For just the second time since the turn of the century, the NHL champion reigns for a second consecutive season. The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Montreal Canadiens 1-0 in Game 5 at home on Wednesday night, cementing their back-to-back champion status after taking home the Stanley Cup in 2020 as well. Young Ross Colton scored the only goal of the game early in the second period, and his teammates played tough defense to keep Montreal off the board for a shutout win to seal it.
The 2020-21 season was far different for Tampa Bay, though. In 2019-20, the Lightning were a wire-to-wire favorite, leading the league in goals for and finishing second in goal differential, which earned them a share of the third-best record in the league. This year, the Lightning had their fair share of issues along the way, finishing only third in their own division and eighth overall in the league, falling to eighth in scoring and seventh in differential. Yet, in the postseason they were even better this time around than they were last year. In the 2020 playoffs, the Bolts recorded 3.08 goals for per game and 2.28 goals against per game, finished fifth in power-play and penalty-kill efficiency and required extra time to win seven games. This year, Tampa Bay notched 3.26 goals for per game and led the postseason with 1.96 goals against per game, finished third and fourth, respectively, on the power play and penalty kill, and did not need overtime to win a single game.
The NHL confirmed on Thursday that Tampa Bay Lightning forward Alex Killorn is suspended for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final versus the New York Islanders on Friday.
Roughly six minutes into Wednesday’s Game 2, Killorn delivered what the league referred to as a defenseless hit on New York forward Brock Nelson:
Killorn was issued a major penalty and game misconduct for the hit. It was the first of two controversial moments involving Nelson, who cleared concussion protocol and was permitted to remain in the game amid protests made by fans on Twitter:
Originally posted on Pro Hockey Rumors By Holger Stolzenberg | Last updated 9/6/20
There seems to be plenty of questions surrounding Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, who has yet to make his playoff debut after undergoing core muscle surgery in early March and now has been listed as “unfit to play” with a lower-body injury. Now it looks like that if he will play in the playoffs it will have to be in the Stanley Cup Final.
The Lightning and head coach Jon Cooper announced that Stamkos will miss the entire Eastern Conference Final due to his undisclosed injuries, adding that he will update that status if anything changes. There was plenty of hope that Stamkos might be ready to return to the team and supplement the offensive powerhouse Lightning against the stingy defense of the Islanders. However, that won’t happen here, and the Bolts will have to win the series without him if they have any hopes of him returning for the playoffs.
It was an incredible decade for the NHL that saw a new team enter the league and immediately become a Stanley Cup contender, an old NHL city get a new NHL team and some dramatic shifts to the balance of power in the league thanks to a series of blockbuster trades and free agent signings. We continue our look back at the past decade with the top 25 NHL stories from the 2010s. See which ones make the cut.
1 of 25
The NHL returns to Winnipeg
Terrence Lee, USATI
After two decades without the NHL, Winnipeg finally got its own team again when the Atlanta Thrashers relocated north for the start of the 2011-12 season. Fans flocked to the arena and created one of the most intense home-ice advantages in the league, but the team rarely provided much excitement on the ice. The Jets basically continued to play like the Thrashers, only in a different uniform and in a different city. That finally changed during the 2017-18 season when they won the first postseason game in franchise history (Atlanta or Winnipeg) and reached the Western Conference Final before losing to the expansion Vegas Golden Knights in five games.
2 of 25
Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals finally win the Stanley Cup
Geoff Burke, USATI
It was starting to look like it may never happen for Ovechkin and the Capitals. After winning three Presidents’ Trophies and then falling short in the playoffs every time and never being able to get past the second round or the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Caps finally broke through during the 2017-18 season and exorcised all of their postseason demons. They beat the Penguins, they overcame a 3-2 series deficit in the Eastern Conference Final, for once they were the ones who had the hot goalie, and all of the breaks finally went their way at the right time. Now they have their championship, and no one can ever take it away from them.
3 of 25
Another lockout canceled half a season
Stephen R. Sylvanie, USATI
No sport has struggled with labor peace more than the NHL, and less than a decade after losing an entire season (2004-05) to a work stoppage, the NHL lost another half season in 2012-13 to the third lockout of the Gary Bettman era. The 2012-13 season ended up being a 48-game campaign (similar to the 1994-95 season, also cut short by a lockout) and saw the Chicago Blackhawks win the second of their three Stanley Cups in the salary cap era.
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The Vegas Golden Knights become an immediate Stanley Cup contender
Stephen R. Sylvanie, USATI
This is probably one of the most unbelievable stories in the history of the NHL, let alone the past decade. When the NHL expanded to 31 teams for the 2017-18 season, there were a lot of critics who wondered if the Vegas Golden Knights would be a success. On the ice, expectations were understandably low because they were an expansion team. But their immediate success turned Vegas into one of the hottest tickets in the league. The Golden Knights have been a Stanley Cup contender since Day 1 and reached the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season, losing in five games to the Washington Capitals.
5 of 25
Sidney Crosby’s head and neck injuries
David Dermer, USATI
The best player of the generation had the majority of his peak years crushed by a concussion and neck injury that limited him to just 99 out of a possible 224 games between the 2010-11 and 2012-13 season. It all started with a two-game sequence in 2010-11 with hits from Dave Steckel and Victor Hedman that cut short what was his best season. Crosby’s career speaks for itself, and he will be remembered as one of the best players to ever play in the NHL, but it still feels like we were robbed of fully seeing him at his absolute best.
6 of 25
John Tavares goes home
John E. Sokolowski, USATI
The biggest free agency saga of the past decade had to be John Tavares, the longtime face of the New York Islanders franchise, leaving the team in the summer of 2018 to join the Toronto Maple Leafs, his hometown club. It gave the Maple Leafs an incredibly talented core and raised the expectations in Toronto to Stanley Cup or bust. Meanwhile, expectations were at an all-time low for the Islanders, but they rebounded under the leadership of new coach Barry Trotz and actually advanced further than the Maple Leafs in the playoffs.
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Barry Trotz leaves the Capitals to join the Islanders
Stephen R. Sylvanie, USATI
This kind of goes hand-in-hand with the Capitals finally breaking through, but it’s big enough of a move that it deserves its own recognition. Trotz became the first coach since Mike Keenan in 1994 to leave a Stanley Cup-winning team the following season. The reason: The Capitals and Trotz could not come to terms on a new contract that would have made him one of the highest-paid coaches in the league. He ended up being hired by the New York Islanders and helped orchestrate one of the most stunning one-year turnarounds in recent league history.
8 of 25
Bruins bring the Stanley Cup back to Boston
Greg M. Cooper, USATI
With their Game 7 win over the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, the Bruins finally brought the Stanley Cup back to Boston for the first time since the 1971-72 season. It was the start of a great run for the Bruins that saw them reach two more Stanley Cup Finals in the next decade. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Zdeno Chara, Tim Thomas, and Tuukka Rask were at the center of that run.
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The Penguins go back-to-back
Aaron Doster, USATI
It had been nearly two decades since a team won the Stanley Cup in consecutive years when the Penguins accomplished the feat during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons. What made their run so stunning is that it came at a time when everyone had started to close their championship window in the Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang era. The Pens needed a coaching change, some major trades and a couple of in-season call-ups in 2015-16 to start their run, but all of it together reopened their window and produced two more Stanley Cups.
10 of 25
Minnesota breaks the bank on Zach Parise and Ryan Suter
Brad Rempel, USATI
On July 4, 2012, the Minnesota Wild made their boldest series of moves ever when they signed the top two free agents on the market — Parise and Suter — to matching 13-year, $98 million contracts. This was during the time period when NHL teams were handing out mega-long-term, front-loaded contracts to reduce the salary cap hits over the term of the deal. How did this work out for Minnesota? Probably not as they expected. The Wild have been a consistent playoff team but have never made it beyond the second round and only twice made it out of the first round in the Parise-Suter era. Both players are now in their mid-30s and still have five years remaining after this season on their deals.
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Ilya Kovalchuk leaves for the KHL
Orlando Ramirez, USATI
The New Jersey Devils reached the 2011-12 Stanley Cup Final and were so close to winning another championship thanks in large part to the play of All-Star forwards Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk. Within two years, everything fell apart for them. Parise left in free agency for Minnesota following the season, and then one year later Kovalchuk, in the middle of a mega-contract with the Devils, abruptly announced his retirement from the NHL and returned to the KHL. He spent more than five seasons playing in the KHL before returning to the NHL before the 2018-19 season, signing a three-year deal with the Los Angeles Kings.
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Blackhawks fire Joel Quenneville
Patrick Gorski, USATI
After winning three Stanley Cups and helping put together one of the most successful teams of the salary cap era, the Blackhawks decided to part ways with Quenneville, one of the most successful coaches in the history of the league, early in the 2018-19 season. It was stunning just because of how successful Quenneville was and how many problems the Blackhawks seemed to have had beyond the coach. Quenneville ended up joining the Florida Panthers the following offseason, while the Blackhawks have continued to take steps backward as their championship window rapidly slams shut.
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The Blues go from worst to first
Winslow Townson, USATI
One year after the Capitals finally kicked down the Stanley Cup door, the St. Louis Blues did the same, erasing years of disappointment and misery for their fans. The Blues also made it difficult on themselves, going from the worst record in the Western Conference in early January to the top of the NHL mountain in June. As if that was not crazy enough, the player who helped spark the turnaround was Jordan Binnington, a rookie goalie who started the season as a backup…in the American Hockey League.
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The Taylor Hall trade
Ed Mulholland, USATI
On the afternoon of June 29, 2016, there were three major roster transactions across the NHL in a span of 60 minutes that dramatically shook the landscape of the league. The first was the Oilers trading Hall, at the time their best player and one of the best left wingers in the league, to the New Jersey Devils for defenseman Adam Larsson. It was a one-for-one trade, and it stunned pretty much everyone outside of the Oilers front office that the return was so little. Hall went on to win the league MVP two years later, while Larsson has been nothing more than a solid but unspectacular second-pairing defender. It was one of the most one-sided trades of the decade.
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The P.K. Subban for Shea Weber trade
Christopher Hanewinckel, USATI
This was the other massive trade on June 29, 2016. After years of trade rumors and speculation that they might do it, the Canadiens finally traded Subban, one of the most popular players to play for the team in generations, to the Nashville Predators in a one-for-one deal for Shea Weber. It was a curious move because Weber was older, had a worse contract and probably wasn’t as good as Subban at the time. But the Canadiens wanted to shake things up and make a bold move, so they did. Weber is still a good player when healthy, but he has started to break down. Subban, meanwhile, helped lead the Predators to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. He was then traded to New Jersey two years later.
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Paul Holmgren breaks up the Flyers for Ilya Bryzgalov
Len Redkoles, Getty
The Flyers’ quest to find a franchise goalie took a dramatic turn in the summer of 2011 when general manager Paul Holmgren, never one to shy away from a bold trade, traded his two core players (Mike Richards and Jeff Carter) to retool his team around Bryzgalov, signing the goalie to a massive contract. While the Carter and Richards trades brought a lot of talent to Philadelphia, the Bryzgalov contract was a complete disaster that ended in a buyout two years later. Richards and Carter were also reunited in Los Angeles and helped the Kings win two Stanley Cups. The Flyers have made the playoffs just four times in eight years and made it out of the first round just one time.
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The Shea Weber offer sheet
John Russell, Getty
Everybody loves to talk about the potential a restricted free agent offer sheet every offseason, but they almost never happen. And when they do, they almost always get matched. The most intriguing offer sheet of the past decade came in 2012 when the Flyers signed restricted free agent defenseman Shea Weber to a 14-year, $100 million offer sheet. It was just one year after the Flyers overhauled their team for Bryzgalov and was another insanely bold move. The Predators, having already lost Ryan Suter to the Minnesota Wild in free agency, had no choice but to match the offer. It produced a ton of “what if” scenarios. What would the Predators have done with the draft pick compensation? How would the Flyers build around that contract? Would it inspire other offer sheets in the future?
18 of 25
The Red Wings’ playoff streak ends at 25 seasons
Rick Osentoski, USATI
Between the 1990-91 and 2015-16 seasons the Detroit Red Wings were a mainstay in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, qualifying in each of the 25 years and being one of the most stable, consistent and successful franchises in all of professional sports. They reached the Stanley Cup Final six times, won it four times and were always in contention. That run finally came to an end during the 2016-17 season and has started a new streak: missing the playoffs. Barring a miracle turnaround, the Red Wings are on track to miss for the fourth consecutive season and given the makeup of their roster, there does not seem to be much hope of this new streak coming to an end anytime soon.
19 of 25
The great tank battle of 2014-15
Timothy T. Ludwig, USATI
At the start of the 2014-15 season, everyone in the NHL knew there were two elite prospects at the top of the 2015 draft: Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel. This was also a time when the team with the worst record in the league was guaranteed one of the top two picks in the draft, which meant at least one of these two potential franchise players. The Buffalo Sabres and Arizona Coyotes were in a year-long race to the basement that actually saw Sabres fans enthusiastically cheering for the Coyotes in a late-season game. The Sabres ended up finishing with the league’s worst record but lost the draft lottery. They picked second and ended up with Eichel. Arizona, meanwhile, was the biggest loser; they picked third and selected Dylan Strome. The Edmonton Oilers moved ahead of both teams and won the right to pick McDavid. The NHL ended up changing the draft lottery rules a few years later.
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The Oilers win four draft lotteries in six years — including Connor McDavid
Perry Nelson, USATI
On the ice the Oilers have been the least successful team in the NHL over the past decade, and their only consistent success has been getting some great luck in the draft lottery. They won the top pick in 2010, 2011, 2012 and then again in 2015. Those picks turned out to be Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov and Connor McDavid. The latter was the big one and it infuriated fans — and teams — across the league because of the way the Oilers squandered their previous draft lottery successes. Edmonton being gifted the best draft prospect since Sidney Crosby seemed to be laughably unfair. And just as they did with the previous picks, the Oilers have failed to build a consistently competitive team around him.
21 of 25
The Department of Player Safety
Tom Szczerbowski, USATI
The NHL had a major head shot problem. Marc Savard’s career was ended by a brutal hit from Matt Cooke. David Booth’s career was derailed by a similar hit from Mike Richards. There was nothing the league could do about them because they were, at the time, legal hockey plays. The addition of Rule 48, focusing on hits to the head, as well as the creation of the Department of Player Safety (led by Brendan Shanahan) at the beginning of the 2011-12 season was supposed to help put a stop to such plays. Suspensions rapidly increased and, eventually, targeted hits to the head started to decline. It is not a perfect system and there are flaws with consistency and enforcement, but things are dramatically better than they used to be.
22 of 25
Raffi Torres checks his way out of the league
Rocky W. Widner, Getty Images
Torres was one of the most notorious headhunters in the league and was the recipient of some massive suspensions for his constant reckless play. He was given a 25-game ban for an egregious hit on Marian Hossa in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, was banned for an entire series one year later and then in 2015 earned his most significant suspension when he was given a 41- game ban for a preseason hit on Jakob Silfverberg. He never played another game in the NHL.
23 of 25
John Scott: NHL All-Star
Aaron Doster, USATI
The NHL has tried everything to make the All-Star game exciting: fantasy drafts, North America vs. The World, and the current 3-on-3 mini-tournament. The latter seems to be the most successful attempt, and it hit its peak during the 2015-16 season when longtime enforcer John Scott was voted into the game by fans. The league tried to talk him out of playing (which did not go over well). He not only played, but he also ended up stealing the show and recording a hat trick in the game.
24 of 25
The Olympic debate
Pool Photo, USATI
Starting with the 1998 games in Nagano, Japan, the NHL had been sending its best players to the Winter Olympics every four years, producing an incredible best vs. best tournament. That run ended during the 2018 games, and it remains unclear when, or if, the NHL players will ever go back. The NHL seems determined to make the World Cup of Hockey work and serve as a replacement for the Olympics, but neither the players nor fans seem to share that same level of excitement.
25 of 25
Columbus stuns Tampa Bay
Aaron Doster, USATI
This was probably the biggest NHL upset of the decade. The 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning tied an NHL record with 62 wins, had the league MVP and scoring champion, a Vezina Trophy winner in goal, a Norris Trophy winner on defense and a Jack Adams-caliber coach behind the bench. It was supposed to be their year to win it all. They not only did not do that, but they also did not win a single playoff game, getting swept in Round 1 by a No. 8 seed Columbus Blue Jackets team. It was the Blue Jackets’ first-ever postseason series win, and it came after a bold decision at the trade deadline to go all in. Instead of trading pending free agents Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky, the Blue Jackets instead added more in Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel. It gave the city a taste of success but quickly fizzled in Round 2 and over the summer when all of the free agents departed.
From 18-year-old Jack Hughes with the New Jersey Devils, to 42-year-old Zdeno Chara with the Boston Bruins, and every age in between, we take a look at the best current NHL players at every age. Some names you probably expect, while others may surprise you. See who made the list. We have them all here! 1 of 24
Age 18: Jack Hughes, New Jersey Devils
Hughes, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft, is one of four 18-year-olds to play in the NHL this season. He had a slow start to his career, being held without a point in each of his first six games, but he has shown improvement as the season has gone on. The offensive numbers aren’t great (as should be expected for an 18-year-old) but he has posted strong possession numbers and is looking more and more confident with every game.
2 of 24
Age 19: Andrei Svechnikov, Carolina Hurricanes
Svechnikov is blossoming into a superstar for the Hurricanes. He leads the team in goals and total points, and after scoring 20 goals as an 18-year-old is on pace for 35 goals as a 19-year-old. If he is able to maintain that pace, he would be just the fifth different player since 2005-06 to score 35 goals before their age 20 seasons. That list includes only Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine. 3 of 24
Age 20: Miro Heiskanen, Dallas Stars
Heiskanen was snubbed in the Calder Trophy race a year ago by not even being voted as a finalist. But with the way his career is progressing into Year 2, he might have Norris Trophies waiting for him in his future. He and John Klingberg are going to run the Stars defense for the foreseeable future and be as good as almost any other one-two blue line duo in the league.
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Age 21: Elias Pettersson, Vancouver Canucks
This is the age where choosing the top player starts to get difficult. Cale Makar was an option here, as were Patrik Laine and Pierre-Luc Dubois. But Pettersson gets the call for the impact he has made in Vancouver. The 2018-19 Rookie of the Year, Pettersson has been a franchise-changing player for the Canucks and has helped speed up their rebuild by giving them a game-breaking talent up front. He has a chance to be an elite goal-scorer, is a tremendous playmaker and a one-man highlight reel every shift. 5 of 24
Age 22: Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
McDavid does turn 23 in the middle of January, so he barely makes the cut for this age. McDavid is the single most dominant offensive player in the league and is going to be the odds on favorite to win the scoring title every season as long as he stays reasonably healthy. He and Leon Draisaitl are the two driving forces behind the Oilers offense, and they are the two players carrying the team. The Oilers’ improved record in the standings will help him win the MVP Award he should have won the past couple of years. 6 of 24
Age 23: David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins
He might finally be the player to take the goal-scoring crown away from Alex Ovechkin. After scoring 38 goals in only 66 games a year ago, Pastrnak has come back this season with 25 goals in his first 31 games and has become one of the most dangerous offensive players in the league. His contract ($6.6 million salary cap hit) is going to turn out to be one of the biggest steals in the NHL.
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Age 24: Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
The No. 1 overall pick in 2013, it took MacKinnon a few years to become a superstar but now that he has, he looks completely unstoppable. After scoring 97 and 99 points the past two years, respectively, MacKinnon is on track for even more production this season and drives the best line in the league (alongside Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog) for a young team that is on the verge of greatness. 8 of 24
Age 25: Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
He has not played up to his normal standard in the first part of the 2019-20 season, but that does not take away from everything he has already accomplished in his career. He won the 2019 Vezina Trophy (league’s best goalie), was a finalist the year before and has been one of the league’s top goalies since he became the No. 1 starter in Tampa Bay.
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Age 26: Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
Over the past four years he has been the second-best offensive player in the league behind only Connor McDavid. His 128 points during the 2018-19 season (when he was league MVP and scoring champion) was the highest single season output in nearly two decades and helped the Lightning tie an NHL record with 62 regular-season wins. The only thing his career is missing at this point is a Stanley Cup.
10 of 24
Age 27: Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers
He literally just turned 27, and he gets the edge over players like Mark Stone, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Gabriel Landeskog. Couturier is one of the league’s best shutdown centers who also possesses the ability to score 35 goals and 70 points. Put those two things together, and you have one of the best all-around centers in the league at any age.
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Age 28: Artemi Panarin, New York Rangers
From the moment Panarin arrived in the NHL, he has been one of the league’s best offensive players. The Rangers signed him as a free agent this past summer to a massive contract, and it might be one of the rare free agent contracts that actually works out as planned. He is good enough to help a rebuilding team stay in playoff contention this season and young enough to still be a part of a contending team in New York in the future.
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Age 29: Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
It seems crazy to say, but Stamkos might be one of the most underrated players of his era. His production stacks up with the elites (Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin), and he could have been even better at this point had he not missed so many games during his prime years to injury and a lockout. He is still one of the most dangerous goal scorers in the league.
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Age 30: John Carlson, Washington Capitals
Carlson, who turns 30 in January, has finished in the top five in the Norris Trophy voting in each of the past two seasons, and this might be the year he actually wins it. Midway through December he is still on pace for more than 100 points, something no defenseman has done since the 1991-92 season. He is one of the driving forces behind the Capitals’ great start that has them on track for what could be their fourth Presidents’ Trophy in the past decade.
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Age 31: Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins
You hate him when he does not play for your team, but you wish he did play for your team. Marchand is one of the league’s best all-around players, combining elite offensive production, great defensive play and a knack for being the most annoying player in the league to play against. He tends to take the latter part way too far, far too often, especially when you consider how good of a player he actually is. He should not need to resort to such sideshow acts to make an impact.
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Age 32: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
His offensive numbers may not be what they were earlier in his career, but he is still an elite scorer and a fierce two-way player. He has already put together a top-10 career in the history of the league and by the time he finishes, he may be in the top five when you put together his individual accomplishments and team success. He might still have another Stanley Cup ahead of him in his career.
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Age 33: Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins
Malkin had a down year during the 2018-19 season and was determined to come back this season and show that he is still one of the league’s elite players. He has done that and more, as he has helped the Penguins overcome some significant injury issues early in the 2019-20 season to play like a Stanley Cup contending team. His 1.37 points per game average through his first 20 games would be the third-highest mark of his career. He is also closing in on the 400-goal mark for his career.
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Age 34: Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
He simply does not slow down. Even at age 34 he is on track for yet another 50-goal season and is still within striking distance of Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goal record. When you consider the era he has played in, it is almost impossible to argue he is not the greatest goal scorer of all time. The only players to ever score 50 goals in a season age 33 or older are Ovechkin, Jaromir Jagr, Bobby Hull and John Bucyk. Buyck is at this point the only one to score 50 goals at age 34 or older. Ovechkin, on his current pace this season, will join him and probably over the next few seasons as well. 18 of 24
Age 35: Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights
Fleury continues to climb the NHL’s all-time wins list and will have a chance to finish his career in the top three by the time he retires. He is still as durable and athletic as ever in the crease, but it still might be in the Golden Knights’ best interest to limit his workload a little bit, as they cannot keep relying on a 35-year-old goalie to play more than 60 games in a season and still be fresh for the playoffs. His best playoff performances during his career have come during seasons in which he has played fewer regular-season games.
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Age 36: Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames
Giordano remains one of the NHL’s all-time greatest undrafted success stories, and his career hit iys peak a year ago with his first-ever Norris Trophy win. He has not been quite as dominant this season (he is 36; it should be expected that at some point he slows down), but he is still an outstanding No. 1 defenseman for the Flames.
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Age 37: Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
It is starting to look as if he will never get that Stanley Cup as a member of the New York Rangers, but he has still put together a Hall of Fame-worthy career and been the best, most consistent goalie of his era. He is also still playing at a level that might keep the rebuilding Rangers in contention for a playoff spot and maybe another run for him.
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Age 38: Craig Anderson, Ottawa Senators
Anderson has put together an outstanding career for himself, playing 17 years in the NHL and appearing in more than 630 games for four different teams (Ottawa Senators, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers). He has performed at a really high level throughout most of those seasons and at times been one of the most productive goalies in the league. He is one of the few bright spots on a rebuilding Senators team that does not give its goalies much help on a nightly basis. He is one of only two 38-year-olds in the NHL this season. The other is his teammate veteran defenseman Ron Hainsey.
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Age 39: Ryan Miller, Anaheim Ducks
Miller is the only 39-year-old in the league this season, so he gets this one by default. But that should not take away from the reality that he is still a pretty good goalie and helps form one of the best goaltending duos in the league alongside John Gibson. They have to be nearly flawless in net for the Ducks to have a chance to win on most nights, but they do their best to keep the team competitive. It will be interesting to see if he gets moved to a contender in need of some goaltending help before the trade deadline later this season. 23 of 24
Age 40: Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks
Thornton and longtime teammate Patrick Marleau are the two 40-year-olds in the league this season, and they are on the same roster once again after the Sharks re-signed Marleau as a free agent earlier this season. Marleau has the higher goal total so far, but Thornton is the better all-around player and still has the vision and playmaking to make players around him better. He is one of the best passers who has ever stepped on an NHL ice surface. 24 of 24
Age 42: Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins
Chara is the oldest player in the NHL and is still finding ways to be productive for the Bruins. He is not the dominant player he was during his peak years in the league when he was a constant Norris Trophy contender, but he is still able to play 22 minutes per night for a Stanley Cup contender (a Stanley Cup Finalist a year ago and one of the league’s best teams this season) and make an impact. He already has five goals through his first 31 games and can still make noise defensively.
With the Toronto Maple Leafs’ firing of Mike Babcock, we have already seen one of the bigger coaching changes in the NHL this season. Babcock was the highest-paid coach in the league, the biggest name behind a bench and the person who was supposed to help bring the Stanley Cup back to Toronto. It did not work out, it had not been working for a while, and the change seemed inevitable after another postseason disappointment and the slow start to this season. It will not be the only major change made by a team this season. Here we take a look at some NHL players, coaches and GMs who are also on the hot seat.
Note: This list does not include Calgary Flames head coach Bill Peters, who is currently embroiled in a controversy that seems likely to cost him his job. 1 of 19
Jon Cooper, Tampa Bay Lightning (head coach)
Overall, Cooper’s tenure in Tampa Bay has been successful. The Lightning have been one of the winningest teams in the regular season, they have had deep playoff runs (Stanley Cup Final, two other Eastern Conference Final appearances) and won a Presidents’ Trophy with a record-tying 62 wins, all within the past five years. But their inability to close out playoff series and then getting swept in Round 1 a year ago in one of the most stunning upsets in Stanley Cup Playoff history, plus a slow start this season has no doubt put Cooper on his hottest seat yet. A coaching change is the one significant card this ultra-talented team has to play.
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Stan Bowman, Chicago Blackhawks (general manager)
All eyes are on Bowman in Chicago. The Blackhawks have missed the playoffs two years in a row, they fired their future Hall of Fame and three-time Stanley Cup-winning head coach (Joel Quenneville) and attempted to retool around their core this summer by adding several players to the defense. So far not much of it has worked. A third consecutive non-playoff season should put even more pressure on Bowman than he is already facing. 3 of 19
John Hynes, New Jersey Devils (Head coach)
This is Hynes’ fifth season behind the Devils bench, and to date he has made the playoffs one time. Given all of the talent the Devils added over the summer, expectations were significantly higher this season and the team has — to this point — failed to deliver on them. The most disappointing part of their season is the fact they have lost four games in which they held multiple-goal leads.
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Bruce Boudreau, Minnesota Wild (head coach)
This just seems to be a matter of when, and not if. You know at some point that first-year general manager Bill Guerin is going to want to bring in his own coach, and with the Wild stuck near the bottom of the NHL standings, it is worth wondering if the team will look to make a change in season. Boudreau is an excellent coach, but he does not have much to work with in Minnesota, and it might just be time for all parties involved to get a fresh start elsewhere. 5 of 19
Jeff Blashill, Detroit Red Wings (head coach)
Who would have ever guessed that Blashill would last longer in Detroit than Mike Babcock did in Toronto? That is exactly what has happened, though, as Blashill remains behind the bench for the Red Wings. But how much longer will he be there? It is impossible to put the team’s struggles on him given the state of the roster, but this is going to be a fourth consecutive non-playoff season for him, the team has one of the worst records in the league and new general manager Steve Yzerman is going to eventually want his own coach. 6 of 19
Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks (goalie)
The Sharks one Achilles’ heel remains in net where the duo of Martin Jones and Aaron Dell is again among the league’s worst. This is a Stanley Cup-caliber team if it can get some saves. Jones and Dell have not yet shown an ability to do that on a consistent basis.
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Ilya Kovalchuk, Los Angeles Kings (forward)
Considering the fact the Kings have pretty much already relegated him to a permanent healthy scratch, it seems that “hot seat” might be underselling his current status with the team. Following a six-year stop in the KHL, the Kings brought Kovalchuk back to the NHL at the start of the 2018-19 season by signing him to a three-year, $18 million contract. It has proved to be a rather poor fit from the beginning. He never gained the trust of the previous coaching staff and does not really fit in the Kings’ current long-term plans as they look to rebuild. The only question that remains now is what team he finishes the season with because it will almost certainly not be the Kings.
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Kyle Turris, Nashville Predators (forward)
A few years ago he was general manager David Poile’s big in-season acquisition and was supposed to be one of the final pieces of a Stanley Cup puzzle. The Predators immediately signed him to a long-term contract extension and made him a central part of their team. The results have not been what anyone involved expected, and now Turris has found himself as a healthy scratch on occasion this season while his production continues to decline. The Predators are paying him $6 million per year and not getting much of a return at the moment.
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Alex Galchenyuk, Pittsburgh Penguins (Forward)
Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford is quick to move on from mistakes, and if Galchenyuk does not start producing more offense he might find himself as the latest example. Acquired in the offseason trade that sent Phil Kessel to Arizona, Galchenyuk went 14 games to begin the 2019-20 season before finally scoring a goal and really has not provided any of the offense the Penguins were hoping to get from him. With his contract up at the end of this season, it would not take much for the Penguins to move on with a trade.
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Sergei Bobrovsky, Florida Panthers (Goalie)
When the Panthers signed Bobrovsky to a seven-year, $70 million contract in free agency, it was generally accepted that it was going to be a significant long-term risk. He might still be really good for a few years and help get the Panthers back in the playoffs, but what would his career look like on the back end of that contract? So far the Panthers aren’t even getting the short-term gain that was expected. Bobrovsky is off to one of the worst starts of his career and has not looked anything like the two-time Vezina Trophy winner the Panthers thought they were getting. Given his contract the Panthers don’t really have many options other than hoping he figures it out and gets back on track.
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Ray Shero, New Jersey Devils (general manager)
The head coach is not the only person on the hot seat in New Jersey. Shero went all in this offseason on trying to fix his roster, but he made the costly mistake of not fixing the team’s biggest issue: goalie. He also has to deal with the Taylor Hall contract and decide whether he can get him re-signed, and if not, whether he has to trade his best player and a former league MVP. 12 of 19
Jason Botterill, Buffalo Sabres (general manager)
Botterill hasn’t had a lot of time to fully build a team in Buffalo, but ownership is desperate for a competitive team. The Sabres have already made another coaching change, tweaked the roster and have enough core building blocks in place that some meaningful progress should be made. They had a great start to the 2018-19 season before falling apart in the second half and are in danger of going in a similar direction this season. That will not be good news for the general manager.
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Peter Laviolette, Nashville Predators (Head coach)
Laviolette is an outstanding coach and if the Predators ever decided to go in a different direction, he would not have to wait long for his next head coaching job. But every coach has a shelf life, and with the Predators off to a disappointing start — after taking a step back a year ago — it is fair to wonder if Laviollete and Nashville have reached their ceilings together. This seems like a classic “we need a change to shake things up” situation.
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The Dallas Stars top line
The duo of Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn are not really in danger of going anywhere, but the pressure is on them to perform because for the second year in a row they have found themselves the target of internal criticism for their play. A year ago it came from CEO Jim Lites (in a rather profane manner), and this year it is from head coach Jim Montgomery (before he later apologized). In both cases the criticism was probably a little unfair, but those are the stakes when you are the highest-paid and most visible players on the team. 15 of 19
Travis Green, Vancouver Canucks (head coach)
Green hasn’t done a bad job in Vancouver, and he hasn’t always had a great team to work with, but it all comes down to results. Ask yourself this question: How many head coaches get three years in a row without making the playoffs before being replaced? That is what Green would be looking at this season if the Canucks do not qualify in the Western Conference. It would probably take a huge meltdown for an in-season change to happen, but if they end up missing again, an offseason change could be on the horizon.
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Peter DeBoer, San Jose Sharks (Head coach)
The Sharks under DeBoer have been remarkably consistent, winning 45, 46, 45 and 46 games in his first full seasons behind the bench. That includes a trip to the Stanley Cup Final, another run to the Western Conference Final and six postseason series wins. He has taken two different teams to the Stanley Cup Final (New Jersey being the other) and has a strong track record. But the Sharks expect championship-level play, and so far this season they have not delivered on that. A coaching change might be a knee-jerk reaction, and I don’t think it is likely, but if the Sharks keep hovering around the .500 mark with this roster it might became a bigger discussion.
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Milan Lucic, Calgary Flames (Forward)
The options here are limited because Lucic’s contract is essentially buyout proof given how it is made up almost entirely of signing bonuses. Trading him would only get the Flames another undesirable contract in return. But you kind of have to put him on the hot seat given that he started with zero goals and four assists in his first 24 games, while the guy he was traded for (James Neal) scored 14 goals in his first 26 games for the Flames’ biggest rival (Edmonton).
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Brent Seabrook, Chicago Blackhawks (Defenseman)
It was probably overdue, but Seabrook found himself as a healthy scratch earlier this season and was not particularly happy about it. He still thinks he can contribute, but the Blackhawks at some point need to start thinking about the future and their long-term outlook. Seabrook was a major contributor to three Stanley Cup-winning teams and a mini-dynasty in Chicago, but it is not unfair to say his best days as an NHL defender are in the rearview mirror. At some point you have to begin a new chapter.
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Kyle Dubas, Toronto Maple Leafs (general manager)
He is not really in danger of being fired because the Maple Leafs are clearly committed to him and his direction. But make no mistake: With Mike Babcock out of the mix, this is now Dubas’ team in every way. His vision, his roster, his coach. I think it can work (and most likely will work), but if it does not there is only one other place to point the finger.
With the 2019-20 NHL season a quarter of the way through, we are starting to get an idea of what each of the 31 teams should be capable of.
Some teams are exactly what we expected them to be on the good side (Washington, Boston, St. Louis) as well as the bad side (Ottawa, Los Angeles, Detroit).
Others have so far been better than we expected, and some significantly so (Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg).
This is not about any of those teams.
This is about the 10 teams that have been a disappointment so far this season. There is still time for some of them to turn things around and accomplish something significant. But they better start that process sooner rather than later because it can be incredibly difficult to make up lost points as the season goes on.
With that in mind, these are the 10 teams that have disappointed us so far.
1. Toronto Maple Leafs. No team has defined “disappointment” this season more than Toronto.
After a third straight third-place finish and a third straight Round 1 exit, the Maple Leafs made more dramatic changes to their roster this offseason by dumping Patrick Marleau, Nazem Kadri, Nikita Zaitsev, and Connor Brown and replacing them with Tyson Barrie, Alexander Kerfoot, Cody Ceci and Jason Spezza.
The early results are not positive.
They remain one of the worst defensive teams in the league and have not yet had the goaltending that can mask those flaws that have existed for more than three years now. Even worse, the team seems stale under the leadership of coach Mike Babcock, who is too often looking lost and being outplayed. This has been a .500 team through the first quarter of the season, and it needs some dramatic changes — both systematically and to the roster — to get to where it wants to be.
Babcock’s seat is almost certainly getting hotter, and we cannot ignore the fact that a team coached by him has not made it out of Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs since the 2012-13 season. Since then 28 different NHL coaches have won at least one playoff round, including two (Barry Trotz and Mike Yeo) who have won playoff rounds with multiple teams.
By this point in their development, the Leafs should be Stanley Cup contenders. Not only is this team not quite reaching that level, but it seems to be slipping further away from it.
2. San Jose Sharks. The Sharks are high on this list because they had an absolutely dreadful start. They were not just disappointing but literally one of the worst teams in the league through the first month.
The same goaltending duo that failed them a year ago is back and still struggling, their two big names on defense have not been as dominant as in the past and they started with one of the league’s worst records. To their credit they are starting to play their way out of that early hole by winning six in a row after a 4-10-1 start. If there is a team that could potentially duplicate what the St. Louis Blues did a year ago, this might be it because of the strong core in place. The Sharks’ biggest weakness is still in net, and the most disappointing part is they do not seem to have any interest in trying to fix it.
3. Vegas Golden Knights. Had they simply been able to not give up four power play goals on a five-minute power play in a Game 7, this is a team that probably could have gone on another lengthy postseason run a year ago. They brought back largely the same roster, which should have been even better because they were going to get Mark Stone — arguably the team’s best all-around skater — for a full season. The early results have been disappointing though, as they find themselves near the bottom of the Western Conference standings in mid-November. Their big problem: goaltending.
Marc-Andre Fleury is still an excellent starter, but they have not found any sort of capable backup to give him a rest, which is forcing Fleury to play entirely too many games for an almost 35-year-old. They can’t expect him to play 60 regular-season games and be fresh for the postseason. 4. Tampa Bay Lightning. A record-setting regular season in 2018-19 was followed by the most disappointing postseason performance in recent league history — maybe the entire league history. The Lightning followed that up by opening the 2019-20 season in rather underwhelming fashion, winning just nine of their first 17 games and not really carrying the play in any of them. They are showing signs of getting back to their 2018-19 level, but they are not consistently there. Nobody should have ever expected them to win 62 games again, but this roster is still way too talented be barely above .500 a quarter of the way through the season. 5. Calgary Flames. A lot of things went right for the Flames a year ago to allow them to — shockingly — climb to the No. 1 spot in the Western Conference. Some regression should have been expected. But this much? Probably the most disappointing aspect of this team in response to its Round 1 playoff exit to Colorado was to try and get more physical by trading for Milan Lucic instead of trying to counter the speed of a team like the Avalanche. Some of Calgary’s top players are off to slower-than-expected starts (Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Mark Giordano), but if they can get back on track it will go a long way toward getting the Flames to where they should be.
6. Nashville Predators. Losing Filip Forsberg for six games was a big blow, but the overriding issue here is the fact the goaltending duo of Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros has been subpar. That can sink an otherwise great team, and right now it is holding the Predators back. One positive development so far: The power play unit that was an insult to hockey has dramatically improved this season. If they can get the netminding back to its normal level, there still might be a potential lengthy playoff run here.
7. New York Rangers. The Rangers went all in this summer with the additions of Artemi Panarin, Jacob Trouba, Adam Fox and the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, Kaapo Kakko. It seemingly accelerated their rebuild and raised expectations dramatically, but as it turns out, maybe a little too much. They still have major flaws on the roster, especially at defense and center. Even with that, it still feels like this team should be a little better than what it has been. The Rangers may not be a playoff team just yet, and they have been overmatched in too many games.
8. New Jersey Devils. The Devils were one of the teams to win the offseason thanks to some draft lottery luck (getting the No. 1 pick and Jack Hughes), a couple of huge trades (P.K. Subban and Nikita Gusev for next to nothing), an intriguing free agent pick up (Wayne Simmonds) and the return of a healthy former league MVP (Taylor Hall). The problem is they forgot to address their biggest issue, which is in net. The lack of a top-tier starting goalie has played a huge role in some terrible late-game meltdowns that have seen them surrender several multi-goal leads (they have lost four games they led by two goals or more, including two games with three-goal leads) to turn a potentially competitive team into one that is right back near the bottom of the standings. With Hall’s contract status uncertain after this season, returning to the playoffs would have been significant, but they have a long way to go before they are in that discussion.
9. Minnesota Wild. Former general manager Paul Fenton was on the job for only one year but still managed to leave quite a mess behind for new general manager Bill Guerin. The team lacks star power, has too many big-money players over the age of 30 and made some misguided trades a year ago (specifically the Nino Niederreiter for Victor Rask swap). The playoffs always seemed to be a long shot, but through their first 20 games they have the second-worst points percentage in the league, ahead of only the Detroit Red Wings. This team is not particularly good, but it should not be this bad.
10. Dallas Stars. So far this has been a tale of two teams. The Stars were big spenders in the offseason once again, signing Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry as free agents to hopefully fix the depth of what was one of the league’s most top-heavy teams a year ago. Things did not get off to a smooth start.
They won just one of their first nine games, Pavelski had a miserable start, the goaltending struggled and their top duo of Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn could not find the back of the net.
Suddenly, though, things are starting to get back on track. Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin are stopping everything in net, Pavelski has started to produce, Seguin and Benn are waking up offensively and the team went on a 10-1-1 run after a 1-7-1 start. Keep in mind that this was a team that was a double overtime Game 7 loss on the road from reaching the Western Conference Final a year ago. There is talent here and a potential contender. The Stars make the disappointment list for their rough start, but they are starting to become the team they should be.
The first month of the 2019-20 NHL season has been full of surprises. Teams that we looked at as preseason Stanley Cup contenders have not yet played to expectations. Teams that we considered to be preseason draft lottery contenders have not only exceeded expectations but also are looking like potential playoff teams.
Here we take a look at 10 of the biggest surprises so far this season.
1. Everything about the Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers have been a laughing stock across the NHL for more than a decade and have been especially frustrating for the way they have wasted Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. The opening night roster looked like it was going to be more of the same during the 2019-20 season. But through the first month of the season, the Oilers find themselves in the thick of the Pacific Division race and as of Nov. 11 had a three-point division lead. The concern is that almost all of the offense has been driven by McDavid and Draisaitl, and that recipe has not exactly worked well in the past. How long they can maintain that remains to be seen, but helping matters so far has been a surprisingly strong performance from goalie Mike Smith and James Neal going through a massive bounce-back season that has already seen him score 12 goals in 19 games. He had just seven goals in 63 games for the Calgary Flames a year ago.
2. The San Jose Sharks might not be good
Everyone knew the Sharks had issues with their goaltending (well, everyone except for the Sharks themselves), and that problem is still as big as it was a year ago. Adding to that: The team in front of the goalies seems to have taken several steps backward. Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns have not been as dynamic on the blue line, a lot of offense lost from Joe Pavelski and Joonas Donskoi has not really been replaced, and the Sharks are already facing a pretty steep mountain when it comes to making the playoffs. Not everyone has the talent to pull off what the St. Louis Blues did a year ago in going from worst to first, but the Sharks might be a team capable of that IF they can fix their goaltending and if everyone else on the team starts to play to expectations.
The general direction of the team has been bizarre because it hasn’t really committed to any sort of meaningful direction and has signed some really questionable long-term contracts. But the Canucks’ young stars (Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser and Quinn Hughes) have quickly become impact players who look like they can carry the team; Hughes is already emerging as possibly another Calder Trophy contender. What is impressive, too, about the Canucks’ start is they are showing a lot of signs that they might be for real, especially with the way they control shot attempts, push the pace and outscore their opponents at even strength.
4. Something might be wrong with the Tampa Bay Lightning
Did their latest postseason exit finally break them? The 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning were one of the most dominant regular-season teams ever, tying a league record with 62 wins and possessing an All-Star roster full of individual award winners. It seemed like it was finally their year to win the Stanley Cup, until they could not even win a single playoff game, losing in four straight to the No. 8 seed, Columbus Blue Jackets. It was a perfect situation for a team to make drastic, knee-jerk changes that would probably do more to set them back than push them ahead. Is that what happened here? The Lightning have not only won just eight of their first 15 games, but they also have not been anything close to what they were in recent years in style.
5. Winnipeg is still in it
This is a pretty big shock simply because the Winnipeg Jets defense did not look to be NHL quality at the start of the season. Jacob Trouba was traded, Ben Chiarot and Tyler Myers exited in free agency, and their best player — Dustin Byfuglien — is taking a break from the game due to an ankle injury and is reportedly contemplating his future in a situation that will probably bring in a neutral arbitrator. Even with their forward talent it seemed like this was going to be a tough year for the Jets because the defense was just, quite simply, not good. But they are finding ways to compete and are not going away thanks to their forward depth up front and some great goaltending from Connor Hellebuyck.
6. The Rangers and Devils have not shown much improvement
No teams had bigger offseasons than the Rangers and Devils. They had the top two picks in the draft (Jack Hughes to New Jersey; Kaapo Kakko to New York) and made several impact additions to their rosters (Devils added P.K. Subban, Nikita Gusev, Wayne Simmonds; Rangers added Trouba, Artemi Panarin, Adam Fox). More than a month into the season, and neither team has really taken a big step forward, with the Devils being especially disappointing thanks to multiple blown leads of two or more goals. And they are facing some pressure to convince their best player — Taylor Hall — to re-sign after this season. Meanwhile, general manager Ray Shero has just one playoff appearance in five years with the team.
7. The New York Islanders somehow look even better
If you were expecting the Islanders to regress after their surprising turnaround a year ago, you are probably disappointed right now. Thanks to a 10-game winning streak that was broken just last week, they are once again near the top of the NHL standings and look like a team that is going to break the mold for what we think a playoff team should look like.
8. The Toronto Maple Leafs look ordinary
They have not necessarily been bad, but they are not really doing anything to make anyone believe they have the roster — or the coach — to break through the glass ceiling that has been Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. For the second offseason in a row, they made a significant addition to their roster, this time adding defenseman Tyson Barrie from the Colorado Avalanche. But is there anything about their play that makes anyone believe they have what it takes to beat the Boston Bruins? Or any of the top teams in the Eastern Conference? They have not shown it yet.
9. The Blackhawks’ window seems to be closed
After two straight non-playoff seasons, we probably should not be too surprised the Blackhawks are struggling again. What makes it stand out even more is they really tried to improve the roster with the additions of Olli Maatta, Calvin de Haan, Andrew Shaw and Robin Lehner. It has not really helped. The defense remains a major problem that is going to be dependent on the goaltending duo of Lehner and Corey Crawford to steal games. Perhaps most concerning is that after a bounce-back performance in 2018-19, Jonathan Toews is once again showing signs of a significant decline offensively. With the money it have invested in him the team needs more.
10. Somebody might actually score more goals than Alex Ovechkin this season
Ovechkin finished as the NHL’s top goal scorer two years in a row and in six of the past seven seasons. He is the most dominant goal scorer ever, is not really slowing down even at 34 years old and is off to one of his best starts ever. He seems like a lock to score at least 50 goals again as long as he stays healthy. That still may not be enough to get him another goal-scoring crown simply because David Pastrnak (Boston Bruins) and Draisaitl, who narrowly missed out on the goal-scoring crown a year ago, are scoring goals at such a ridiculous pace. Both players look like they are going to give Ovechkin his best challenge in years.
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
A new NHL season always brings a lot of questions that need to be answered, from the who the contenders and pretenders are, to potential coaching changes, to free agent finds and flops to identifying the breakout players. We dig into all of those areas — plus many more — as we ask 25 important questions about the 2019-20 NHL season.
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What will the Blues do for an encore?
For the first time ever, the St. Louis Blues are entering a season on top of the NHL’s mountain, defending the Stanley Cup. General manager Doug Armstromg strengthened the roster just before the start of the season by trading for Justin Faulk from the Carolina Hurricanes, adding to an already strong defense. A lot of the season will rely on Jordan Binnington’s ability to repeat his second half — and postseason — performance. 2 of 25
Will the Avalanche match the hype?
Big things are expected in Denver this season, and for good reason. The Avalanche advanced to Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs a year ago, have as much young talent as any team in the league, bolstered their depth over the summer and still have the salary cap space to add much more help if needed. They are poised to make a serious championship run right now. But with great expectations comes great pressure, and they will definitely not be sneaking up on anyone this season.
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How will the Lightning bounce back from their latest postseason disappointment?
Of all the postseason disappointments the Lightning have had over the past five years, their Round 1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets was by far the worst. They won 62 games and tied a league record, seemed destined to return to the Stanley Cup Final and then failed to win a single playoff game. They are still the best team in the league on paper, but expectations are going to be through the roof to finally get over the hump. The Blues and Washington Capitals eventually shook their postseason disappointment labels…now it is up to the Lightning to shake theirs. 4 of 25
Will Mike Babcock and the Maple Leafs finally do something that matters?
It may seem like a harsh question to ask, but so far the Babcock era in Toronto has produced a lot of hype and nothing but a bunch of third-place finishes and Round 1 losses in the playoffs, including two in a row to the Boston Bruins. Yes, the division is tough at the top. Yes, the Leafs lost two Game 7s to a great team. But they should have higher expectations by this point while a Babcock-coached team has made it to the second round just once in more than a decade. That cannot continue to be acceptable. 5 of 25
Will anyone challenge Alex Ovechkin?
Ovechkin is the most dominant goal scorer in the history of the league and is not slowing down. He has won the league’s goal crown in seven of the past eight seasons and has rarely been challenged. Can anyone top him this season? Look for John Tavares, Patrik Laine, Auston Matthews, David Pastrnak and Steven Stamkos to be the closest. 6 of 25
Connor McDavid or Nikita Kucherov for the scoring title?
These two have been the top point producers in the NHL over the past three seasons and seem destined to hold their places at the top for the near future and continue to compete for the Art Ross Trophy. Who takes it this year? McDavid managed to overtake Kucherov with a late surge two years ago, while Kucherov bounced back in 2018-19 with a 128-point season that was one of the best offensive seasons of the modern era.
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Are the Jets finished as contenders?
It is just really difficult to see a path for them to compete. Their defense was already decimated, and with the uncertainty around Dustin Byfuglien’s future (will he retire or won’t he?) it could quickly get worse. Add in the fact St. Louis, Colorado Dallas, and Nashville all made big moves around them to try and get better, and this is a season that could be really ugly, really fast.
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Which coaches are on the hot seat?
ou know at some point multiple teams will make a coaching change. It could be a bad team that has run out of answers and has no other card to play, or it could be a contender that is off to a slow start and looks to shake things up. Some names to watch: Bruce Boudreau in Minnesota, Paul Maurice in Winnipeg and Jeff Blashill in Detroit. 9 of 25
Which top rookie will win the Calder Trophy?
This year’s rookie class looks to be exceptionally deep with potential impact players all over the league. The top two picks in the draft, Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko, will help reignite the Devils-Rangers rivalry, while young defenders Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes should make big impacts in Colorado and Vancouver. Those four seem to be the preseason favorites, but who else will emerge? 10 of 25
Which free agent signings will work? Which ones will flop?
Free agency is always a massive gamble, and there were some pretty significant contracts signed this summer. The early front-runner for most successful signing would seem to be Artemi Panarin in New York, while Joe Pavelski could be just what the Stars need. Sergei Bobrovsky may become an issue five years from now in Florida, but in the short term he should be solid. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Kevin Hayes in Philadelphia, Brandon Tanev in Pittsburgh and Tyler Myers in Vancouver all look like investments who are destined to end in a trade or a buyout. 11 of 25
Will the Blackhawks get back to the playoffs?
Not long ago they were the NHL’s most successful team, but they enter this season riding a two-year postseason drought and are still clinging to the hope that their veteran core has a chance to still compete. The offense is there, but did they do enough to address the defense? And if they did not, will they think about moving on from longtime general manager Stan Bowman? 12 of 25
Will the Islanders regress?
No performance was more unexpected last season than the one-year turnaround of the Islanders, going from 31st in the league in goals against to first and overcoming the free agent departure of John Tavares to advance to the second round of the playoffs. But there were a lot of red flags in that performance and the table seems to be set for a regression this season, especially if Semyon Varlamov cannot match Robin Lehner’s performance in goal. Can they find the magic again? Most teams in this situation do not. 13 of 25
Are Panthers a playoff team?
Honestly, there is no reason why they shouldn’t be. They already have some key pieces in place — the biggest being Aleksander Barkov — and they made some huge additions in the offseason with the hiring of a future Hall of Fame coach ( Joel Quenneville) and the signing of a franchise goalie. The latter was the biggest missing piece they had, and for the money they spent and the core they have in place, the playoffs should be a bare minimum expectation this season. 14 of 25
Will the Sabres show any progress?
When the Sabres started to rebuild way back in the Tim Murray era, the expectation was that the process would eventually produce positive results. Those results should have started by now. The Sabres are entering the season riding an eight-year postseason drought (the NHL’s longest) and have stuck in place for most of that time. They have two franchise players (Jack Eichel and Rasmus Dahlin) but not much else around them. They have topped 81 points in a season just once since 2011. They still seem to be light years behind the top teams in their division. 15 of 25
What is the Hurricanes’ ceiling?
Every year the Hurricanes were always a preseason sleeper pick in the NHL, and every year for one reason or another they would find a way to underwhelm. That has all changed and after their trip to the Eastern Conference Final, they will be entering this season with real expectations. Their defense is as deep as any other unit in the league, they have an underrated group of forwards led by Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, Nino Niederreiter and Andrei Svechnikov and an exciting style of play that makes them a must-see team. They are for real, and they are not going away. 16 of 25
Will Evgeni Malkin bounce back?
This is the big question in Pittsburgh. Even though his final point total from the 2018-19 season was strong, it was clearly one of Malkin’s toughest years in the league. He slowed down considerably after a fast start and never seemed to be happy with his game. He arrived in camp motivated and with a chip on his shoulder, ready to show he is still one of the game’s best. If he does, the Penguins could once again be tough to beat.
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