NHL Teams Prepare For Start of the New Season

In the waning days of September, the months of fall are getting closer. Students are getting into the swing of things in school, while the holiday season is just around the corner. For the average sports fan, this time of year is truly the most wonderful.

Football is now past its opening week and the hunt for the Lombardi trophy is officially underway while baseball teams are preparing to make a pennant run at the end of the month. While all of this is going on, the athletes of the National Hockey League are lacing up their skates and hitting the ice. This is the golden time of sports.

The NHL preseason officially began on the weekend of Saturday, Sept. 14. A game on Sunday featured one of the Stanley Cup favorites for this season, the Pittsburgh Penguins. According to a report by BleacherReport, the Penguins have six to one odds to win the Cup, beating out last year’s champs the Chicago Blackhawks.

As the players get ready for the puck to drop and the season to start on Oct. 1, the league in itself is in the midst of a makeover. There is a realignment of the divisions and conferences in the league which will change team’s schedules completely. Starting this year, there will only be two divisions per conference with two conferences in the league. Many teams, such as the Rangers and Devils, will remain in the same conference and division. Meanwhile, teams like Detroit will actually be switching conferences.

Ramapo student Matthew Hessel is intrigued by the sudden realignment. The senior, and lifelong Ranger fan, said he was “really excited to see new teams more often. The Rangers very rarely play teams like the Red Wings so it will be fun to see them go at it.”

Because of the realignment, each team will have a chance to travel to all 29 other arenas, while still playing 41 home games. This is the first year in the post expansion for each team to play each other twice.

There are many interesting storylines this year, especially with some local teams. The New York Rangers will be looking to make a run similar to two seasons ago when they made the Conference Finals, with new head coach Alain Vigneault calling the shots. Vigneault was given the job after former coach John Tortorella was let go following a disappointing show in the playoffs. Vigneault, who once ran the powerful offense in Vancouver, will have to find a way to entice the Ranger’s anemic offense.

The Rangers had one of the worst power play offenses in the league, ranking in at 23. Vigneault put his goals out there immediately to the media claiming that, “our intention is to compete for the Stanley Cup in June.”

Then there are the New York Islanders. The Islanders are coming off a very surprising year managing to grab a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 2006, and only the third time in a decade. This new resurgence, led by newly appointed Captain John Taveres, will be moving to a new home in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The Islanders are leaving behind the Nassau Coliseum, their home since the expansion team was founded in 1972.

After the dramatics of last season, with a near season-long lockout to the Blackhawks historic run to raise the cup, the 2014 season is looking to outdo last year, especially with three teams in the area looking to compete for the ultimate goal, the Stanley Cup.