(This is something of a rehash of our season-opening post from last year. Apologies for being unoriginal.)
So here we are. The 2009-10 season.
The start of a new season seems like a new Christmas or birthday gift to us. It's still wrapped up. Unsmudged, unscratched, unbroken. We can't wait to pull it out of the box to start playing with it.
Everyone's record is the same. 0-0-0. Everyone is even in the scoring race. There will countless highlight goals, bone-jarring checks and questionable penalties to debate.
Every fan thinks their team can accomplish
something. Red Wings fans and Panthers fans have equal amounts of
optimism for entirely different reasons.
Oilers fans will convince themselves that new coach Pat Quinn can lead their team back to the postseason. Canadiens followers are expecting newcomers Mike Cammalleri, Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez to lead their beloved team to its 25th Stanley Cup banner in its 101st year of existence.
Fantasy geeks will wonder if Los Angeles' Ryan Smyth can become a 40-goal scorer once again or if Tampa Bay's Mike Smith is healthy enough to be a solid No. 2 goaltender.
fans are happy to still have their team. For now. Blackhawks fans are hopeful the team made the right choice in keeping goaltender Cristobal Huet.
Fans of the Islanders and Avalanche are eager to see if John Tavares (right) or Matt Duchene are the real deal.
Can Alex Ovechkin hit 60 goals again? Or become the first person to claim the Hart Trophy in three consecutive seasons since Wayne Gretzky in the mid 1980s.
Will Dany Heatley find whatever he was looking for in San Jose?
Will the Olympics be an amazing deviation from the norm or a useless gimmick?
Will more than three players exceed the 100-point mark in the "new" NHL?
And Penguins followers are wondering if their team has what it needs to defend its Stanley Cup title.
Has Ray Shero found adequate replacements for Hal Gill, Rob Scuderi or Petr Sykora? Will Jay McKee block shots like his life depends on it? Will Mike Rupp try to eat people? Can Brent Johnson save the day when called upon?
Will Mark Eaton be dealt when the trade deadline rolls by?
Can the team find a way to replace the myriad of things Maxime Talbot brings to the rink while he's recovering from his bum shoulder?
Will Marc-Andre Fleury stay healthy for an entire season?
Can Chris Kunitz or Bill Guerin hang with Sidney Crosby for an entire season?
Is Alex Goligoski ready to be a full-time NHL defenseman?
How much does Sergei Gonchar have much left in the tank?
Is Dan Bylsma (right) the real deal or a flash in the pan?
Will Evgeni Malkin reclaim the Art Ross Trophy? Or will Crosby?
And can the Penguins piece everything together once again in a way that provides them a chance to be the league's best team in their final season at Mellon Arena?
Questions like these arise every time the National Hockey League begins another season. Lots of them take roughly six months to answer. For elite teams, they get another two months figure out a solution.
This process begins today as the Capitals, Bruins, Canadiens, Maple Leafs, Sharks, Avalanche, Canucks and Flames all kick off the season tonight.
(Photos: Mellon Arena-Getty Images; Tavares-Jim McIsaac/Getty Images; Bylsma-Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)