The 2017-18 NHL season here and, as always, there are teams with legitimate chances to raise Lord Stanley’s Cup in June — and others with a snowball’s chance in you-know-where. (This is a winter sport, after all).
So who are the contenders and pretenders for the coming campaign?
Chicago Blackhawks, Edmonton Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning
Reigning back-to-back champion Pittsburgh is the favorite in the East. Having Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby on your roster doesn’t hurt.
Similarly, the Blackhawks — with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, et al — have a solid core, and they should be hungry after last season’s first-round flameout.
If 2015 Cup finalist Tampa Bay can stay healthy, they should challenge again.
Meanwhile, Edmonton has the league’s best player in Connor McDavid. If the Oilers can sort out their blue line, a repeat of the Gretzky-Messier glory years could be coming.
Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Columbus Blue Jackets, Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitals
Expectations in Toronto may be too high, too soon — what else is new? Still, the Leafs have young guns Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews, plus the league’s best coach in Mike Babcock.
Montreal doesn’t have as much talent, but they do have goalie Carey Price.
Is Anaheim’s core getting too long in the tooth? Will Mike Smith solve Calgary’s goaltending issues? Can Nashville repeat last season’s run with a capable, but thin, roster? Will hothead John Tortorella continue to get the best out of his young stars in Columbus? Can Bruce Boudreau finally coach a team — Minnesota — to a Final? Can talented but enigmatic winger Alex Ovechkin take Washington deep?
Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, Dallas Stars, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators, St. Louis Blues, Winnipeg Jets
Yes, the Rangers have improved their back end with the signing of Kevin Shattenkirk. No, it won’t be enough to bring the Cup to Broadway.
The Isles looked like they were returning to prominence. However, their arena situation is — once again — up in the air, and star John Tavares may be on his way out the door.
The Senators have the league’s most exciting player in Erik Karlsson, but they need goalie Craig Anderson repeat his 2016-17 form.
Speaking of exciting, Winnipeg is just that offensively (in a good way) and defensively (in a bad way).
Boston’s defenseman Zdeno Chara and goalie Tuukka Rask are getting old, and there is an age limit on the Cup.
Carolina has a young, improving roster. Too bad no one in Raleigh will be there to see it.
Arizona Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres, Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Los Angeles Kings, New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks, Vegas Golden Knights
The Devils have the second-best goalie in club history in Cory Schneider — and not much else.
Philadelphia can still fight, only they play in a league in which fighting is on its way out.
They are finally rebuilding in “Hockeytown” (aka Detroit), but will fans in Vegas have similar patience for the expansion Golden Knights?