We are all thrilled that the NHL is back, some more than others. Teams were finally able to unveil the labors of their offseason, rolling out some fresh new faces, and some that found work in new places. The two to three-game results so far have left more questions than answers to date.
Will Daniel Winnik really lead the league in goal scoring? Can Thomas Vanek hold off Patrick Marleau for the scoring title? Will the Philadelphia Flyers go 0-48? The answer to each of these questions is probably no, but there are some more legitimate queries that are left to be determined.
The abbreviated schedule has turned the 2013 season into an extended roll of the dice. While you expect the talent to rise to the top, how long will it take that talent to rise with such a short preparation time? It's certainly not time to panic if your team is winless after three games, but theoretically, the season is 1/16th over.
Here are some of the more pressing questions facing each team early into the season. Enjoy now!
What to do with Perry and Getzlaf?
Anaheim's two stars are in the last year of their contracts and could potentially test free agency if an agreement can't be reached during the season. Signing both players could be almost impossible for the Ducks, which could create interesting possibilities at the trade deadline. If the Ducks aren't in the playoff mix, they could shop one or both of their stars.
Is Tuukka Rask the real deal?
There are other questions about the Bruins, specifically concerning Nathan Horton's continued health. Is Dougie Hamilton ready for the NHL? Can the power play get its act together?
However, the success of Tim Thomas' replacement has to be on the minds of Bruins fans. Stopping 46 of 48 shots through two games is nice, but will Rask continue to be a stud in net?
Can Cody Hodgson be the Sabres' top-line center?
The Sabres' hot start begs the question, "Is Buffalo for real?" But the bigger question is whether or not Hodgson can keep his place on Buffalo's top line. There are great benefits to skating between Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek, and the third-year player could have a huge breakout year if they click.
Does Jarome Iginla finish the season in Calgary?
Obviously, this is the question that pokes Flames fans in the ribs, but it's the one everybody wants to know. Anything can happen in the short season, and Calgary could end up in the thick of the playoff hunt. However, if things go sideways for the Flames, then Iginla and even Kiprusoff could be casualties of the trade deadline.
Will Alex Semin click with Eric Staal?
The Hurricanes' newest sniper came to Carolina for a king's ransom and has only contributed a single assist through two games. Carolina has been unimpressive as a team in its first two games, getting outscored 9-2. Developing a chemistry on the Hurricanes' top line will be crucial to getting their season back on track.
Is Corey Crawford for real?
The Blackhawks netminder ended up with 30 wins last season because Chicago managed to outscore their opponents. This season, Crawford has looked very sharp in two games, including an opening-day win over the defending Stanley Cup champs. Tuesday night, Crawford was stellar again, stopping 34 of 36 shots against St. Louis.
If he can maintain the solid play, Chicago can emerge as a Stanley Cup favorite again.
When does Ryan O'Reilly sign with the Avalanche?
The restricted free-agent center has been wrassling with the Colorado front office over a new deal since last summer, and the two sides have still not been able to get a contract done. Terms of the deal O'Reilly is seeking have been scrutinized, but it has been said that he is looking for a long-term deal somewhere between $3-5 million per year.
Has Columbus found its goalie?
Through two games this year, Columbus has not been defeated in regulation. A shootout win at Nashville and a shootout loss against Detroit have been a nice story for the embattled Blue Jackets. The story so far in Columbus has been the play of goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. Cast off from Philadelphia due to its surplus of eccentric Russian goaltenders, the young Bobrovsky has stopped 71 of the first 76 shots he has faced.
How long can the senior citizens lead Dallas?
The two big signings for the Dallas Stars this past summer were 40-year-old Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney. It wasn't so much that Dallas signed these two, but that they invested a large chunk of money in them. So far, the Stars' investment has paid off, with Jagr and Whitney sitting atop the team's scoring leaders. If the two can stay healthy, Dallas could get back to the playoffs.
When will the Lidstrom hangover end?
All the attention has been on the defense and the injuries on Detroit's blue line. What is not being mentioned is the listless, emotionless style that Detroit has played with through three games. Detroit was embarrassed in St. Louis on opening night, probably deserved to lose at Columbus and was beaten at home against Dallas.
Consistent play fixes "bad bounces" and "bad luck." Sure, the injuries are a factor, but Detroit has some young talent that can fill gaps for now. The consecutive playoff streak will be in serious jeopardy if the Wings don't get their act together
Is Devan Dubnyk the answer in goal?
There are bad home openers, and then there is the egg that Edmonton laid on Tuesday night. While the first-period abomination cannot be laid entirely on "goalie of the future" Devan Dubnyk, he needs to burn the game tap and move forward.
The Oilers have had the enviable position of sitting at the top of the NHL draft for the past few years and have been stockpiling talent. They are now playing with the expectation that they should be competitive every night. Dubnyk needs to do his part to ensure this as well.
Can Florida's second line repeat its success from opening night?
The trio of Alexei Kovalev, Peter Mueller and rookie Jonathan Huberdeau exploded on the Carolina Hurricanes for a combined two goals and five assists in a 5-1 rout. Since then, they have produced zero points and the Panthers have been outscored 8-1 in consecutive losses. It isn't fair to pin Florida's success and failure on a single line, but they disappeared in the two road losses.
How is Jonathan Quick's back?
I refuse to suggest that there is a "Stanley Cup hangover," but that could be legitimate. An 0-2 start while getting outscored 8-3 is certainly not the way any team wants to start the season.
Jonathan Quick had surgery on his back in August and would have potentially been out for around three months had the season started on time. For a goaltender that was so good in last year's playoffs, he has been shockingly ordinary so far this year. With a capable backup in Jonathan Bernier, it will be interesting so see what the Kings do moving forward.
When will Montreal wise up and sign P.K. Subban?
With restricted free agent and top defenseman P.K. Subban out while they negotiate a long-term deal, Montreal has managed to play pretty well. A win and a loss through two home games might not be a fair measure of how much Montreal misses its minutes leader on the ice. Raphael Diaz and Andrei Markov have stepped in admirably on the score sheet, but the Canadiens need to get Subban back into the fold as soon as possible.
Where is the real Ryan Suter?
One of the most outspoken players during the lockout for the Wild was their newest defenseman Ryan Suter. He eventually retracted his comments about ownership and their integrity, but once you say something, it's out there forever. Since the season began, it's been Suter who has failed to live up to the negotiations. Pointless through three games, the Wild's top minutes man is sporting a "gaudy" minus-three.
Who replaces Ryan Suter?
The short answer is Roman Josi, but Nashville has a collection of young and talented blue-line players to slide into Suter's spot. It's an enviable position to be paired with a player as talented as Shea Weber, and Suter's struggles so far in Minnesota are evidence. Josi is second on the Predators in minutes this season and so far, he appears to be a solid fit alongside Nashville's captain.
Can Martin Brodeur hold up?
There's no reason to believe that Martin Brodeur will fall apart, and on the heels of his 120th career shutout Tuesday, he looks sharp so far. His 40-year old groins won't be facing the 82-game grind, but they'll still face the rigors of a compressed schedule. The Devils will surely be resting their legendary backstop accordingly, but how long can he maintain his high standards?
Can the Islanders defense keep them competitive?
Lubomir Visnovsky was traded against his will from Anaheim to the Islanders and fought every step of the way. Visnovsky extended his middle finger to the Long Island club and is choosing to stay away rather than report to his new club. The Islanders and their continued terrible misfortune have slapped some duct tape and optimism on their defense and will be rolling with some blue-line combinations that have more questions than answers.
How long will it take for the Rangers to gel?
There certainly isn't a definitive answer, but it's almost inconceivable that it won't be sooner than later.
With an anchor like Henrik Lundqvist and solid defense in front of him, the main chemistry concerns exist with the forward lines. It will obviously take more than a handful of games for the Rangers to resemble the juggernaut that many expected them to be. As long as they get into the postseason, New York will be just fine. In a tough Eastern Conference and a shortened season, that isn't a given.
Will Erik Karlsson continue to shine?
It's hard to conceive that Karlsson is only 22 years old, but is it realistic to pencil him in to the Norris Trophy discussion every year? He is without last year's defensive partner Filip Kuba but looks like he has gotten off to a great start already this year with Marc Methot on his left.
The Senators won't sneak up on anyone this year, but Karlsson, Alfredsson, Spezza and company have looked sharp.
Is Bryzgalov the answer in goal?
It may not be what Philadelphia fans want to hear, but the Flyers' problems aren't in goal.
Sure, 11 goals in three games is hardly ideal, but the Philadelphia defense has been horrible collectively. Bryzgalov has been hung out to dry repeatedly by team defense, with a couple of "soft" goals sprinkled in. Additionally, three goals in three games isn't going to get the job done, either.
The Flyers have too much talent on offense to be kept off the scoreboard. It's easy to point the finger at the guy in goal, but when you play better team defense and give up less than 30 shots a game, you might be surprised.
Can Mike Smith continue the magic?
As great of a job that Dave Tippett has done in Phoenix, the backbone to last year's success was Mike Smith in goal. The Coyotes play a solid team-defensive style, but that hasn't been reflected in the first two games this year. Expect Smith and the Coyotes to be better moving forward, but how much better remains to be seen. A short schedule means that the Coyotes and Smith need to get back on track immediately.
Will Crosby re-establish himself as the best player in the league? On his team?
Nobody was happier to see the end of the lockout than Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. After missing so much time due to injury, it had to be maddening to be forced off of the ice when he was finally healthy.
Crosby and his mates have looked impressive so far with emotional wins against rivals Philadelphia and the New York Rangers. Though it hasn't been reflected on the scoring table yet, Crosby has been buzzing dangerously, leading all Pittsburgh forwards in ice time.
Can the Sharks make a legitimate run to the Stanley Cup?
Every year San Jose boasts one of the most talented rosters on paper. The Sharks seem to cruise through the regular season, winning 100-plus points and finishing at or near the top of the Western Conference. San Jose has managed to make it to the conference finals twice in the past three years, but the team seems to run out of gas once it gets there.
The window of opportunity for San Jose to continue this trend is closing on both the players, who are getting older, and its coach, Todd McLellan, who is perpetually on the hot seat. A shorter season favors a roster that is loaded with 30-year-old Sharks that seem to go belly up when it matters most.
Can the Blues make a legitimate run to the Stanley Cup?
Whoa! Is there an echo in here? The difference between the Blues and the Sharks is the window of time that St. Louis has to reach its goal. St. Louis has a much younger roster across the board and could be putting together a legitimate dynasty. Presidents' Trophies are nice for the regular season (yes, I know St. Louis hasn't won one since 2000), but the Blues have to prove they can do it in the postseason.
Will Anders Lindback be closer to Pekka Rinne or Dwayne Roloson?
After only two games, it really isn't fair to pass judgement on the young Swede. Mathieu Garon was impressive in his start this season, so maybe the competition can motivate him. It's Lindback's job to lose in Tampa, and he hasn't inspired many to make playoff plans just yet.
Again, a two-game sampling isn't fair to him, either. Considering Jon Quick's and Henrik Lundqvist's first two starts were even worse, there should still be optimism for the Lightning.
Is this the year that Nazem Kadri sticks in Toronto's (Maple Leaf) lineup?
One of the favorite debates among the media in Toronto has to do with "can't miss" prospect Nazem Kadri. Flashes of brilliance from Kadri have been just that so far into his young career. This season could be his coming-out party.
With two goals in the first two games this year, Kadri has shown the nose for the net that experts predicted. If Kadri can continue to be productive and consistent, this could be the year he reaches some of those lofty expectations.
How long will the Roberto Luongo trade drama last?
It may not be fair to call Vancouver's decision to start Schneider an "experiment," but Alain Vigneault was quick to give Roberto Luongo a start after the Canuck's were routed by Anaheim. Luongo played better in a shootout loss to Edmonton, but Schneider was quickly named the starter in Wednesday's win against Calgary.
Until Luongo is finally traded, his shadow will loom large behind the Canucks' starter. Nobody likes to look over their shoulder for job security, and hockey goalies are no different.
Is that the real Braden Holtby?
The Washington Capitals were probably pretty pumped about heading into this season with their goaltending situation pretty well set. Braden holtby's performance in the playoffs last year was an incredibly pleasant surprise. Uh oh.
In two games so far this year, Holtby has been awful. His 5.03 GAA does not bode well for job security or for the Capitals' playoff hopes. The good news is that he is only 23 and the season is only two games old.
Will Evander Kane be worth the Jets' investment?
Winnipeg gave a financial endorsement to its star wing Evander Kane to the tune of six years, $31.5-million in his new contract. Kane, who has shared some off-the-ice controversy similar to his Chicago (no relation) namesake, Patrick, responded by posting some pictures on his Twitter account.
Not the most endearing shot for a player that has been counted on to be the future of the franchise. It's hard to blame a 22-year-old millionaire for not having some fun, but Jets fans want to see their star make news on the ice and not off of it.