There are always many questions to be answered when an NHL season opens. Here are five facing teams in the Western Conference:
1) Can the Kings contend for the Stanley Cup after not qualifying for the playoffs last season?
They were the first champion to sit out the postseason since the 2007 Carolina Hurricanes, and they lost key pieces in defenseman Slava Voynov and winger Justin Williams. Milan Lucic will be under pressure to boost a sputtering offense.
2) Will a sexual assault accusation against Patrick Kane disrupt the Chicago Blackhawks’ title defense?
He hasn’t been charged but an allegation stemming from an August incident triggered arguments over whether he should have sat out training camp. The case could stretch out for months.
3) Will the Ducks win a playoff Game 7 at home?
They’ve ended three straight dominant regular-season performances with Game 7 home defeats. Maybe it’s a coincidence but all of Coach Bruce Boudreau’s assistants — and minor league San Diego Coach Dallas Eakins — have been NHL head coaches.
4) How many No. 1 draft picks will it take for the Edmonton Oilers to reach the playoffs?
Forward Connor McDavid was their fourth top overall pick in six years. He’s expected to be the best of the bunch, but they’ll have a difficult path in the West. In their favor: They went outside the Oilers’ old boys’ network to hire General Manager Peter Chiarelli (formerly of Boston) and Coach Todd McLellan (formerly of San Jose). Time for potential to start producing results.
5) Is this the San Jose Sharks’ year?
Sorry, the answer to this annual question is no. After a non-playoff finish, they replaced McLellan with former Florida and New Jersey coach Peter DeBoer and gave him a mixed bag of talent. Defenseman Paul Martin and forward Joel Ward were good off-season additions but the Sharks’ kids must step up big-time.