NHL 2022-23 Season Previews: Part 1


While NHL fans are buzzing to see hockey return after the busy offseason, warm-up games from recent weeks mean little in comparison to the trade deals, draft picks or free agency singings which teams made leading up to this point. With this three-part preview season overviewing each team, you can get the inside track on who is and isn’t likely to be contending for the Stanley Cup in June:

Anaheim Ducks

With Trevor Zegras still on the payroll and following an optimistic offseason, Anaheim could spring a few surprises. They’re looking to better last season’s record, where they missed out on playoffs by a wide margin. It will be a lot tighter this time around, but I have Anaheim just under the line to stump an otherwise promising season where they should still make a jump up to being a competitive team.

All the pieces are together for Anaheim’s rebuild phase to kick into full throttle, but time is needed for them to fit together cohesively. Therefore, their 2022-23 season is largely expected to be one of transition.

Coaching could be a concern, with Eakins being slightly suboptimal with his use of younger players, meaning that their desired development would be stunted if he gave them limited time out on ice.

Status – Rebuilding

Arizona Coyotes

Mellow expectations mean no pressure on the Coyotes this season and the foreseeable future, given they are knee-deep in a rebuild process.

How much will the new arena play a factor? Widely mocked for its 5,000-seat capacity being on the low extreme, the ASU Arena will be the Coyotes home stadium for the foreseeable future in an effort to help stabilize the franchise economically and provide hope for fans that there is a vision in the medium-to-long-term for the Coyotes. For now though, scrutiny is swooping down from all angles.

Status – Rebuilding

Boston Bruins

This season could mark the beginning of Boston’s rebuild. An ageing core and lack of notable prospects coming in means that the clock is ticking on the Bruins having any chance of another Stanley Cup, with most fans expecting a similar showing to last season’s tight first round playoff exit to the Carolina Hurricanes.

A slow start is anticipated with injuries to their bigger players such as Marchand and McAvoy. However, Boston should pick up momentum and get the points needed to tow the line and finish strongly enough that by the time of the Trade Deadline, their postseason berth isn’t under doubt.

Status – Playoff Potential

Buffalo Sabres

The methodical long-term strategy for Buffalo to return to the playoffs after well over a decade could reap its reward this season. However, an uninspiring offseason following Jack Eichel’s trade to Vegas leaves questions over whether the Sabres are doing enough to make up the points difference to be a contender for the postseason.

Youth will play a big part for Sabres, alongside arguably the league’s biggest pool of prospects, so it’ll fall on coach Don Granato to see if he can get Buffalo’s wide array of promising youngsters to perform ahead of schedule and make meaningful contributions.

Of the three most promising youth names, JJ Peterka could be the surprise name to fully break out after debuting alongside fellow prospects Owen Power and Jack Quinn last season. His energetic playstyle impressed during his time at Buffalo’s development AHL franchise Rochester, especially during their playoff run, boasting 12 points from 10 games.

Status – Playoff Potential

Calgary Flames

An offseason where Calgary gained more than they lost in signing Jonathan Huberdeau makes them prime contenders for the Cup again, and one of the few contenders from last season who have only gotten stronger. The biggest question mark over Calgary is whether they can jump over the mental hurdle of the second round, especially if they have their likely rematch against Edmonton. It goes beyond local bragging rights to be considered a team worthy of the Cup, making a deep playoff run is the minimum expected. For once, destiny is in Calgary’s hands.

How will Calgary cope with the losses of Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk, who combined for 219 points in the regular season alone? This places a lot of pressure on flashy new signing Huberdeau to fill that gaping hole in their attack.

Defensively, the Flames are a solid unit, conceding the third-lowest amount of goals in the league at 208. They have to give a lot of credit for that to their top-earner in Jacob Markstrom, a finalist for last year’s Vezina Trophy, which is awarded to the NHL’s best goalie. If the attack fizzles out a little as people expect it will, Calgary will have to continue to hope their defence and goaltending remains as strong as it was last season.

Status – Cup Contenders

Carolina Hurricanes

For an already-goal-hungry team who added on Max Pacioretty to barrel down the left wing, anything less than a memorable show in the postseason will be failure for Carolina. There aren’t enough corny weather metaphors to describe how the Canes can overwhelm essentially every other team in the league thanks to their offence group of flat-track bullies. Pacioretty is simply another piece to a puzzle that can often confuse itself. Pinch yourself if you’ve heard this one already, but Carolina’s chances of the Cup are down to them.

There is trepidation because any injures to key players, and a general weight of Cup-or-bust pressure around the club can hamper Carolina’s momentum. With Pacioretty strapped on the surgery table tending to his Achilles until February, a likely talking point during the Canes’ season will be who survives the minimum 82-game schedule.

Four years on from being drafted by the Canes, the expectation to perform is now heaping on Russian Andrei Svechnikov, who looks to be finding his form again after a rocky season during the COVID bubble period. Yet after racking up 29 assists in 78 games last seasons, as well as hitting the 30-goal mark for the first time, Svechnikov has earned his place on the front line.

Status – Playoff Potential

Colorado Avalanche

Having experienced the indescribable high of hoisting the Stanley Cup in emphatic fashion in June, Colorado are determined to not wait another 21 years to feel that again. As Tampa Bay’s ongoing streak of three successive finals has proven, extensive dominance is still possible in the NHL’s cap era. But even for an Avalanche team who bulldozed the Western conference last year, going back-to-back won’t be as easy as the odds make it out to be.

By losing Nazem Kadri, they are already wounded before a puck’s been dropped. But wounds heal, and Colorado have the best core in the league, with highly effective frontline that benefits from Cale Makar pulling the strings at defence. Whatever way you interpret their play style to be, the Avalanche will keep being mesmerising to watch, regardless of the talents who’ve left.

There’s little room for prospects to breakthrough in the Av’s lineup, with no legitimate blind spots needing filled. But peek under the burgundy curtain and you’ll see Alexandar Georgiev, and 2022/23 could be his year. He already has a valid chip on his shoulder by being the first Bulgarian-born player to play in the NHL, but his drive to become Colorado main goaltender is understandable. He was brought in from the New York Rangers, who have the impossibly good Igor Shesterkin in command of the net, making it plausible that Georgiev took on invaluable advice from the living cheat code. If we also factor in how goalies that turn out at the Ball Arena become very good very quickly, then all signs point to Georgiev being a very astute pickup.

Status – Cup Contenders

Columbus Blue Jackets

Columbus are still finding their way in the post-Tortorella era, with defence being a major concern, something which won’t be solved by signing Johnny Gaudreau, though he does bring an attacking edge which the Blue Jackets will welcome. Who tags alongside Gaudreau down the middle is a crapshoot between the rest of the offensive line.

For Columbus to return to the playoffs, defense man Zack Werenski needs to stay hot and healthy, otherwise their dismal defensive record will persist.

On paper, Columbus are a better team than last year, and preseason results are,encouraging. However, mentality and consistency can be overlooked aspects of how much teams improve by, and Columbus’ results tailed off at the end of 2021, once it was clear they were out of contention, the morale dropped and they slumped to sixth in the Metropolitan Division. If they tighten up their defence, the Blue Jackets should be back in the coveted chaos of playoff hockey.

Status – Rebuilding

Dallas Stars

It feels somewhat disrespectful to call Dallas a mediocre team given they reached the final in 2020, albeit with the COVID asterisk. But even when they earned a berth in last season’s playoffs, optimism for the Stars was muted, replaced by the cold logic that they’re not a team capable of contending. Not yet. 2021/22 was rocky for Dallas. In April it looked like they wanted to miss the postseason, squeaking past the line with an unconvincing 8-5-3 record, and on the night they clinched their spot, they lost to Arizona. To their credit, Dallas’ series against Calgary was tight with quiet scorelines and any series that goes the full stretch to game seven is guaranteed bitterness for the losing side.

Getting in new coach Peter DeBoer isn’t to elevate Dallas to a nailed-on playoff team, but to get them scoring more. They haven’t finished in the top half of the league’s scoring chart for over five years, and that showed in their playoff loss to Calgary. But this isn’t anything new, and on the flip side, their defensive game has also been solid for many years. On that metric, Dallas are always in the league’s top half. While the team‘s chopped and changed with a slew of summer exits, the story of their strong defence and underwhelming offence hasn’t changed.

It isn’t necessarily a problem, but a systematic shakeup is required if they want to have a cup run. At least one that isn’t considered a fluke.

Status – Playoff Potential

Detroit Red Wings

It feels like the “honeymoon” period of Detroit’s post-stream malaise is wearing thin. When talking about their five seasons spent outside the playoffs, it isn’t only that they didn’t make it, but that they never came close. Their records tell the story. The Red Wings’ last five seasons have included one horrendous season in 2019/20, with a 17-49-5 record that was finally put with the pandemic held up everything. Since then, optimism has crept into Detroit’s camp.

Their defence is still one of the league’s weakest, and their current strategy of hoarding rookies in is unlikely to immediately shore that up. Yet that issue is only part of the wider question facing Detroit – is this their bounce back year? Their rebuild process under general manager Steve Yzerman has been a slow and steady build up with shrewd and sensible deals that point to progress, but fans are unsure when to anticipate that progress translating to improved results. Now in his fourth year helming the Red Wings, expectations are ratcheting up on Yzerman as the team is now moulded by his vision, and if they can’t crack at least 35 wins, the questions will be turned to him rather than the players.

Speaking of which, Detroit have fully committed themselves to the youth pool. Having six consecutive appearances in a draft lottery made it inevitable, but their offseason was still a journey. July 13th was when the free agency just opened, and the Red Wings took in Andrew Copp, Ben Chiarot, David Perron, Dominik Kubalik, Olli Maatta. Before all them, goalie Ville Husso was also signed from St Louis. What does all this flesh blood mean for the team? A reinvigoration of players was anticipated, especially with a GM clearly tired of his team propping up the dredges of the standings, but Detroit’s summer was an absolute overhaul. With that much movement, pushing the points total up to the mid-80s mark would be respectable, and place Detroit on the fringes of playoff contention. Given their state only a few years back, they’ve certainly made leaps up the mountain, now comes the trickiest part: getting over the hump.

Status – Rebuilding

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