After the conclusion of the NHL’s centennial season, which resulted in the Pittsburgh Penguins becoming the first repeat champions of this millennium, an fascinating off-season took place which ushered in the next hundred years in the NHL’s storied history.
With notable free agents signings like Kevin Shattenkirk, Joe Thornton, Alex Radulov, and Patrick Marleau and the even more significant lack of contracts for the leagues elder statesmen; Jarome Iginla, Shane Doan, and Jaromir Jagr, the upcoming season is sure to seem foreign to many committed fans.
With shakeups reverberating around the league and no clear favourite to next hoist Lord Stanley’s Mug, here are three things to expect in the 2017-2018 season:
- A Lackluster Calder Trophy Race
Hockey fans were treated this past season with a rookie class so deep and talented that any of six rookies could have received rookie of the year honours. A class highlighted by 40 goal scorer Auston Matthews, 36 goal scorer Patrik Laine, and stud defenseman Zach Werenski a plethora of rookies played with poise that normally takes years to learn in the NHL. When compared to this year the rookie class lacks the star power of the past year.
First overall pick Nico Hischier impressed many at the annual World Junior Hockey Championships, but many scouts question his ability to translate it into NHL production so early in his career. The other notable rookie this year, Nolan Patrick is a large question mark after the once for sure first overall pick sustained an injury that left him out of the World Juniors and made him sit out most of his season with the Brandon Wheat Kings.
This is not to say that these two and many other first timers have a multitude of potential, just don’t be surprised when no rookie separates themselves from the rest of the NHL the way so many did this past season.
- A Changing of the Guard
This is the year. After years of fan’s misery and poor performances for many an and coming team, this is the season where success will finally be realized. Not many expected teams like the Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs to have the moderate success, including playoff appearances that came to fruition, however this time it will be taken a step further and one or more young teams have the potential to be a legitimate contender for the cup.
Teams like Toronto, Edmonton, Buffalo, Carolina, and Winnipeg all have the talent to finally break through and not only reach the playoffs but perform in them as well. This could spell the nearing of the end for veteran filled teams that are under a cap crunch. Teams like Chicago, San Jose and the New York Rangers could suffer from surge of younger, better, and more energetic teams like the ones listed above. These teams have paid their dues, and now it’s time for them the younger teams to take control of the league.
- An Ugly Trend Continuing
Everyone loves goals; fans, players, reporters, and the more goals the better. High scoring hockey games are universally seen as more exciting than a 1-0 barn burner. However, goals have become more and more rare since the late nineties, with average goals per game and average shooting percentage correlating in a downward trend.
The cause of this is a combination of many factors.
Are goalies better? Yes.
Is their equipment bigger? Yes.
Are team’s defensive styles and formations improving? Yes, again.
In order to combat this the league needs to take action and control their controllable s, out of that list the one they can impact, is undoubtedly the size of goalie equipment. They have already made regulations to try to appease this issue but they simply not go far enough and need to make the restrictions moreof an impact. Hopefully this season sees a reversal of this trend so that games can feature a growing number of goals. Who knows, maybe the Rocket Richard winner will score at least 50 this year.
This NHL season will be interesting once again, that is never up for debate. Filled with new story-lines each year, expect these three to be at the forefront when the NHL’s 101st season is wrapped up.