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NBC's Emrick, Olczyk, McGuire ready for new season

by David Satriano

The 2015-16 NHL season begins on Wednesday and one of the most commonly used words when talking about it is "change," whether it be rookies, coaching or rules.

Seven of the 30 NHL teams have a new coach, which Pierre McGuire of NBC Sports Network said creates intrigue throughout the season.

"How's Jeff Blashill going to do in Detroit replacing Mike Babcock?" McGuire said of Blashill, the coach of the Detroit Red Wings after Babcock left for the Toronto Maple Leafs. "I think he's going to do fantastically well. How's Mike Babcock going to do replacing Randy Carlyle in Toronto? Nobody knows. How's Dan Bylsma going to do up in Buffalo in a rebuild, which I think will go amazingly well because of what they are doing there."

Eddie Olczyk, an analyst for NBC and NBCSN with McGuire and Doc Emrick, said in addition to the new coaches, some teams made improvements that could improve their chances of winning the Stanley Cup.

"You just have to give yourself a chance to get in [to the Stanley Cup Playoffs]," Olczyk said. "You look at what teams have done over the course of the summer time, whether it was coaches being dismissed, staff being let go, teams making big moves, and the pressure is on coaches and teams to take the next step. I think there are a lot of interesting statements from Dallas to Anaheim, to see what Columbus had done, to see what Washington has done. I just think to name a few teams that this year, just give yourself a chance … and you've got yourself a chance to win the greatest trophy in sports.

"If you can stay healthy and can give yourself an opportunity to get to the first week of the playoffs, you have a legitimate chance."

McGuire said the Minnesota Wild and New York Islanders are teams he expects to advance far in the playoffs. The Islanders haven't played in the second round since 1993.

"I'm looking at Minnesota and the New York Islanders and I'm saying, 'Don't forget those guys,'" McGuire said. "John Tavares moving off of Long Island, moving into Brooklyn going into the new building. Superstar in the making, we've all seen his great work."

The season begins Wednesday with four games, including the New York Rangers visiting the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks (8 p.m., ET, NBCSN), who will celebrate their third championship since 2010 in a pregame ceremony.

"We have a banner-raising for a team that has won it three times in six years," Emrick said. "Two 90-year-old expansion teams in the Blackhawks and Rangers, who have been to Finals recently. They know what it's about."

Wednesday could be the first time the 3-on-3 overtime format is on display in a regular-season game; it debuted during the preseason. Another rule implemented for this season is a coach's challenge, which will be allowed in certain situations, including offside calls that lead to goals, and scoring plays which involve interference with the goalie.

"I hope if the game Wednesday night is close, it winds up being tied so we can watch [3-on-3 overtime] again, and I also hope to get a coaches challenge," Emrick said. "One of the things that wasn't possible for all of us to see in the preseason. I hope we get one of those so that we can all look at it and the fans will see it. I think the fans will greatly appreciate what the 3-on-3 brings, and it certainly does settle a lot of games. The [AHL] found it settled three-fourths of their games last year, which is about the ratio that we had in the preseason."

The Blackhawks are one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup, but Emrick said last season's runner-up, the Tampa Bay Lightning, may get another opportunity.

"They've got so many guys back and they are in roles that they are used to and they've had a winning spirit together," Emrick said. "They are the most likely of the final four I think to wind up getting back to the final four again. You can make a case from the other three from last year, but I think the strongest case is for the Lightning."

McGuire said he was impressed with centers Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers and Jack Eichel of the Buffalo Sabres, who were selected No. 1 and No. 2 in the 2015 NHL Draft.

"One of the things he's going to have to learn how to do, is adjust his game [to the NHL], and I think he will be able to do it," McGuire said of McDavid.

Olczyk said, "[Eichel] is going to have an impact right away for sure."

McGuire also mentioned another player who hasn't been talked about as much, but could contend for the Calder Trophy.

"Everybody talks about the great young players in Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid," McGuire said. "Everybody expects them to battle for rookie of the year, but don't forget Dylan Larkin in Detroit. ... I think he's got a legitimate chance to rival both McDavid and Eichel to be rookie of the year in the NHL.

"We have so many story lines, this season is going to be phenomenal to watch."


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