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THE MOJ: 5 burning questions (and answers) as the NHL season kicks off

What you need to know to prepare as the NHL season hits the ice for another year
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North Vancouver’s Connor Bedard is the odds on favorite to win the Calder Cup as the NHL’s Rookie-of-the-Year with Chicago but don’t go to sleep on another rookie from B.C. Photo courtesy of Chicago Blackhawks

With the NHL season getting underway, we’ve decided to take a look at some of the bigger questions around the league.

Will Elias Pettersson re-sign with the Vancouver Canucks?

One thing that I can tell you from a media perspective is that sometimes you are privy to information from people in the league but you can’t reveal ALL of that information because of the trust factor.

So when Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported on his 32 Thoughts podcast this week about the contract negotiations between Pettersson and the Canucks and that the organization might have some reservations about signing Pettersson to a long-term deal, it raised some eyebrows.

“Since Pettersson came out and said ‘I’m not sure yet,’ I think the Canucks have also kind of indicated ‘you know what, we’re not sure either.’ Because if there’s any doubt that Pettersson wants to make a commitment, I’m not convinced that they want to make a commitment. So this will be a fascinating development,” said Friedman.

The way I see it, the Canucks are in a bind no matter what. If the team plays well enough to give hope to Pettersson about the team’s future, you know that the Swede will be playing a big part in that, so you better back up the Brinks truck. If the Canucks flounder, Pettersson’s future as a Canuck is murky at best.

Will Connor Bedard live up to the hype?

Given the hoopla around Bedard you would think that he’s going to score 50 goals and tally 70 assists in his rookie season.

That’s not going to be the case. Bedard is a generational talent but he is quickly going to learn what he can and can’t do at the NHL level. As one player told me once, the biggest thing about going from junior to pro is that in the NHL every player you are competing against is a man. There is a massive gap between a 17-year-old kid manning the blue line for Medicine Hat in the WHL compared to a third pairing NHL defenseman.

That being said, I’m still taking the over on the Vegas prop bets when it comes to Bedard. 33 goals and 70 points is easily within reach for this kid.

Is this the year a Canadian team finally wins the Stanely Cup?

If you’re to believe the oddsmakers at least two Canadian teams have a shot.

The Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers are both listed at 11-1 which is only bettered by the New Jersey Devils (10-1), the Carolina Hurricanes (9-1) and the favorites – the Colorado Avalanche (8 ½ -1).

Both Edmonton and Toronto have questions that have to be answered if they are to become the first Canadian team to win hockey’s ultimate prize since the 1993 Montreal Canadiens.

Is Ilya Samsonov the answer in goal for the Leafs? Can the ‘Core Four’ perform to a championship level when it matters the most in the playoffs? And is the arrival of Max Domi, Tyler Bertuzzi and Ryan Reaves and the grit they provide enough to take Toronto to another level?

As for the Oilers, it’s much the same. Will they get championship-caliber goaltending and will their depth players do enough to help the dynamic duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl?

Does history repeat itself in Boston?

In the 2010 playoffs, the Bruins blew a 3-0 series lead against the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference semi-finals. We all know what happened next year and many of those Bruins who won in 2011 referred to the previous year’s playoff disappointment as a valuable lesson that was learned.

So do the Bruins, whose record-breaking 135-point season went up in smoke against the Florida Panthers in the post-season, rebound with a deep run in the Stanley Cup playoffs and duplicate the success of 2011? It’s going to be interesting because they do lose two key leaders in Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci.

There is tremendous depth on the blue-line but do they have enough at centre? There will be a lot of pressure on Charlie Coyle and Pavel Zacha to produce down the middle and make up for the loss of Bergeron and Krejci, who combined for 114 points between them. Together, Coyle and Zacha racked up 102 points in 2022-23 but they won’t be able to feast on the opposing team’s bottom six forwards or their second or third pairing defenseman this season.

The Bruins won’t duplicate last season’s regular season success but should go on a deep run in the post-season.

Who will be this year’s surprise team?

The Buffalo Sabres haven’t made the playoffs in twelve years but this could be the year that the drought ends.

Tage Thompson is an outstanding talent as are Rasmus Dahlin and Owen Power – both of whom are former #1 overall picks in the NHL Entry Draft.

And while everyone is going bonkers over Bedard in Chicago and basically handing him the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s Rookie-of-the-Year, Zach Benson might have something to say about that before it’s all said and done. The 13th overall pick in the 2023 draft, Benson was very good in the pre-season scoring four goals in seven games in making the team.

According to the books, the Langley, B.C. native is crazy longshot to win the Calder at 55-1 but I’d wager $20 on that bet.

As for the Sabres, they too have question marks in goaltending where someone out of Eric Comrie, Devon Levi or Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen needs to step up.

Veteran B.C. sports personality Bob “the Moj” Marjanovich writes twice weekly for Black Press Media. And check out his weekly podcast every Monday at Today in B.C. or your local Black Press Media website.

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