It’s Halloween weekend, and while this year is a little different, there’s still joy in the mystique and ambiance of the annual day of the ghosts and ghouls.
With that in mind, we are two months away from the target date for the start of the 2020-21 NHL season, so here are the five scariest teams in the Eastern Conference.
5. Maple Leafs
For a while it seemed like the Leafs were headed for salary cap problems, and they still may be, but they’ve managed to get creative. Offseason additions Joe Thornton, Wayne Simmonds and Zach Bogosian will bring some veteran leadership, which this team has seemed to lack over the last few seasons. Also, this will be the first full season under head coach Sheldon Keefe, who took over for Mike Babcock during last season. A lot of the faces are the same, but this could be a new era for Toronto.
This has been a scary offseason for the Bruins. They went after Taylor Hall and came up short, with Hall electing to sign a short-term deal with the Buffalo Sabres. Add to that Torey Krug, the quarterback of their power play, going to St. Louis. The Bruins still have arguably the best top line in hockey with David Pastrnak-Patrice Bergeron-Brad Marchand, however, it’s hard to imagine the Bruins don’t take a little step backward. Of course, there’s also the issue of goaltender Tuukka Rask, who began playing in the bubble but eventually opted out, leaving Jaroslav Halak as the starting goaltender. It remains to be seen if that has any trickle-down effect.
The Flyers are an interesting case; they perhaps have the least amount of upheaval and change. It seems odd to say that when they had a top-pair defenseman retire very early in the offseason. The Flyers did sign Erik Gustafsson, a veteran defenseman to help fill that void. In terms of the forwards, the Flyers could be adding Oskar Lindblom and Nolan Patrick back into their regular lineup, which doesn’t cost any additional money and will help their depth immensely. The Flyers also will be entering Year 3 of Carter Hart between the pipes, and Hart’s experience in the playoff bubble surely will only enhance his game. The Flyers are a team to watch out for in the East.
The Capitals were not messing around this offseason. Yes, they did say goodbye to Stanley Cup-winning goaltender Braden Holtby, but they brought in "The King" Henrik Lundqvist to be both a backup goaltender and to help bring along young goalie Ilya Samsonov. The Capitals also hired former Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette. Washington has been chasing its tail a bit since Barry Trotz left for the Islanders after winning a Stanley Cup, and now it has an experienced winning coach back behind the bench. Winning early in his tenure is a staple of Laviolette’s teams (Hurricanes/Flyers/Predators). Washington also addressed its blue-line depth, bringing in Justin Schultz and Trevor van Riemsdyk. Oh, and they also still have Alex Ovechkin.
The Stanley Cup champs are the Stanley Cup champs. They have one of the best scorers in the NHL (Nikita Kucherov) and maybe the best defenseman in the NHL (Victor Hedman) — and those are just two of their assets. Tampa could be adding a healthy Steven Stamkos back to its lineup, as well, and Andrei Vasilevskiy is without a doubt one of the top goaltenders in the NHL. The Lightning do have serious cap issues, so there will be some changes coming, but you know what they say: the champs are the champs until someone knocks them off.