NHL season preview
🏒 How it works
The NHL consists of 32 teams divided between the Eastern Conference and Western Conference. Those conferences are further split into two divisions — the Atlantic and Metropolitan in the East, and Central and Pacific in the West.
Each team will play 82 games over the next six months — 41 at home and 41 away — to rack up points in the official standings: two points for a win, one point for an overtime loss and a big ol’ goose egg for a regulation-time loss.
- The top three teams in each division move on to the postseason, along with the two next-best in each conference, for a grand total of 16 teams battling it out for the greatest trophy in sports.
And the fun’s already begun. The San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators have already played two games in Prague, Czech Republic as part of this year’s NHL Global Series. Na zdraví.
🏆 The reigning champs: All the big things
After a 21-year drought, the Colorado Avalanche reigned victorious over the former back-to-back champs, the Tampa Bay Lightning, earning themselves a drink from the Cup for the third time in franchise history.
- And they made it look easy, dominating their Western Conference foes and only losing four times throughout their entire postseason run.
A major key to their success? Star center Nathan MacKinnon — who led the Avs with 13 playoff goals. The Canadian talent became the league’s highest-paid player after signing a massive eight-year, $12.6 million (average annual value) extension. A mountain man for the long haul.
- Due to the league’s hard salary cap, however, a raise like that means letting someone go. Colorado said goodbye to starting goaltender Darcy Kuemper, who went to the Washington Capitals, and fiery forward Nazem Kadri, who joined the Calgary Flames.
- Have your first glimpse at the defending champs' reimagined lineup when they host the Chicago Blackhawks Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. ET.
🥊 The contenders
Tampa Bay: Turns out lightning doesn’t strike thrice…just yet. As mentioned, the Lightning, who were notably without top center Brayden Point for the majority of last year's playoff run, made the Finals for the third straight season.
- And, when they hit the ice for their first game of the season against the NY Rangers Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. ET, it’ll practically be the same killer squad flashing their skills. If it ain’t broke…
Calgary Flames: The up-and-coming Flames burned bright last season, handily clinching the top Pacific Division slot before fizzling out in the second round against the center Connor McDavid–led Edmonton Oilers.
- While franchise star Johnny Gaudreau packed his bags for the Columbus Blue Jackets this offseason, the addition of top talent Jonathan Huberdeau and aforementioned gritty forward Kadri should mean this team lights up the West once more.
Florida Panthers: Despite stealthily clawing their way to the NHL regular-season throne last year, the Panthers suffered a disappointing sweep at the hands of the Lightning in the second round. The opposite of the cat’s pajamas.
- This year, however, the talented crew is ready for a deep run after landing star forward Matthew Tkachuk from Calgary and hiring new head coach Paul Maurice. But will those changes be enough?
🇨🇦 Canadian teams
Just like a certain musical artist, the NHL is making a swift return to the spotlight this month. So why not combine the two and see how Canada’s teams (from East to West) stack up this year through the lens of Taylor Swift albums?
⚜ Montréal Canadiens (Speak Now): From 2021 Stanley Cup Finalists to basement dweller in 2022, the Habs head into this season with high expectations and a chip on their shoulder. Hopefully the fresh combo of this year’s No. 1 overall draft pick Juraj Slafkovský and new captain Nick Suzuki will get those sparks flying.
💙 Toronto Maple Leafs (Folklore): While it may seem as though hoisting the elusive Stanley Cup will never happen again for this storied franchise, this actually could be their year… for real this time.
- The Buds may have some things to figure out in net, but they still have last year’s league MVP, center Auston Matthews, and an explosive offense. Time to make it past the first round.
🔴 Ottawa Senators (1989): This young squad is ready to start anew with fresh faces in the locker room and a new home on the horizon. With plenty of up-and-comers looking to fill those final blank roster spaces, the Sens look poised to solidify their new style. That is, if ’tendy Cam Talbot isn’t on the injured list for too long.
🛫 Winnipeg Jets (Reputation): Stripping your captain of his role is no joke, and that’s exactly what the Jets did to longtime leader Blake Wheeler last month. Ouch. After years of mediocrity, maybe wiping the slate clean is what it’ll take to reach their end game.
🔥 Calgary Flames (Red): Losing beloved franchise star Johnny Gaudreau to the Columbus Blue Jackets was tough. But with Huberdeau and top-line defenseman MacKenzie Weegar signed for the long haul and sturdy goaltender Jacob Markstrom back between the pipes, the Flames look ready to blaze through the Pacific Division again.
🧡 Edmonton Oilers (Fearless): After an offseason of reckless abandon — namely re-signing the controversial yet talented forward Evander Kane to a four-year, $20.5 million extension — the Oilers are wholeheartedly chasing after the Connor McDavid-meets-Stanley Cup Love Story of their dreams.
🐋 Vancouver Canucks (Taylor Swift): A team still in the early stages of becoming an actual contender, the rebuilding squad aims to grow into more than just a jersey to burn.
📺 How to watch
Settle in for a thrilling season ahead. Check out the full schedule then, don your jersey and tune into Tuesday’s opener on ESPN in the U.S. and Sportsnet in Canada. Nothing like the good ol’ hockey game.