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2019-20 NHL preview: Three storylines to follow this season

October 2 2019 1:46 AM

October is about more than pumpkins and playoff baseball.

The NHL returns on Wednesday as defending Stanley Cup champions the St Louis Blues prepare to raise their banner and open the regular season against the Washington Capitals.

But St Louis' battle for a repeat will not be the most intriguing narrative to watch unfold.

Here are three storylines to follow heading into the 2019 NHL season.

 

How will Lightning rebound after disastrous exit last season?

The Tampa Bay Lightning tied the league record for the most wins in a season with 62, averaged 3.96 goals per game – the highest mark since 1996 – and tallied an impressive 30 road victories to dominate the regular season. But a shocking first-round exit from the playoffs after being swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets left Tampa Bay dismayed and confused. The Lightning had previously been eliminated in Game 6 and Game 7 in the Eastern Conference finals at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016 and the Capitals in 2018. Still, expectations remain high for the Lightning with Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman locked in. The team just need to find a way to overcome their postseason woes.

Can Canada-based teams stay relevant amid Stanley Cup drought?

It has been a while since Lord Stanley took a trip north of the border. In fact, it has been more than 25 years since the Montreal Canadiens last won the championship in 1993. But Canadian teams have showed signs of progress in recent years, and just last season the Calgary Flames won the Western Conference regular-season title, the Winnipeg Jets finished second in their division and the Toronto Maple Leafs finished with 100 points while also making the playoffs. There is reason to believe all three teams could return to the postseason and perhaps even be joined by the Canadiens or the Vancouver Canucks.

What's next in Seattle expansion?

The NHL's newest team will not hit the ice until the 2021-22 season, but there is plenty of work to be done before then. The club were recently awarded an AHL expansion franchise in Palm Springs, California, and general manager Ron Francis added Ricky Olczyk as the club's assistant general manager to compliment director of hockey administration Alexandra Mandrycky. Francis also announced the addition of several scouts, including Cammi Granato, who became the NHL's first female scout. But the team still need to add more personnel while the arena at Seattle Center undergoes redevelopment. Oh, they also need a name.

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