1. Hockey Night in Canada gets a major makeover and a new host
With Rogers buying the NHL’s Canadian broadcast rights, the country’s most enduring show will now feature at least four games on multiple channels (CBC, Sportsnet, City and FX Canada included) every Saturday night. Punster Ron MacLean will continue to rein in Don Cherry on Coach’s Corner, but the laid-back post-punk George Stroumboulopoulos assumes hosting duties.
2. Will this be the season Canada’s Stanley Cup drought finally ends?
Probably not, but there’s hope. It’s been 21 years since a Canadian club captured the mug: the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Los Angeles Kings in 1993. Last year, only one of the seven Canadian franchises—the Habs—made the playoffs. With Olympic gold medallists P. K. Subban and Carey Price, the Canadiens are still the country’s best shot in 2015.
3. Behold, a dark horse
The Dallas Stars have been beneficiaries of the biggest trades of the past two off-seasons. Last year, general manager Jim Nill stole hat-trick machine Tyler Seguin (pictured) from the Boston Bruins; this summer he swiped a disgruntled Jason Spezza from the Ottawa Senators. The Stars are now on track to become the NHL’s fastest-improving team.
4. Expanding trapezoids—no longer just for math nerds
As the NHL tinkers with its rules, the trapezoidal area behind the goaltender’s net will increase by four feet in width. This is the space where the goalie is allowed to play the puck. Enlarging it should encourage adventurous tenders, like the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Ben Bishop, to leave their posts and play defence. It’s also likely to create collisions between goalies and speedy forwards.
5. Wait. The Arizona Coyotes? What happened to Phoenix?
Don’t be alarmed. The Coyotes (née the original Winnipeg Jets) aren’t moving again. They simply changed their name to accurately reflect their home rink’s location, in Glendale, Ariz., 20 minutes northwest of Phoenix.
6. Save it for McDavid
With 17-year-old Erie Otters centre Connor McDavid—the projected number one pick of the 2015 NHL draft—already drawing comparisons to Sidney Crosby, there will be a temptation for weaker teams to fall all the way to the NHL basement (i.e., intentionally drop to the bottom of the rankings) in hopes of drafting a once-in-a-generation talent who could save the franchise.
7. Moneypuck vs. the old boys’ club
A debate rages between GMs who evaluate players according to advanced analytics tools, such as Corsi (which measures the total number of shot attempts) and Fenwick (which tracks unblocked shot attempts), and old-school rink rats who assess players on intangibles like grit and leadership. In July, the Toronto Maple Leafs hired stats whiz Kyle Dubas, 28, as assistant GM, highlighting a shift in the game toward numbers based analysis.