As the NHL preseason winds to a close we begin to question how our favorite teams will be stacked up come opening night. Some teams look to be better than they seem on paper while others look like they should quit now and save their fans the need for headache medications and binge drinking.
Several teams have high expectations placed on them, who will meet and exceed those expectations?
1. Detroit Red Wings
The Wings won the Stanley Cup and are looking poised to yet again be the team to beat, the Wings must be number 1.
2. San Jose Sharks
The Sharks shook things up in the office season after becoming fed up with the “choker” type of luck they had begun to develop. Question is now will the veteran defense finally get them over the hump? Moreover, can they truly be as good on the ice as they look on paper?
3. Dallas Stars
A team looking to show it doesn’t deserve to live in Detroit and San Jose’s shadow, the Stars are another team that only got better. Add the always annoying Sean Avery and an even more determined Brenden Morrow, and the Stars will mow anyone down who gets in their way.
4. Montreal Canadiens
Great coach, great team, and their early exit in last season's playoffs could make this team even more motivated for this season.
5. Calgary Flames
The only team in the Northwest Division with the entire package as far as defense, offense, and goaltending.
6. Pittsburgh Penguins
The former Eastern Conference champs got worse, as many players made the trek to Tampa Bay, but this team is still dangerous.
7. Philadelphia Flyers
A very talented team with lots of scoring threats. If Simon Gagne stays healthy this could be the most dangerous offense in the East.
8. New York Rangers
Another dangerous Eastern Conference team, the Rangers could find themselves as the top team in the east if they play strong and stay healthy this season.
9. Chicago Blackhawks
There are lots of expectations for this much improved team, and they certainly look capable of impressing many this season. The 'Hawks will likely get outshined in the division by Detroit but will still be worthy of praise in the paper.
10. Anaheim Ducks
A good team in a tough division, the Ducks aren’t the team they were in 2007 and will likely make the playoffs only to be trampled by better teams. With Teemu Selanne back, and Bobby Ryan likely full time in Anaheim, they could be dangerous. But defensively, they lost some of their punch to get under the salary cap.
11. Edmonton Oilers
A team that improved greatly over the offseason, the Oilers could challenge in the division. They could potentially make the playoffs if young talent finds chemistry.
12. Washington Capitals
A good team in a terrible division, their only real threat is Tampa Bay. The Capitals are led by young players like Alex Ovechkin, Niklas Backstrom and Mike Green.
13. Phoenix Coyotes
Wayne Gretzky and his ‘Yotes seem like a possibility for the post season, but in the always tough Pacific division, the Coyotes may find themselves on the outside looking in. Nonetheless, they will be a tough team to face in the West.
14. Colorado Avalanche
A team looking to get back on track, the Av’s are decent but there is nothing here standing out that impresses. Joe Sakic is back another year; question is will it matter for the Av’s?
15. Boston Bruins
A decent, fairly young team looking to impress in the East, the Bruins only real question mark is goaltending.
16. Ottawa Senators
A team looking to rebound after a disappointing last season, the talent is there and Ottawa should be better with distractions long gone.
17. Vancouver Canucks
A hard team to gauge. Hopes are high after a flawless preseason, but the Canucks may be in for a long year if they let the preseason get in their heads. The team will depend on Demitra and the Sedin twins—if they score the team will reap rewards. Luongo as a captain? Really?!
18. Nashville Predators
A central division foe destined to be in the Detroit Red Wings shadow. The playoffs aren’t too much to ask for the Preds’ but a first round series win would be nice. Biggest question mark is goaltending.
19. New Jersey Devils
Martin Brodeur can’t be depended on to win this team games. Brian Rolston could be the spark this team needs but they will need more depth to count on.
20. Tampa Bay Lightning
Improved offense, but no real blue-line. Likely, they won't be a major threat for the conference or NHL but could be dangerous in their division.
21. St. Louis Blues
The Blues have impressed me so far in preseason. Andy McDonald seems reborn in St. Louis and Lee Stempniak seems poised for a career year. If the youthful talent can find chemistry and mesh with the veterans, this team could impress. Manny Legace is the steady backbone of this team, but for now all involved will fight to be .500.
22. Buffalo Sabres
Goaltending is decent, doesn’t seem to be scoring depth or any amazing defensive talent on this squad. If the Sabres want to win they need to shake things up.
23. Minnesota Wild
Good team, good goalie, but with the defense first scheme has grown old on Marion Gaborik. If he isn’t happy, there may not be much to cheer about for Wild fans.
24. Carolina Hurricanes
If only the 'Canes could live up to their power-packed name. There is a lot of youth in Carolina, they just needs time to develop. Defense needs help otherwise Cam Ward could have a long season.
25. Columbus Blue Jackets
Need to make the playoffs this year or likely be the laughing stock of the NHL. They have potential to make the eighth seed in the west, but it isn’t likely.
26. Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs improved over the offseason and will likely see Luke Schenn play with the big Leafs helping the defense. Curtis Joseph back in Toronto could be exciting to watch, even as a backup. Scoring could be a minor issue.
27. Florida Panthers
They traded their captain and top scorer to Phoenix. My question to them is: What are you guys smoking?
28. Atlanta Thrashers
The Trashers are a fairly youthful team looking to improve. Hopefully, expectations aren’t as high this season, because this season will likely be like the last several.
29. New York Islanders
This team reminds me more of an AHL team. The Isle’s have scattered talent here and there, but no real chemistry. Question is can Goalie Rick Dipietro stay healthy?
30. Los Angeles Kings
A team in pro hockey can’t win without a goalie. This team has nothing in the net, and barely anything in front of him. If they don’t get the number one draft choice, they got robbed.
Ken Armer is a senior NHL writer for Bleacher Report and serves along with Bryan Thiel as an NHL Community Leader. He can be reached via his profile or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org