In less than 24 hours, all across North America, the madness known as the 2014-2015 NHL season will begin again as pucks drop, goals are scored and saves are made. One side will be celebrating the sweet taste of victory to start their season and the other side will already deciding how they can improve moving forward. Fans hopes will be higher than ever before as every team has a clean slate and an opportunity to be better than they were last year.
Inevitably every team faces endless questions heading into the new year…here are just a few facing EACH team this season:
Questions Facing the WESTERN CONFERENCE – ?
Vancouver Canucks: Can the team find a way to recover from a year when nearly EVERYTHING went wrong? Will this be the year that Zack Kassian has a break out season? Will someone step up to the opportunity that is the gap left behind by Ryan Kesler? Will the Sedins return to the elite level that everyone has come to expect from them? With new players, a new GM, a new coach and new President, will the team find a way to be playoff bound come April?
Edmonton Oilers: Will the Hall and company find a way to channel all of their youth into experience and success? Will the Oilers end their playoff drought and make Oil Country a city of Champions once more?
Calgary Flames: Are the Flames in full-on rebuild with a youth movement OR ready to contend in a very heavily loaded division? Will Giordano lead this team back to the post-season?
Arizona Coyotes: Will their name change help the Coyotes to find success in the desert? Will Shane Doan help the Coyotes re-discover the success that they had in 2012?
San Jose Sharks: What will the team do to address their collapse against the Kings in the 2014 post-season? Will Joe Thornton find a way to rediscover the part of his game that has always made him successful? Will Marleau, Pavelski and Couture find a way to find their way back to the contending team that everyone knows they can be?
LA Kings: How will LA rebound from their second Stanley Cup victory in three years? Will they be the first repeat champions since the Detroit Red Wings (1997, 1998)? Will a short summer have an impact on their upcoming season or will it propel them even further in NHL history?
Anaheim Ducks: Will the Ryan Kesler trade translate into instant success for both #17 and the Ducks? Will Anaheim once again dominate the Pacific Division? Will Anderson and Gibson work in tandem stopping pucks OR will one of them have a stand out year?
Chicago Blackhawks: What more can Toews, Kane and company do for the Blackhawks? Will they go deep into the playoffs yet again or will some unknown factor get in their way?
St. Louis Blues: Following a very successful season, how will the Blues respond when the puck drops this month? Will they continue their climb to the top or will they stumble to the finish line?
Colorado Avalanche: Will Patrick Roy find a way to duplicate the success he had in his rookie season as an NHL head coach? Will Duchene and Co. find success playing with new Avalanche player, Iglina?
Minnesota Wild: Will the Wild settle on a number one goalie or will injuries once again keep them rotating a goal-tending carousel? Will they find a way to duplicate their 2014 playoff success?
Dallas Stars: Will they continue forward with the chemistry that developed under Coach Ruff and the leadership of Captain Jamie Benn? Will Rich Peverley be able to play hockey again? Will Seguin continue to grow into the player that the Bruins always thought he could be?
Nashville Predators: Can things really be as bad as they were last season? Will Shea Weber and new coach Laviolette be able to right the ship back to playoff contention?
Winnipeg Jets: Will THIS be the year that the Jets skate their way to the playoffs? Will Evander Kane still be a Jet by season’s end? Will they finally solidify their goal-tending scenario?
Questions Facing the EASTERN CONFERENCE – ?
Boston Bruins: Two Stanley Cup appearances in four years, will the Bruins go for a third appearance this season? Will Tuuka Rask continue his rise in the crease? Will Chara find himself in Norris contention?
Tampa Bay Lightning: Now that Steven Stamkos is 100% healthy (after breaking his leg last season), will he find a way to lead the Bolts deep into June? How will the team respond in the first FULL season without Martin St.Louis? Will Ben Bishop build upon the success he had last season?
Montreal Canadiens: It’s no secret that Carey Price had a year to remember in 2014, will he be able to duplicate his success? Will PK Subban continue to frustrate the opposition and have another Norris year? Will they go all the way to bring Stanley Cup number 25 to Montreal?
Detroit Red Wings: Will the Red Wings find a way YET again to prove that age does NOT matter? With Pavel Datsyuk sidelined indefinitely, who will step up to provide some much needed clutch goals? Will Jimmy Howard prove himself yet again that he can be an elite goal-tender?
Ottawa Senators: Will Erik Karlsson as captain win the hearts of the city and rise to occasion or will he be run out of town? Newly signed Bobby Ryan has a lot to prove, can he find the game that made him successful in Anaheim and help Ottawa go deep?
Toronto Maple Leafs: Following a disappointing season in more ways than one, will THIS be the year that the Leafs FIND their x-factor? Will Dion Phaneuf find a way to lead his team back to playoff contention? Will Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul be able to re-capture their chemistry and stay HEALTHY all year?
Florida Panthers: With LOTS of moves in the off-season, including the signing of newly minted Captain Willie Mitchell, Florida is determined to become a contender. Will all of their moves help them to the playoffs OR backfire? Can Florida find that ingredient that they helped them get into the 2012 playoffs?
Buffalo Sabres: Will Buffalo become a contender once more after struggling in nearly every area the last few seasons? Will Cody Hodgson and Co. be able to turn the tables back to success? Will it be a veteran or a young gun that steps up surprising everyone?
Pittsburgh Penguins: Can Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin find that magic ingredient once more pushing them all the way to June? Will a new coach and GM make a lasting impression on the roster? How will they fill the James Neal hole?
New York Rangers: After an extensive playoff run all the way to the Finals, will the Rangers find their way back in contention this season? Will Rick Nash be a difference maker? Will Henrik Lundqvist be in Vezina finalist form?
Philadelphia Flyers: Will the Flyers struggle out of the gate like they did last year? Will they make a playoff push or be contenders all year long? Will Claude Giroux be a standout? Will Chris Pronger ever officially announce his retirement or is there still a flicker of hope to be held onto?
Columbus Blue Jackets: Can Bobrovsky continue to play as hard as he did last year? Will Scott Hartnell steal the hearts of fans and irritate the opposition like he did in Philly? Will there be back to back playoff appearances?
Washington Capitals: Can Ovechkin recapture the success he’s become accustomed to in this league AND help the Captials back into playoff contention?
New Jersey Devils: No Martin Brodeur and all the pressure in Jersey is now on the shoulders of Cory Schneider, will he rise to the occasion? Will the Devils find themselves being a contender? Will Mike Cammalleri find his niche once more and help spark the Devils lineup?
Carolina Hurricanes: Bad news bears in the injury department following their pre-season, who will step up with Jordan Staal(broken leg) and Jeff Skinner(concussion)? Can Carolina find a way to end their playoff drought? Will Cam Ward have a rebound year?
New York Islanders: After having his season halted to a leg injury and now 100% healthy, will John Tavares find his way to the top of the leader board? Will the additions of Boychuk and Leddy be enough to solidify the Islanders blue line? Will Okposo have a break out season? Can the Islanders be a playoff contender?
Endless questions with answers still to be determined as the a new season is just beyond the bend. Inevitably, there are many more question that could be on this list and some of these questions will change as the season progresses. Every team has a clean slate and whatever follows the puck drop is up to them. In less than 24 hours, all across North America, the journey begins as the puck drops, goals are scored and saves are made.
Happy Hockey Season’s Eve!
As always, until next time, nuck said.