The 2007-08 season is barely over and already my mind has turned to next year.
Here are 10 things I am looking forward to:
• Can Sidney Crosby wrestle away the scoring title and MVP award from Alex Ovechkin? Sid the Kid was making his move up the scoring charts this season when he suffered a high ankle sprain that ultimately shelved him 29 games. Still, he came back and led his team to the Stanley Cup final.
• Will Chris Chelios play again? Truth is, I hope he does. Although he was a healthy scratch during the final, the 46-year-old Chelios can still be a fine No. 5 defender on the defending champs. I’d love to see him hit his goal of playing until he’s 50.
• Watching the Tampa Bay Lightning. I see a lot of 8-7 and 9-6 games in their future. Lots of forwards, but also lots of questions in goal and on defense.
• Can the Ducks bounce back? A year of turmoil followed their 2007 Stanley Cup victory, but the Ducks should return well-rested and with Scott Niedermayer playing from the get-go.
• The re-emergence of the Edmonton Oilers. I’m not certain if I’m in the minority, but I really like the Oilers’ chances of making the playoffs, depending on how their goaltending holds up.
• Will the Chicago Blackhawks continue their upward trend? I wouldn’t exactly accuse the Hawks of spending like drunken sailors, but the signing of defenseman Brian Campbell is a pretty good indication they expect to make some noise in the Western Conference.
• Will the Columbus Blue Jackets make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history? If I’m a betting man, I say no. However, if they do, it will all come down to Ken Hitchcock’s coaching.
• Will the Ottawa Senators play with more grit or has their window of opportunity closed? I really like the signing of Jarkko Ruutu who brings some much-needed sandpaper to the table.
• Can the Red Wings become the first team in a decade to repeat? Certainly the signing of Marian Hossa provides them with a fighting chance.
• The continuing emergence of the game’s young stars. You still need a veteran presence to be successful in the NHL, but the game’s young guns are chipping in big-time, too.
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