The 2018-19 SSG NHL season kicks off today as teams begin their pursuit of Lord Stanley’s Cup. It will be a 82 game grind and 16 more post season victories for one team to capture the cup at the end of the season. While every team has aspirations of post season success at the start of the year, each team will have to make sound decisions and evaluations on where their organizations truly are as the season progresses. GM’s will be on the hot seat to guide their teams through a myriad of decisions, from initial exhibition cuts and waiver claims to the trade deadline and amateur draft. Many players will also be looking to sign extensions throughout the year or head into the summer looking for a big payday come July 1st when free agency frenzy drives GM’s to navigate decisions that will impact their rosters in the years ahead.
Early favorites to lead the Atlantic division have to be the Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs. Both teams are loaded with talent throughout the roster and boast impressive organizational depth that will surely help for extended playoff runs. The Boston Bruins led by Patrice Bergeron will surely be looking to make some noise throughout the year. The Montreal Canadiens and Florida Panthers will likely be fighting throughout the season to capture one of the wild card spots and sneak into the playoffs. While once a perennial powerhouse, the Detroit Red Wings most likely will be in a rebuilding cycle as they look to form a new corps of talent. The Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators round out the division and hope their youth can keep them competitive while developing their exciting young talent.
The Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins boast two of the games biggest stars in Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby and both are Cup contenders for the foreseeable future. The Columbus Blue Jackets and New York Islanders could both be sneaky tough opponents in a first round match-up and cannot be overlooked. Those bunch of jerks in Carolina have an impressive cadre of forwards but will need to find stable goal-tending to reach the next level. The Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils all have the potential to be competitive but will need to decide whether now is the time to truly compete or look to the future and rebuild their teams.
What looks to be the weakest division in the NHL this year looks to be steamrolled by the powerhouse San Jose Sharks or Calgary Flames. The Vegas Golden Knights will look to continue to keep the league on notice that they are not going to fold easily as an expansion team normally should. Aging vets of the LA Kings and Anaheim Ducks will be relied upon to be able to keep pace with a league getting younger if they hope for one last shot at playoff glory. The Edmonton Oilers have Connor McDavid, and not much else, but on many nights that might be all they need. The Arizona Coyotes continue to howl in the desert, but does anyone care? Lastly the Vancouver Canucks will put their franchises future in the hands of young Elias Petterson, but most likely will be at the bottom of the division.
When not beating on teenagers in Fortnite, Patrik Laine will be sniping the Winnipeg Jets to the top of the Central Division. Seriously nobody wants to meet the Jets in a playoff series. The Nashville Predators may have the best defensive corps in the league and will be looking to keep pace with the Jets. The Dallas Stars hope Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin can move past regular season success and finally make a postseason run. Armed with Ottawa’s 1st round pick this year, the Colorado Avalanche will be willing the Sens to last place all season. The Minnesota Wild will look to show teams that NO, they are not named the mild actually. Lastly the Chicago Blackhawks will lean on Captain Serious Jonathan Toews and the ultra skilled Patrick Kane to led the way. Really this division looks like a dogfight with several good teams that will not be able to make the playoff cut.