NHL 2018-19 season preview: Favorites to win Stanley Cup

With the puck set to drop Thursday on the 2018-19 NHL season, here’s a look at which teams could win …

With the puck set to drop Thursday on the 2018-19 NHL season, here’s a look at which teams could win the Stanley Cup and which have a long way to go.

Favorites

Toronto Maple Leafs: Toronto brought John Tavares home this summer. They could finally bring the Cup home again in the spring.

Washington Capitals: The defending champs will be in the mix, even after losing coach Barry Trotz.

Winnipeg Jets: Winnipeg’s quick, talented team almost made it to the finals last season.

Boston Bruins: Boston is tough, skilled and stout defensively.

Minnesota Wild: When healthy, Minnesota has a ton of talent.

Tampa Bay Lightning: All those former Rangers in Tampa should get another kick at the can.

Nashville Predators: Nashville has come close before; this could finally be the year.

Dark horses

San Jose Sharks: Is Erik Karlsson enough to get San Jose over the top? Probably not.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Pittsburgh’s second-round exit last spring gave their aging roster more time to rest, but cracks remain.

Vegas Golden Knights: Cinderella’s slippers are made of glass. Nate Schmidt’s PED suspension may hurt Vegas.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Will this be the season coach John Tortorella explodes in Columbus?

Anaheim Ducks: Anaheim’s core is old, but if they stay healthy…

Philadelphia Flyers: Philadelphia still needs a goaltender.

Los Angeles Kings: L.A. has arguably the league’s best all-around player in Anze Kopitar, and a solid core around him.

New Jersey Devils: New Jersey surprised by making the playoffs last season. They should be back in the postseason again.

Colorado Avalanche: Colorado was another surprise last season, and there’s a lot of young talent in the fold.

Florida Panthers: There are talented players in South Florida, but they may want to start looking at real estate in Quebec City or Seattle for 2019-20.

Edmonton Oilers: Edmonton is the NHL’s Jekyll and Hyde team. Great in 2016-17, not so much in 2017-18.

Long shots

New York Rangers: If you read “The Letter” last February, you know you’re in for a long season or two… or three.

New York Islanders: No Tavares, plenty of problems. Trotz and Lou Lamoriello should right the ship, in time.

Chicago Blackhawks: Salary cap mismanagement has crippled Chicago in recent seasons, but there’s still a talented core.

Carolina Hurricanes: Lots of young talent in Raleigh. Will anyone pay to see it?

St. Louis Blues: St. Louis just can’t seem to get it right.

Detroit Red Wings: Remember when Detroit was tops in the league? Seems like ancient history.

Vancouver Canucks: The Sedin twins are gone.

Ottawa Senators: And you think nothing gets done in Washington…

Phoenix Coyotes: Derek Stepan deserves better.

Montreal Canadiens: The Habs will “Lose for (Jack) Hughes” — the projected top overall draft pick next June.

Dallas Stars: So much talent, so little to show for it.

Buffalo Sabres: Rangers can only hope their rebuild is shorter than Buffalo’s.

Calgary Flames: “Johnny Hockey” Gaudreau is an exciting player, but that’s about it in Calgary.

Brian P. Dunleavy