Wild spending = success?
If teams won titles based on offseason spending sprees, you could ship Lord Stanley to Minnesota. The Wild, who missed the playoffs last year and had the NHL's worst offense, spent a combined $196 million on free agents Ryan Suter and Zach Parise. Minnesota still has some defensive shortcomings, and goalie Josh Harding is making a courageous return from multiple sclerosis, so there are still lots of questions. That said, it would be surprising if the Wild weren't in the playoffs.
Philly West aims for repeat
With several former Flyers in management and on the ice (again), the Los Angeles Kings will try to become the first team to win consecutive Stanley Cups since the Red Wings in 1997 and 1998. Former Flyers Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Simon Gagne, and Justin Williams are among the veterans on a team that is hoping Anze Kopitar returns quickly from an injured knee. The Kings are deep on defense, possess one of the league's best goalies (Jonathan Quick), and are intent on showing their climb from eighth seed to Cup champion was no fluke.
Fallout from the lockout
With just six-day training camps, there are expected to be a higher number of injuries than usual in the condensed season - 48 games in 99 days. With that in mind, the teams that have strong depth in the minors figure to reap the benefits.
The Devils and post-lockout
The last time the NHL had a shortened season, goalie Martin Brodeur and the Devils won their first Stanley Cup. That was in 1995, when Brodeur just turned 23. Today, at age 40, Brodeur is still going strong. The Devils, however, are only a long-shot contender because they lost star winger Parise to free agency and will be hard-pressed to replace his many talents.
Ovie ready to rebound?
In Washington, it will be interesting to see if accommodating new Capitals coach Adam Oates can bring out the best in Alex Ovechkin. The coach plans to use Ovechkin in more situations. It speaks volumes about Ovechkin's talent that despite 38 goals last season, it was considered a disappointing year for the star winger. He had just 65 points, by far the lowest of his seven-year career.
Long-suffering Edmonton has a host of talented young players on its roster, including Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and heralded rookie Nail Yakupov (the No. 1 overall draft pick in June), and could be ready to return to relevance. The Oilers will be bolstered by the addition of free-agent defenseman Justin Schultz, a rookie who had 18 goals and 48 points for AHL Oklahoma City during the lockout.
Decisions, decisions . . .
If Anaheim stars Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are unsigned late in the season, it will be interesting to see if they are dealt as the April 3 trade deadline approaches. Both can become unrestricted free agents in July, so general manager Bob Murray may have difficult decisions to make.
Carolina did not make the playoffs last season, but the Hurricanes seem primed for a turnaround. Quietly, Carolina had the Southeast Division's best record over the last 48 games last season, and the Hurricanes improved in the offseason by acquiring Jordan Staal and signing Alexander Semin. The 'Canes are a trendy pick to climb to the top in the balanced Southeast.
Decline in Detroit
Will the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom, one of the best defensemen in NHL history, affect the Red Wings? Indeed. Look for the Red Wings to slip a few notches in the West - they were seeded fifth last year - but they still should earn their 22d (22d!) straight playoff berth.
Once upon a time, it seemed like the Stanley Cup was permanently housed in Canada. Toronto and Montreal owned the 1960s, and the Canadiens dominated the 1950s and 1970s. A Canadian team won the Cup from 1984 to 1990. But a Canadian team hasn't won the Cup since Montreal in 1993. Will the drought continue? Probably. Vancouver appears to be the only Canadian team with a legitimate chance to win the title this year.
Contact Sam Carchidi at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @BroadStBull.