1. Can the Kings repeat as Stanley Cup champions?
No one has done it since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and ’98. The Kings stayed intact, minus free-agent defenseman Willie Mitchell, while many West rivals improved. But with a full season from experienced winger Marian Gaborik and with young Tyler Toffoli poised for a breakout season, the Kings should make a serious repeat bid.
2. What did the San Jose Sharks learn from their playoff loss to the Kings?
The Sharks made some noises but made no major changes after blowing a 3-0 series lead. As always, they have talent. They’re missing heart and leadership. Again, they look better on paper than on the ice.
3. Will Brad Richards be the No. 2 center the Chicago Blackhawks needed?
Richards was bought out by the New York Rangers but could flourish with Chicago because he won’t have the burden of being a franchise player. The Blackhawks figure to be formidable again, perhaps setting up another West final against the Kings.
4. Can the Colorado Avalanche build on the leap it made last season?
Coach Patrick Roy’s fire and fearlessness ignited the team’s jump from 29th overall in 2012-13 to third, with 112 points. He has a young, dynamic forward corps supplemented by the signing of veteran Jarome Iginla. Goalie Semyon Varlamov must at least equal his Vezina-finalist performance of last season.
5. Will the Edmonton Oilers’ eight-year playoff drought end?
They’ve got lots of young talent up front after perennially getting top picks, and Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth should stabilize the goaltending. But their defense isn’t deep, and they have little size at center. They should take a step forward but not into the playoffs.