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The Hockey News

Talk in the office lately has been fueled by ‘what ifs,’ ‘yeah buts,’ ‘ah c’mons’ and ‘no freakin’ ways.’ Yeah that’s right, it’s July, but we can’t help ourselves; it’s already time to talk about what might happen next season.

I’m at the point now where the games – or at least training camps – have to start or I’ll lose my mind. Enough of this off-season business, most of the fun is over with anyway. One month is enough time off, isn’t it?

With that said and with next season’s lineups taking form, here are a few teams I can’t wait to watch, listed alphabetically:

Chicago Blackhawks:
Combining Brian Campbell’s spin-o-rama with head coach Denis Savard has video montage potential. Campbell’s offensive wizardry both with the puck and dishing it off only adds to the already exciting mix of players in the Windy City. There’s also a number of AHLers – David Bolland, Michael Blunden, Troy Brouwer, Jack Skille, Petri Kontiola to name a few – who will be fun to watch try to solidify a spot on the team in September.

Detroit Red Wings: It’s always fun to watch a championship caliber team, but how often can that team, restricted by a salary cap, add a prolific scorer in the off-season? Marian Hossa should do some serious damage with the Winged Wheel, especially with the plethora of skill surrounding him. On top of that, we all know Detroit keeps pulling needles out of haystacks, so the arrival of Jonathan Ericsson, the last overall pick in the 2002 draft, will be another reminder of why this team is the way it is.

Los Angeles Kings: Yeah, they probably won’t be any good. In fact, they may end up being the worst team in the league, but the Kings possess a regal courtyard of young talent. Teddy Purcell, Brian Boyle, Drew Doughty and Peter Harrold are a few guys who could make the step to full-time NHLers and watching them earn that spot night in and night out will be fun. They also have something very special in Anze Kopitar, not to mention a few guys named Frolov, O’Sullivan, Brown and Johnson; they’re pretty good, too.

Tampa Bay Lightning: It doesn’t take an optometrist to see this team is going to have defensive troubles, but who cares? I give credit to the owners for having fun and building their team, their way. Nuts to doing it the old fashioned way, these guys know how to create a buzz. It’s going to be fun to see whether or not challenging conventional wisdom pans out, or if the hockey gods mercilessly strike them down.

Honorable mentions

Philadelphia Flyers – I love teams that punish physically without diminishing offensive flair.

Phoenix Coyotes – Getting Olli Jokinen will help this cocooning group of players breakout into the playoff picture.

San Jose Sharks
– New coach with offensive instincts and a team that knows it’s running on its last chance together.

Washington Capitals
– Alex Ovechkin is reason enough, but Alexander Semin and Mike Green are no slouches, either.

Rory Boylen is's web content specialist. His blog appears Thursdays.

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