NHL Predictions 2012: 10 Teams That Will Dominate the Regular Season
Tonight is the much-anticipated beginning of the 2011-12 NHL season, with the Philadelphia Flyers taking on the Boston Bruins, the Montreal Canadiens taking on the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Pittsburgh Penguins taking on the Vancouver Canucks.
With all the high-profile trades and free-agent moves over the summer, there are a few teams that are expected to do well this season and some expected to do better than previous seasons.
Which teams will truly dominate though, like the Vancouver Canucks did last regular season or the Washington Capitals two seasons ago?
Here are 10 teams that will very likely dominate next season.
Detroit Red Wings
This summer, Brian Rafalski, Kris Draper and Chris Osgood all retired; all of them had been part of the Red Wings' core that helped make it so successful.
However, Detroit will probably still be able to dominate this season—if they can stay healthy, that is.
After all, they still have Nicklas Lidstrom on defense, possibly in his last year. They still have Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, as well as Jimmy Howard.
Those are just their most high-profile players too.
The Red Wings have nothing to be concerned about—their roster is stacked and they'll be tough to beat.
San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks have another loaded roster as usual, but it got even better this summer.
The Sharks acquired defenseman Brent Burns and forward Martin Havlat from the Minnesota Wild for Devin Setoguchi and Dany Heatley.
Plus, of course they still have players like Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton and Logan Couture, who seems poised for a breakout season.
There's a lot of players on the Sharks roster that it'll be hard to play against and that's why they will dominate this season.
With new owner Terry Pegula, the Buffalo Sabres added a few pieces that could help complete the puzzle.
They added defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, who should greatly help on defense. They also added center Ville Leino, who should play well too.
Of course, they still have goaltender Ryan Miller, who always gives the team the chance to win night in and night out.
With the combination of their new pieces and their core ones, the Sabres will be a force to be reckoned with.
The Anaheim Ducks might just have all the pieces they need to finally dominate in the regular season.
It appears that they finally have a healthy Jonas Hiller. They have Teemu Selanne back for at least another year.
And most importantly, they have their highly talented first line of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan.
Even though they play in a tough division and tough conference, the Ducks will remain competitive.
The Pacific Division will be very, very competitive this year.
The Pittsburgh Penguins will be starting their year off without superstar Sidney Crosby, and who knows how long they'll remain without him.
However, the Penguins are still a dominant force even without Crosby, especially now that they'll have their other superstar, Evgeni Malkin, back.
Plus, they still have other forwards like Jordan Staal and James Neal, defensemen Brooks Orpik and Kris Letang, and Marc-Andre Fleury in net.
That's a tough lineup to face.
There's no doubt that the Penguins will be more than OK without Crosby, and there's a good chance that they'll dominate the Eastern Conference.
There is a good chance that the Vancouver Canucks start their season slowly, as they'll be without forward Ryan Kesler, who was one of their best players last season and in the playoffs.
However, even with a few pieces missing this year, some losses due to free injury and others to injury, the Canucks can still dominate.
Plus, they'll be even tougher once they get Kesler back.
They also still have a tough defense, even without Christian Ehrhoff, as Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider are one of the toughest goaltending duos in the league.
There's no doubt that Vancouver will continue to be a dominant force in the league.
The Boston Bruins will definitely remain a dominant team in the Eastern Conference and the league this year because they kept most of their Stanley Cup-winning team from last year.
They still have all the components.
Most importantly, they still have Tim Thomas in net.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Last season, the Tampa Bay Lightning surprised many by beating the Pittsburgh Penguins and sweeping the Washington Capitals in the playoffs to advance to the Eastern Conference finals.
They too kept most of their team intact, perhaps most importantly re-signing goaltender Dwayne Roloson and superstar Steven Stamkos.
With all the same components, the Lightning should be even better this year.
Plus, in some ways they have an advantage over their Eastern Conference competitors with very different rosters because their players already have chemistry with each other.
Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles Kings have had a very good team the past few seasons, but it has been a young team that's had difficulties overpowering their division and conference rivals.
Their team has featured immensely talented players like Drew Doughty, Jack Johnson, Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Quick.
This summer, they added more talented veterans in Simon Gagne, Ethan Moreau and Mike Richards.
There's a good chance that the Kings have all the parts they finally need to overpower their opponents in their conference.
The Washington Capitals are yet again highly favored to win the Stanley Cup, and perhaps this year is finally their year.
They still have their top forwards—Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin—and they added Joel Ward this offseason.
On defense, they still have Mike Green, John Carlson and Karl Alzner and added veteran Roman Hamrlik.
In net, they added Tomas Vokoun.
It's easy to see why they're favored with that roster and they'll definitely dominate this coming season.