Storylines aplenty at start of new NHL season | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaStorylines aplenty at start of new NHL season

Posted: Tuesday, October 1, 2013 | 01:30 PM

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Will coach John Tortorella, whose demanding ways wore thin in New York with the Rangers, push the Canucks back to playoff success? That remains to be seen, according to CBCSports.ca senior hockey writer Tim Wharnsby, and a big reason why the Vancouver situation will be such a compelling story during the upcoming NHL season. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press) Will coach John Tortorella, whose demanding ways wore thin in New York with the Rangers, push the Canucks back to playoff success? That remains to be seen, according to CBCSports.ca senior hockey writer Tim Wharnsby, and a big reason why the Vancouver situation will be such a compelling story during the upcoming NHL season. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

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As always, there is plenty of intrigue with the new NHL season upon us. Here are 10 storylines to consider.

The curtain will be raised on the 2013-14 National Hockey League season Tuesday evening with the 720th regular season meeting between the Maple Leafs and Canadiens in Montreal (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 6:30 p.m. ET).

Also Tuesday, the Stanley Cup banner ceremony will take place in Chicago, when the Blackhawks host Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals. The Dallas Eakins era begins in Edmonton with the Oilers entertaining the Winnipeg Jets (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 10 p.m. ET).

As always, there is plenty of intrigue with the new season upon us. Here are 10 storylines to consider:

Mount Tortorella

Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis made a bold move to hire cranky head coach John Tortorella. Will Tortorella, whose demanding ways wore thin in his gig with the New York Rangers, push the Canucks back to playoff success? That remains to be seen and a big reason why the Vancouver situation will be such a compelling story.

Sidebar: Outgoing Canucks coach Alain Vigneault assumed Tortorella's old job with the Rangers. We'll see if the Blueshirts can improve under the former Vancouver coach.

Luongo's comeback

More added intrigue in Vancouver is the Roberto Luongo situation. He thought he was a goner from the Canucks. But after Gillis shipped out Cory Schneider instead, Luongo will try to rebuild his status as the team's No. 1.

Sidebar: An eye will be kept on how Schneider performs with the New Jersey Devils and no doubt comparisons will be made to Luongo's adventures.

Devil's Own

Speaking of the Devils, will this be the final season for 41-year-old goalie Martin Brodeur? The all-time leader in wins (669), shutouts (121) and games played (1,220), Brodeur is in the final year of the two-year contract he signed last summer.

Sidebar: Patrick Roy is back in the NHL as a rookie coach with the Colorado Avalanche. Plenty argue that Roy, a four-time Stanley Cup-winning goalie, was better despite all of Brodeur's records.

Olympic roster race

The first three months of the NHL season will determine who cracks the Canadian Olympic roster for executive director Steve Yzerman and head coach Mike Babock. The locks? How about Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Jonathan Toews, Ryan Getzlaf, Claude Giroux, Eric Staal, Rick Nash, Patrice Bergeron, Duncan Keith, Drew Doughty and Shea Weber? After those stars, the race is wide open.

Sidebar: The goalie position will be most interesting for Canada. The three goalies likely will come from a group that includes Luongo, Carey Price, Mike Smith, Braden Holtby, Corey Crawford or Marc-Andre Fleury?

Alfie's absence

Even after a full training camp it is still strange to see Daniel Alfredsson in a Detroit Red Wings sweater. The hockey world was shocked when Alfredsson decided to sever his long-term ties with the Ottawa Senators three months ago. He returns to Ottawa on Dec. 1.

Sidebar: The Red Wings and Senators just happen to be in the same division with the realignment. Which team will have more points in the end?

New rules

The players and league decided on Monday to implement hybrid icing. To sum up, hybrid icing allows linesmen to whistle an automatic icing if he determines the puck will cross the goal line with the defensive player ahead of the attacking player at the defensive zone faceoff dots. If the attacking player leads the race, the linesman will allow play to continue.

When the puck is rimmed around the end boards, the linesman will whistle an icing if the defensive player is winning the race to the puck, but if the attacking player is ahead of his opponent the puck the play will continue.

Sidebar: Streamlined goalie pads, no tucked-in sweaters, helmets can't be removed for fights, mandatory visors for players with 25 games or less of experience, players with visors now can instigate fights, attainable pass wiped out, language changed in Rule 48 that deals with headshots and shallower nets are other rule changes.

2014 free-agent watch

Maple Leafs sniper Phil Kessel avoided being a season sideshow by signing an eight-year extension worth a reported $64-million US extension on Tuesday. There are plenty of potential unrestricted free agents trying to follow suit, including Kessel's Toronto teammate, Dion Phaneuf. Some of the bigger potential 2014 UFAs include: Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Jarome Iginla, Andrei Markov, Brian Gionta, Alfredsson, Mike Cammalleri, Jason Pominville, Henrik Lundqvist, Ryan Miller, Thomas Vanek, Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Dan Boyle, Paul Stastny, Olli Jokinen, Kimmo Timonen, Derek Roy, Tim Thomas, Brooks Orpiik and Milan Michalek.

Sidebar: With the Kessel signing, here are the highest salary cap hits for the 2014-15 season when his extension clicks in next year: Alex Ovechkin ($9.5 million), Evgeni Malkin ($9.5 million), Crosby ($8.7 million), Giroux ($8.3 million), Getzlaf ($8.25 million), Eric Staal ($8.25 million) and Kessel ($8 million).

Canada's best

For the past few seasons, the Canucks have been this country's top hope to win the first Stanley Cup since the 1992-93 Canadiens. But the Senators were the only Canadian team to advance to the second round of the playoffs last spring. Who will be the best this year? The Canucks, Senators, Canadiens and Maple Leafs are the contenders.

Sidebar: How many Canadian-based teams will make the playoffs. Last time five Canadian teams made the Stanley Cup tournament was in 2004 when the Flames Canucks, Senators, Habs and Maple Leafs all made it to the post-season.

The kids in Edmonton

The young and playoff-less Edmonton Oilers have not advanced to the post-season since they stretched the Carolina Hurricanes to Game 7 in the 2005-06 Stanley Cup final. The seven-year post-season absence is the longest current streak of futility in the NHL. Can new head coach Dallas Eakins and the young Oilers change this trend?

Sidebar: Detroit has the longest active playoff streak at 22 years. The record is 29, held by the Boston Bruins from 1967-68 through 1995-96.

Outdoor mania

This season there will be six outdoor games in order capitalize on the popularity of these big stadium games and increase the hockey-related revenues lost from the four-month lockout a year ago. Here is the schedule:

  • Jan. 1 - Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium, Maple Leafs at Detroit
  • Jan. 25 - Dodger Stadium, Anaheim at Los Angeles
  • Jan. 26 - Yankee Stadium, New Jersey at N.Y. Rangers
  • Jan. 29 - Yankee Stadium, N.Y. Islanders at N.Y. Rangers
  • Mar. 1 - Soldier Field, Pittsburgh at Chicago
  • Mar. 2 - Heritage Classic at B.C. Place, Ottawa at Vancouver

Sidebar: The Canucks become the first team to host a game in a retractable roof stadium. The roof will be open at B.C. Place Stadium if the weather cooperates. If not, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daily said last summer "it'll be a covered facility. We hope that's not the case."

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