The NHL season is suddenly upon us. Here’s what you need to know about Canada’s teams
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Today is the first day of the NHL regular season. You got screwed, huh?
But when the San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators dropped the puck in the first of two games in Prague this afternoon, the 2022-23 campaign officially began. They will play again on Saturday. Tuesday will feature an all-American doubleheader before the Canadian teams finally hit the ice on Wednesday with the Leafs-Habs leading the Oilers-Canucks.
Here are the prospects for Canada’s seven teams:
Edmonton Oilers: After finally getting over the playoff hump last season before being knocked out by eventual Stanley Cup champion Avalanche in the Western Finals, Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and co. seem ready to take another leap. The Oilers brought back most of their core, including Evander Kane, who scored 13 goals in 15 playoff games on McDavid’s wing. The biggest change comes at net, where the erratic Mike Smith is out and former Maple Leaf Jack Campbell is on a new five-year, US$25 million deal.
Calgary Flames: They lost two 100-point players in Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk, yet they could have improved. After Gaudreau surprisingly fled to Columbus in free agency, Tkachuk, a restricted free agent, announced his intention to leave town as well. That’s how the Flames traded Tkachuk to Florida for another 100-point player in Jonathan Huberdeau and dependable defenseman MacKenzie Weegar, who signed an eight-year contract extension today. And with the extra cap space freed up by Gaudreau’s outing, Calgary signed Stanley Cup champion Nazem Kadri, who managed just 87 points a year ago. After all, and with underrated center Elias Lindholm and solid goaltender Jacob Markstrom still in the fold, Calgary should be fighting for its second straight Pacific Division title.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Auston Matthews scored 60 goals last year to become the first Leaf to win MVP since 1955. The team racked up 115 points during the regular season, finishing second to the Presidents’ Trophy champion Panthers in Atlantic. You know how the story ended: Toronto lost a win-win game in the first round of the playoffs for the fifth straight year. The latest loss, against a Lightning team that won the previous two Stanley Cups and lost in last year’s Finals, was supposed to be « better. » At least it didn’t give the Canadiens a 3-1 lead. But it was a first-round loss nonetheless, setting up a pivotal season on which general manager Kyle Dubas is betting his goaltending work and a return to form for Matt Murray, who won two Stanley Cups. with the Penguins but failed for two seasons in Ottawa. .
On the rise
Ottawa Senators: The vibes in the nation’s capital are off the charts after an offseason in which the Senators stole 40-goal double-scorer Alex DeBrincat in a trade from Chicago and added top winger Claude Giroux to a three-year deal . Mix those two into a roster that already includes rising stars like Tim Stützle, Brady Tkachuk and Thomas Chabot locked in long-term deals and there’s good reason for optimism in Ottawa.
Montreal Canadiens: The Habs made it to the Stanley Cup Finals two years ago, then ranked dead last overall last season en route to earning the No. 1 pick. Now armed with first overall pick Juraj Slafkovsky, newly named captain Nick Suzuki and their own former Chicago forward in 21-year-old Kirby Dach, I bet Montreal finishes somewhere between its two previous results this season.
¯_(ツ)_/¯ (i.e. hard to ‘anchor’)
Winnipeg Jets: An average team whose coach Paul Maurice left unexpectedly in the middle of last year, the dominant idea heading into the offseason was that the Jets should do something. Instead, they did almost nothing. They tried to lure Barry Trotz to his hometown, only to get snubbed and settle for former Stars coach Rick Bowness. Bowness’ first big move was to strip Blake Wheeler of his captaincy. Supported by former Vézina winner Connor Hellebuyck, there could still be a playoff team somewhere. But the same core completely missed last season, and something is wrong.
Vancouver Canucks: After a 40-win season that saw them miss the playoffs, it was time for the Canucks to come out of center — both ways. They opted to double down instead, bringing Bruce Boudreau back as head coach, locking 29-year-old JT Miller on a seven-year contract and importing forward Ilya Mikheyev from the Leafs. Vancouver also retained captain Bo Horvat, who can become a free agent after the season. The bet is that a full Boudreau season can bring out the best in what looks like a talented team on paper. The fear is that they revealed themselves on the ice more than 82 games ago a year ago.