The season for slinging pucks across the ice is upon us— and with it are many striking stories within the league. The NHL has officially started gliding into its 107th season with the Tampa Bay Lightning defeating the Nashville Predators 5–3 on Oct. 10. The Lightning kissed the cup back-to-back years, 2020 and 2021, with their aggressive and fast-paced offense routing all other teams that stepped in their way. However, the reigning champs reside on the opposite coast, the Las Vegas Golden Knights. The Knights also opened up their season on Oct. 10, making quick work of the Kraken and sending them back to Seattle with a score of 4–1. For several seasons before 2023, the Knights have been in an early exit from the playoffs but are looking to continue their recent success this year with Jack Eichel, the core player of the team. He has one goal, one assist, and two points on the season. Eichel led the team in the previous season in both categories, recording 27 goals and 39 assists. The Knights are 2–0 and seeking to repeat the auspicious season they had last year. Will the Golden Knights defend the throne from the opposing teams around the league?
Well, the odds from DraftKings sportsbook would say no. The top contenders to hoist the cup this year are the Colorado Avalanche and the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Avalanche are familiar with the taste of the Stanley Cup, having won it in 2022, and they’re seeking to drink from it again. The Avalanche have a fair amount of star power on their roster, including Nathan McKinnon. The center on the ice has gotten off to a good start this season with a goal and two assists to his name. The Avs were able to remain undefeated against the Sharks in a shootout this past Saturday, Oct. 14. They spoiled the 51-save game that the goalkeeper for the San Jose Sharks, Mackenzie Blackwood, was having. The Avs sit atop their division with two wins but are looking to build on this when playing the Kraken on Oct. 17. Skating over to the Eastern Conference, the team that has the second-best odds is the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs had a very productive off-season in free agency, bringing in some new faces. They signed Max Domi and Tyler Bertuzzi to strengthen and round out their core offense. Domi signed a one-year deal worth up to $3.3 million and Bertuzzi made it official by inking one year worth $5.5 million. Although both should contribute heavily to the offense this year, the Leafs won their first playoff series in 2023 after 10 years of only making it to the first round of the postseason. This statistic is utterly baffling and also depressing. The Leafs have endured an abundance of sports fandom heartache through the years. However, Leafs fans can remain optimistic that the moves Brad Treliving made in the off-season will be enough for them to lift the 35 pound silver cup at the end of June.
Now, it’s time to acknowledge one of the hottest names in hockey— Connor Bedard. The 18-year-old from North Vancouver is a household name for hockey fans across the nation right now. Drafted first overall to the Chicago Blackhawks, Bedard has scored one goal and recorded one assist in his first two games. He scored his first and the team’s only goal in their 3–1 loss against the Bruins on Oct. 11. Bedard is the third youngest player in Blackhawks history to score a goal, the youngest being Bep Guidolin at the age of 16. Bedard returned to his home country on Oct. 14 to face off against the Montreal Canadiens and chalked in an assist in the 3–2 loss. The loss may be the overarching story of the game, but Bedard will remain in the spotlight on the Chicago ice for the remainder of the season. The Blackhawks last made the playoffs in 2020 and won in 2015. The puck game in Chicago has not been up to par the past couple of seasons, earning the number one pick in the 2023 draft with a record of 28–42. Although they have tremendous offensive talent in Bedard, the Blackhawks are still rebuilding and filling in other pieces of the puzzle. The key components for them this season and off-season will be to keep Bedard healthy, attain a good pick in the draft, and preserve their cap space for signings.
There has been recent controversy surrounding the NHL relating to banning pride tape usage on sticks. In June, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman pronounced the NHL would scrap the idea of alternate-specialty-themed jerseys. This includes jerseys for Hockey Fights Cancer, Black History, and Military Appreciation jerseys. Many fans, players, and the hockey media are very disappointed with the decision of the NHL. Conflicting opinions are circulating the league, including players who want to apply the tape in support and those sitting out in protest. Boston Bruins winger Brad Marchand reacted to the ban stating, “There’s got to be a line where we can all have our beliefs and support each other and be okay and not have tension. Just unfortunate we can’t find common ground. It’s tough when you can’t win either way.” This discerning statement from Marchand sums up the feelings of many NHL players right now. The situation has cast a dreary light on the center ice to start the season but hopefully, the tension will be resolved soon amongst players, owners, and fans.