Training camps open around the NHL on Friday. Here’s a look at five burning questions as teams start preparing for the regular season:
1. Cup Hangover: The Chicago Blackhawks have been the talk of the hockey world—as much for their unusual off-season as their Stanley Cup win in June. With a number of players who helped make them a champion now calling other cities home, it will be interesting to see how coach Joel Quenneville incorporates a number of new faces into his lineup. Also, after an extremely short summer, are the competitive fires still burning in Chicago?
2. Goalie Game: Antti Niemi has taken his talents—and Cup ring—to Northern California, where he’s expected to split the Sharks crease with Antero Niittymaki. Who will emerge as the go-to guy in San Jose? After a decade in Dallas, Marty Turco is now playing for Chicago. Can he rebound from a tough year? Michael Leighton started Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final for Philadelphia. Will he be in goal when the Flyers open the 2010-11 regular season? And don’t even start on Montreal, where the great goalie debate is temporarily on hold while Carey Price assumes the No. 1 role.
3. Ready Rookies: While most expect top pick Taylor Hall to play in Edmonton this season, it remains to be seen how many others from the 2010 draft class will make the jump with him. Tyler Seguin, selected second by Boston, seems like a good bet—as do the rest of the top-5 selections: Florida’s Erik Gudbranson, Columbus’s Ryan Johansen and Nino Niederreiter of the New York Islanders. A second-round pick has occasionally made a surprising ascension in the past…are there any of those out there?
4. Put Me In, Coach: Guy Boucher is just 39 years old and finds himself running an NHL training camp for the first time as head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Will his success in the QMJHL and AHL translate to the big leagues? After a number of years as an NHL assistant, John MacLean is finally the head man in New Jersey. Can he return the Devils back to their past glory? And how long will it take for a veteran coach—Ron Wilson in Toronto?—to find himself on the hot seat?
5. Competitive Canucks: The Vancouver Canucks break training camp with arguably the best chance of the six Canadian teams to put together a special season. They feature a bolstered blue-line with the additions of Dan Hamhuis and Keith Ballard, and didn’t lose any major pieces up front. Presumably, Roberto Luongo will return with a weight lifted off his shoulders after surrendering the captain’s role last week. Will it all add up to Canada’s first Stanley Cup championship parade since 1993?