Offence and defence. Two incredibly important facets of hockey that four teams revamped throughout the summer of 2015 in the hopes of raising Lord Stanley’s silver. With their summer acquisitions, will they surprise the hockey world?
- Washington Capitals
The Capitals have clinched a playoff spot in seven of the past eight season, but have not found a way to make it past the second round. This season could be different, however. The roster additions of T. J. “Sochi” Oshie and Justin Wilson, as well as the development of Andre Burakovsky and Evgeny Kuznetzov make the Capitals more of a threat to compete further in the Stanley Cup Playoffs because of their offensive prowl. If Braden Holtby puts up another Vezina-worthy season, the Caps could reach far into the playoffs.
- Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins will definitely be more of an offensive threat throughout the 2015-16 season. Sidney Crosby finally has an incredibly talented winger to play with, and Phil Kessel finally has a number one center to work alongside. The Penguins also signed left-winger Sergei Plotnikov who had experience playing with Evgeni Malkin in the two previous IIHF World Championships. Defence needs to be strong, especially in the health of Kris Letang and Olli Maatta. If the Penguins are consistent, the team could be a dominant force that they were once known for. The dominance must also carry into the playoffs.
- Calgary Flames
The Calgary Flames defence core should not be a problem at all. Similar to Rob Blake (1989-2010), defenceman Dougie Hamilton will serve as a stabilizing presence offensively and defensively. The signing of Michael Frolik and the development of Sam Bennett are tell-tale factors that the Flames will be incredibly efficient offensively. The Flames need consistency from a goaltender (Ortio, Hiller or Ramo) who will take the starting job. If the Flames can figure out the goaltending situation, they are bound for success. If not, many questions will lurk about how far they can go.
- Columbus Blue Jackets
Plagued by the injury bug throughout 2014-15, the Columbus Blue Jackets are looking to pick up from how they left off on the tail end of the season; pure dominance. After acquiring Brandon Saad and watching the team dominate (the Nashville Predators especially) throughout the preseason, eyebrows were raised about how good the Blue Jackets have become. Sergei Bobvrovsky is in Vezina-form. The dominant Ryan Johansen is playing with Nick Foligno and Brandon Saad.
Columbus tested the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2013-14, where they made it as far as six games in the quarter finals. This season however, looks as though they could go as far the Conference finals.
Looking at the prospect of such strong competition in each conference, it’s hard to pick out which team will be the best at the beginning of the season. Looking at the preseason and the 2014-15 efforts, the Anaheim Ducks, Chicago Blackhawks, Washington Capitals, and Columbus Blue Jackets will likely be the most dominant teams in the NHL. As to who will win the Cup? Only time will tell! (Montreal Canadiens).