NHL Atlantic: Who Can Beat the Bolts?
The Lightning are basking in it these days.
First, they're listed as the top franchise in North American sports.
Then, a legion of hockey people will say the Bolts are clear favorites to win the Stanley Cup this coming spring, matching their feat of hoisting the hallowed hardware back in 2004.
Two years ago, the Bolts made the finals but lost a tough series to Chicago. Last season, even with Steven Stamkos and Ben Bishop injured, they took the champion Penguins to seven games before losing.
Now, with Stamkos and Bishop back, along with Vladislav Namestnikov, Anton Stralman, and backup goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, the Lightning will be a force all year.
Speaking of injuries, Montréal gets back the best goalie in the world, Carey Price, after his season was cut short by injury last season.
They also traded for defensman Shea Weber to -- as they see it -- bolster their challenge Tampa for a division title.
Florida doesn't talk about injuries, but age is on the table as Jaromír Jágr is now 44 and still going strong.
The Panthers added Keith Yandle to their defense and have two dependable goalies in Roberto Luongo and James Reimer.
Remember, this team was the surprise of the league, winning the division.
All of which made it more of a shock when ownership kicked Dale Tallon upstairs.
It's too early in the season to determine the effect of last year's success and this off-season move, but it bears watching.
The Ottawa Senators have a new coach Guy Boucher and picked up Derick Brassard in a trade but they're still a 'ways away from contending, even with players like Bobby Ryan, Erik Karlsson, and Craig Anderson.
Buffalo is on the way up, led by coach Dan Bylsma, who intends to bring his playoff experience to a young club.
Adding Kyle Okposo will help this year, as he'll fit in well with Ryan O'Reilly, Jach Eichel, and Evander Kane.
The final three Atlantic teams are Original Sixers, which is a good thing.
They'll have all those memories to discuss while they're watching the 2017 playoffs on TV.
Boston just missed out last year, losing on the final day of the season.
The Bruins have Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and newley acquired David Backes on offense, but need to help out Zdeno Chara on defense.
Detroit has made the playoffs for 25 straight years but struggled last season. The Red Wings still have Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall, and Mike Green and have added Thomas Vanek, but still may be a few players from playing late into April.
Toronto is ... well ... Toronto but with coach Mike Babcock now running the show and young hotshots like Auston Matthews and William Nylander, it may only be a matter of time before the Leafs contend for their first Stanley Cup since 1967.