Is this the year Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals finally make a deep playoff run? How will the Vancouver Canucks bounce back from the disappointment of losing Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final on home ice?
Will the San Jose Sharks continue to be a regular season powerhouse and playoff failure? Can James Reimer repeat his stellar rookie campaign and lead the Toronto Maple leafs back to the postseason?
The puck drops on the 2011-12 NHL season Thursday night, with so many questions facing every team in the league. Join us here Wednesday at noon ET for a live discussion with Globe and Mail hockey reporters Matthew Sekeres and James Mirtle. They’ll take your questions and offer up a prediction or two on the season ahead.
If you’d like to send in a question in advance, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is globesports.com editor Darren Yourk. Matthew Sekeres and James Mirtle will be here at noon ET.
Good morning from the West Coast. I'm more comfortable taking your Western Conference questions, am sure James can handle all things EC (and beyond). But having said that, let me say this: I like the direction the Leafs are heading.
Never thought I would say that after that ridiculous Kessel trade, but Liles, Lombardi, Franson, Steckel...I think they could sneak into the playoffs, particularly if Frattin, Gardiner and some young players blossom this year.
Matt, could you maybe get us started by telling us where you think the Canucks are mentally after last season's Game 7 loss at home. Can they bounce back?
I wonder how motivated they are given that Game 7 was just a few months ago, and that there is very little intrigue to the regular season. Think they'll have another 100-point season and win the Northwest.
Could be a slow start, though
I see them ABP (Anywhere But Phoenix). Quebec makes a lot of sense if they get the rink built in time.
Alvin: I think even the closest observers of the Coyotes story would confess they have no idea. That story has taken so many twists and turns that it’s impossible to say what will happen next. I will tell you that Roy MacGregor believes he’ll be in Quebec City writing about the return of the Nordiques sooner than later.
I think Sid is going to miss at least 10 games and score at least 70 points. And I hope no one targets his head with a check, because he's the NHL's meal ticket.
JP: Even if you’re not a Crosby fan, having him back and healthy is good for the game. I hope he’s back and tearing it up like he was last season before the injury, but the most important thing is he returns soon and stays healthy.
The main thing to like about Connolly is he's a considerable upgrade over what they had. That's really it.
The Leafs badly needed depth, especially down the middle.
And Connolly was a solid player on a lot of decent Buffalo teams. The huge question is his health. His injury right now, though, is very minor.
I like the young players they've added via the draft and trades
. I like the offensive potential of the new D-men. I think Grabovski, Kulemin, Kadri and Bozak could improve this year.
Connolly is not a No. 1 C. That remains a weaknesses, but the team around that position is better to my eyes (I'd defer to Mirtle, though).
Whilygyro: You could also argue Connolly was the best thing available considering Richards wasn't going to come to Toronto. Perfect fit? No. Likely to be hurt? Already is. Not sure what else Burke could have done.
Grabovski's basically the No. 1 centre.
Sturm has looked healthy, and that's most important. He's also smiling at all times, so that's a good indication that his battered knee is A-OK. Think he could quite easily score 20 goals alongside Kesler if he stays healthy, and that's good value for $2.25M
@Andy A Boy, pretty hard to package a bunch of third line talents for a first line player. What they'd like to add is a big forward to play either in Lupul or Connolly's spot. That says to me Burke's worried about his scoring depth - again.
Lupul would be the one I would bump down the lineup. They may be able to get a LW with size if they give up Gunnarsson and Bozak. I wouldn't expect anything immediately.
Goose13: Great question. It makes no sense. Should have kept Zigomanis to take face-offs and kill penalties (Mirtle is shaking his head right now)
@goose13 It appears to me that Orr is going to sit in the press box some nights this year. That'd be a change.
@Dan Mac To me, Buffalo looks a little bit better. Challenging Boston is going to be the tough part. The biggest reason I think the Sabres will be better, though, is that Ryan Miller will have a better year.
I think the Sabres will win the Northeast. Miller should bounce back, Ehrhoff is good for 40-plus pts and should improve the PP. They've got some young players who could really bolster depth. And then there's Myers, who looks like a future Norris winner.
@Miss lyss Right now, it looks like Nugent-Hopkins.
Adam Larsson is going to play a lot of minutes in NJ, get some PP time.
He's going to centre the 2nd line while Kesler is out, play with Sturm and Samuelsson. He looks great, seems more confident than previous camps, I think the time is now.
@Alex in Wonderland My guess would be Gordon temporarily and see how they do. He's got head coaching experience and, IMO, did pretty well with little talent on Long Island.
I'm on my way into the dressing room at practice here. Thanks for all the questions.