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Season's start will answer all questions

Tuesday, 09.15.2009 / 12:23 PM / Columns

By Paul Kukla - NHL.com Correspondent

 
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Yes, that is what the NHL standings look like at this time of year -- and if you could tell me what they would look like in early April, 2010, well, I'd buy you a ticket to Las Vegas.

The point is, does anyone know how the race for the second season will play out? We could assume a few of the "favorites" are almost a lock to make the playoffs, but then we also could go back to last season and look at how the eventual Stanley Cup champions were in danger of missing the playoffs with six weeks to go in the regular season.

Questions remain even today for some of the so-called favorites. Can the Pittsburgh Penguins repeat while wearing a bull's-eye on their back every night? Can the Detroit Red Wings find enough scoring after losing players that combined for more than 80 goals? And can their defense and goaltending hold up through the season?

The Philadelphia Flyers look very good on paper, but one big question remains: Can their goaltending carry them deep into the playoffs? Meanwhile, the Calgary Flames bolstered their defense with the addition of Jay Bouwmeester, but their offense remains a question mark.

Can the Chicago Blackhawks learn from their playoff run of last season? Will their goaltending be good enough to make them one of the favorites for the Stanley Cup? How about clubs like the L.A. Kings and Florida Panthers, good young teams who many predict will be in the playoff picture? My question is, do they know how to win on a nightly basis?

So many questions, and yet, no answers -- as of now. 

Teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas Stars want to put the previous season behind them and feel a quick start in 2009-10 will do just that. Can it happen? Sure. Will it happen? That's something we will find out soon enough.

We have solid teams like the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks -- teams that felt they should have extended their playoff runs last season and are intent on making that happen this season. But the question remains: Will they do so? Or perhaps they could experience a move in the opposite direction? Always questions, but no answers right now.

I am sure you have questions about your team and the opposition in your division. Can your team advance in the standings? Or will your team, a division winner last season, be able to maintain its status, or even build on it? Will they take a step back? That's a question no one wants to be answered with a yes, but it will happen, with the only question being to which team.

Even though the two teams many predicted would end up in the Stanley Cup Final did just that last season, I believe that is not the way a normal NHL season shakes out. If recent history is the norm, we can expect the unexpected to happen again this season, which gives hope to every NHL team.

You may say I am nuts -- how can some of the teams that many are predicting to be bottom dwellers have a chance to make the playoffs? My response is, you never know what will happen once the puck drops in early October. Until the games are played on the ice, we have no idea what teams should be considered favorites and what teams will be looked at as "struggling to make the playoffs."

Anything can happen. I have witnessed teams that have come out of nowhere to, as they say, "shock the world."  Will this be one of those seasons, a season that seems to have greatness written all over it? My suggestion is keep watching, the games are about to begin.

Questions, comments or feel like venting? E-mail me at pk@kuklaskorner.com or follow me on Twitter.


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