Earlier this week, we covered the 10 most fascinating NHL players of the 2014-15 season. Now it’s time for the teams.
Some of them have new coaches or general managers or both. Some are trying to reclaim glory, others trying to build on it. And at least one is fascinating because we all expect it to not be successful.
Here are the 10 most fascinating teams of the 2014-15 NHL season. Please add your own in the comments – who are you most looking to see in 2014-15?
The addition of Ryan Kesler alone makes this a interesting year for the Ducks; combine it with the loss of Teemu Selanne, the gain of Dany Heatley and the burgeoning stardom of John Gibson in goal, and they’re fascinating. Oh and there’s also that whole 116-point season and Bruce Boudreau as head coach thing. That too.
It’s subtle, but one gets the sense the Sabres are keen on not winning anything other than Connor McDavid in the draft.
What’s fascinating about the Sabres is whether their coach, as prideful a guy as you’ll find in hockey, and their players are going to cooperate. We’ve already heard Chris Stewart spouting off about tanking not being “part of his DNA.”
It’s entirely possible we’re seeing a hockey version of “Major League” in which a team set up to fail ends up excelling out of spite. Which means it’s entirely possible we’ll see a cardboard cutout of Tim Murray in the Sabres’ locker room, with each Buffalo win revealing another part of his bikini body.
Fun fact: Every one of the top five picks in the 2010 NHL Draft has appeared in the Stanley Cup Playoffs except for the top pick. YES EVEN ERIK GUDBRANSON.
Once again, the hockey world wonders if it’s time for Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, that enigmatic Russian guy and the rest to break through to the postseason. The Oilers have upgraded their defense and gotten their Corsi on. It could be enough to make the playoffs. Or they’ll draft Connor McDavid. One of the two.
New Jersey Devils
The average age of the Devils is the Czech word for “Jurassic,” and yet there’s every chance this team finds offensive chemistry and rides Cory Schneider and a solid defense back to the postseason. Provided they don’t totally suck in the shootout again.
It speaks volumes about the Islanders’ recent history of netminding that Jaroslav Halak’s being treated as the best thing since Billy Smith, but he’s solid. More interesting is the rest of the roster: After the team made the playoffs, it regressed hardcore. The Islanders added Grabovski and Kulemin as secondary scoring behind Tavares, and it’s going to be fun watching that attack. And if isn’t, then Jack Capuano’s out of work.
New coach. New GM. Same Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin!
Say what you will about Dan Bylsma, but the man knew how to squeeze regular-season points out of this roster. How much more will the heat be turned up if the Penguins are suddenly a wild card team out of the Metro?
Same coach. Same GM. New, completely vague and probably ineffective leadership structure!
The San Jose Sharks ended last postseason reeling from the LA Kings’ comeback win, questioning everything they thought they knew about hockey and then doing pretty much nothing to shake up the roster. Well, other than letting Dan Boyle walk and taking the captaincy away from Joe Thornton.
Which, of course, he can still earn back in training camp.
The Sharks are usually one of the toughest teams to figure out, a constant tease of championship potential. Now they seem like a riddle wrapped in a puzzle wrapped in a conundrum wrapped in teal.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Steven Stamkos would be reason alone, especially as he navigates life without Marty St. Louis. But factor in Ben Bishop trying to build on his Vezina nomination, the continued surge to dominance by Victor Hedman and the maturation of the team’s young talent (paging Jonathan Drouin!) makes the Lightning potentially the most interesting contender in the East.
What does Barry Trotz do with a team that was abjectly terrible at even strength under Adam Oates? What happens to Alex Ovechkin’s offensive renaissance without Oates there? Does Braden Holtby get Nashville netminder numbers with Trotz there? And above all else: Is this team back to being a Cup contender, such as they were?
On their third coach in three years, and after a summer that saw a complete overhaul of their hockey ops, the Canucks attempt to show their window to win is still open as Ryan Miller returns to the scene of his greatest triumphs and defeat.
Speaking of which: The Canucks hired Jim Benning from the Boston Bruins, and it’ll be interesting to see how quickly he can graft their DNA onto Vancouver. And by that we mean rolling four effective lines, not, like, trying to beat up everyone.
BONUS EDIT: Dallas Stars
The Stars were actually the motivation for writing this, so naturally I left them off. But Jason Spezza being added to this surprise playoff team, and the next season of the Seguin/Benn connection, makes them incredibly fascinating. So yes, please add them, and perhaps move them to the top.