Quickly Thrown Together 2019-20 NHL Preview

You’ve seen the best– now it’s time for the rest. Let’s go:

THIRD TIME FOR FIRST TIME??: There’s 11 teams who haven’t won a Stanley Cup yet: Arizona, Buffalo, Columbus, Florida, Ottawa, Minnesota, Nashville, San Jose, Vancouver, Vegas, Winnipeg. Of those 11, you’d have to say that maybe four have a chance in Nashville, San Jose, Vegas, and Winnipeg; but the window is closing if it’s not already shut. Of course, they said that about the Caps two years back and they lifted the Stanley Cup.

HUNT FOR 50: Will Alex Ovechkin hit the 50-goal mark for the ninth time?? Odds are pretty good given he has four of the last five 50-goal season, including last year. And let’s be completely honest– Wayne Gretzky’s goal-record is out of reach for Ovechkin. Even as a Caps fan, it’s not something I think is attainable. However, tying the mark for most 50-goal campaigns in a career with Gretzky and Mike Bossy?? Much more than attainable.

YOUNG GUNS ON THE HUDSON: You could argue that with Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko; the Devils and Rangers could be the best rivalry coming back– akin to Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby pumping new life in to a Caps-Pens rivalry that was fading into obscurity. Two young talents, ready to take over the New York Market in a big way, which the media there will undoubtedly eat up, overanalyze, and do their best to be like Toronto sports media figures.

McPLAYOFFS: Depending on what you believe, there’s frustration with Connor McDavid and the Oilers not making it to the playoffs but once in his tenure there. It’s a tough pill to swallow when you have one of the best players in the league not being on the biggest stage for the biggest trophy every year. Will that help with Mike Smith and James Neal coming from Calgary while Milan Lucic went south on the QE2?? The Neal part may help a little, but I’m not a believer in the defense and goaltending for Edmonton one bit.

RETOOLING EARLIER DYNASTIES: Both the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks had less than desirable finishes, with both teams looking to retool heading into this season. With both playing in divisions that may be tougher than they look, it might be an uphill battle. I wouldn’t put too much money down on either of them making it too far if they do make the playoffs.

WORTH THE WAIT??: A lot of restricted free agents waiting until the 11th hour to sign, but is it something that their teams will be happy about or upset about should they not perform to the contract they were dealt?? Let’s be honest, I’m shocked Patrik Laine didn’t burn the bridges in the locker room already with what he said and it’s probably awkward as hell right now. The Mitch Marner deal looks like an overpayment when you look at other RFAs signing for a bit less than retail, but in the market space. That said, regardless of the price– Marner and Laine will be on the hot seat regardless of what their contracts were since they’re on teams that are supposed to be contenders.

SUNBELT RISING??: We all know what the Tampa Bay Lightning are– but do we really know what the Arizona Coyotes and Florida Panthers are outside of their team financials?? I would venture to guess that both teams are on the upswing, with Arizona getting Phil Kessel, Nick Schmaltz being healthy, and the possibility for solid defense. All the while, the Panthers have their goalie in Sergei Bobrovsky, young guns primed to really break out and put teams on notice, all while maybe trying to snatch a wild card spot away from others in the strong Atlantic Division.

Are The Jets Really This Good??

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As it stands right now, the Winnipeg Jets sit second in the Central Division and second in the Western Conference overall with a 15-6-3 record. After years of just hanging on in the Central, they seem to be breaking out of their shell and finally reaching their potential that many have said that they could have.

But are they really this good?? My buddy Brian told me on Twitter last night that he wasn’t buying into the hype and the main reason is Paul Maurice. I gave a counter of their goaltending being as unusual as it is– especially since they went out and got Steve Mason as a free agent this summer.¬†While the Maurice thing is a valid point, the owners are looking like geniuses locking up the head coach Maurice and GM Kevin Cheveldayoff to multi-year extensions.

Whatever the reason for hesitation to this success, the numbers aren’t hurting the success. Mark Scheifele has grown a long way from wearing a generic jersey at the 2011 NHL Draft to one of the faces of the team and being tied for the team lead in scoring and being tied for 10th in league scoring. The guy who he’s tied with, Blake Wheeler, has a great story of redemption– going from a first-round pick, hitting free agency rather than signing with his drafted team, never finding his footing with the team he signed with, to finally hitting a stride with Winnipeg over the past couple seasons.

And we haven’t even talked about Patrik Laine, who is a on a bit of a sophomore slump, or Nikolaj Ehlers or Bryan Little– who all have the ability to be primary or secondary scorers for this team.

In my point of contention, the goaltending is something that has never been too much of a strong point from Winnipeg. With Ondrej Pavelec leaving, it could have been a spot to get a big name to help get the team over that hump….and they got Steve Mason. And Mason was Mason in the first couple games (0-3-1 in four games). Luckily, Connor Hellebuyck has been a savior for this team with a 13-2-2 record on the season. How long that will last is anyone’s guess– but keep riding the wave of winning until it burst and work it from there.

Defensively, if the top guys can be healthy– they’ll be sturdy there. Tyler Myers is back and contributing in a decent way, Dustin Byfuglien is who he is, and Jacob Trouba could be doing more– but has been fine in his season so far.

Overall– it’s all about how long Hellebuyck can keep his good times rolling and adapts when people figure him out, as well as if guys like Scheifele and Wheeler can stay with their better than point-per-game clip. Add that to the secondary scoring and defensive side getting better offensively– this team could be a consistent force this season moving ahead.