The boys of winter are back.
But just because you’re not in three hockey pools and don’t have your team’s logo tattooed somewhere on your body doesn’t mean you have to panic in conversation when your colleague or crush (do we still have those?) invites you to a game.
Here to save the day is Notable’s Canadian NHL Cheat Sheet for the 2014-15 season.
From East to West, this is everything you need to know about your favourite Canadian team – or just the one you live closest to…
A team that has been used to some celebration over the past few years took missing the playoffs last season pretty hard. The organization moved to switch up most of its management in hopes of turning things around, and traded one of its stars, Ryan Kesler.
They also brought in the American goalie you’ll remember from the 2010 Olympics, Ryan Miller, to replace Canadian Olympic GOLD MEDALIST Roberto Luongo. As good as he is, he’s no young pup, nor are the team’s iconic Swedish twins and leading scorers, Daniel and Henrik Sedin. Despite that, new coach Willie Desjardins hopes he can squeeze the last drops of talent out of these guys and get back into the playoffs.
And if that doesn’t happen, just hope those green guys show up again to keep you entertained.
After the Flames of 2013-14 left a lot to be desired by finishing fourth-last in the league, the off-season provided a good chance to shake things up at the Saddledome. Under new GM Brad Treliving (whose dad is on Dragons’ Den), the team is looking to its youth contingent to actually start the rebuild they’ve been talking about for years.
With the departure of Mike Cammalleri (his jersey is back in the closet yet again), Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau are expected to fill his shoes in the scoring department. There are high hopes for newly acquired goalie Jonas Hiller, while Mark Giordano also being healthy again bodes well for the Flames’ defense. All in all, though, don’t expect a return to the days of the Red Mile just yet. The rebuild continues.
Finishing at the bottom of the Western Conference, the Oilers are coming into this season with something to prove. And they’ve spent $40 million over the summer to do it.
The usual suspects/former top draft picks of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will likely keep their jobs as the top line of forwards, but there will be a slew of new guys filling in the gaps left by Sam Gagne and the face of the team for the last few years, Ryan Smyth.
Look for the goaltender position to rotate between local boy Ben Scrivens and Swede Viktor Fasth; Andrew Ference and Justin Schultz will also work hard to keep pucks out of the net on defense, but, if we’re being honest, the Oils don’t look to be a a playoff team just yet.
This one’s a toss up as far as the playoffs go, but going to a game is still one of the most entertaining things you can do.
The honeymoon is over in Winnipeg. Fans were ecstatic three years ago when the team returned to one of Canada’s coldest cities, which turned out to be one of the hottest hockey markets. This year’s players are going to need to perform better if that excitement is going to stick around, though.
With the departure of Ollie Jokinen, look to new stars Jacob Truba and Mark Shifley to fill the void. In goal, Ondrej Pavelec finished the year near the bottom of the league as far as starters go, so he’ll definitely need to shape up or ship out. New head coach Paul Maurice will be pivotal in pulling it all together, with Evander Kane and Blake Wheeler leading the charge in the scoring department.
The Jets have the tools to fight for a wild card spot, but they’ll have to keep up with a tough Central Division to do it. The only guarantee here is that the crowd will keep you warm with the energy in the MTS Centre.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Ah, The Leafs. Recently called out as “the worst franchise in sports” by ESPN, this year’s team is hoping to turn that around. Again.
“Stars” you should know are captain Dion Phaneuf, goal-scorer Phil Kessel, and the club’s new president, Hall of Famer Brendan Shanahan. You’ll hear lots of other names tossed around, but it’s really unclear if any of them would be mentioned if they weren’t playing in the centre of the hockey universe.
Experts are predicting a better season than last if goalie Jonathan Bernier steps up and the new guys (whose names don’t matter yet) they acquired over the summer step in to take the pressure off the top line.
Regardless of what happens on the ice, you’ll still pay way more than anyone else in the league to go to a game, so if someone offers you a ticket, you’re saying yes. No question.
The key to not sounding like you’ve been living under a rock in Gatineau all summer if you’re at a Sens game: know that former captain Jason Spezza was traded to Dallas in July.
And if you didn’t know that he’s the second captain to leave the team in as many years (Daniel Alfredsson jumped ship to Detroit at the end of last season), you might as well still be heading to a game at the Corel Centre.
This season will have its challenges, but coach Paul McLean hopes a healthy Bobby Ryan and a productive new captain Erik Karlsson will keep the team afloat. They’re also hoping for an improvement in goaltending from Craig Anderson and his promising back-up Robin Lehner, as well some help from the young Kyle Turris, who replaces Spezza as the starting centre.
The Habs were Canada’s post-season sweethearts last spring with P.K. Subban and Carey Price becoming household names (if they weren’t already) during their playoff run, which ended tragically (yes, tragically) in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Despite some massive changes to the squad, including the departure of captain Brian Gionta, Montreal is still expected to perform as well, if not better, than last season. Re-signing a pricey contract with Subban, and trading for P-A Parenteau, will definitely help things, but there are some concerns around a lack of offensive strength in the absence of Thomas Vanek and Danny Briere up front, as well as a lack of leadership – to the point that Head Coach Michel Therrien chose not to name a captain to replace Gionta.
Either way, if you get a chance to head to the Bell Centre this season, don’t pass it up. You’re in for another great ride, MTL.
All images taken from each team’s facebook page