Monday, October 2, 2017

2017-18 season preview, part one: Bottom Feeders and Middle-of-the-Pack

The start of the NHL regular season is just two days away. And there's no better way to welcome the league back than with the biggest NHL VICE Sports season preview ever*!

(*In the sense that this preview has 31 teams. Every preview you read this year will technically be the biggest ever. But let's not let reality get in the way of some good marketing. Biggest ever!)

As always, we'll go division-by-division, but with a twist. Rather than use the NHL's boring geography-based format, we'll make up a few divisions of our own. Today, we'll start with the Bottom Feeder Division and the Middle of the Pack Division. Tomorrow, we work our way up to the Contender Division, with a detour through the always-popular Your-Guess-Is-As-Good-As-Mine Division.

The Bottom Feeder Division

As a wise Canadian poet once said, you started from the bottom, now the whole team is…well, still at the bottom, if these predictions hold true. It's hopeless, is what we're saying.

Colorado Avalanche

Last season: 22-56-4, 48 points, dead last, quite possibly the worst season of the salary cap era.
Offseason report: Pretty quiet. Which, given how much work there is to do, was kind of strange.
Outlook: Last year was a perfect storm—a bad roster full of players having bad seasons while getting pelted with bad luck. They have to be better. But yeah, they'll still be bad.
In the spotlight: Matt Duchene. Obvious choice is obvious, but Duchene is the story in Colorado right now. He clearly doesn't want to be there, and there was even talk that he might hold out to force a trade. That didn't happen, but at some point Joe Sakic has to stop kicking the can down the road and get this figured out. Duchene was awful after last year's trade deadline; his play early this season will go a long way to determining whether Sakic can somehow pull a solid trade out of a miserable situation.
Oddly specific prediction: Duchene is traded to the Blue Jackets, the return is underwhelming, and then we do this all over again with Gabriel Landeskog.

Arizona Coyotes

Last season: 30-42-10, 70 points, sixth in the Pacific, missed playoffs
Offseason report: They were busy adding legitimate NHL talent, like Derek Stepan and Niklas Hjalmarsson. Longtime captain Shane Doan retired, and goalie Mike Smith was traded. They also have a new coach, replacing Dave Tippett with Rick Tocchet.
Outlook: Some teams in this division are starting rebuilds; the Coyotes appear to be almost finished theirs. There's lots of young talent in place, and if any Bottom Feeder team is going to have a Maple Leafs-like leap directly from laughingstock to playoff contention, it's the Coyotes.
In the spotlight: Dylan Strome. The third overall pick in the 2015 draft has yet to have an NHL impact, playing just seven games, even as guys picked after him like Mitch Marner, Noah Hanifin, and Zach Werenski establish themselves. Nobody's calling him a bust yet, but the clock is ticking. Some guys just take longer, and if Strome breaks out then the Coyotes go from being flush with young talent to absolutely stacked with it. But if not, he'll face some tough questions.
Oddly specific prediction: Strome is fine, but Clayton Keller is the Coyote who captures the Calder.

>> Read the full post at Vice Sports

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