NHL preview: Team-by-team capsules

With the addition of Vegas, there are now 30 other teams trying to make sure this picture of Sidney Crosby doesn’t get taken again next June.

Eastern Conference

In predicted order of finish

Metropolitan Division

Pittsburgh Penguins

Last season: 111 points, 2nd in division, won second consecutive Stanley Cup and third in nine years.

Ice chips: Will try to become the first team to win three consecutive Stanley Cups since the Islanders won four in a row from 1980-83. Wayne Gretzky never won three in a row. Neither did Mario Lemieux. … Assistant coach Rick Tocchet left to take the Coyotes’ head coaching position. He was replaced by Mark Recchi. … Lost longtime goalie Marc-Andre Fleury in the expansion draft.

 

New York Rangers

Last season: 102 points, 4th in division, lost to Ottawa in second round.

Ice chips: Added Washington’s Kevin Shattenkirk, which will help the power-play and the defense, but traded forward Derek Stepan, who was third on the team in scoring last season. … The key piece in the Stepan deal with Arizona is Anthony DeAngelo, another defenseman with strong offensive skills. DeAngelo, from Sewell, N.J., is 21 and already with his third organization. Tampa Bay drafted him in the first round in 2014.

 

Columbus Blue Jackets

Last season: 108 points, third in division, lost to Pittsburgh in first round.

Ice chips: Swapped Brandon Saad for Artemi Panarin from Chicago. Panarin has scored at least 30 goals in his two NHL seasons, is a two-time all-star and was rookie of the year in 2015-16 (when Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere finished second). … The Blue Jackets have never made the playoffs in consecutive seasons.

 

Washington Capitals

Last season: 118 points, most in NHL, didn’t win the Stanley Cup, this is not a recording.

Ice chips: Nobody was stung more by the NHL’s decision to forbid players from participating in the 2018 Olympics than Capitals star Alex Ovechkin. He had a three-year run of 50 goals snapped last season when he scored 33. … The Caps lost a ton of veterans  —  including Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson  —  in a salary-cap crunch. … They did decide to keep young star Evgeny Kuznetsov, 25, with a $62.4 million contract. Kuznetsov is seven years younger than Ovechkin and the future face of the franchise.

 

Flyers

Last season: 88 points, 6th in division, no playoffs.

Ice chips: A bunch of nameplates have changed in the locker room, but the core group  —  especially some of the maligned forwards  —  remains intact. … Claude Giroux will start the season playing left wing with Jake Voracek on the right side and Sean Couturier centering. Giroux, the team captain, has centered the first line for most of his career. … Brian Elliott replaced Steve Mason as one of the goalies alongside Michal Neuvirth.

Camera icon Yong Kim / Staff
Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux will start the season on the same line together, which is an interesting wrinkle. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer

 

New York Islanders

Last season: 94 points, 5th in division, missed playoffs by one point.

Ice chips: The Islanders will play their third season in Brooklyn, a location many of their core fans still hate, but a site where the Isles have played pretty well (47-23-12). … The more pertinent issue is the status of franchise star John Tavares, who can become a free agent next summer. Tavares, 27, is in his prime and has all the leverage.

 

New Jersey Devils

Last season: 70 points, 8th in division, worst team in the conference.

Ice chips: The Devils scored the fewest goals in the Eastern Conference and tied for most allowed. … All eyes are on No. 1 overall pick Nico Hischier. … Acquired Marcus Johansson (61 goals over last three seasons) from Washington. … Reliable fourth-line center Brian Boyle was diagnosed with early-stage chronic myeloid leukemia. Doctors think oral medication will be sufficient to treat Boyle.

 

Carolina Hurricanes

Last season: 87 points, 7th in division, no playoffs

Ice chips: Haven’t been to the postseason in eight years, the longest current drought in the league. Not surprisingly, the Hurricanes were last in attendance last season at an average of 11,776 per game. … In fact, three of the four teams with the lowest attendances are in this division: Carolina (30th), the Islanders (28th), and the Devils (27th). Arizona was 29th.

 

Atlantic Division

Toronto Maple Leafs

Last season: 95 points, 4th in division, lost in first round to Washington.

Ice chips: The Leafs are one of the most fun young teams in the league. It’ll be interesting to see if last year’s taste of the postseason means anything for this season. … Three of their top five scorers were under 21 years old, including Auston Matthews, who just turned 20 on Sept. 17. He was tied for second in the NHL with 40 goals and ran away with the rookie of the year award.

 

Tampa Bay Lightning

Last season: 94 points, 5th in division, missed playoffs by one point.

Ice chips: Will host the All-Star Game on Jan. 28. … Defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, 19, is ready to start contributing. He was the key piece in the deal that sent Jonathan Drouin to Montreal. … Steven Stamkos (knee) and Ryan Callahan (hip) both look healthy after missing extensive time with injuries.

 

Florida Panthers

Last season: 81 points, sixth in division, no playoffs.

Ice chips: Underachieved big-time last season, which led to Bob Boughner taking over as coach and Dale Tallon returning as general manager. … Chose not to re-sign Jaromir Jagr. … Top winger Jonathan Huberdeau, who missed the first 51 games because of injury during an exhibition game last year, had an excellent preseason.

 

Ottawa Senators

Last season: 98 points, 2nd in division, lost to Pittsburgh in conference finals.

Ice chips: The Senators were one of the best stories from last season. They pushed the Penguins to double overtime in Game 7 of the Eastern finals after not making the playoffs in 2015-16. … Star defenseman Erik Karlsson, who valiantly played through torn tendons in his ankle during the playoff run, is expected to be in the lineup for Thursday’s opener or shortly thereafter.

 

 

Boston Bruins

Last season: 95 points, third in division, lost to Ottawa in first round.

Ice chips: Possibly using two rookies among their top-six forwards with Anders Bjork on the first line and Jake DeBrusk on the second. … 40-year-old Zdeno Chara still anchors the defense, something coach Bruce Cassidy said isn’t an issue.  “Until he proves he can’t play, he’s our guy,” Cassidy told the Boston Herald. “I don’t see that happening anytime soon. He’s our shutdown guy.”

 

Buffalo Sabres

Last season: 78 points, last in division, no playoffs.

Ice chips: Took a slight step back from 81 points in 2015-16, which cost head coach Dan Bylsma his job. Phil Housley, a Hall of Fame defenseman who played for the Sabres from 1982-90, is an NHL head coach for the first time. … Young star Jack Eichel has 113 points in 142 games over his first two years, which he characterized as disappointing. “Two mediocre seasons on a losing team,” he grumbled.

 

Montreal Canadiens

Last season: 103 points, 1st in division, upset by Rangers in first round.

Ice chips: Forward Jonathan Drouin finally got out of Tampa Bay and landed in what could be hockey heaven (for him). French-Canadian stars in Montreal  —  Drouin was born in Quebec —  are part rock stars/part hockey players. … The Canadiens have posted 100 points in three of the last four years, but are dealing with a Stanley Cup drought that will reach 25 years this spring.

 

Detroit Red Wings

Last season: 79 points, 7th in division, snapped a 25-year run of postseason appearances.

Ice chips: Will play at Little Caesars Arena in downtown Detroit after 37 years at Joe Louis Arena, which had been the second-oldest NHL venue after Madison Square Garden.  … Goaltender Jimmy Howard noted that the boards aren’t nearly as lively as they were at the Joe. … The Flyers’ two games at the Pizza Joint are Jan. 23 and March 20  —  both Tuesdays.

 

Western Conference

In predicted order of finish

Central Division

Chicago Blackhawks

Last season: 109 points, 1st in division and conference, swept by Nashville in first round.

Ice chips: Chicago reacted to its first-round flop by dealing Artemi Panarin to Columbus for Brandon Saad, who was on two of their recent Cup-winning teams … Also back with the band is Patrick Sharp, who played on three Cup teams. He had a miserable year last season in Dallas and was signed as a free agent.

 

Dallas Stars

Last season: 79 points, 6th in division, no playoffs.

Ice chips: The Stars were among the most active teams in the offseason, led by the signings of goalie Ben Bishop (from Tampa Bay) and winger Alexander Radulov (from Montreal). … They brought back Ken Hitchcock as head coach. Hitchcock was the Stars coach from 1996-2002, winning the Cup in 1999. He was 45 when he first coached Dallas. He’ll be 66 in December.

 

Camera icon Tony Gutierrez / AP
Look who’s back behind the bench in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez).

 

 

Minnesota Wild

Last season: 106 points, 2nd in division, lost to St. Louis in first round.

Ice chips: Set a franchise record with 49 wins last year, but again couldn’t do any postseason damage. … Top-six forward Zach Parise continues to deal with a back injury that has contributed to his last two seasons being largely a disappointment. He has 30-goal capability if he can get himself healthy, but he’ll miss at least the first two games.

 

St. Louis Blues

Last season: 99 points, 3rd in division, lost to Nashville in second round.

Ice chips: Vladimir Tarasenko scored 39 goals last season often playing alongside Jori Lehtera, who was traded to the Flyers for Brayden Schenn. Tarasenko has scored 116 goals over the last three seasons, second only to Alex Ovechkin (136). … Schenn fans take note: The Flyers are at St. Louis on Nov. 2 and host the Blues on Jan. 6.

 

Nashville Predators

Last season: 94 points, 4th in division, last team from West to get into postseason, made it all the way to the Cup Finals.

Ice chips: Entering their 19th season and coming off the greatest run in team history. … Defenseman Roman Josi is the new team captain now that Mike Fisher has retired. He’s the second Swiss player to captain an NHL team. Former Islander Mark Streit was the first in 2011. Nashville GM David Poile calls Josi, “our Roger Federer.”

 

Winnipeg Jets

Last season: 87 points, 5th in division, no playoffs.

Ice chips: Have made the playoffs just once since moving from Atlanta before the 2011-12 season. … Steve Mason is the Jets’ primary goaltender.

 

Colorado Avalanche

Last season: 48 points, easily the fewest in all of hockey.

Ice chips: Center Matt Duchene wants to be traded and the team wants to deal him. Yeah, it’s awkward. … Colorado will play two games against Ottawa in Stockholm, Sweden, on Nov. 10-11. … Winger Nail Yakupov, the No. 1 overall pick in 2012, is with his third team in three years.

 

 

 

Pacific Division

Edmonton Oilers

Last season: 103 points, 2nd in division, lost to Anaheim in second round.

Ice chips: Connor McDavid became the first Oiler to win the NHL scoring title since you-know-who 30 years ago. McDavid, who turns 21 on Jan. 13, was signed to an eight-year, $100 million extension in July. His only visit to Philadelphia is Oct. 21.

 

Anaheim Ducks

Last season: 105 points, first in division, lost to Nashville in conference finals.

Ice chips: The Ducks have won five consecutive division titles and notched at least 100 points in each of the last four years, but they have not reached the Cup Finals since winning it all in 2007. … Corey Perry had just 19 goals last season and is due for a rebound.

 

Calgary Flames

Last season: 94 points, 4th in division, lost to Anaheim in first round.

Ice chips: Goaltender Mike Smith, 35, will take the place of Brian Elliott, who’s now a Flyer. … Johnny Gaudreau had (for him) only 18 goals in 72 games last season after posting 30 in 79 games the previous season. … TSN reported Monday that the Flames signed 45-year-old winger Jaromir Jagr to a one-year deal for $1 million. … Calgary started 5-10-1 last season, finished it 40-23-3.

 

San Jose Sharks

Last season: 99 points, 3rd in division, lost to Edmonton in first round.

Ice chips: This will be the first season in the 21st century that the Sharks will be without Patrick Marleau (signed by Toronto). … The early exit from the postseason allowed captain Joe Thornton to have knee surgery in April, which sped up recovery time.

 

Los Angeles Kings

Last season: 86 points, 5th in division, no playoffs.

Ice chips: Former Flyers coach John Stevens is the new head man in Los Angeles. He takes over a team that has missed the playoffs twice in the last three years and was knocked out in the first round the other time.

 

Arizona Coyotes

Last season: 70 points, 6th in division, no playoffs.

Ice chips: Former Penguins assistant (and Flyers legend) Rick Tocchet is the new head coach. … Rookie Clayton Keller has been impressive enough to see some time on the top line (with Derek Stepan and Max Domi) during the preseason. Keller, 19, was the seventh overall pick in 2016. … Shane Doan, who played 21 years for the franchise and was Coyotes captain since 2003-04, retired. Tocchet has not decided on a replacement. The Arizona Republic says he may just use a bunch of alternates.

 

Vancouver Canucks

Last season: 69 points, last in division, ended with an eight-game losing streak.

Ice chips: The Sedin twins turned 37 last week. Daniel was a minus-16 last season. Henrik was minus-27. … Bo Horvat was the Canucks’ only 20-goal scorer last season. As tough as the Pacific is, the arrow is certainly pointing down in Vancouver. … Good luck to rookie head coach Travis Green.

 

Vegas Golden Knights

Last season: Did not compete. The Golden Knights are the first team in the four major pro sports to be located in Las Vegas.

Ice chips: The team’s T-Mobile Center home is about two miles north of the Mandalay Bay casino complex. … The Golden Knights are owned by Bill Foley, a 72-year-old Texan who lived for a time in Canada while his father served in the Air Force. … George McPhee is the general manager. Kelly McCrimmon (Brad’s brother) and Murray Craven also hold top management positions. … Former Florida coach Gerard Gallant is the head coach and Pierre Eduoard-Bellemare, who was plucked from the Flyers in the expansion draft, already is establishing himself as one of the team’s leaders. … The Knights host the Flyers on Sunday, Feb. 11.