A lot has changed since the Philadelphia Flyers meekly ended their 2014-15 season with a loss to Ottawa 179 days ago.
Out is Craig Berube, the not-even-two-year head coach who just didn't seem to be the guy to help lead these Flyers into the future. In is Dave Hakstol, from the University of North Dakota, who will coach essentially the same team that Berube had a year ago. He will try to coax them to more success this year and, more importantly, lay a sturdy foundation for future seasons.
Out are Nicklas Grossmann and Andrew MacDonald (kind of), replaced by Radko Gudas and KHL stalwart Evgeny Medvedev, who could be a big piece of this team this season if all goes according to play. In are Brandon Manning and Scott Laughton, on the team out of training camp for the first time in their careers.
In is Sam Gagner, scratched tonight but hopefully a big piece of the team moving forward. Out is Ray Emery and in is Michal Neuvirth, a steadying force behind starting goaltender Steve Mason. Out is Zac Rinaldo, and in are the hopes that a fourth-line of Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Ryan White and Chris VandeVelde can actually be a solid bottom unit.
But of course, more things change, the more they stay the same.
The top line of Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Michael Raffl remains completely the same -- and with it, the hopes of an Art Ross Trophy for either G or Jake, and a breakout year for Raffl. The power play should be just as good. Wayne Simmonds and Sean Couturier are still excellent hockey players, and Matt Read is healthy, which should mean a not-terrible year from him this time around. Mason still looks borderline elite in the nets.
Vincent Lecavalier's big contract is still here -- scratched on opening night, too. Brayden Schenn is still trying to figure out if he's a good hockey player or not, and we're still waiting for This To Be His Year. Nick Schultz and Mark Streit are the top defensive pairing, which is not exactly how Stanley Cups are won. Luke Schenn is still trade bait. The penalty kill? Meh, we'll see.
And yeah ... that's in large part how this season will be. We'll see. Maybe we'll be surprised with a playoff berth. Maybe we'll be surprised with a top-five draft pick. We really, truly don't know.
The rundown on Tampa Bay
We know exactly what the Tampa Bay Lightning are: deep, skilled, fast, young, talented, Stanley Cup contenders. Anything can happen on opening night of course, but the Lightning could easily be considered the best team in the Eastern Conference, if not the National Hockey League, heading into this season.
They have Steven Stamkos up front. That's enough to scare anybody. But then they have Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov, all dangerous scoring threats. In goal they have Ben Bishop, who's proven he's a pretty solid NHL goalie behind what's become a very good defense in front of him. Victor Hedman leads the way for the Lightning on the blue line, and he's followed by Anton Stralman, Braydon Coburn and Matt Carle. (Hey, we know those guys.)
They're a deep team. They're good in all game situations -- although they weren't quite as good as you would think on the power play last year, at 18.8 percent -- and they are probably, almost certainly, going deep in the 2015 playoffs.
So it's a decent test for the Flyers, you're saying?
Puck drop at 7:30 p.m. ET. Maybe later, depending on if the Lightning do any dancing around with their Eastern Conference Champions banner.
|2015-16 NHL Season :: Game 1 of 82|
2nd in Metropolitan
|Thursday, October 8, 2014 :: 7:30 p.m. ET|
|Amalie Arena :: St. Petersburg, Florida, USA|
|Get the Tampa Bay perspective at Raw Charge|
|National & Streaming Coverage|
|Raffl - Giroux - Voracek||1st Line||Drouin - Stamkos - Callahan|
|B. Schenn - Couturier - Simmonds||2nd Line||Palat - Johnston - Kucherov|
|Read - Laughton - Umberger||3rd Line||Killorn - Filppula - Condra|
|VandeVelde - Bellemare - White||4th Line||Namestnikov - Boyle - Brown|
|Streit - Schultz||1st D Pair||Hedman - Stralman|
|Del Zotto - Manning||2nd D Pair||Garrison - Carle|
|Medvedev - L. Schenn||3rd D Pair||Coburn - Sustr|
|Mason / Neuvirth||Goalies||Bishop / Poulin|
|Lecavalier, Gagner, Gudas||Scratches||Nesterov, Paquette|