Every NHL team’s biggest question at the quarter mark

The first quarter of the 2019-20 NHL season is in the books, and we are starting to get an idea of where every team stands, what they need to improve on and what they might be capable of. Here we take a look at every NHL team’s biggest question through the first quarter of the season.  1 of 31

Anaheim Ducks: finding some offense

This is not a playoff team, and it was probably never supposed to be a playoff team this season. But the Ducks still have some major issues when it comes to scoring goals. They were 31st in the league in goals scored a year ago and are only marginally better this season. The core that once made them a contender is older or has moved on, and they need some young players and new faces to step forward.  2 of 31

Arizona Coyotes: Do they have enough scoring?

The Coyotes are off to a great start and have put themselves in a position to get back in the playoffs for the first time since the 2011-12 season when they went on a surprise run to the Western Conference final. They have a solid defense and two outstanding goalies who are helping to drive them there. The big question is whether they can score enough to maintain it. They have a pretty balanced lineup with a lot of different people who can contribute, but they are still lacking a true impact, go-to player up front. Phil Kessel was supposed to be that player, but he has not yet produced at that level.  3 of 31

Boston Bruins: Will David Pastrnak win the goal scoring crown?

Honestly, this team is as solid as it can get, and there really is not a huge weakness to worry about. The top line is amazing, the depth is better than it was at the start of last season, the defense is great and the goaltending duo is as good as it gets in the NHL. Pastrnak is trying to put an end to Alex Ovechkin’s reign at the top of the goal scoring leaderboard and with 25 goals in his first 27 games, it looks like he has a great chance to do it. His current pace of more than 70 goals seems unsustainable, but 50 is absolutely within striking distance and maybe even 60 goals if everything goes right for him. 

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Buffalo Sabres: Can they avoid another late season fall?

They have already cooled off after their hot start, and for the second year in a row the Sabres look to be in danger of crushing their fans by wasting an amazing start. Jack Eichel is a legitimate superstar, but the rest of the roster around him is filled with question marks. This team is hanging around but still needs a lot of improvement to end this playoff drought that is closing in on a decade.  5 of 31

Calgary Flames: Can they get Johnny Gaudreau going?

Gaudreau is the foundation of the organization and the most impactful player, but so far this season he has been relatively quiet. Some regression had to be expected for this team, and maybe even some of the individual players, but Gaudreau seemed to be a safe bet to maintain his scoring pace from a year ago. So far it has not happened, and if the Flames are going to make any noise this year he needs to return to that level.  6 of 31

Carolina Hurricanes: Nino Niederreiter

The presence of Niederreiter for a full season was supposed to be one of the big game-changers for the Hurricanes this season. The team itself is fine overall and right on track to be a contender in the Eastern Conference again, but Niederreiter has just three goals and 10 points in his first 28 games this season. If he gets going offensively the way he did at the end of last season, it would make a massive impact for the Hurricanes. 

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Chicago Blackhawks: still the defense

The Blackhawks’ attempts to fix their blue line over the summer have failed, and they remain one of the worst defensive teams in the league. Add in the fact they have an aging roster, a coach who might not be the answer and a terrible salary cap situation, and this is one big mess for general manager Stan Bowman — assuming he is the one who gets to try and fix it.  8 of 31

Colorado Avalanche: Is Philipp Grubauer a Stanley Cup goalie?

There are not many questions on this team. When healthy, it might be one of the five best rosters in the NHL with an elite top-line, improved scoring depth and an outstanding young defense. The biggest question might be whether Grubauer is the goalie to take them to a championship. He has not been bad, but if you were looking for a weak link right now it might be here.  9 of 31

Columbus Blue Jackets: goaltending

The free agency exodus has definitely caught up to them, and while they miss the offense of Artemi Panarin, they still have no real long-term solution in goal. Both Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins seem like backup options instead of starters, and there does not seem to be much immediate help coming through the organizational pipeline. 

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Dallas Stars: Will Jamie Benn get going?

The scoring depth is still a concern, but the thing that makes the Stars a contender is the play of their top players. Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn may face criticism (often times internally), but they have been the best players on the team for years. So far this season their numbers are down a bit, and it is especially true for Benn. Is it just an early slump, or a sign that his career is finally starting to slow down? 11 of 31

Detroit Red Wings: When does Steve Yzerman start making changes?

He had to know this was going to be a huge job when he took it, but it might be even more daunting than Yzerman first realized. So far he has not made many roster moves as Red Wings general manager, but he has some big decisions to make, including the future of head coach Jeff Blashill. The record is not his fault, but at some point you might need a new voice. This team is on track to be historically bad this season.  12 of 31

Edmonton Oilers: Can they sustain this start?

If we are being honest, it still seems unlikely. The offense is completely dependent on Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, which is the same story as in the past three years. The only change so far this year is that the goaltending of Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen has masked all of the other many flaws this team still has. 

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Florida Panthers: Did they make a mistake signing Sergei Bobrovsky?

It was always going to be a long-term question, but the assumption was that they would at least get a few solid years and some playoff appearances out of Bobrovsky before his career declined. So far, the Panthers have not even been able to get one good year out of him. He has performed poorly, been benched and is owed $10 million per year over the next six seasons.  14 of 31

It was always going to be a long-term question, but the assumption was that they would at least get a few solid years and some playoff appearances out of Bobrovsky before his career declined. So far, the Panthers have not even been able to get one good year out of him. He has performed poorly, been benched and is owed $10 million per year over the next six seasons.  14 of 31

Los Angeles Kings: Do they start the rebuild?

What to do with Ilya Kovalchuk is a big question, but it seems his time with the team is already done. The concern is when the Kings actually start rebuilding this organization. Seriously, it is time. To be blunt, they are not good and even with a strong farm system, their short-term outlook looks rough. The team is going nowhere as currently constructed and is long overdue for a real rebuild that involves the team trading significant pieces to look toward the future. They have been dragging their feet on this for years, and the longer they wait the harder the rebuild will be once they actually start it.  15 of 31

Minnesota Wild: Bruce Boudreau’s status

At this point it seems to be a matter of when, and not if, a coaching change is made. The Wild are headed toward a second straight non-playoff season, they are one of the worst teams in the Western Conference, and first-year general manager Bill Guerin is almost certainly going to want his own coach. Boudreau would get another job quickly if the Wild decide to make a change, which seems inevitable at this point. 

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By: Adam Gretz

The best pure goal scorer for every NHL team

It is hockey’s most valuable skill and the one that is most difficult to consistently do well — goal scoring. Some players are great at it because they have a great shot, a lightning quick release or just have a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Every team needs a great goal scorer to win, and here we take a look at the best pure goal scorer on every team in the NHL. Some you know well, but others may not get the recognition they fully deserve.  1 of 31

Anaheim Ducks: Rickard Rakell

With Corey Perry now playing in Dallas, and Ryan Getzlaf getting older, the Ducks’ best goal scorer is the 26-year-old Rakell. His production slumped a bit this past season, but before that he scored 97 goals in the three previous seasons, including a pair of seasons with at least 33 goals. He does not get a lot of attention around the league, mainly because the team around him has not been great, but he is an outstanding player.  2 of 31

Arizona Coyotes: Phil Kessel

The Coyotes have not had a player like Kessel in more than a decade. He may be getting older and have his share of flaws away from the puck, but he can also still be one of the NHL’s best offensive player. Arizona needed an impact player who could be the focal point of the offense, and he provides exactly that.  3 of 31

Boston Bruins: David Pastrnak

The Bruins have the NHL’s best line with Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Pastrnak. Bergeron and Marchand are the superstars, and Pastrnak is set to join them. He has topped the 30-goal mark in three straight seasons and had he not missed nearly 20 games due to injury a year ago, he would have been a near lock for 40 goals. If you wanted a sleeper pick for the NHL’s goal scoring crown this year, he would be a good choice given his talent and the quality of the players around him.  4 of 31

Buffalo Sabres: Jeff Skinner

After being a top goal scorer without the luxury of playing next to a legitimate No. 1 center in Carolina, Skinner arrived in Buffalo at the start of the 2018-19 season and found an instant chemistry alongside Jack Eichel. Playing next to one of the league’s best young players helped him produce his first-ever 40-goal season and landed him a huge long-term contract to stay in Buffalo. He may not score 40 every year, but with combination of his quick shot and Eichel’s playmaking, he should always have a chance to do it.  5 of 31

Calgary Flames: Matthew Tkachuk

Just three years into his career, and Tkachuk is already an impact player in every possible way. He scores goals, he makes plays, he agitates opponents and he plays on the edge of the line. He is basically the Western Conference version of Brad Marchand. He is going to be a 35-40 goal winger for a long time. 

Carolina Hurricanes: Sebastian Aho

In just a couple of years the answer to this question will be Andrei Svechnikov, but for now Aho still gets the edge because he has done it consistently over three years in the league. He may not be a challenger for the league lead, but he is going to score 25-30 goals every year throughout his prime. Add in his playmaking and two-way game, and you have a great franchise player.  7 of 31

Chicago Blackhawks: Alex DeBrincat

Is it a bold call to choose DeBrincat over, say, Patrick Kane? Probably, and maybe Blackhawks fans disagree, but DeBrincat is just now entering his third year in the league and already has 70 goals in 168 games, including a 41-goal performance in his second year. He is going to be the foundation of the next chapter in the Blackhawks franchisee. He is also one of the latest examples that teams should not be afraid to take smaller, undersized players. Talent wins.  8 of 31

Colorado Avalanche: Nathan MacKinnon

After bursting onto the scene as an impact rookie at the age of 18, MacKinnon’s career kind of leveled off for a few years. Then he blossomed into a mega star and one of the league’s best players. He is the cornerstone piece of a team that should be a Stanley Cup contender for the foreseeable future and has scored 80 goals over the past two full seasons.  9 of 31

Columbus Blue Jackets: Cam Atkinson

It is a good bet that Cam Atkinson is a lot better than you realize. One of the most overlooked players in the league, Atkinson has scored 35, 24 (in only 65 games), and 41 goals the past three seasons, respectively. With Artemi Panarin now in New York playing for the Rangers, Atkinson is going to have to be one of the go-to players in the Blue Jackets lineup.  10 of 31

Dallas Stars: Joe Pavelski

Pavelski was the Stars’ big offseason acquisition this summer, as they hoped he could be one of the missing pieces in their lineup. They needed secondary scoring, and Pavelski has been one of the league’s best goal scorers for the past six years. A late bloomer when it comes to being an impact player, Pavelski is coming off a 38-goal season for the Sharks, the fifth 30-goal season of his career. 

Detroit Red Wings: Dylan Larkin

One of the league’s fastest players, Larkin finally had a big breakout goal-scoring year during the 2018-19 season and recorded his first 30-goal season. Even though it seems like he has been around forever, he is still only 23 years old and is one of the bright spots on a rebuilding Red Wings team. He figures to be a huge part of their future.  12 of 31

Edmonton Oilers: Connor McDavid

He already has a pair of 40-goal seasons on his resume, and it is only a matter of time until he hits 50. Combined with his game-breaking speed and precision passing, he is the most complete offensive player in the sport and seems like a lock to finish near the top in every major offensive category every year as long as he stays healthy. He has already won two scoring titles, and there is almost certainly a goal scoring crown in his future.  13 of 31

Florida Panthers: Aleksander Barkov

He is one of the league’s best all-around players and is an absolute steal under the salary cap. Along with his great defensive play and superb playmaking, he also has scored at a 30-goal pace the couple of years. He is only 24 years old and might still have his best days ahead of him.  14 of 31

Los Angeles Kings: Ilya Kovalchuk

Maybe this is a testament to how far the Kings have fallen the past few years, but Kovalchuk probably really is the answer. At his peak he was one of the most dominant forwards in the league and was the league’s best goal scorer before Alex Ovechkin arrived. He spent a large chunk of his career playing in the KHL only to return this past season. The Kings coaching staff a year ago never seemed to trust him (or want him), but he should be poised for a bounce back year under Todd McLellan.  15 of 31

Minnesota Wild: Eric Staal

This was a toss-up between Staal and Zach Parise. But with Parise slowing down and Staal being the best goal scorer on the team in recent years, we are going with him. A few years ago Staal looked like his career was about ready to come to an end, but joining the Wild seemed to spark something for him and he has been a completely different player, even hitting the 40-goal mark once.

Montreal Canadiens: Brendan Gallagher

Gallagher has really evolved over the years, going from a depth player whose biggest intention seemed to be rattling the cages of his opponents to a legit top-line player who can score 30 goals. He has hit the 30-goal mark in each of the past two seasons and has become one of the Canadiens’ best and most important players.  17 of 31

Nashville Predators: Filip Forsberg

Predators general manager David Poile has assembled his team over the years through a series of major trades. The best of them all was getting Forsberg from the Washington Capitals for Martin Erat. Erat was a flop with the Capitals, while Forsberg has blossomed into one of the league’s best players and an outstanding goal scorer. Since joining the Predators, he has averaged more than 30 goals per 82 games.  18 of 31

New Jersey Devils: Taylor Hall

When healthy, Hall has been everything the Devils wanted him to be when they acquired him from the Edmonton Oilers for Adam Larsson. The big question for the Devils is whether they can convince him to re-sign with the team, especially as they are off to a brutal start of the 2019-20 season.  19 of 31

New York Islanders: Anders Lee

A sixth-round draft pick and at one time an afterthought in the Islanders organization, Lee has transformed into one of the best net-front players in the league and the best goal scorer on the team. With 28 goals a year ago, he showed that his production was not just the result of playing alongside John Tavares and that, yes, he can score on his own and help drive the offense.  20 of 31

New York Rangers: Artemi Panarin

From the moment he arrived in the NHL, Panarin has been one of the league’s most impactful offensive players. He is an outstanding playmaker who makes his linemates better, but he is also an outstanding goal scorer who is going to push the 30-goal mark every year. The Rangers signed him to a massive contract in free agency to be a significant part of their rebuild. 

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Ottawa Senators: Brady Tkachuk

It is slim pickings on this Senators team for goal scoring talent. About 10 years ago the answer would have easily been Bobby Ryan, but he has not been that player for some time now. Brady Tkachuk is in only his second year in the league but has already shown a goal scoring touch and is one of the few bright spots that this team has to build around long term.  22 of 31

Philadelphia Flyers: James van Riemsdyk

Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier are the best players on the Flyers, but none of them has ever been a truly great goal scorer. Their brilliance is in their passing (Giroux, Voracek) and defensive play (Couturier). It is van Riemsdyk who has been one of the more overlooked goal scorers in the league and a truly good one. In his first year back with the Flyers in 2018-19, he scored 27 goals in only 66 games.  23 of 31

Pittsburgh Penguins: Sidney Crosby

Crosby is known more for his passing and “200-foot game,” but one of the most overlooked parts of his career is that he has two Rocket Richard Trophies on his resume. He makes the wingers around him better goal scorers, yet he is still the best goal scorer on his team — one of the best players ever.  24 of 31

San Jose Sharks: Logan Couture

With Joe Pavelski now in Dallas and Patrick Marleau at the age of 40, the Sharks do not really have a great pure goal scorer on their roster. They have a lot of great all-around players and impact offensive performers but nobody who has really established himself as a great goal scorer every year. The closest is probably Couture, the team’s best forward. In a good year he will challenge the 35 mark but is usually a good bet to score close to 30 for the Sharks.  25 of 31

St. Louis Blues: Vladimir Tarasenko

He is probably the one player on the Blues’ 2018-19 Stanley Cup winning team who has a shot at the Hall of Fame. He is lock to score at least 30 goals every season and can carry the team’s offense on his back when he is at his best. He also proved to be a big-time performer in the playoffs with 33 goals in 70 career postseason games, including 11 during the team’s championship run. 

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Tampa Bay Lightning: Steven Stamkos

The second best goal scorer of his era, trailing only the great Alex Ovechkin in Washington. Stamkos has five 40-goal seasons on his resume, including a pair of 50-goal campaigns (and one 60-goal season!). The disappointing thing is that his career could look even better had it not been for a run of serious injuries (plus a half-season lockout) between the ages of 23 and 26 that robbed him of a significant portion of his peak years. Even with that, he is still one of the most dangerous goal scorers in hockey.  27 of 31

Toronto Maple Leafs: John Tavares

There is a convincing case to be made for Auston Matthews to get this call for the Maple Leafs (he has scored at a 40-goal pace over the first three seasons of his career), but Tavares is coming off a 47-goal season and has been scoring at an elite rate in the NHL for more than a decade now. That is worth something. A lot, actually. He came to Toronto, his hometown, with huge expectations and a massive free agent contract and not only never seemed phased by the pressure, but he actually had the best season of his career.  28 of 31

Vancouver Canucks: Brock Boeser

It would be tempting to put Elias Pettersson here after the rookie season he had, and he is certainly the Canucks’ most impactful player. But a lot of his rookie goal scoring total came off a hot stretch in the first month of the season that he may not be able to duplicate. Boeser, on the other hand, has shown over two full seasons that he can regularly put the puck in the net. The only thing that has slowed him down is injury. If he can ever play 82 games, he might have a 40-goal season in his future.  29 of 31

Vegas Golden Knights: Max Pacioretty

Mark Stone is the best all-around player on this team, but Pacioretty still gets the slight edge when it comes to pure goal scoring. He may not be the 40-goal threat he was a couple of years ago when he was at his peak in Montreal, but as long as he stays healthy enough to play a full season he should be good for 30-35 goals.  30 of 31

Washington Capitals: Alex Ovechkin

I mean, come on. Who else was this going to be? There is a convincing argument to be made that Ovechkin is the greatest goal scorer who has ever played in the NHL, and he has a legitimate shot to break Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goals record. Even if he does not, the fact he is going to seriously challenge it in this era of defensive, structured hockey with goaltending at the best level it has ever been is an incredible accomplishment. 

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Winnipeg Jets: Patrik Laine

Laine has already proved to be such a great goal scorer that when he scored 30 goals during the 2018-19 season (only his third season in the league) it was viewed as a down year for him. He has scored at least 30 goals every year he has been in the league and seems destined to have a couple of 50-goal seasons in his future. The Jets being positioned to draft him with the No. 2 overall pick in 2016 was one of the biggest turning points for the franchise. 

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By: Adam Gretz

Grading the offseason for every NHL team

With NHL training camps starting to get under way and the start of the 2019-20 NHL season less than a month away, it is time to look back at the offseason and see what every team did to improve. We assign a grade for all 31 NHL teams. See which teams received a passing mark and which teams did not make the grade.  1 of 31

Anaheim Ducks: D

This could be another long season for the Ducks. Their big move this summer was buying out Corey Perry’s contract, and they really didn’t add anything to a team that was one of the worst in the NHL last. year. Ryan Kesler won’t play, Ryan Getzlaf is a year older, and it is going to be up to John Gibson and Ryan Miller in net to carry this team to respectability. They are a great goalie duo, but they may not be great enough to do the impossible.   2 of 31

Arizona Coyotes: B

Acquiring Phil Kessel has given the organization a much-needed boost at the box office and has the potential to do the same on the ice. The Coyotes have not had an impact offensive player like this in more than a decade. His addition, the under-the-radar pickup of Carl Soderberg and what will hopefully be some better health luck might be just enough to get this young, exciting team over the hump and back to the playoffs. They also committed to another part of their young core by signing Clayton Keller to a huge long-term contract extension.  3 of 31

Boston Bruins: C

Not much here to evaluate. The Bruins lost a couple of depth players to free agency but are mostly returning the same team that was one game away from winning the Stanley cup. They might take a step back just because it is difficult to go through that postseason gauntlet two years in a row, but they are still going to be a contender. They just have not really added much this offseason. 4 of 31

Buffalo Sabres: B

They paid a huge price to re-sign Jeff Skinner, but he seems to work really well with Jack Eichel.  Marcus Johansson, Colin Miller and Jimmy Vesey are nice complementary additions to the core of Eichel, Skinner and Rasmus Dahlin. It was a good offseason and they should be a better team, but I am not sure they added enough to close the gap between them and the top teams in the Atlantic Division or the top wild-card teams in the Eastern Conference.   5 of 31

Calgary Flames: D

The Flames were outstanding a year ago, but a lot of things went right to help them climb to the top of the Western Conference standings. Will all of that happen again? Their big offseason moves were bringing in Cam Talbot to replace Mike Smith in net and trading James Neal for Milan Lucic. Hardly the type of moves that should excite fans and convince them that the team can take the next step this season.  6 of 31

Carolina Hurricanes: A

They will be without some important players from last year’s team (Justin Williams, Curtis McElhinney, and Micheal Ferland) but they did find some solid replacements in Erik Haula, Ryan Dzingel and James Reimer. They also added to an already stacked defense by signing Jake Gardiner to a four-year contract in early September. Their biggest offseason win, though, was the Montreal Canadiens signing Sebastian Aho to a restricted free agent offer sheet they were easily able to match, helping them avoid a summer of painful contract negotiations and getting their franchise player locked in on a team-friendly contract.  7 of 31

Chicago Blackhawks: B

The Blackhawks are banking heavily on their core still being good enough to win.  Instead of making big changes and going for a rebuild, they worked to improve their defense with Olli Maatta, Calvin de Haan and the addition of goaltender Robin Lehner. The Blackhawks were one of the worst defensive teams in the league a year ago and are hoping these additions can help them improve enough to complement their offense.   8 of 31

Colorado Avalanche: A

The Avalanche are beginning to emerge as a power in the Western Conference with their young core of superstars led by Nathan  MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen. They added to that this summer with the additions of Andre Burakovsky, Joonas Donskoi and Nazem Kadri to bolster their   forward depth. Combined with a young defense that will feature Cale Makar, Sam Girard, and eventually Bowen Byram (No. 4 overall pick this summer), they should be a Stanley Cup contender for the foreseeable future.   9 of 31

Columbus Blue Jackets: D

This is a tough one. Gustav Nyquist was a strong free agent addition, but this team was gutted in the offseason with Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky and Matt Duchene all moving on. They still have a strong core of young players, especially on defense with Seth Jones and Zach Werenski, but goaltending is going to be a huge question mark. 10 of 31

Dallas Stars: B

The Stars were the most top-heavy team in the NHL last season and needed to do something to address the lack of depth. They hopefully did that with the additions of Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry. Their impact will ultimately depend on how much both players have left in their tanks in their late 30s, but they at least tried to address their biggest shortcoming from a year ago.  11 of 31

Detroit Red Wings: C

This is only so high because they managed to get Steve Yzerman to return to Detroit and oversee this rebuild. He is one of the league’s top general managers and should give Red Wings fans reason for long-term hope. In the short-term? This is almost the exact same team that has been one of the league’s worst for three years now. Yzerman has a full cupboard of draft picks and some intriguing young talent in the system, but the NHL roster is as weak as it has been in years.  12 of 31

Edmonton Oilers: D

Ken Holland has his hands full with this rebuild. The team made a couple of OK depth signings and took a chance on James Neal rebounding from a down year in Calgary (dumping Milan Lucic’s albatross contract in the process), but Edmonton needs a lot more than that. The roster around Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is as weak as it has been over the past two years and there is little reason to think the results on the ice are going to be any different. This looks like another wasted year of McDavid’s prime. 13 of 31

Florida Panthers: B

There are real questions about how long Sergei Bobrovsky’s contract will be a good value, but in the short term he satisfies Florida’s biggest need. This team is good enough to make the playoffs this season with competent goaltending, and Bobrovsky should be able to provide that. Along with a franchise goalie, the Panthers also lured Hall of Fame coach Joel Quenneville to Florida and made a couple of solid depth signings with Brett Connolly and Anton Stralman. With Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau back, anything short of the playoffs would be a disappointment. 14 of 31

Los Angeles Kings: F

Other than hiring Todd McLellan as head coach, the Kings did nothing to fix what was one of the NHL’s worst teams a year ago. They have been stale for more than four years now and have been badly in need of a rebuild. That process still has not started. They are banking heavily on bounce back years from Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick, and while all three should be better than they were, improvements from them alone will not be enough to get them back in the playoffs. 15 of 31

Minnesota Wild: D

Mats Zuccarello is a decent enough signing, but he is another big-money player on the wrong side of 30, something the team already has too many of. The Wild also fired general manager Paul Fenton after just one miserable season, making the organization look like it is kind of directionless. Fenton was replaced by Bill Guerin. Guerin is obviously an unknown, but he is going to have a lot of work to do in cleaning up the mess Fenton left behind.  16 of 31

Montreal Canadiens: D

want to give them credit for being bold and signing Carolina’s Sebastian Aho to a restricted free agent offer sheet, but it was such a lame effort that was so easy for the Hurricanes to match that I can’t even give them credit for that. In fact, it makes me actually lower their grade. As if that wasn’t enough, they also made a run at free agent Jake Gardiner only to have him turn them down to sign with, you guessed it, Carolina. Their big addition was Ben Chiarot. Jesperi Kotkaniemi could be ready for a breakout season, but there might be some regression from Max Domi and Tomas Tatar.  17 of 31

Nashville Predators: C

Matt Duchene is a big addition and gives the Predators another top-line forward and hopefully someone who can help fix their awful power play. But to get him they had to dump P.K. Subban’s entire contract, which meant they received almost nothing for him. They have plenty of depth on defense, and they did need forward help. I just don’t know if they are a significantly better team today than they were before that sequence of transactions.  18 of 31

New Jersey Devils: A

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By: Adam Gretz

How close are the Penguins to becoming the Blackhawks or Kings?

Dynasties don’t always fade away. Sometimes they just crumble and collapse into a smoldering pile of ruin that cannibalizes itself and everything around it.

Sure, we sometimes throw the word “dynasty” around in sports a little too loosely, and I admit I am probably doing that here for the purpose of this argument, but hey … I needed a starting point. Even though NHL’s salary cap era has not produced a true “dynasty” comparable to the likes of the Edmonton Oilers, New York Islanders, or Montreal Canadiens, there have been three teams that have stood out above the pack and achieved a level of success no other team has come close to matching.

The Los Angeles Kings won two Stanley Cups in three years.

The Chicago Blackhawks won three in six.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have won three (with a fourth appearance in the Stanley Cup Final) in 10 years.

Those three teams have combined to win eight of the Stanley Cups in the salary cap era, including eight of the previous 10.

While none of them on their own qualify as a true “dynasty,” they have still been the defining teams of this era.

Two of them, the Blackhawks and Kings, are already in the smoldering pile phase of their franchise progression.

The Kings have missed the playoffs more than they’ve made them since winning their second Stanley Cup in 2014, have not won a playoff series, and just wrapped up a 2018-19 season where they spent the year competing with the Ottawa Senators for the worst record in the league.

The Blackhawks have not won a playoff series in three years since their 2015 Stanley Cup win and have missed the playoffs in each of the past two seasons.

Is this sort of bleak stretch in the Penguins’ future? Well, the long-term answer is most certainly yes, it is, because Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are not going to play forever, and there is going to come a point even when they are playing that they may not be able to carry the team to the playoffs. Hell, you don’t have to look far to see the track the Penguins have been on the past two years, going from back-to-back Stanley Cups, to a second-round exit, to a first-round sweep after clinching a playoff spot in Game 81 of the regular season.

That is coming down from the top of the mountain, friends, and there is nothing wrong with that. Nobody stays at the top forever, and at least if you are a Penguins, Kings, or Blackhawks fan you have a bunch of banners to show for it.

As the old saying goes: Banners hang forever.

But how close are the Penguins to truly falling to the bottom and living in the reality that Blackhawks and Kings have spent the past few years in (and maybe the next couple, at least)?

It will happen at some point, but I’m not sure the Penguins are there just quite yet.

First, even though the “core” of Crosby, Malkin, Letang, etc. are getting older, I feel like they have more of a graceful decline ahead of them than the core players of the Kings and Blackhawks.

The Kings’ core really wasn’t that impressive to begin with, was it?

Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty are great — but that was about it. Their run of championships was never one that was built on skill or remarkably deep rosters. It was built on suffocating, systematic defensive work and hoping that Jonathan Quick could catch fire for a couple of months and rise above his otherwise mediocre track record as an NHL starting goalie. I’m not saying the Kings were frauds as champions (they were a legitimately great for three years!) but they just didn’t seem to have the type of roster that was set-up for long-term, sustained success over a decade or so.

Once their handful of high-level players started to slow down, there wasn’t much left around them to make up for it. When a player like, say, Dustin Brown loses a step, he doesn’t have much else to fall back on.

The Blackhawks are a little tougher to get a read on on where things went so sideways for them.

Corey Crawford’s health issues over the past two years have definitely had a negative impact on their overall performance, and when you lose a really good starting goalie and don’t have anyone to fall back on, that is going to create a lot of problems. I also think a lot of the Blackhawks’ problems are a little self-inflicted in the sense that they stayed too loyal to the wrong players (see: Seabrook, Brent) and made some irrational decisions based on one bad postseason result (trading a first-line player like Artemi Panarin to bring back a lesser player in Brandon Saad — one that they were, again, probably staying too loyal to because of the team success).

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By: Gretz

Ranking all the NHL alternate jerseys from the 2018-19 season

After a spell without them, third jerseys are back for the NHL! Now, that may cause fear to rise in your gullet. At least it will if you are old enough to remember that first wave of (largely hideous) third jerseys from the ‘90s. Somehow, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks managed to make themselves look even worse! The NHL didn’t have alternate/third jerseys last year due to switching all their jerseys to Adidas. Now Adidas is able to crank out third jerseys for what is expected to be about 15-20 teams. Some of the looks have been seen before but not for the past few years. Here’s a look at all the third jerseys we know about, ranked in terms of quality.

21. Arizona Coyotes

Apparently we’re at a place where we’re willing to nostalgically accept these Coyotes jerseys as existing? Until they changed their look to a simpler style, Arizona, then Phoenix, was rivaled by only the Minnesota Wild for worse look in the league. We don’t care if they’re ironically bringing back the Kachina jerseys. They still look bad and are WAY too busy for a sports uniform.

20. Anaheim Ducks

Sorry, we aren’t going to buy your nostalgia, take two. The Anaheim logo with the duck-shaped hockey mask was dumb then, and it’s dumb now. However, the purple-and-teal look feels like it has aged a little better. The stripes are nice. The logo is still hot garbage.

19. New York Islanders

There are two things going against the Islanders’ third jerseys. One, it’s basically a replicant of the black third jersey they wore before, but now it’s blue. Two, it’s not an interesting logo, and it’s much worse than the traditional Islanders logo. It also lacks the kitschy fun of the fisherman logo. Just blah all around.

18. Philadelphia Flyers

These jerseys are too basic to be offensive but also too boring to be interesting. They look fine. This is a shrug in hockey jersey form. They better wear it around Halloween.

17. Los Angeles Kings

Straight up, we miss the yellow-and-purple crown look from the expansion era. Instead of that, the Kings are going with another gray alternate, a slight tweak from their 50th anniversary look. It’s not a bad look, but it doesn’t really stir up much in the way of feelings.

 

16. Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks and the Bruins aren’t wearing third jerseys, per se, but they did wear retro looks for the Winter Classic. Both are harkening back to their ‘30s looks. These Chicago ones are kind of crazy because they are just black and white. A Blackhawks jersey without a hint of red? That’s practically sacrilege!

15. Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers’ jersey is good and a reflection of their old look for their 40th anniversary. However, it’s not all that different from their usual look. They are just wearing a bright royal blue with the orange. It pops, but it’s not different enough to rank too high.

14. San Jose Sharks

Shocker! The Sharks have a black alternate jersey. Back in the day, “third jersey” basically meant “black jersey,” but now that isn’t the case so this isn’t quite as eye-rolling. They also have made the new logo blacker as well, borrowing from the aesthetic choices of “Spinal Tap.” And there’s a new shoulder logo with a fin poking out of the water, which is actually cool.

 

13. Ottawa Senators

Everything is terrible about the Senators…save for their expected third jersey. They are bringing back their centennial look, which has a great old school vibe. Their logo is just a big “O.” The simplicity works.

12. Pittsburgh Penguins

Like a character from the least-popular Austin Powers movie, the Penguins seem to love gold. That being said, these jerseys really pop. They are bright but not garish, and gold is deeply tied to Pittsburgh sports. The Stanley Cup may be silver, but gold still has its charm in the NHL.

11. Winnipeg Jets

The Jets’ look is cool. The blue they usually sport works great, the lettering of the logo is sharp, and I really like the stripe. It definitely is a classy jersey, but the Jets have such a good look normally, it feels like an unnecessary alternative.

10. Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto is expected to kick it very old school again by busting out its St. Pats jerseys, a shout out to a defunct hockey team based in the city. Hey, you can always wear it on St. Patrick’s Day and have it be a hit. It’s weird to see the Maple Leafs not wearing blue, but to be fair they also aren’t even wearing the words “maple” or “leafs.” That’s fun in and of itself, and the St. Pats jerseys are pretty nice as well

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By: Chris Morgan