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Which NHL teams might be contenders next season?

Aug 1, 2010, 7:40 PM EDT

capscontender.jpgIt’s a pretty slow night, so such evenings lend themselves to meandering little curiosities like this Canoe.ca article regarding future contenders in the NHL.

So who’s next?

After adding Taylor Hall to a stockpile of offensive prospects that also includes world junior hero Jordan Eberle and skilled Swede Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, the Oilers are being billed as a future force to be reckoned with.

Jonathan Bernier finally seems ready for stardom, giving the Kings a hotshot puck-stopper to complement an up-and-coming core featuring sniper Anze Kopitar and blueline ace Drew Doughty.

The Coyotes and Avalanche have stashed a cache of young weapons, while sharpshooters Steven Stamkos and John Tavares are trying to author turnarounds in Tampa Bay and Long Island, where they’re not yet legal drinking age.

But the Capitals seem closest to sipping champagne from Lord Stanley’s mug.

The Washington Capitals are on my short list of “Teams who look promising even though it’s only July.” I’d like to see what the Chicago Blackhawks do with their goalie situation to truly assess their quality as a team, but I think they’d make the list. You know what, let’s list them for fun right now.

  • Capitals
  • Blackhawks
  • Pittsburgh Penguins
  • Philadelphia Flyers?
  • Vancouver Canucks
  • Detroit Red Wings
  • San Jose Sharks

Obviously this list is ridiculously preliminary and each team has some problems.

Out East, I’d be surprised if there was much change among the best teams. The Capitals will forever be critiqued as soft and/or “chokers” until they make an impact in the playoffs, but what they really need is a shutdown defenseman and a second line center. The Penguins loaded up on defense but might actually decline in their greatest area of weakness: wingers. Everyone can write the same things they always write about the Flyers’ goalies.

nucksgotchucked.jpgIn the Western Conference, my guess is that things will be fairly similar to last season. Chicago cannot be judged until their team is complete, but they still have the core players to be a contender. The San Jose Sharks made a big but possibly reasonable change in net – and besides – their “failures are higher than most teams’ successes.”

The two most interesting teams might be the Canucks and Red Wings. Vancouver got whooped by Chicago in the playoffs – really, they fell apart – but they still have some interesting elements. Adding Dan Hamhuis and Keith Ballard to a defense that might have been their biggest weakness last year might make them the best in the West. But don’t forget about the Red Wings, either, a team who became the league’s hottest club once their injury-ravaged squad actually came together.

Soon enough, we’ll be making previews for next season. While the preferred method is to use a blindfold and some darts, those above teams are the ones who come to my mind when I think contenders for next year. Who do you think will make a splash in the 2010-11 season?

  1. Jordan - Aug 1, 2010 at 8:10 PM

    The word ‘core’ and ‘Chicago Blackhawks’ seem to go together like bread and butter these days. I think there’s a reason that Hawks’ GM Stan Bowman keeps using ‘core’ to describe his team and it’s to ensure that his ticket sales staff has a fighting chance to sell 2010-2011 season tickets at a price that is 20 percent more than last year. Patrick Kane and Johnathan Toews are going to have to kick in more, not only offensively, but defensively. Marian Hossa is really the best two-way forward on their roster and this spells trouble for the Hawks’ considering their third and fourth lines have been shipped out of town. This is going to be the biggest test of Kane and Toews young careers and the Hawks’ could be one key injure away from not being in this conversation next spring.

  2. Matt - Aug 1, 2010 at 9:11 PM

    Ah yes, the paper champ Capitals.
    I think if the Caps and Sharks ever met in the finals, the world might just explode.

  3. The_Emperor - Aug 2, 2010 at 12:39 AM

    THE BUFFALO SABRES BELONG ON THIS LIST!

  4. Nick - Aug 2, 2010 at 7:49 AM

    How can you not say the Bruins have high potential be go far next year..ALL the injuries and they were still a period away from the conference finals and oh yah they did add some guy named tyler seguin ? come on people enough about the sharks !!!
    i hate joe thorton too !!!

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