Surprises, disappointments, and predictions after the jammed-packed start of the NHL season
Lucas Carpignano, Contributor
It has been one month since the NHL regular season started and there has already been non-stop action. We’ve seen so many blown leads and comebacks which led to some fans being ecstatic, while other fans were beyond frustrated with their teams. Fans have also been given the privilege to witness some incredible starts for some unexpected players. Here are the biggest surprises, disappointments, and predictions after one month of NHL play!
The Erik Karlsson Renaissance
In his prime, Erik Karlsson was so dominant that many fans considered him the greatest defenseman of the early 2010s. During this time, he was awarded two Norris Trophies (for ‘defenseman of the year’) to help solidify this statement.
Karlsson spent his entire career with the Ottawa Senators, up until the 2018-2019 season, when he was traded to the San Jose Sharks. Since then, both Karlsson and the Sharks have struggled. Karlsson has been battling injuries, while the Sharks have missed the playoffs the past three seasons. This year, though, Karlsson looks like his old self again.
In just 13 games throughout this season, Karlsson has matched his goal total from last year with 10 and already has half the points he did last year. The Sharks are still struggling, but it has been reported that the Sharks are open to any trade offers for Karlsson.
The Last Dance Bruins
Going into the season, a lot of Boston Bruins fans were nervous. In June, it was announced that the Bruins had fired head coach Bruce Cassidy. This was a real head scratcher as Cassidy is one of the most respected coaches in the league. He spent six seasons with the Bruins as the head coach, and the Bruins had made the playoffs every year.
In addition to this, the Bruins were expected to start the season without key players Charlie McAvoy, Brad Marchand, and Matt Grzelcyk. Marchand has since returned and the Bruins have been red hot, topping the Atlantic Division standings.
Key players Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Brad Marchand are all entering their mid-to-late thirties, and might not have much time left to win another Stanley Cup together. Judging by their play so far this season though, it might just be the perfect ending.
Logan Thompson, The Knight In Shining Armour
When the Vegas Golden Knights announced that starting goaltender Robin Lehner was going to miss the entire season, it put a lot of fans into panic mode. That was until 25-year-old Logan Thompson started playing.
Having only played 20 NHL games prior to this year, it would make sense why fans were panicking. However, Thompson has proven to be a legitimate starting goaltender, helping the Knights climb the standings. He currently has a goals against average just above two while his save percentage is 0.934. These numbers put him with some of the best goaltenders in the league!
Price Ain’t Wright
Shane Wright had so much hype leading up to the NHL draft and was considered the guaranteed first-overall pick for months. When he was drafted fourth overall by the Seattle Kraken, hockey fans across the world were shocked.
It is not just his play that has been disappointing this season, but also the way the Kraken’s management is handling the situation. He is averaging just 8:00 minutes per game and has been a healthy scratch for several games. It wouldn’t be surprising if he finds his way to the AHL or back to the OHL. With all the hype that was built around him, it feels like the pressure is getting to him, and I hope to see him succeed beyond expectations in the near future.
Bruce Where Is It?
Last season, after a disappointing start, the Vancouver Canucks brought in Bruce Boudreau to fill in as head coach, and he instantly made an impact. Canuck fans fell in love with Boudreau and started the, now league known, chant “Bruce there it is” after every win.
This season, the Canucks currently sit near the bottom of the standings with embarrassing performances every game. The lack of effort makes this team hard to watch and I can understand why fans are getting frustrated. This season, the Canucks actually made NHL history as the first team to blow multi-goal leads and lose in four consecutive games. Hopefully, they are able to turn this around and make some changes soon.
Soup Has Gone Cold
After coming off a career-best season in Toronto, Jack Campbell was offered a five-year, 5 million dollar annual contract by the Edmonton Oilers. The expectation was that Campbell was going to be the starter for the Oilers, but he hasn’t been off to a great start.
So far this season, Campbell has a goals-against-average of four with a save percentage of 0.881. Campbell is currently being outperformed by the much cheaper and younger backup, Stuart Skinner. Skinner currently has a goals against average just above two and a save percentage of 0.944. I hope that Campbell can pick it up, or else he will be quite an expensive backup goaltender.
Connor McDavid Breaks 50 Goals
It is hard to believe that in McDavid’s seven years in the NHL so far, he hasn’t scored 50 goals yet, but this is his year to finally achieve this. McDavid is by far the most talented player in the league, and after getting 44 goals last season, he is bound to get 50.
Although McDavid has been known to be a playmaker, this season it seems like he is shooting the puck way more. He is currently averaging over a goal per game; if he keeps this up, 50 isn’t too unreasonable.
Kyle Dubas Is Bound To Shake Things Up
The Toronto Maple Leafs went through a rough span of games near the end of the month, and it’s only a matter of time before general manager Kyle Dubas does something to improve the team.
With Jake Muzzin’s health being a big question right now, Dubas may look at acquiring another defenseman to help strengthen the blue line. Being with the Leafs since 2019, he became a fan favourite and a huge piece of their defensive core. For the last few years, he’s been dealing with concussions and other injuries, and doctors are worried about the risks if he returns to the lineup.
The Eastern Conference Playoff Race Will Be The Closest We’ve Seen In Years
The off-season saw a lot of teams, especially in the eastern conference, improve their depth. One month into the season, and there are a lot of teams in the east meeting expectations, but a lot are going beyond expectations. Teams like the New Jersey Devils, Buffalo Sabres, and Philadelphia Flyers are performing way better than anyone expected. Over half of the conference have over a .500 point percentage.
In the month of October, close to 50 percent of all the games played were comeback wins. The NHL hasn’t seen a rate this high since the 1986-1987 season. This goes to show how tight the competition is, and how fast things can change.
Whether your favourite team or player is doing extraordinarily good or bad, it is still too early in the season to panic or celebrate. There remains lots of hockey to be played and anything can happen. However, it is never too early to hop on another team’s bandwagon.