With the start of the NHL regular season right around the corner, there will be several interesting storylines to follow.
Here are what I think hockey fans should keep a pulse on throughout the year in the hockey world:
Is this the Year the Leafs Bring it Home?
The Toronto Maple Leafs have not won a Cup since 1967. If you’re counting at home, that’s a long fucking time without lifting hockey’s Holy Grail.
With that said, in the Leafs have taken the right steps in the last few years to be an extremely competitive club. They’ve made the playoffs the last two seasons, they have a great farm system, a terrific head coach in Mike Babcock, and a young and progressive new GM in Kyle Dubas.
The Leafs have a big opportunity to take a major step forward this year as they went out and signed John Tavares to a very long and lucrative contract in the offseason. Tavares is the ultimate game changer and gives the Leafs more offensive weapons to go along with Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, Nazim Kadri, etc.
They may play in a tough conference and division, but there is no doubt that the Leafs are going to be good this year. The questions are how good and will they be good enough to have a legitimate shot at winning the Cup this year.
When Will Corey Crawford Return to the Net for the Blackhawks?
As of last Friday, the Blackhawks’ starting goaltender, Corey Crawford, is not sure when he will join his teammates at practice. This is not exactly the news you want to hear when you’re a team that is not only looking to get back to the postseason but also trying to save both their jobs, the coaching staffs’ jobs, and management jobs.
While it’s great that he has been able to skate and do some drills, the fact that he is still not ready to go should be worrisome for both the Hawks and their fans. The last time he played was December 3rd.
If you’re counting at home, that’s nine months he’s been out and to come back not feeling 100 percent is not a good thing. Because he missed that much time, the team failed to make the postseason for the first time since the 2007-08 season.
The team and their fans better hope he comes back soon. Going into the year, head coach Joel Quenneville and general manager Stan Bowman are on the hot seat.
Yes, the duo won three cups since the 2009-10 season, but since then, there have been several early playoff exits and in Chi-town, that is not acceptable. Hopefully, when Crawford does return, he will be on top of his game because if he’s not, this team could be in serious trouble again.
What Will Happen with Blue Jackets’ Panarin and Bobrovsky?
The Blue Jackets have been a solid team the last few seasons. They’ve made the postseason, performed well in the regular season, and are doing a great job in developing youngsters.
With all of that said, their success this year really hinges on the play of Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky. These guys are all-stars, help their teams win a lot of hockey games, and extremely valuable to their team as a whole.
This could all change either at the trade deadline or in the summer of 2019 as both are set to become UFA’s at the end of the season. It is clear that both guys do not want to work out a contract extension during the season as they both want to be able to focus on hockey. It’s also pretty clear that both might want to leave the organization at the end of the year.
The team needs to take advantage of the time that they do have these players because if both of these guys end up leaving after this season, it will leave two significant holes in their hockey club.
Just How Bad Will the Senators Be This Season?
Last week was absolutely awful for the Sens. They dealt their best player Erik Karlsson to the Sharks, really got nothing in return for him, and then lost one of their better players in centerman Jean-Gabriel Pageau to a torn Achilles tendon, which will cause him to miss at least six months of the season.
That’s BRUTAL. Even with Karlsson, the Sens were expected to be absolute garbage this year. With Karlsson now out of the picture, nothing to show for it, and Pageau expected to be out an extended period of time, I am wondering if the Sens should even play this season.
This team is officially going in the trash can. They do not have a lot to look forward to, they were one of the worst teams in the league last season, and appear to be headed in the same direction this year.
To go on top of all this, they have poor attendance issues, a GM who got body bagged in the deal with the Sharks, and a lunatic of an owner in Eugene Melnyk. Not exactly a recipe for success if you ask me.
More to come
There will obviously be more interesting storylines to keep tabs on throughout the season, but this is a good start for those who are curious about what to keep their eyes and ears open for during the year.