It was the most unusual post-season in the history of the NHL, with 24 teams battling for empty rooms in two Canadian bubble arenas. But the end of it was naturally predictable: Tampa Bay Lightning lifts the Stanley Cup with a victory for the tournament.
But never talk to Julien Brisebois about the coast. Despite the fact that Lightning’s CEO built what many thought was the deepest and most talented team in the NHL, he said the odds weren’t promising.
When the season starts, there’s a good chance you won’t win the Stanley Cup, he said. Even if the play-offs start and you have less than 16 teams, even if you have the best bet, chances are you won’t win the Stanley Cup.
Without concrete predictions we were left with feelings, ink and vibes about what the teams are capable of for the coming season. Some are based on the successes of the past season and the improvements made in the off-season. Some are based on clear multi-year trends that will continue or be slowed down.
To simplify the process, we present the Stanley Cup Bid Steps, a kind of progress report on the candidates for the 2020-21 championship. These figures do not include injuries, transactions, shootings and Alexis Lafrenier, who won the Heart Trophy as a newcomer. This is a report from the departure gate.
We offer you the current groups at the level of the championship 2020-21:
Fault! The file name is not specified. Avalanche was an elite team in 2019-20 and improved only in this low season. Jeff Vinnick/Getty Pictures
Two of the three teams at this level were also present when we did this exercise just over a year ago: The Blitze, the winners of the 2019-20 Stanley Cup and the Golden Knights, who lost the final of the Western Conference last season.
Can lightning be repeated as a champion? Of course you did. They have Briden Point in the star-studded play-offs, Nikita Kucherov and Stephen Stamkos on their way to recovery, the world’s best Victor Hedman and Ryan McDonagh on defense and goalkeeper Andrei Vasilevsky, who is a Vesina Trophy finalist for the third consecutive season. They have actors playing in Annie Gurd, Ondreay House, Alex Killorn, Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow. They have an incredible coach at John Cooper’s and a damn good architect at Woodbreak.
They are also experiencing a pay crisis, with three players – midfielder Anthony Cirelli, defenders Mikhail Sergachev and Eric Chernak – needing limited contracts as freelancers. They tried in vain to withdraw Tyler Johnson’s money. We’ll have to make sacrifices, so watch the news.
But the Blitz is still the NHL class because they finally learned to play like that. The defeat of Christopher Columbus in the first round of 2019 had a transforming effect on the group. She taught them that they must be able to win the playoffs in different ways, and she taught them a lesson in humility that only reinforces the Stanley Cup Championship, not replaces it.
What does Alex Pietrangelo do for the Golden Knights? It gives them a franchise-level defender they’ve been looking forward to since joining the league. This allows Shea Theodore, who was at the height of this status, to secure the second block and make the already dominant 5-to-5 team even better. The Chevaliers are gifted with talent, and their inability to deal with Marc-André Flory, which has a detrimental effect on the salary threshold, gives them the gold standard for a duo in Fleury and Robin Lenaire in a season whose tight schedule requires a tandem match.
The only concern is that of the centre, where Pavel Shtyastny’s company is leaving a leaner group; and whether this change in personnel and philosophy, which we saw last year, will spoil the chemistry of the historically narrow locker room.
The first rank is complemented by the Avalanche, which on paper is better than the Knights, but not quite at the level of the Blitz. With goals expected within 60 minutes, they finished 5-5 in 16th place, a symptom of the ridiculous injury they suffered during the regular season, which was carried over to the off-season. As a fully armed and skilled Stanley Cup challenger. Oh, my God! Nathan McKinnon, currently perhaps the best hockey player in the world, faces a group of attacking stars (Micco Rantanen) of advanced level and incredible depth. The defense changed with the arrival of the newcomer of the year, Bald Macar, and only improved when Devon Tewes took over from the islanders. Their odds on the Avalanche may vary depending on what you think of their goalkeepers, but they were in fifth place in the expected 60 minutes compared to 60 minutes last season (2.17).
These three teams are cut from the top, but there are several teams knocking on the door of the apartment.
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