Avalanche favorite repeat as cup champions in NHL player poll

“Maybe this could win the Stanley Cup,” McKinnon said with a laugh.

Obviously, if McKinnon had picked his own team, the center would have predicted that the Colorado Avalanche would repeat as champion. He would have gotten along with the vast majority of his classmates across the university.

Of the 50 players NHL.com polled at the NAPMT and NHL European Player Media Tour in Paris in August, 32 chose Avalanche to win the cup this season.

Five chose Tampa Bay Lightning. Hurricanes Calgary Flames and Carolina each received three votes, and the Florida Panthers and New York Rangers each received two votes. Two players refused to give an answer. Someone chose the Toronto Maple Leafs.

So when an avalanche raises their banner to the rafters before they open the regular season against the Chicago Blackhawks at Ball Field on Wednesday (9:30 p.m. ET; TNT, SN NOW), they’re expected to be back there to do so again a year from now.

“Hm, well, I’d like to think we’ll win the cup,” the Maple Leafs centered Auston Matthews He said. “But obviously Colorado will be the favorites to win last year and the team they have and what they have been able to achieve, so I have to go with them.”

Colorado is clearly the easy answer, and that’s part of that. The NHL remains defined by parity and unpredictability, and if you are immediately put down by NHL.com, no one will blame you for choosing the team that lifted the trophy on June 26.

“It’s very difficult,” Vancouver Canucks defender Queen Hughes He said. “Who knows, man? There could be, like, 10 teams. As of now, you should go with Colorado, because they were the best team.” [three] Months ago, I think. It wasn’t that long ago. They’re the defending champions, you have to knock them out, so they are.”

However, despite the NHL’s parity and unpredictability since the introduction of a salary cap in 2005-06, it has become common for champions to maintain their success and even repeat it.

The Chicago Blackhawks won the Cup in 2010, 2013 and 2015. The Los Angeles Kings won it in 2012 and 2014. The Pittsburgh Penguins won it in 2009, then in 2016 and 2017.

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Lightning won it in 2020 and 2021, went to the Stanley Cup Final in 2022, and lost to avalanche in six games. That’s a good reason to go with Tampa Bay again, too.

Edmonton Oilers Center Conor McDavid He picked the lightning, saying, “They’ve been there before.” Rangers defenseman Jacob Troup “Prove that they are the team,” said Lightning.

Avalanche Defender Cal Makarwhile gesturing to Carolina and Toronto, said: “You can never count Tampa out because of all their stars” and the goalkeeper Andrei Vasilevsky. St. Louis Blues forward Robert Thomas “Hungry for another,” said Lightning, “they were there last year.”

But if hunger isn’t a problem for Blackhawks, kings, penguins, or lightning, why does an avalanche occur?

“Once the team gets the job done and sees what it means to win, some people will say, ‘Oh, they won, they don’t have the motivation,'” Dallas Stars goalkeeper Jake Oettinger He said. “I think it’s just the opposite. They’ll want to do it again. I can’t wait to play against them, obviously. I’ll be fun to play with them, and hopefully in the playoffs.”

Other contenders have made major changes.

Lost flames forward Johnny Goudreu In free agency, but they added the center Nazim Qadri In free agency and forward Jonathan Huberdeau via trade.

“They’ve made some really good trucks,” said Winnipeg Jets Center. Mark Shevel, one of the players who chose the flame. “Getting sort of Huberdeau fills Gaudreau’s void and gets Kadri [is important]. They have good [defense] the wire. I just think it’s a tough team to play against.”

The Panthers Huberdeau came up but they made progress Matthew Tkachuk By trade from Calgary. They also gained experience in the Stanley Cup playoffs, winning a series for the first time since 1996 by defeating the Washington Capitals in the first round of the Eastern Conference, and then being swept away by lightning in the second round.

“I think they learned a lot and would be better at it,” said McKinnon, who chose Florida when he couldn’t pick Colorado.

Rangers added forward Vincent Trochek In the free agency, Hurricanes added a defender Brent Burns forward Max Priority via trade. (Passuretti is recovering from surgery to repair a torn Achilles but should be back around February.)

However, the avalanche is largely symmetrical. Even though they lost Qadri and the goalkeeper Darcy Comberthey added forward Evan Rodriguez In free agency and goalkeeper Alexander Georgiev Across the trade, they still have the core of McKinnon, McCar and Company.

Several players said they chose Avalanche because of the number of returning players, and the Vegas striker Golden Knights Mark Stone McCar and McKinnon in particular cited, “They still have the best man defense on the planet, and they still have one of the best psychics on the planet.”

“If it weren’t for us, it might be my old team, Colorado again,” said Quimper, who has signed with the Capitals as an unrestricted free agent. “A lot of their players are coming back. Obviously a lot of good players are there. They’ve done it before, so obviously they can do it again.”

They are the team to beat.

“Yes, I think so,” McKinnon told TheRink@NHL.com podcast. “Yeah, I mean, we obviously have some new players, like we talked about, but I feel good. We learned a lot from last season, and there were 82 long games, and I know everyone cares a lot about the regular season. But the playoffs [are] When it matters, we’re excited to get there.”

NHL.com staff contributed to this report

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