season, the Rangers got hot down the stretch but still missed the playoffs. If there is any team in the league that is a coin flip for how they will perform, it is the Rangers. It will be interesting to find out which Rangers team will show up in the regular season.

Ottawa Senators
Last season: 23-28-5 (51 points)
2022 Stanley Cup chances: Low

Surprisingly, the Senators were one of the hottest teams down the stretch and showed the league that they will be a force to reckon with in the future. The Senators are still fairly early into their rebuild, but as the core continues to develop at both the amateur and professional levels, it will continue to progress faster than the team had initially hoped. If Ottawa can see some step-up seasons from some of their young players, it will be another promising step towards the future.

Philadelphia Flyers
Last season: 25-23-8 (58 points)
2022 Stanley Cup chances: High

On Paper, the Flyers should be one of the top favorites to win the Stanley Cup. That was the case last season, but Philadelphia severely underachieved failing to even make the playoffs. The team upgraded its scoring in the offseason trading for right winger Cam Atkinson. Goalie Carter Hart will improve after putting up extremely disappointing numbers in 2021. The Flyers should have very high chances to win the Stanley Cup in 2022 but remain in the high category for now because it will take a while to see how much their disappointing 2021 will affect their long term play this season.

Pittsburgh Penguins
Last season: 37-16-3 (77 points)
2022 Stanley Cup chances: 50/50

The Penguins seem like one of those teams that where every time you think they will start to decline; they go out and prove the exact opposite. Many predicted last season, that the Penguins core, which won them three Stanley Cups from 2009 to 2017, would start to show their signs of age and begin a slow decline. Instead, Pittsburgh ended up winning the toughest division in hockey and were one of the more surprising teams in the league. Many wonder if 2022 will finally begin the slow decline for Pittsburgh as they will have to deal with even more challenges without two of their core forwards Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin for a considerable amount of time. A slow start without Crosby and Malkin could be the difference maker if Pittsburgh can make the playoffs for the 16th straight season.

Seattle Kraken
Last season: N/A
2022 Stanley Cup chances: 50/50

The NHL’s newest team is officially kicking it off in 2021-22. The Kraken will most likely not have the surprise season the Golden Knights had in their debut season in 2018 reaching the Stanley Cup finals, but General Manager Ron Francis assembled some underrated players that could click if everything goes right, and the team does have a lot to build for the future in terms of prospects. The Kraken are also lucky they play in the league’s weakest division. This team doesn’t make the playoffs in any other division, but in the Pacific Division, finish in 3rd place, possibly even 2nd place is realistic for the Kraken. Expect this team to be fun to watch for a first-year expansion team and to compete for a playoff spot.

San Jose Sharks
Last season: 21-28-7 (49 points)
2022 Stanley Cup chances: Very Low

The Sharks are not rebuilding but looking at their roster on paper they are certainly not in a win now mode. With the organization lacking a clear direction for 2022, it will be another season in the cellar for San Jose, as even the very weak Pacific Division won’t help them contend.

St. Louis Blues
Last season: 27-20-9 (63 points)
2022 Stanley Cup chances: 50/50

Just two seasons removed from their first Stanley Cup in franchise history, the Blues were swept in the first round in 2021. The team did make many additions to help rebound such as trading for Pavel Buchnevich who will play a big top 6 role as well as adding nice depth in signing Brandon Saad from the Avalanche, the very team that swept them in the playoffs last season. Playing in the tough Central Division will test the Blues early, but again, they are not too far removed from a Stanley Cup title and if goalie Jordan Binnington can return to his 2019 form, St. Louis could be a dark horse candidate to overtake the Avalanche or Jets for the division.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Last season: 36-17-3 (75 points)
2022 Stanley Cup chances: Very High

The Lightning look to become the first team in The NHL to win three straight Stanley Cups since the New York Islanders did in 1982, and Tampa Bay has a good chance of accomplishing that feat. While they did lose some of their depth over the offseason because of the salary cap, the core of players like Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman, and Andrei Vasilevskiy are all still in their primes and when fully together and healthy are the best core in the league. While winning a cup in 2022 will be more challenging for Tampa Bay than the previous two years, they still have a big chance at accomplishing a three-peat.

Toronto Maple Leafs
Last season: 35-14-7 (77 points)
2022 Stanley Cup chances: High

The Maple Leafs, once again, have high expectations for the start of the season. It seems like all they have become known for is choking in the first round, most recently blowing a three games to one series lead against the Montreal Canadiens. Make all the jokes you want, but this team is good on paper, they do have the talent and should win a Stanley Cup. But for the Maple Leafs, the clock is ticking and the expectation that they should win a Stanley Cup needs to turn into a reality. This team, no doubt about it will make the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But until they can win a series and get past the first round, their Stanley Cup chances will remain high.

Vancouver Canucks
Last season: 23-29-4 (50 points)
2022 Stanley Cup chances: 50/50

The Canucks have some good young talent already playing great at the NHL level. But for some reason, Vancouver just could not click last year. A lot of the struggles can be attributed to a COVID outbreak the team suffered during the middle of the season last year, never really giving the team a fair chance to compete with the other power houses of the Scotiabank North division. But playing in the Pacific Division this season is much easier than playing in the North division because of pandemic realignment last season, and with the luck of a weak division and if the team can stay healthy, Vancouver could slip into a playoff spot.

Vegas Golden Knights
Last season: 40-14-2 (82 points)
2022 Stanley Cup chances: High

Vegas did lose a hall of fame and veteran goalie in Marc-Andre Fleury. But Robin Lehner, when healthy, has been one of the best goalies in the league the last three seasons. Besides Fleury, most of their core from last year’s Stanley Cup Semi-Finals run is still with the team, and besides the Oilers, Vegas does not have too much legitimate competition in the Pacific Division. For this reason, it should be a runaway division title for Vegas in 2022.

Washington Capitals
Last season: 36-15-5 (77 points)
2022 Stanley Cup chances: 50/50

The Capitals can prove that even with one of the oldest cores in the league, that they can still win. 2022 will be a test since younger teams in the Metropolitan Division could rebound or have step up seasons. Depending how teams like the Rangers and Flyers perform, Washington could miss the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

Winnipeg Jets
Last season: 30-23-3 (63 points)
2022 Stanley Cup chances: High

If there is any team that can dethrone Colorado in the Central Division, it is the Jets. The forward core featuring talents like Kyle Connor, Nikolai Ehlers, and Blake Wheeler has been one of the most consistent in the league. And in goal, Connor Hellebuyck is one of the best in the league when fully healthy. The Jets have a big ceiling for 2022 which is a Stanley Cup championship, and if they can leap over other Western Conference powerhouses like Colorado and Vegas early, the Jets will become one of the league’s biggest threats.