There used to be some teams in the NHL that I wouldn't be afraid of playing against. But after a few GMs took it to the max during Free Agent Frenzy, I'm not so sure what to think of clubs who used to be write-offs. I've put all this time into learning about the NHL and being able to name all thirty teams in less than a day, and remembering that there are thirty teams and not thirty-two, and then July comes along and hockey players find new homes and I'm back at square one. Did you know that the Kings are pretty good? When I started watching hockey, they were garbage. It's true. I read it on Wikipedia.
A few teams have made some major changes during the last couple of weeks, and now there's quite a good chance that they'll pose a threat to the rest of the NHL.
St. Louis might have us singing the... well, you know. Their most obvious change occurred when Pierre Gauthier decided to pick up a few young players and trade a goalie for them. Remember when that happened? Then you might also remember that this season proved that when a goalie is good enough, he can carry his team on his back and take them pretty far. (The opposite is also true. But it's one or the other, nothing in between.) I wouldn't be surprised if just acquiring Jaroslav Halak is going to make the Blues a great team.
Remember the last All-Star Game, when Keith Tkachuk was invited so that Blues fans could see one of their players and not feel left out, like when you had to invite your whole kindergarten class to your birthday, even that girl who cried if her grape juice was too cold? Those days might be over.
No more sympathy All-Star invites for the St. Louis Blues!
Struck by Lightning. As if having dynamite Steve Yzerman wasn't enough, Tampa Bay took away our future coach and a goalie we could have had. Okay, Ellis only belonged to the Habs for like three hours, but Guy Boucher and his francophone players might have something to prove when they encounter the Canadiens.
The fact that Martin St. Louis is staying in Tampa will be great for the team if he continues to assist Steven Stamkos, literally and figuratively.
The Ottawa Senators... um, a pun about legislation. Sergei Gonchar is good, and was denied the Stanley Cup this year thanks to a little team we all know and love, so he probably won't like us very much next year. Add to that the law of probability dictating that Alex Kovalev will have a great season, and we've got some intense games in store for us this year.
By the way, now that he's not in Montreal anymore, do we go back to calling him "Alexei"?
The Oilers could cause more problems than BP. As if it wasn't bad enough that the Habs are usually jet-lagged or something when they arrive in Edmonton, the Oilers seem to have a shot at being the complete opposite of last year's Oilers. Taylor Hall will probably spend no time with the farm teams, and it's been said that he'd make a great linemate for Jordan Eberle, who you probably forgot was the property of one of the NHL's saddest teams. If these two live up to the hype it'll be like Kane and Toews all over again, but hopefully we can prevent Taylor Hall from collecting arrest warrants and showgirls.
Nashville makes us prey. Sergei Kostitsyn's got a shot at a career renaissance with the Nashville Predators. He's got a pretty good team supporting him, an old teammate offering to keep an eye on him, and he'll be playing in a hockey market that's not huge, so he'll have to work to get attention. I wouldn't be surprised if the Latendresse effect set in and Sergei returned to his fine rookie form, taking full advantage of his speed and talent. The Habs will probably have to be even more careful around him than Nashville's division rivals, because Sergei's passion will probably translate to some kind of serious ass-kicking against the city that disowned him.
Also Matthew Lombardi keeps getting better and better and Phoenix should never have let him go.
We'll have to see what happens, I guess.