Woo! Hockey's back!
The puck drops on the NHL regular season on Thursday, which is a wakeup call to all part-time hockey fans who have forgotten what ice looks like during the summer months. But your co-worker/friend/family member who is a die-hard hockey fan is about to explode with excitement and in his or her excitement, he or she will bombard you, the casual hockey fan, with questions about the coming season. At best, you might know a thing or two about your favourite team, but you don't have time to read about every team in the league and develop a reasonable opinion about them.
Enter PitB, with the inaugural post in our "Here's Your Opinion" series, designed to provide you with easy-to-reiterate opinions on the NHL. In this post, we'll give you a quick-and-dirty preview of every single team in the NHL and provide you with an opinion that you can use to impress your co-workers/friends/family members with your incredible knowledge and disarming good looks. We also give you some handy tips on what not to say to avoid sounding like a complete rube.
The teams are listed in alphabetical order, so you won't need to remember any of that conference/division mumbo-jumbo. Any misinformation, unfunny jokes, or stupid opinions are entirely your fault for misinterpreting. If you don't understand the jokes and references, don't worry about it; just memorise the opinions and you'll be fine. Ready? Let's go!
Strengths: Solid group of forwards, led by the top line of Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf, and Corey "Ryan" Perry.
Weaknesses: Scott Niedermayer retired in the off-season, meaning the Ducks enter the season without anyone playing defence.
Your Opinion: It's astonishing to think the Ducks won the cup just 4 seasons ago; with the current state of their defence, they won't even make the playoffs.
Don't Say: They should bring back Paul Kariya to play with Teemu Selanne.
Strengths: No longer have to deal with the problem of re-signing Ilya Kovalchuk and can now focus on signing visible minorities and trading for Chicago Blackhawks.
Weaknesses: No longer have Ilya Kovalchuk; not a single player currently on the Thrashers scored more than 25 goals last season. Also, the key Blackhawk they acquired via trade was Dustin Byfuglien, who was a contender for the Conn Smythe in the playoffs last season as a forward; he will start this season on defence.
Your Opinion: The Thrashers need to start winning and soon, or they won't last long in Atlanta; unfortunately, with their lack of offensive firepower, they won't be winning much this season at all.
Don't Say: I think Evander Kane is too talented a player to be fighting anyone.
Strengths: The addition of Nathan Horton will help their goalscoring woes from last year and the bruins have decent depth at nearly every position, especially at center with Marc Savard, David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, and
Toronto Maple Leafsfirst round draft pick Tyler Seguin.
Weaknesses: Except that Marc Savard will miss the start of the season with post-concussion syndrome.
Your Opinion: The Bruins made the playoffs last year with only half a season from Marc Savard; they'll make the playoffs this year based on their goaltending and defence alone.
Don't Say: Mark Recchi hasn't retired yet?
Strengths: They sure still have Ryan Miller in net.
Weaknesses: The team in front of Ryan Miller is startlingly mediocre.
Your Opinion: The Sabres will need big contributions from their young Tylers - Myers and Ennis - and another Vezina-calibre season from Miller if they plan on making it to the Stanley Cup finals for their 40th anniversary.
Don't Say: They signed Niedermayer? That's a huge improvement to their defence!
Strengths: Miikka Kiprusoff is still an elite goaltender, Jarome Iginla is still an elite sniper, and Jay Bouwmeester is still an elite defenceman...at least, in Flames' fans minds.
Weaknesses: GM Darryl Sutter may actually be insane, re-acquiring former flameouts Olli Jokinen and Alex Tanguay. David Moss, Ales Kotalik, Matt Stajan, and Daymond Langkow will be unavailable to start the season for the Flames due to injuries from falling over in disbelief.
Your Opinion: It may seem crazy, but Jokinen is a much better deal with his new contract and Tanguay has shown chemistry with Iginla in the past; if they can avoid injuries like the ones they've had in the pre-season, they should make the playoffs.
Don't Say: Darryl Sutter is a misunderstood genius!
Strengths: Eric Staal is still the best Staal in the NHL.
Weaknesses: They have no money, so they will be depending a lot on the abilities of youngsters, including 18-year-old Jeff Skinner and 21-year-olds Zach Boychuk and Drayson Bowman.
Your Opinion: If their lack of depth doesn't bury the Hurricanes' chances of getting back to the postseason, their lack of experience definitely will.
Don't Say: Cam Ward totally deserved the Conn Smythe in 2006!
Strengths: They're the defending Stanley Cup champions and still have their top-six forwards and top-four defencemen from last season.
Weaknesses: The depth that helped carry them to the cup is gone. Like, completely. The poor bastards are now playing in Atlanta and Toronto.
Your Opinion: The talent of Chicago's best players will lead them to the division title, but there's no way they repeat as champions.
Don't Say: At least they still have their cup-winning goalie!
Strengths: Colorado shocked everyone last season by making the playoffs on the strength of their young forwards and the surreal play of Craig Anderson in goal; that's still their strength.
Weaknesses: Their main weakness from last season, their defence, remains unchanged.
Your Opinion: The Avalanche will be out to prove that there's no such thing as a sophomore slump; I think they'll do it and squeak into the playoffs once again.
Don't Say: I can't believe Joe Sakic didn't win the Jack Adams award last year!
Columbus Blue Jackets
Strengths: The Jackets have a decent-looking top-six forward group for what seems like the first time in franchise history. With the return of Russian wunderkind Nikita Filatov from his exile in the KHL, they could surprise with their offensive ability from their forwards.
Weaknesses: They have no offensive ability from their defence. Also, Steve Mason, after winning the Calder trophy in his rookie campaign, is looking more like Andrew Raycroft than Martin Brodeur.
Your Opinion: Even a small improvement from Steve Mason will be enough to turn the Blue Jackets' fortunes around, but he'll need to return to his rookie season ways for them to make the playoffs. I expect them to be on the bubble at the end of the season.
Don't Say: If Filatov is so good, why did he leave the team for the KHL?
Strengths: Brad Richards is really, really good. The rest of the Dallas offense isn't bad either.
Weaknesses: Their defence is really, really average. And wait, they're relying on Kari Lehtonen and Andrew Raycroft for goaltending? Seriously?
Your Opinion: The Dallas Stars will be an exciting team to watch, but they'll also be an exciting team to play against. What I'm trying to say is they'll be giving up a lot of goals.
Don't Say: That Mike Ribeiro seems like such a nice, humble guy.
Detroit Red Wings
Strengths: A wealth of experience.
Weaknesses: A dearth of youth.
Your Opinion: The Red Wings will make the playoffs, just like every single other season in NHL history. Whether they go any further will depend on their endurance; Lidstrom isn't getting any younger.
Don't Say: They'd be so much better if they had an enforcer!
Strengths: Three incredibly exciting young rookies in Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Magnus Pääjärvi.
Weaknesses: They realize they need someone to play defence, right? Apparently not.
Your Opinion: The Oilers will surprise a lot of teams with their offensive firepower, but their defence and goaltending are far too shaky for them to take a step forward this season; they may end up with another top-five draft pick next year
Don't Say: Where's Sheldon Souray?
Strengths: Tomas Vokoun will get them a great return on trade deadline day.
Weaknesses: A complete lack of anything resembling offence, exacerbated by them trading away their top offensive talent in Nathan Horton.
Your Opinion: The Panthers will be in the hunt all season long...for the number one draft pick (At this point, shout "Zing!" and laugh uproariously).
Don't Say: The Canucks should never have traded Michael Grabner to the Panthers.
Los Angeles Kings
Strengths: One of the best young forwards in Anze Kopitar, one of the best young defencemen in Drew Doughty, and one of the best-named goalies in Johnny Quick.
Weaknesses: Their forward depth drops off a cliff after the top line, which is why they tried so hard to get Ilya Kovalchuk.
Your Opinion: The Kings are poised to take another step forward, but their inability to add anyone significant in free agency will prevent them from going too far.
Don't Say: That Wayne Simmonds sure reminds me of another famous Wayne on the LA Kings, amiright?
Strengths: They can't be much worse than they were last season.
Weaknesses: They could very well be worse than they were last season.
Your Opinion: Unless Martin Havlat can recover from last year's drop in points and the defence can recover from being just plain awful at even-strength, the Wild will be missing the post-season again.
Don't Say: Backstrom is totally worth $6 million. His numbers had nothing to do with playing under Jacques Lemaire.