NHL 2021/2022 Season Full Preview
Reigning Stanley Cup champions Tampa Bay Lightning will get the new NHL season underway when they welcome the Penguins to Amalie Arena on October 12. The Lightning are bidding to become the first team to win three consecutive Stanley Cups since the early 1980s this season. The great Edmonton Oilers team led by Wayne Gretzky was the last to secure a three-peat, but Tampa Bay is among the favorites for glory once again this year.
What is New This Season?
The league will return to its usual October to April schedule this year, as disruption caused by the coronavirus is expected to come to an end. The league has now expanded to 32 teams thanks to the addition of the Seattle Kraken. There will still be an 82-game regular season. The Kraken should start playing at the Climate Pledge Arena, while the New York Islanders are poised to move to the UBS Arena. The Winnipeg Jets have renamed their home arena from Bell MTS Place to Canada Life Centre.
Where to Watch the 2021-22 NHL Season
ESPN has gained broadcasting rights in the U.S. for the first time since the 2003-04 season. It will share the broadcasting with Turner, which has signed up Gretzky as its lead studio analyst. Barry Melrose, Chris Chelios and Mark Messier are the studio analysts at ESPN. In Canada, Sportsnet remains the national broadcaster.
The Colorado Avalanche have been named the narrow favorites to lift the famous trophy at the end of the season. It has been a strong offseason for the Avs. They re-signed captain Gabriel Landeskog and kept hold of Cale Makar, while they also look set to welcome goaltender Pavel Francouz back from injury. Despite losing a few players to free agency, Colorado should be in great shape for the new season. Tampa Bay is the second favorite, priced between +600 and +700 with most sportsbooks, despite losing its entire third line when Blake Coleman, Yanni Gourde and Barclay Goodrow left the franchise. Yet they still boast the likes of Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman, Steven Stamkos, Andrei Vasilevskiy, and several other superstars, so they should be formidable once again this season.
The Vegas Golden Knights are also expected to enjoy another strong season. Losing goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was a blow, but Robin Lehner continues to impress and Laurent Broissoit looks like a shrewd acquisition. Zach Dean was brought in at No. 30 in the draft, and he looks like a talented center, but the biggest move for Vegas was retaining defenseman Alec Martinez in free agency. The Bruins should be dangerous after bringing in former Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno to replace David Krejci. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Colorado Hurricanes are also near the top of the betting.
The New York Islanders look like intriguing dark horses at +2500 with some online sportsbooks. Finnish center Aatu Raty looks like a force of nature, while defenseman Adam Pelech has been tied down to an extremely team-friendly contract, leaving the franchise with lots of cap room. Even longer shots could include the Chicago Blackhawks and Vancouver Canucks, with both teams priced at +6600 to win the Stanley Cup. Blackhawks fans should see a lot more of captain Jonathan Toews this season, while the additions of Fleury and Seth Jones should help this team get back on track.
Hart Memorial Trophy Contenders
Connor McDavid is naturally the favorite for the Hart Memorial Trophy, but he does face fierce competition from the likes of Nathan MacKinnon, Auston Matthews, Kucherov, David Pastrnak and teammate Leon Draitsl. Andrei Vasilevskiy is favorite for the Vezina Trophy ahead of Fleury and Philipp Grubauer, while Makar is the man to beat when it comes to the James Norris Trophy. Owen Power was selected first overall by the Buffalo Sabres in the draft, and he will be a leading contender for the Calder Trophy.