PuckEmpire Mailbag – We’re Back

After months of inactivity on the website, I’m going to try and get it back and running consistently, so I decided what better way to start it off than with a mailbag? I told you guys to ask questions on my story, and now I’m going to answer a bunch of them.

Q: Will the Avalanche become back-to-back champions?

They’re definitely poised to be one of the top teams among the NHL this season, and their defense still stands very strong. The issue for me is their losses on offense with Nazem Kadri, and Andre Burakovsky, along with Darcy Kuemper in net.

While Kuemper wasn’t great in the playoffs, you still feel way more confident with him in net than you would with Alexandar Georgiev or Pavel Francouz when chasing a Stanley Cup. The losses of Kadri and Burakovsky also can’t be understated, no matter how strong that forward core looks.

That being said, Colorado definitely has one of, if not, the best chance at winning the championship this year.

Q: Will the Islanders land Nazem Kadri?

I think it’ll be between the Islanders, Avalanche, and Flames in that order. No inside information on my part, just a guess.

His best fit would be sticking in Colorado, however he’d definitely be leaving money and maybe term on the table to do that.

Q: Top-5 Calder Candidates for 2022-23?

This year actually has an insane amount of young talent that is going to be very fun to watch and cover. It’s hard to pick five, but if I have to, I’d go (in no order):

Owen Power, Simon Edvinsson, Matty Beniers, Jake Sanderson, Mason McTavish.

Really excited for Edvinsson and McTavish specifically.

Q: Is the Atlantic Division more competitive this year?

Most definitely.

Although Florida and Tampa Bay got worse, I think Ottawa and Detroit improved immensely, and even Buffalo and Montreal will likely be a bit better.

Boston’s injuries hurt them, but fully healthy that team is a cup contender as well in my opinion.

It’s going to be a bloodbath there.

Q: Will the Panthers get better or worse with the Tkachuk trade?

Worse right now, better long-term. Keeping Tkachuk over Huberdeau for eight years will prove to be worth it in the long run, it just hurts them right now, especially with also losing MacKenzie Weegar in the deal.

Q: Are the Senators really playoff ready?

The only thing holding me back from solidifying them as a playoff team is their lack of one more top right-handed defenseman. If they can land that, they’re set in my eyes.

Obviously, chemistry is never a confirmed thing, but I don’t think a bunch of those skilled players will have issues playing with one another.

Q: Is the NHL as a league trending in the right direction?

In terms of growing the sport? I’d say they’re definitely much better now than they were when I first became a fan.

That being said, there’s still many things they can do and take after from other leagues such as the NBA and NFL to grow the sport, but I’m not too worried. I think in the next 10 years we’ll see hockey as a sport grow to a larger platform.

Q: Was Seattle too greedy during the expansion draft, or did they just go through a different playbook?

I honestly think it was a little bit of both.

Going into it, it seemed like they were expected the Vegas treatment of acquiring significant draft stock and prospects to take on bad contracts, which was never going to happen as teams learned from that expansion draft. That being said, it also seems like their plan was to go through free agency and use their cap flexibility to attract top targets such as Phillipp Grubauer, Alexander Wennberg, and Jaden Schwartz.

While this obviously didn’t work out during their inaugural year, I wouldn’t call it a failure either, as now they’ve acquired a very deep prospect pool through their first two draft classes and are already making good headway for the future.

We may not have to wait too long to see Seattle competing as a top team in the Western Conference.

Q: What can the Jets realistically get from Montreal for Pierre-Luc Dubois?

Honestly, Winnipeg is in a tough spot with the Pierre-Luc Dubois situation.

From Montreal, I could really only see Winnipeg netting a lottery-protected first and B-tier prospect due to the Jets’ lack of leverage in a trade as he’s made his intentions clear that he will test the UFA market in 2024.

Q: Would the Maple Leafs be considered a true threat if Matt Murray bounces back to form?

Most definitely, and I don’t think it’s unlikely he bounces back to form, I think the question is more so can he stay healthy? He will almost certainly bounce back to form on one of the best Eastern Conference teams, but they need his longevity that he hasn’t seen since his days in Pittsburgh.

Q: What kind of return can the Jets expect for Blake Wheeler?

I don’t think Blake Wheeler is going to end up being traded. Teams were asking for Winnipeg to retain on him, which they didn’t want to do, and it appears most talks stopped there.

Q: Is Ottawa better than Calgary now?

I don’t think so but I wouldn’t be surprised if they ended up being better by the end of the season.

Q: Has Boston out aged themselves?

As I mentioned earlier, I actually believe that Boston can contend for a Stanley Cup if they’re healthy. It’s just a matter of getting healthy to that point.

Marchand is old and underwent a double hip surgery, that isn’t particularly easy to comeback from. Bergeron is out as well and will miss all of training camp, he’s old too. Charlie McAvoy is out as well, but he’s young.

My point is, I don’t think age is the sole reason they won’t be good, but age will make it harder for them to stay healthy in a sport like hockey, and if their main guys aren’t healthy, Boston is not a threat.

Q: Do the Penguins make another cup run with their core three (Crosby, Malkin, Letang)?

I, unfortunately, can’t see Pittsburgh making another run with their current core. I think this year was a good chance for them to do it, up 3-1 against the Rangers, they could’ve compete with Carolina and maybe Tampa Bay to at least make the Stanley Cup Final.

Maybe I’m proven wrong, as Crosby is still most definitely a top-10 player in the NHL, and I still consider Kris Letang as a very good top-pairing guy as well, I just can’t see another cup run out of that group.

That’s all for this piece, I know it’s not insanely long but I wanted to get something out there to get the website back up and running. I’ll try to keep this going consistently for you guys as well.

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