3.Washington Capitals- At one juncture, you could make the compelling argument that Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin's claim to fame was his courtship with tennis babe Maria Kirilenko. During this infamous courtship you could make the case that you've never seen a more motivated Ovi because he was scoring goals on and off the ice. Since the point where the relationship flamed out, his statistics have kept on par and in some areas improved upon but relating this to competitiveness and aggression on the ice, that's been lacking noticeably in the playoffs and coach Barry Trotz is going to have to find innovative maneuvers to bring back that legendary compete level in order to bring the city of Washington a championship, something that you may see them achieve with their baseball team and definitely have made the necessary moves to re-ignite a serious run at the Stanley Cup.
General Manager Brian MacLellan has just completed his first season being the head honcho in the National Hockey League and in preparation for year two, he's been wheeling and dealing more then Craig Manning did on Degrassi:TNG. So let me get you up to speed, the Capitals and Blues immersed in trade talks involving T.J Oshie. Then, on July 2nd, 2015 the deal was put in motion but what did the Blues get in return you ask? They received the one and only, former Moose Jaw Warrior Troy Brouwer. The same Troy Brouwer who was nearly bought out by the Capitals and them somehow convinced Doug Armstrong that it would be worth his while to trade his most valuable forward trade chip for a player who's career high in points is forty. Did Oshie not tally forty in the 2014 Sochi games solely? Ridiculous trade but full props to MacLellan who for being a inexperienced General Manager that just robbed the local Burger King without anyone else noticing. Oshie is exactly the type of player the Capitals were needing. With players like Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, the am I a Swede or a Russian Andre Burakovsky that already have the intricate skill down pact, but what lacks is that want and desire to be the guy in the last minute, and Oshie is that in spades. Nobody will ever forget the pressure he was under in those aforementioned Olympic games and his clutch fortitude in the shoot-out. On a side note, it should be noted that although most hockey purists hate the international shoot-our rules where after three shooters, a player can go as many time as he or she pleases, this possibly concussed blogger loves the differentiation of what this shoot-out brings compared to the bland National Hockey League version which is NO MORE!!!! If you didn't believe Oshie is clutch, which I can understand as a valid disagreement because his productivity in the NHL playoffs is rendered non existent, the same cannot be said about Mr.Playoffs himself, Justin Williams. His accolades speak for themselves as in an unprecedented stat, he has never lost a game seven playoff game toppled by the fact that the thirty three year old Cobourg product was the pinnacle of the 2014 Los Angeles Kings Stanley Cup Championship winning the Conn Smythe trophy. They're deep, they now have winners, does Ovechkin have the minions following him nowto take this all the way? Quite possibly.
As much as I admire the forwards, this blogger is very lukewarm about the defence. Electing to not re-sign Mike Green means they'll actually ice six defenceman a night, not the customary five we were used to in Washington won't hurt but I just don't know if they have that true number one anchor and by no mean is this a slight on John Carlson just because he broke Canadian's hearts back in the 2010 World Junior Hockey Championships. Carlson is a fine player, and his offensive instincts don't go unnoticed but similarly to Green, it's becoming an ever recurring trend that Carlson will cough up the puck at inopportune times and seem to take unnecessary risks when the game situation doesn't call for it. Another point of contention I have with the big #74 is that with his size listed at
6'3 212, he plays to soft. I can't believe I am condoning a player taking more penalties but by doing this maybe that'll increase the intimidation level and make Carlson a more petrifiable force on the ice and getting rid of the don't touch anybody Phil Housley approach. Conversely, Karl Alzner has to learn the offensive side of the biscuit because he emasculates his effectiveness every time then puck on his stick. With his junior affiliate, Alzer put up some numbers offensively but as is the case with a lot of players stepping into the show, they lose that confidence and aren't willing to take the chances with the puck that they did in junior. Maybe former head coach Kelly Kisio can sit him down and re-instill that confidence as he's already an elite defender, time to become complete.
Braden Holtby is a rock back there and funny enough, due to the changes the Capitals made on defence, in other words due to them getting rid of Mike Green, I would project he'll face less work this year. Holtby time and time again has that cockiness aura about him when he steps inside the net and that cockiness is in it's truest sense of the word, recollecting to an interview Holtby conducted with Pierre McGuire during his breakthrough 2012 playoff run Holtby stated after shutting out the New York Rangers that his team would win the series, and the Stanley Cup. Now, they didn't reach that ultimate prize but that trademark confidence is something to look out for as he once again will go head to head against the Eastern Conference sharpshooters.
4.Los Angeles Kings-If you subscribe to probability and trends then the Los Angeles Kings have won the 2015-2016 Stanley Cup. This whole preview will be a waste of time as the Kings have already won. Only if that was true........the Kings will be in for a year long Mayweather-Pacquiao boxing match, actually no because if they were involved in that particular match that would involve sitting on the bench and twiddling your thumbs the entire season. To stay within the fighting circles, the Western Conference will be a Royal Rumble this year with every team sans a couple become significantly better. Heck, as you can see I list the Calgary Flames as Western Conference co favourites and going back to a couple years ago, the Flames were easy fodder. As long as the Kings have enough players that haven't already experimented with Oxycodin to play each night, they'll be scrapping all year long.
The Kings have significantly re-furbished their forward group. Gone are Mike Richards and Jarrett Stoll as they have more life altering events to keep them busy with. In to the fold is big and bruising Milan Lucic who comes from Boston in another one of Don Sweeney's controversial deals although we will say that they made out like Bandits when comparing it to the Dougie Hamilton swap. Milan Lucic was your quintessential Bruin, plays hard, doesn't exactly have the finesse game but boy can he hit! Fittingly, the one team in the entire National Hockey League that possesses similar characteristics are the Los Angeles Kings. Sometimes when changing destinations, the player can find the new home daunting but pertaining to Lucic he'll fit right at home. A player who I'm going to plug is somebody that even though he has been an incredibly loyal L.A King has yet to really be given a modest chance to stand-out, and that's former first round pick Trevor Lewis. He was drafted seventeenth overall in 2006. Part of me understands why he's still waiting for that big break mainly because of the depth the Kings have been blessed with, but the other part of me is saying that every time Lewis does get contributable minutes, he shines but yet immediately afterwards he's stuck playing with Jordan"no hands"Nolan. Due to the mentioned losses, I think it's safe to speculate that his days bumming around in the fourth line hotel room are done may see time with the likes of Dustin Brown. My first bold of this National Hockey League has Trevor Lewis scoring twenty five goals well up from his previous career high of nine which he amounted last season. I'm a supporter of the Regina Pats, something that if you read my Western Hockey League preview was made abundantly clear. By saying that, I'll give some love to Jordan Weal. I thought, with the direction the Kings were headed in I didn't really see Weal having a chance to crack the top twelve in SoCal even though he was named the American Hockey League playoff M.V.P. Due to my gut of their not being a spot for him, I prescribed to the notion that he would've been a prime trade candidate, but with the way everything transpired the odds are in Weal's favour of making the squad.
In my humble opinion, P.K Subban is the league's best overall defenceman. However, given a strong enough case I could be swayed to pull in the favor of former Guelph Storm Drew Doughty.What he's able to do is some of the things you can't just teach young defenceman, not withstanding the high level of speed he can put these skills to use with. In the Kings situation, with the Slava Voynov court case up in air, Doughty is fully aware that in order for the Kings to bounce back from their miserable non playoff escapades, he'll probably have to log on average 30 minutes a night, something earlier in his career he couldn't do due to anemic conditioning but now as he's aged, he gets "it", whatever that it factor represents and is now one of the better conditioned athletes in the game. At the peak of his career what coach Darryl Sutter is trying to reign in is occasionally just because Drew knows he has all the tools in the tool-box he tries to do too much and what Sutter is trying to preach is it's OK to take a more methodical approach to playing defence. In lieu of defensive depth concerns, the Kings appreciate when Doughty pulls out his inner Batman and takes the team on his back but at times need a safety net and would encourage him to pull out his inner Robin, someone who is ok stepping back and allowing other players time in the "flashy" spotlight. I've been a back and forth Edmonton Oiler fan for years and probably will again with the arrival of Connor McDavid, but I remember thinking when the Oilers employed Matt Greene but decided to trade him to the Kings for an aging Lubomir Visnovsky, I cringed a little. Greene is such a calming influence with a great locker room presence as well and it's not as if he can't play. This "Giant from Grand Ledge" has get this, never finished the season as a minus player. Let's put this into context as while he played on the Oilers aside from their Stanley Cup finalist year of 2006, and even that year the Oilers squeaked in as the eight seed, the teams were sub par and yet he still was a plus comrade. Greene is a Darryl Sutter player if there ever was one and is the proverbial safety net picking Drew Doughty's mistakes off of the ground and allowing Doughty to take all these chances without any repercussions.
Jonathan Quick was the defining reason why the Los Angeles Kings missed the playoffs last the season. Jonathan Quick was the defining reason why the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup in 2014. Take the good with the bad. Which Jonathan Quick are we going to get in 15-16, the Quick who was unbeatable posting a 1.41 Goals Against Average during the Kings whitewash on route to the 2012 Stanley Cup or are we going to get a Quick who struggled admittedly last year making Patrick Lalime look like a good goaltender. Kings fans are praying for the former as when Quick showcases that uncanny side to side flexibility, he makes Dominik Hasek, who before Quick was known for said flexibility.......and King faithful very jealous. You have to permutate if Quick's game may falter with Martin Jones leaving because now with Jhonas Enroth coming in, that same feel of competition is not there and it's probably advise that unless Quick slides out to a Chris Sale type of start, bringing in a goalie such as James Reimer, Joni Ortio, or former King Ben Scrivens will keep Quick honest.