It seems not so long ago when the Colorado Avalanche won the Stanley Cup, and more recently Juraj Slavkovsky was selected first overall in a tumultuous offseason that brought Johnny Gaudreau to the Columbus Blue Jackets, Claude Giroud to the Ottawa Senators and Matthew Tkachuk. to the Florida Panthers.
But now that fall is officially set to begin on Thursday, it’s time to open up training camps across the NHL as we look forward to kicking off the season on October 11th.
To help you prepare for the next few weeks as teams decide which players will line up and how their lines, defender pairings and goalkeeping duos will stack up, here are the biggest unresolved questions for each club, courtesy of Ryan. S. Clark, Kristen Shilton and Greg Wyshinsky.
Go to command:
ANA | ARI | BOSS | BUF
CGY | CAR | CHI | COLOR
CBD | VALLEY | TO | EDM
FLA | Los Angeles | MIN | MTL
NS | New Jersey | New York | New York
OTT | FI | PIT | SJ
SEA | STL | TB | TK
FROM | VGK | VS | HSV
The big question is: How well can Boston survive early injuries?
The Bruins will start this season with a severely depleted roster. Brad Marchand has undergone off-season surgery on both hips and will be unavailable until at least the end of November. Charlie McAvoy is on a similar – and possibly longer – schedule following off-season shoulder surgery. Matt Grzelczyk also had shoulder surgery; he is absent until November.
That leaves the Bruins without their top two defensemen and one of their top forwards (who led the team with 80 points last season) for much of the schedule.
Will these absences lead to disaster in Beantown? Or is the depth of the Bruins holding up? New coach Jim Montgomery will have to keep his group afloat. Veterans like David Pastrnak and Taylor Hall will rely more than ever on their performances. Also helping is the return of Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. However, the uncertainty is still great. How Boston plays these first two months could determine the outcome of the entire season. Put a lot of pressure on those who are still healthy, not to mention Montgomery, and all eyes will be on how Boston will rise. — Shilton
The big question: Has Buffalo finally found a stable goaltender?
There are some dynamic young players among the Sabers (hello, Owen Power, Tage Thompson, Dylan Cozens, and others) who will be interesting to watch on this team. What Buffalo needs to complement those rising spikes is a better goaltender. The Sabers were terrible in that regard last season, switching six different starting lineups and averaging 3.50 goals (eighth in the NHL). Have they now found the right goalkeeper tandem?
Craig Anderson was Buffalo’s top pick for the 2021–22 season (17–12–2, .897 goals vs. average), but missed time early with an injury. He’s back with the Sabres, joined by free agent signing Eric Comrie, who could be on the cusp of a real breakthrough. Comrie went 10-5-1 with Winnipeg last season, averaging .920 shooting percentage and scoring 2.58 goals. At 27, he’s ready to take on most of his career starts alongside Anderson, and judging by the last game, that could be great news for the Sabres.
There is a lot of confidence around Buffalo that the team is turning the corner. A reliable goalkeeper would go a long way in making this happen. — Shilton
Detroit Red Wings
The big question is: How good will Detroit be with its new additions?
Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman is here to win this offseason. He signed Andrew Kopp, Dominik Kubalik and David Perron up front, added Ben Chiaro to the blue line and Ville Husso to complement Alex Nedeljkovic in goal. Yzerman also hired a head coach for the first time in Detroit, replacing Jeff Blashill with Derek Lalonde. The new bench chief has a lot of new talent to start with. Where will all this lead the Red Wings?
Detroit’s defensive shortcomings stood out last season. The Red Wings conceded second in league goals (3.78 per game) and fifth in shots (33.7). Addressing and improving this area will be critical for Lalonde from the start and the new guys should help with that. Perron and Kopp are solid two-sided players who will lead by example defensively. Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin will also want to get back in shape after scoring the expected 2.95 goals in 2021-22.
Then Husso. Last season he was a regular season player for St. Louis, and now he has a chance to become the first number of Detroit in tandem with Nedeljkovic. A year ago, Detroit’s compound shooting percentage was under .900 (Nedeljkovic’s was .901), and Husso should increase that. If he does, and if these other new players start shooting, Detroit could soar high. — Shilton
The big question is: did Florida overcompensate for their postseason failure?
Florida won the 2021-22 Presidents Trophy with 122 points for the season. General manager Bill Zito was the darling of deal deadlines after acquiring Claude Giroud and Ben Chiaro. The Panthers looked poised for a playoff win, but lost to Tampa Bay in the second round. It hurts. So much so that Zito turned sharply in the other direction.
Interim head coach Andrew Brunett left; Paul Maurice is now behind the bench. Giroud, Chiaro and Mason Marchman were given the right to go free. Jonathan Huberdeau (who scored 30 goals last season) and Mackenzie Vigar (an underrated shooting guard) were traded to Calgary in July for Matthew Tkachuk. It’s a big renovation in a short period, not unlike what Florida went through after the March deadline. Then these aggressive actions did not pay off for the Panthers. Will Zito’s changes have a different impact on the team’s trajectory this time around? — Shilton
The big question is, how will Montreal manage their forward group?
Canadiens coach Martin St. Louis will have no shortage of offensive options. Montreal is brimming with young talent, from recent first-choice draft pick Juraj Slafkowski to newly appointed captain Nick Suzuki, from freshly-acquired Kirby Dutch to the still-emerging Cole Cofield. And that’s just guys in their 20s (or teenagers, in Slafkowski’s case). The Canadiens also have veterans, and Sean Monahan even showed up in the offseason.
Monahan is currently in IR (as are Jonathan Drouin and Paul Byron), but when (or if) the entire roster is healthy, who will fill the Canadiens’ main forward package? Will the focus be on gaining reputation for these up-and-coming main players, or will the focus be solely on winning games? There’s no reason for Montreal to rush anyone – chances are they haven’t made it to the playoffs yet – but now is the time to start building confidence in the team’s foundation and future.
Speaking of the future, what does it look like for Carey Price? Montreal is not betting that Price will play this season as he continues to recover from his knee injury, but he will remain with the club. That’s good for the Canadiens, whose rising stars will especially benefit from Price’s presence throughout the season, even if he’s off the ice. — Shilton
The big question is: Are Ottawa a playoff team?
The Senators have not appeared in the postseason since reaching the Eastern Conference Finals in 2017. Since then, they have passed the 30-win mark only once in five seasons. General manager Pierre Dorion is clearly tired of these results – hence the bold moves in the offseason. Dorion traded for Alex DeBrinkat, signed free agent Claude Giroud, traded Matt Murray for Cam Talbot in the draw, and filled the ranks with veterans. On paper, these senators look pretty impressive.
Red flag of Ottawa on the back end. If the Senators are looking to make the playoffs, they’ll need a defensive effort to match what could be a powerful top-6 offense. But Dorion didn’t look for a lot of turnover for the defensive unit, which was 11th in goals against last season (3.22 per game). Was it the wrong decision? Of course, this will fall on the Ottawa forwards, who will help improve the team’s defense. But the lack of defensive personnel could pose problems for Ottawa in its quest to return to the playoffs. Time will tell if Dorion placed the eggs correctly. — Shilton
Tampa Bay Lightning
The big question is: how does Tampa reset after offseason deductions?
Last summer, Lightning general manager Julien Brisebois took care of himself by signing long-term contracts with Nick Paul, Mikhail Sergachev, Anthony Cirelli and Eric Cernak. In the process, Tampa had to part ways with Ondrej Palat (now signed in New Jersey) and Ryan McDonagh (traded to Nashville). Both Palat and McDonagh have been instrumental in Tampa’s recent success. Their loss creates opportunities for others, but also potentially weakens the Lightning lineup as a whole.
Sergachev will have to take on more responsibility. It’s the same with Paul, especially since Cirelli won’t be in Tampa’s top 6 until at least November. Brandon Hagel and Ross Colton have a chance to improve. Vladislav Namestnikov is a new face this season. There will be no shortage of choices in Tampa; it’s more a matter of chemistry. What made the Lightning so special was how they came together and played – as the team so often claims – for each other. How will the departure of some beloved core players hurt the all-for-one mentality? And even with the right buy-in, can Tampa continue their streak of success for another year? — Shilton
Toronto Maple Leafs
The big question is: did Toronto make the right bet on the goalkeeper?
The Maple Leafs goaltending carousel enters another season of (potential) uncertainty. Toronto allowed former President Frederik Andersen to go to the Carolinas as a free agent two summers ago to ride with Jack Campbell and sign Petr Mrazek to support him. A year later, Campbell also left for…