A new NHL season is upon us, and as the curtain goes up on the 2022-23 campaign, here are nine random thoughts from across the league.
Variance is the key word for the Bruins
We’ll start locally with the Bruins, who dedicated the offseason to finding yet another stick to keep the championship window propped open. The big news was moving on from Bruce Cassidy and hiring Jim Montgomery. The latter impressed in Dallas and is a respected name within the sport. But he has his work cut out for him. The Bruins don’t have the high-end talent to match some of the league’s elite. Their success will be found on the margins, and that puts pressure on Montgomery. The coach will have Patrice Bergeron to lean on, and David Krejci is back in Boston, too. Those guys need to be good out of the gate given the Bruins’ brutal injury situation. If they can tread water until everyone’s healthy, they’ll eventually be a tough out. But if things go sideways early, it could be a struggle to get it back on the tracks. The range of potential outcomes for this team is large.
Connor McDavid is the NHL’s Mike Trout
McDavid has been in the NHL for seven seasons and has led the league in points four times already. He’s the best player on the planet, providing at least one jaw-dropping highlight on a nightly basis. But Edmonton just hasn’t been able to build around him in a way that makes you believe the Oilers are legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. That’s by no fault of McDavid, who turned in one of the most incredible playoff performances ever, posting 10-23-33 totals in just 16 posteason games before the Oil bowed out in the Western Conference finals. So the Trout comparison isn’t perfect, but it would really be a benefit to the league to have McDavid in a Cup Final sooner than later. Only the Avalanche have better odds to win the West this season, but it’s a considerable gap, and if Edmonton is going to finally break through, it probably will require McDavid somehow taking his game to another level — which seems impossible.
See ya, Z
This will be the first NHL season since 1996-97 (!) that won’t include Zdeno Chara. That’s astounding. He walks away having played more games than the likes of Mark Recchi, Chris Chelios, Dave Andreychuk and Ray Bourque. To do so at that size and that position is a testament to the work he put in to play so long.
It’s a good excuse to share this video of his first career goal. He looks like a giraffe on skates, evidence of how refined and improved his skill set became.
Bruce Cassidy seems like a perfect fit in Vegas
It didn’t take long for the former Bruins coach to find a new gig. There’s also a lot to like about Cassidy’s situation with the Golden Knights. What really stands out is how he’s inheriting a veteran-laden roster. The knock on him in Boston was he sometimes struggled or didn’t have the patience to bring along young players. An initial glance at the Vegas roster indicates that won’t be as much of a problem for Cassidy in the desert. Whether it’s Mark Stone or Jack Eichel up front of Alex Pietrangelo and Alec Martinez on the back end, Cassidy has smart, veteran players. That should ease the initial learning curve. It won’t be easy, though. Vegas’ cap situation is a mess, and it lost goalie Robin Lehner for the year, but Cassidy will have a sound system and culture installed in no time.
2022-23 NHL preview
Major Metro mojo
The Metropolitan might be the best division in the NHL. Three of the top 10 Stanley Cup favorites at DraftKings Sportsbook are Metro teams: Carolina, Pittsburgh and the Rangers. The Hurricanes added to an already deep roster by acquiring Max Pacioretty from Vegas, and while he’ll miss a good chunk of the season with an Achilles injury, they should get him back just in time for a playoff run. Pittsburgh solved its big offseason issue by re-signing Evgeni Malkin and then retooled its roster with moves like acquiring Jeff Petry. But the Rangers might actually be the best bet in the Metro. They have the reigning Vezina and Norris winners, and that young forward group should keep getting better.
Jersey ads are here to stay
Once it was signed off on, the jersey ads were inevitable, especially seeing how they’ve become so prevalent in other sports, too. It’s a slightly obvious if not naive take, but jersey ads in hockey perhaps more so than any other sport are a bummer. Hockey sweaters are the best jerseys in all of sports, and the best — teams like Chicago, Montreal and the Rangers — are pure and clean. Disdain for commercialism aside, adding random patches to the sweaters takes away from those timeless looks. Such is life, though, and these teams are entitled to make money wherever they deem fit, so it is what it is.
Still, it doesn’t look right.
We must protect Bruce Boudreau at all costs
Protect him from what exactly we’re not entirely sure, but the Vancouver Canucks head coach had himself an offseason.
He played a little bit of golf.
He got to meet his hero, superstar Kevin Owens, at the draft was one of the purest things you’ll see in pro sports these days:
Owens even shouted him out in a recent WWE stop in Vancouver, leading to a “Bruce there it is!” chant.
Then he played some more golf.
And he didn’t finish last in a ranking of the NHL’s most handsome coaches!
As for actual hockey, Boudreau recently said anything short of a playoff berth would be a “big disaster,” which might be taking things a tad far, but they have a decent roster, and Boudreau’s own track record is stellar. They should be a fun team to watch.
The Flyers are going to be a very interesting team to monitor this season, especially if you’re not a Philadelphia fan yourself. The roster just isn’t very good — at all. The Flyers are in a bit of a rebuild, which makes the decision to hire John Tortorella even more curious. He’s not exactly the nurturing type. The flip side to that is he might be able to produce a couple of helpings of chicken salad out of chicken you-know-what. Or this thing goes up in flames. It will be fun to watch either way.
The Senators will make the playoffs
Not entirely sure how they get it done, but let’s buy some stock of the retooled Senators. Ottawa might have had the best offseason of any team in the NHL, trading for Alex DeBrincat and signing Claude Giroux. The Sens also upgraded at goalie by getting Cam Talbot. It appears they’ve timed up those moves with continued development from a talented young core. General manager Pierre Dorion had a plan, he stuck to it and is now executing the final, most important parts. There’s actual excitement and expectations in the Canadian capital for the first time in a long time. It won’t be easy in a loaded division, but the talent is there to get it done.