Welcome to Puck Drop Preview 2015-16, where our hockey department gives you a detailed look at each team from around the NHL leading to the start of this hockey season and offers our insight and analysis. So far in the series we’ve looked at each of the 30 NHL teams, as well as predicted where each team would finish in their conference. You can check out all our articles on our Puck Drop Page.
That leaves us with just one last piece of business to attend to: your 2015-16 Stanley Cup champion.
It’s never easy predicting a Stanley Cup champion this early in the season. There is more parity in the league than ever, and there are a number of teams with rosters capable of making deep playoff runs. Not to mention how much of an impact an injury or a trade could have, as well as getting the right bounces.
Will the Chicago Blackhawks repeat as champions, continue alternating with the Los Angeles Kings, or will there be a new winner this year? We asked members of our hockey department who they think will win and why. Here are the results.
Los Angeles Kings – 3 votes
Ben Kerr (@): The Kings barely missed the playoffs one year ago, in a season filled with distraction. It appears that those distractions have been dealt with this year and the team should be back to their winning ways. Adding Milan Lucic was a big move that gives them additional offense while fitting into the team’s style of play. Christian Ehrhoff bolsters the blue line. They will also get some additions from a Calder Cup winning AHL team, and it looks like Jordan Weal is ready to take over the third line. Add these to a strong core that still has Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick, and the Kings could be crowned again.
Brandon Altomonte (@): Bringing in Milan Lucic bolsters the top line. Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson should take strides forward, making the second line better. Losing Jarret Stoll and Mike Richards hinders the bottom six, but there’s enough depth in the system to replace them. The defence took a hit with Andrej Sekera leaving, Robyn Regehr retiring, and of course with Slava Voynov’s situation. The addition of Christian Ehrhoff, as well as a bigger role for Brayden McNabb, should help remedy those losses. Jonathan Quick always gives them a chance in net, and Jhonas Enroth is a more than capable backup. Not exactly the recipe of a championship team, but they should be good enough to make the playoffs, which might be all they need. We’ve seen in the past what they’re capable of doing in the post season, and this time they’ve had an entire summer off to rest. With Anze Kopitar’s contract up at season’s end, GM Dean Lombardi knows his best chance to win is now, before Kopitar’s extension eats up more of their cap space. There’s a good chance they go all in this year, and if they do, they’ll be tough to beat.
Washington Capitals – 1 vote
Ken Hill (@): After all the hand-wringing in Washington over Alex Ovechkin and him team being unable to advance in the playoffs, “The Great 8” finally has a strong enough supporting cast around him to contend for the title. With the addition of T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams, plus Braden Holtby’s ascent to superstar goalie status, the Capitals will finally bring home the Stanley Cup for the first time since their inception.
Anaheim Ducks – 1 vote
Tyler Shea (@): The Ducks are coming off back to back 50 win seasons and this year should be no different. They got as far as the Conference Finals in 2014-15, before being dispatched by the eventual Stanley Cup champs in 7 games. The Ducks made some solid offseason moves by adding Carl Hagelin, Chris Stewart, Kevin Bieksa, and Shawn Horcoff. The excellent goaltending duo of Frederik Andersen and John Gibson will be the most important part of the season. If they can play as well as last year, then a Cup is definitely in the cards for the Ducks.
Tampa Bay Lightning – 1 vote
Chris Dales (@LWOS_Cdales): Tampa finished last season 5 points behind the President’s Trophy winning New York Rangers, they scored more goals than anyone else (259) and they pushed the Chicago Blackhawks to 6 games in the Stanley Cup Final, 5 of which were decided by one goal. The Lightning are highly skilled, incredibly fast, their steady blue-line boasts one of the league’s top D-men (prediction: Hedman wins the Norris this year) and a Vezina caliber goaltender. The Lightning also possess a well stocked pipeline of prospects — if the injury bug hits this season, capable replacements are available. The one thing last year’s Lightning lacked is exactly what the 2014-15 season has provided them with … experience. While the Lightning were good last year, they relied heavily on players, at all positions, without a lot of NHL regular season or playoff experience. That will not be the case this year, as the Lightning are set open the 2015-16 season with a roster that is basically unchanged from a year ago. This year’s Tampa Bay Lightning squad will be just as fast, just as skilled, but more experienced and more hungry. They are perfectly primed to be serious cup contenders in June and for years to come — just so long as Steven Stamkos doesn’t take his services to TO.
Our consensus predicts that the Los Angeles Kings will be your 2015-16 Stanley Cup champions. Considering recent history, and their playoff performances, the Kings could very well win again this year. All of the teams mentioned here have a legitimate chance, as do others that didn’t receive votes such as the Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers, and Montreal Canadiens.
Who’s YOUR Stanley Cup pick? Will the Cup stay in the West again, or will it finally go to the East? Feel free to let us know in the comments below, or tweet to any of our writers. We’d love to hear what you have to say!