So, the Chicago Blackhawks were just crowned Stanley Cup champions in dramatic fashion on Monday night, and we’re already looking forward to next season. Consider it forward thinking. Either that or attention spans are just shorter than what they used to be.
On the serious side, though, the 2013 NHL Entry Draft is on Sunday — believe it or not — and free agency starts on Monday. That’s a quick turnaround. With the NHL odds already out for next season, let’s take a quick look at the top five teams that are favored to win the 2013-14 Stanley Cup:
Pittsburgh Penguins: 13-2
Surprise, surprise: the Pittsburgh Penguins are favored to win it all — again. Even if the Pens can’t bring back Jarome Iginla or the slew of other trade deadline rentals, this team is still loaded. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin headline but James Neal, Chris Kunitz, Jussi Jokinen and Beau Bennett round out an excellent rotation up front.
The issue for the Pens is in net. What do they do with Marc-Andre Fleury now that he’s collapsed two-straight years in the playoffs? Should they really be favored given how he’s performed? There’s no question this team has plenty of talent but the men in net will determine their success in the 2013-14 season.
Chicago Blackhawks: 15-2
It’s so hard to repeat in the NHL, but the Blackhawks will be tasked with that job next season. With most of their roster returning, it’s quite possible they have a good shot at it. Bryan Bickell, Michal Rozsival, Michal Handzus, Viktor Stalberg and Ray Emery are unrestricted free agents and even if they all depart, the Blackhawks still have a very deep team.
Just like the champion Los Angeles Kings last year, the Blackhawks will return most of their roster intact for a repeat run. The question will be how much gas will they have in the tank after going the distance this year.
Boston Bruins: 10-1
The Bruins have made one thing clear in the Claude Julien era: They are going to compete. It won’t always be pretty and they won’t always be everyone’s pick, but they’ll execute and compete for titles.
Although the Bruins will watch Jaromir Jagr and Nathan Horton become unrestricted free agents in a few days, they can take solace in the fact that the rest of the roster is staying mostly together. They have an excellent young blue line, a foundation of quality forwards up front and in net Tuukka Rask has proved he’s elite. If the Bruins can replace the departing offense, they’ll again be a serious threat for the Cup.
St. Louis Blues: 12-1
The Blues have been competitive since Ken Hitchcock took over nearly two years ago. However, the playoff results have left much to be desired. Nobody is going to sweat the Blues’ goaltending situation, as Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak have proved more than capable and the defensive corps — now with Jay Bouwmeester — is among the best in the NHL. Where the Blues struggle is offense. If they can add a piece or two to upgrade the scoring units, this young team could be a real threat for the Cup in the 2013-14 season.
Vancouver Canucks: 14-1
The Canucks have had a Cup-ready team for a few years now but haven’t been able to capitalize. That cost previous head coach Alain Vigneault his job, and now John Tortorella is tasked with the job. It could be the final window of opportunity for the Canucks, as the Sedin brothers enter a contract year. With an excellent goaltending tandem, a good blue line and plenty of scoring, maybe Tortorella can give this underachieving unit the kick in the behind it needs.
This post is presented by Bovada.
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