The long wait is almost over. Hockey has returned.
While the Blue Jays have been giving Canadian sports fans a lot to cheer about, we all know the game that is in the heart of everyone in this country. We have an exciting year ahead of us with a lot of possibilities. New stars will try to make their mark on the game, while others seek to secure their status as legends. Teams look to reshape after disappointing lasts seasons, while others try to recreate magic. Trades, firings, rookies, veterans, coaches—there’s excitement to be had around every corner. So to take an unsubstantiated look at what this season might look like, let’s make some bold predictions for NHL 2016/17.
The stars of WCH 2016 will continue to shine.
The World Cup of Hockey was an interesting experiment that had a predictable conclusion; Canada winning the gold. However, that didn’t diminish the thrill of watching Canada’s best dominate in an international arena. And three players specifically will likely carry over their impressive performance to the regular season.
Carey Price was sidelined early last season with an injury that ended up keeping him out of the game all season long. The loss of the best goalie in the league certainly hurt the Habs, but even beyond that, fans were wondering if the long-absence would see his game diminish at all. The WCH showed he was still the cool, calm and unbreakable goalie. He looks primed and ready to frustrate opponent in the regular season.
Brad Marchand was more surprising star of the tournament. Marchand has been a solid player on Boston’s squad for a few years now and last season he ranked sixth in league scoring. He continued to make a name for himself with several big goals in the WCH including the gold medal game winner. Despite his scoring ability, Marchand will not be cast as one of the greats do to his poor image in the game. He dives, embellishes, takes cheap and dangerous shots—he encompasses a lot of the things wrong with modern hockey, but he looks poised to be the star of the Bruins team going forward.
Sidney Crosby, unlike Brad Marchand, only sees his image improving. He entered the league as a star but took a lot of criticism early on. Those days are gone as Crosby has firmly secured his status of greatest current player in the game, thanks in no small part to his WCH performance. Not only did he lead in point and get named MVP, he was a true captain. He led that team on the ice, setting up scoring plays left and right, and being the constant professional. Look for Crosby to continue to solidify that very impressive status over the next season.
Montreal will find a new coach.
While no Canadian team could deny that last year was a good one, the Canadiens performance was particularly hard to watch. The team started off strong with a 10-0 winning streak, but after the unexpected injury of their unstoppable goalie, Carey Price, the cracks began to show. Without Price saving the day, it became evident that Montreal had a scoring problem. Their lines were not messing as they once were, their star players were underperforming, they were losing game after game, and coach Michele Therrien stood there watching it all happen. Never have I seen a coach react so poorly to a team’s downfall. He stood behind the bench shaking his head but did nothing to get his team back on the right path. Habs GM Bergevin came to Therrien’s defense far too early in their downward spiral but if the team doesn’t make some dramatic improvements early on and without relying solely on Price, things will be looking different behind the bench.
PK Subban will have revenge.
Speaking of Therrien, he had even his most staunch supporters questioning things when it was announced in the off season that star defenseman and Montreal’s favourite son, PK Subban would be traded to Nashville in exchange for Shae Webber. Now Webber is a good get, no doubt about it, but the trade still seems odd. To trade a goal scoring D-man in his prime for one an older player is strange, but Subban and Therrien have history. PK is an unorthodox defenseman and some mistakes he made were pretty big. But he had true talent and a skilled coach would know how to use that. But Therrien is a stubborn man so he clipped Subban’s wings and tried to make him the typical defenseman. Alas, Montreal is not big enough for the two of them and the Habs choice to keep the wrong man. Subban however will thrive in Nashville and when the two teams come face to face for the first time, I smell a hat trick coming.
Vancouver will reach the bottom of the league.
Last year Canadians faced a disappointing playoff season without any Canadian teams in the running. It wasn’t a pretty sight north of the border with Montreal having its problems, Ottawa having an inconsistent year, and Toronto and Edmonton still trying to put an working team together. While some of those teams have a brighter future ahead, Vancouver is looking to sink lower. The team has been in a downward spiral for a while now and their retooling hasn’t gone well. They suffered a few bad years under the leagues worst and most ineffective coach, John Tortorella, the Sedin brothers are on their last legs and they have no stars to pick up the mantel. Forget the Cup, Canucks have their eye on the first-round draft pick.
The Penguins will be the champs once again.
While Pittsburgh is definitely one of the leagues best teams, I don’t know if I would have picked them to hoist the Cup at the end of last season. However, seeing what the team was capable of last year puts them as the top contenders of this season as well. The team has the best three-line attack in the game a solid goalie and the best player serving as the captain. It’s not easy to repeat but things are looking good for the Pens.