NHL Teams
Paul Grant, ESPN.com 69d

Obvious and uncomfortable burning questions for all 31 NHL teams

So many new faces, so many questions. But what is really going to happen to your favorite team this season? Let's take a look at the questions most will ask and the others fans might be afraid to ask.

Metropolitan Division | Atlantic Division | Central Division | Pacific Division

Metropolitan Division

Carolina Hurricanes

Obvious: Does Scott Darling have what it takes to be a No. 1 goalie, especially behind a defense that is not the Chicago Blackhawks'?

Uncomfortable: Will Justin Williams make that much of a difference at 35 and be worth the investment of $4.5 million per season that could have been spent elsewhere?

Columbus Blue Jackets

Obvious: How many goals will former Blackhawks sniper Artemi Panarin score while playing alongside someone other than Patrick Kane?

Uncomfortable: Will Sergei Bobrovsky's save percentage be closer to what he had last season (.931) or what he had the previous season (.908)?

New Jersey Devils

Obvious: Will No. 1 pick Nico Hischier be really fun to watch?

Uncomfortable: Has Cory Schneider (.908 save percentage, .458 quality-start percentage, -8.87 goals saved above average in 2016-17) lost his fastball?

New York Islanders

Obvious: Will John Tavares re-sign with the Islanders, or will he get fed up with the circus and go elsewhere in the offseason? 

Uncomfortable: See above.

New York Rangers

Obvious: Who is going to score down the middle for the Rangers?

Uncomfortable: Is the legendary Henrik Lundqvist on the wrong side of his career peak?

Philadelphia Flyers

Obvious: Is Brian Elliott, on his third team in three years, really the answer in net?

Uncomfortable: Should the Flyers be worried about No. 2 overall pick Nolan Patrick's early injury problems?

Pittsburgh Penguins

Obvious: Can the Penguins three-peat?

Uncomfortable: Coming off neck surgery, can Kris Letang return to the level he was at when he was hurt Feb. 21, enough to run the power play, kill penalties and continue to eat monster minutes? Bonus: Is Sidney Crosby (since 2014: Olympics gold, two Stanley Cups, one World Cup title) in danger of getting burned out?

Washington Capitals

Obvious: Will this team ever make it past the second round of the playoffs?

Uncomfortable: Despite how they're spinning it, did the Capitals lose too many key players (Marcus Johansson, Justin Williams, Nate Schmidt) to return to dominance?


Atlantic Division

Boston Bruins

Obvious: Does Zdeno Chara have any gas left in the tank?

Uncomfortable: Is this team a hot mess?

Buffalo Sabres

Obvious: How will new coach Phil Housley mesh with Jack Eichel?

Uncomfortable: Is Robin Lehner really a No. 1 goalie in this league?

Detroit Red Wings

Obvious: Is this team too old and slow to contend?

Uncomfortable: Was Trevor Daley the best they could do on the free-agent front?

Florida Panthers

Obvious: How much does veteran goalie Roberto Luongo have left to give?

Uncomfortable: Are stud defenseman Aaron Ekblad's injury woes chronic?

Montreal Canadiens

Obvious: Can Jonathan Drouin bear the pressure as a French-Canadian scorer playing for the Habs?

Uncomfortable: Can the defense sustain the absence of longtime steady hand Andrei Markov? Bonus: Are the Habs going to miss Alexander Radulov more than they would like to admit?

Ottawa Senators

Obvious: Can the Senators match last season's amazing playoff run?

Uncomfortable: Will Erik Karlsson be the same whenever he comes back from his severe foot injuries? How will the Senators fare while he's out?

Tampa Bay Lightning

Obvious: How good will the Lightning be if Steven Stamkos resumes the pace (20 points in 17 games) he was at when his 2016-17 season ended with an injury?

Uncomfortable: What if goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, 23, isn't ready to be the No. 1?

Toronto Maple Leafs

Obvious: Can Auston Matthews match his amazing 40-goal rookie season?

Uncomfortable: What if all that budding talent on the blueline stays unrealized?


Central Division

Chicago Blackhawks

Obvious: How much will the Blackhawks miss the scoring of Artemi Panarin? 

Uncomfortable: Is the Blackhawks' long-term core -- Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Corey Crawford -- burned out?

Colorado Avalanche

Obvious: When will Matt Duchene be traded, and what will be the return?

Uncomfortable: Is GM Joe Sakic in over his head?

Dallas Stars

Obvious: Will Ben Bishop be the goalie who finally saves the day for the Stars?

Uncomfortable: Is defense-first coach Ken Hitchcock a good fit for a team that has Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov? 

Minnesota Wild

Obvious: Is Bruce Boudreau destined to have great teams flame out in the playoffs? 

Uncomfortable: Is Zach Parise a bust?

Nashville Predators

Obvious: Can the Predators build upon their deep run into the playoffs?

Uncomfortable: How many good seasons does Pekka Rinne have left in him? 

St. Louis Blues

Obvious: How will the absence of scorer Robby Fabbri hurt the already offense-starved Blues?

Uncomfortable: Do they have enough depth up front to go deep in the playoffs?

Winnipeg Jets

Obvious: Will talented scorer Patrik Laine build on his fantastic rookie season?

Uncomfortable: Is Steve Mason really a marked improvement in net?


Pacific Division

Anaheim Ducks

Obvious: Are the Ducks the favorites in the West?

Uncomfortable: Will the absence of star checker Ryan Kesler -- he's out until January -- be a bigger blow than we're being led to believe?

Arizona Coyotes

Obvious: Will new coach Rick Tocchet and veterans Derek Stepan and Niklas Hjalmarsson raise this team to new levels?

Uncomfortable: Are they really counting on Antti Raanta being better than Mike Smith was?

Calgary Flames

Obvious: Is Mike Smith the answer for the Flames' net woes? Bonus: How many goals will Jaromir Jagr score?

Uncomfortable: Are the Flames ascending at the same time as their provincial rivals are ready to dominate?

Edmonton Oilers

Obvious: How many points will Connor McDavid score this season?

Uncomfortable: Which key player will take a slide backward and bring the delicate house of cards tumbling down?

Los Angeles Kings

Obvious: Can Anze Kopitar return to superstar form and take the Kings back to the playoffs?

Uncomfortable: What exactly led them to believe that 35-year-old Mike Cammalleri (10 goals last season) will provide much-needed offense? 

San Jose Sharks

Obvious: How much will the Sharks miss Patrick Marleau, whose scoring was effectively not replaced?

Uncomfortable: Is Joe Thornton in danger of fading away?

Vancouver Canucks

Obvious: Is this the last season for the Sedin twins?

Uncomfortable: Does this team have any goaltending whatsoever?

Vegas Golden Knights

Obvious: How many wins will the Golden Knights have in their inaugural season?

Uncomfortable: Who are these guys, exactly?

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