The NHL season is underway and in my estimation there are only a handful of teams that will win the Stanley Cup in 2015, realistically; seven to be exact. The Western Conference looks to yet again be the dominant power in hockey, with five of the seven teams on my list, as well as a number of other intriguing teams that didn’t make the cut.
The NHL enjoys a level of parity that is largely unmatched in the other North American professional sports (for our look at the NFL teams with the best chance to win the Super Bowl, check out our feature The Only 9 Teams with a Chance to Win the Super Bowl), and just about any team could make the playoffs (OK, maybe not the Sabres, sorry Buffalo). But when it comes playoff time, it takes a top class team to win four grueling, seven-game series, and I believe there are only seven teams capable of doing so this year.
One of the most evident things about all of the chosen teams that will win the Stanley Cup in 2015 is that they’re extremely strong down the middle; each boasts at least two very good centermen, and most have 3. They’re also strong defensively across the board, save perhaps for the two Eastern Conference teams, which play a little looser and more open. While most are extremely solid in goal, one of the teams will be relying on young backstops as it looks to contend for a title, a move that is rather unprecedented and may be heavily scrutinized should it fail.
Are you curious which teams from each conference made the cut as teams that will win the Stanley Cup in 2015? Read on to find out the answers, with the teams listed in no particular order, and beginning on the next page with the only team from Canada to make the list.
Montreal Canadiens2013-14 Record: 46-28-8, lost 4-2 in Eastern Conference Finals
Montreal lost star goaltender and Olympic gold medalist Carey Price to injury at the start of their series against the New York Rangers last year, and that likely cost them a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 20 years. Montreal returns with an even stronger team this season, adding P.A Parenteau and coveted KHL’er Jiri Sekac to a strong core of young players in Price, P.K Subban, Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher, and Max Pacioretty.
St.Louis Blues2013-14 Record: 52-23-7, lost 4-2 in Western Conference Quarterfinals
The Blues bowed out in the first round, an unceremonious end to the season after dealing for Ryan Miller and Steve Ott near the deadline in a deal that was expected to put them over the top. Miller is gone now, along with Jaroslav Halak, putting the goaltending duties in the hands of Brian Elliot. While Paul Stastny was added to an already strong contingent of forwards, the Blues lost defenseman Vladimir Sobotka to the KHL, though their defense also remains solid.
Chicago Blackhawks2013-14 Record: 46-21-15, lost 4-3 in Western Conference Finals
A perennial favorite, the Hawks added Brad Richards in the offseason in a sweetheart deal to go along with a group of forwards that includes Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Sharp. The Hawks have a bruising blueline with the likes of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, and will again rely on Corey Crawford in goal, who backstopped them to a Stanley Cup two years ago.
Los Angeles Kings2013-14 Record: 46-28-8, Won the Stanley Cup
The Kings return with most of last year’s Stanley Cup winning team, their second in three seasons. The Kings are strong in all facets of the game, perhaps none more so than center. You know you’re strong up-the-middle when you have Mike Richards as your projected fourth-line center. The Kings are skilled, structured, have great goaltending, and are still a relatively young team and a force to be reckoned with yet again.
San Jose Sharks2013-14 Record: 51-22-9, lost 4-3 in Western Conference Quarterfinals
The Sharks remain a team that seems unable to break through in the playoffs. They let go of veterans Marty Havlat, Brad Stuart, and Dan Boyle in the offseason, and were content to let youngsters fill their places in a spot of minor rebuilding. There’s still a strong core here however with Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.
Anaheim Ducks2013-14 Record: 54-20-8, lost 4-3 in Western Conference Semifinals
The Ducks made a big splash this offseason, adding Ryan Kesler in a trade with the Canucks, and also signed Dany Heatley to try and help shore up a powerplay unit that was abyssmal in the playoffs. The big question mark for the Ducks is in goal, where rookies Frederik Andersen and John Gibson will be responsible for carrying the load between the pipes after the departure of Jonas Hiller. So far so good, as Andersen has been stellar to start the season.
Pittsburgh Penguins2013-14 Record: 51-24-7, lost 4-3 in Eastern Conference Semifinals
Pittsburgh seems to fly under the radar, but when you have two of the best players in the world in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, you’ve always got a shot. That core, along with goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and defenseman Kris Letang, are the same that won the Pens a Stanley Cup back in 2008-09, so the pedigree is still there to have a contending team. Whether there’s enough substance surrounding the core is a question mark however.