We are a little more than a month away from the 2023 NHL regular season and if last year’s was any indication, this season should entertain and enthrall like no other.
On October 10th the NHL gets going with three good games:
Nashville Predators @ Tampa Bay Lighting
Chicago Blackhawks @ Pittsburg Penguins
Seattle Kraken @ Las Vegas Golden Knights
The Preds and Lightning will no doubt showcase some good hockey and surely the Stnaley Cup Champion Golden Knights will put on a show in Vegas but the entire hockey world will be tuning into the Blackhawks and Penguins when their tilt is underway. Obviously that’s for one reason and one reason only.
Bedard was the number 1 overall pick selected by the Chicago Blackhawks in the recent NHL draft and all eyes will be on him in his first NHL season. He’s been touted as a generational talent and franchise altering player. One that the lowly Blackhawks are hoping will take them back to the Stanley Cup one day. Bedard recorded 100 points in his 2021-2022 season with the Regina Pants and then an astounding 143 points in his 2022-2023 season, thrusting him into the media spotlight. He’s a clear cut offensive machine and in his first game, the 18 year old will be going up against the 36 year old and future hall of famer Sydney Crosby. The Matchup of Connor Bedard and his idol Sydney Crosby seems to be a sort of passing of the torch moment. From long time NHL superstar Sid the Kid to future young game breaker Connor Bedard. Don’t get me wrong though, Crosby still has a lot left in the tank unfortunately…(Go Flyers).
The addition of Bedard means that the 2023 season for the Chicago Blackhawks will almost certainly be dissected and scrutinized to no end. The Hockey Media world will no doubt have this team under a microscope and Bedard along with them. Seeing how he adjusts to the NHL game and progresses as the long season goes on will be vital to the future of the Blackhawks franchise.
Another team with such an important season lying in wait is the Toronto Maple Leafs. We all know the jokes by now. We all know the history. The Leafs just can’t seem to put it together when the playoffs roll around. Leafs fans were teased when, for the first time since 2004, the Leafs won round 1 and knocked off the Tampa Bay Lightning last postseason. Only to then be eliminated by the Florida Panthers. It was wondered if the “Core 4” of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and John Tavares would remain intact for the upcoming season. This group tallied a little over half of the team’s goals in the last 5 years. Dismantling this group would clearly be franchise altering for Toronto.
However, it seems they want to run it back at least one more time as Auston Matthews signed a 4 year $53 million contract extension with the Maple Leafs. Sure it’s not exactly long term and maybe that is the point in Matthews’ camp, but it keeps the superstar in Toronto and helped calm down a justifiably disgruntled fan base. I’m of the belief that the 2023-2024 season will prove to be a watershed moment for the Maple Leafs. Another early playoff exit should spell the end of the “Core 4”. You can only try so many times until changes need to be made. The talents of Nylander, Marner and Tavares can not be understated but for one reason or another they haven’t gotten it done. Will this be the year? I’m sure Leaf’s fans are pretty sick of wondering.
Another clear franchise that has to get over the hump is the Edmonton Oilers. It probably doesn’t have to be said but when you have the best player in the world along with what some would say the 2nd best player, a championship has to be won. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are absolute superstars. Having two players on your team both in the running for MVP is unbelievable but that’s what Edmonton boasts. After falling to the Golden Knights 4 games to 2, a lot of questions sparked up. The biggest one had to be goaltending.
There’s always the potential for Stuart Skinner to improve, however I think the Oilers are in desperate need of star goaltending. Skinner recorded 5 wins and 6 losses in the playoffs with a 0.883 sv%. This next season will surely be a huge test for the net-minder to see if the Oilers will ride with their guy or possibly explore the trade market mid season.
Regardless of the goalie situation, we are sure to see another fantastic season from Connor McDavid. The MVP had 64 goals last season and a total of 153 points and like Matthews in Toronto, McDavid is rumored to be extended by Edmonton and most likely be the highest paid player in the league. And again like Matthews, has yet to win it all. Two of the NHL’s biggest stars have not hoisted the cup yet and it remains to be seen whether or not Edmonton turns on the emergency lights and does everything in their power to get that Championship. I think for starters it has to be an improvement in the net. Anything but winning a cup this season like the last, would be considered a failure. If the Oilers again don’t reach the heights of the hockey world, there may have to be some big changes made.
The Blackhawks, Leafs and Oilers are just a few teams who’s upcoming season is an all important year for their franchise. The dramatics, the stress, the excitement is sure to make this season a special one.
The NHL is almost here.
This is an article written by Dylan "Mogo" Montgomery
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