This past 2021-2022 National Hockey League season was one for the ages. We saw the Vegas Golden Knights get hit with both the karma and injury bug, the Colorado Avalanche go on a historic run to win their first championship in over two decades, and the Toronto Maple Leafs lost in the first round of the playoffs again. With the 2022-2023 season upon us, I am here to state my 5 hottest takes. Come back in March 2023 and laugh at me for this.
1. Boston and Florida Miss Playoffs
This hurts me as a Boston Bruins I have my reasons to doubt this season, even though this hurts me deeply as a Boston Bruins fan. Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci are returning on a bargained $3.5 million dollars split between the two, and their depth continues to blossom with pieces like Marc McLaughlin, Fabian Lysell, and newcomer Pavel Zacha being acquired from the New Jersey Devils for Erik Haula. Their goaltending tandem of Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark give each other hugs as much as they make saves, putting up a .915 save percentage each. This team has the pieces to win, and has dominated over the past years; however, they also have two major problems. They are injury prone, and they are old. Their average roster age is 27.7, placing them ninth in the league for average age. It caught up to them this past season, losing to the younger and faster Carolina Hurricanes who they swept just four years prior. Facing injuries to players such as Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy, and Matt Grzelyck who are all expected to be out until late November hurts this squad.
For the Florida Panthers, they are coming off a regular season they won't forget and a playoff run they hope not to recall. After being embarrassingly swept by the eventual Eastern Conference Champion Tampa Bay Lightning, the Panthers felt the offseason chaos of departing talent, with players such as Claude Giroux, Ben Chiarot, and Mason Marchment leaving for greener paths. With that said, they were able to acquire the unicorn of hockey in Matthew Tkachuk from the Calgary Flames, but it cost them Johnathan Huberdeau, Mackenzie Weegar, prospect Cole Schwindt, and a 2025 first-round pick. With an unreliable starting goaltender, the Panthers are doomed to fall.
2. Vancouver Canucks Win Pacific Division
Before the firing of head coach Travis Green, the Canucks looked lost. They were sitting 9-15-2 and were 3-9-1 in the final 13 games of Green's tenure with the team. They sat seventeenth in the league for powerplay success rate with 17.4%. It felt like this team had no structure, sitting seventh in the division.
Then the Canucks made the best decision of their season, getting rid of both Green and general manager Jim Benning for new voices by hiring Patrik Allvin as general manager and Bruce Boudreau By hiring Patrik Allvin as general manager and Bruce Boudreau as head coach, the Canucks made the best decision of their season. Boudreau improved the Canucks to 40-30-12, and the team played at 106 points per game under the new management.
Previous general manager Jim Benning had a tendency to sign bad contracts in free agency. With new management, they signed depth pieces like forward Curtis Lazar and defenseman Wyatt Kalynuk to improve a penalty kill that finished 30th in the league. The team also managed to ink right winger Brock Boeser to a 3 year deal with an average annual value of $6.65 million dollars. With a division that is wide open, it's not impossible to see this young Canucks team take a leap and be a dark horse contender.
3. Patrik Laine Will Finish Top 5 In MVP Voting
Laine is one of the most polarizing players in the league, being openly criticized by the media and by teammates. Former head coach John Tortorella notoriously spoke out against Laine's lack of work ethic and pride. While Laine has always had that shoot-first mentality, Tortorella's defensive style clashed with the offensive side of the game that Laine thrived in.
Another main issue comes with his linemates. Laine has always been an offensive machine but seemed to find himself slotted with more defensively structured players. On the Jets, he was playing with center Blake Wheeler, who lead the league in the 2018-2019 regular season for most defensive zone takeaways, with 43. Moving to the Eastern Conference hasn't helped him, as Laine now plays with a two-way forward in Jakub Voracek, who had 47 goals per 60 powerplays, the lowest in the league in terms of forwards.
To say the least, Laine has yet to reach his full potential, as he has never played with a game-breaking talent. That all changed when the Blue Jackets struck gold by signing the premium Johnny "Hockey" Gaudreau for a bargained seven-year deal worth an average annual value of $9.65 million dollars. With a forward who is coming off an impressive 115-point season, Laine is bound to break out and be a candidate for MVP this upcoming season.
4. Patrick Kane and Johnathan Toews Go To The Same Team
I bet Seth Jones is feeling very ambitious about the future of the Chicago Blackhawks. This year is going to be a mess for the dead dynasty, who has begun a rebuild the only way they know how: by shipping off every young asset and making their superstars upset. Future Hall of Famers Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are coming up on the final year of their eight-year, $10.5 million dollar per year deals.
For the former, Patrick Kane still produces as a superstar talent, scoring 92 points to finish 14th in the league, on a team that finished 27th in terms of goals against average, with a whopping 3.29. For the latter, Toews is definitely not the player he once was. When he was on the ice, he scored 37 points, but his defensive metrics suffered, finishing with a -14 and 1.41 goals against average when he was on the ice.
With that said, there is no reason why the stars won't stick together. Teams like the New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabers are in desperate need of experience and help, and would definitely find the cap space to sign both players. Considering their experience in 3 cup runs and their scoring abilities, it's not impossible to imagine them sticking together until the end of their careers.
5. Leafs Goalies Win William M. Jennings
The Toronto Maple Leafs are the epitome of bad luck, as they were forced to play the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the playoffs this past season. Although they took the series to seven games, the Leafs' goaltending tandem of Jack Campbell proved not to be enough, and the team decided to clean house and get two fresh faces to guard the cage.
The first is two-time Stanley Cup winner, Matt Murray. Yes, that is how I will be introducing him, thank you very much. He finished this past season with 3.2 goals saved above expected. Although he carried 3.05 goals against average, this was done with a young struggling Ottawa defense that finished 26th in the NHL with the most shots against per game, with 33.41 shots against per game.
The second is previous Washington Capitals goalie Illya Samsonov, whom they let go without making him an offer. This past season was poor for Samsonov, who had goals saved above expected with -12.1, along with a goals against average of 3.02 in 44 games for the Capitals. Like the Leafs, the Capitals wanted new blood for their goaltending.
With those statistics out of the way, however, these two players have proven they can play in this league and be a dominating aspect of a game. Matt Murray's best season was in 2018-2019 when he put up 2.69 goals against average and goals saved above expected of 1.4. For Samsonov, his best season came in 2019-2020, when he put up goals saved above expected of 2.3, and a goals against average of 2.50. These two players will make this Leafs' team dangerous if they can play at that quality.