10 key questions as the NHL makes its return

Another NHL season is here, starting Tuesday night when the Blackhawks raise their second Stanley Cup banner in four years.

You’ve got questions? We’ve got answers.

Q. What was the biggest off-season story?

A. Realignment.

With Detroit and Columbus heading to the Eastern Conference and Winnipeg to the West, the NHL thinks things now make sense.

The Red Wings long lobbied for a move to the East to be within their own time zone. Their rivalry with the Hawks might take a hit, but just think if these two Original 6 teams meet in the Stanley Cup Final.

There are 16 teams in the East now and 14 in the West, but that shouldn’t make a huge difference in making the playoffs.

Q. Was Vancouver keeping Roberto Luongo and trading Cory Schneider to New Jersey a surprise?

A. Absolutely it was. Schneider was the top guy with the Canucks last year, but he was much easier to trade because of Luongo’s huge contract, which runs until he is 42.

Now Luongo is on the spot to be the man again in Vancouver. Can he win a Stanley Cup? Probably not.

Q. Can new coach John Tortorella last in Vancouver?

A. Well, the Vancouver media can be just as tough as New York, but it’s way more intense in Canada, where hockey is everything. There are no Rex Ryans in Vancouver to take the heat off Tortorella. His tough-guy act won’t last long there.

Q. Why is the Hockey News picking St. Louis to win the Stanley Cup?

A. The Blues think they have all the pieces in place for a long Cup run. They re-signed defensive anchor Alex Pietrangelo to a long-term contract, are deep up front, and have a top goaltending tandem of Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott.

Thanks to the new division playoffs, the Blues will likely face the Hawks in the second round and that will be their big test.

Q. Are the Stanley Cup champion Hawks better or worse than last year?

A. Losing Dave Bolland, Michael Frolik and Viktor Stalberg automatically makes them not as deep as last year and puts pressure on Joakim Nordstrom, Jimmy Hayes and Branson Bollig to pick up the slack. But the Hawks’ top three lines, defense and goalie Corey Crawford are as good as anyone in the league.

Q. How will Detroit fare in the Eastern Conference?

A. Probably pretty well. The Red Wings took the Hawks to seven games in the second round of the West playoffs and have added veterans Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss. Detroit will always be competitive as long as Mike Babcock is behind the bench.

Q. What are the most interesting old faces in new places?

A. Jaromir Jagr in New Jersey; Alfredsson in Detroit; Tim Thomas in Florida; Nikolai Khabibulin in Chicago; Daniel Briere in Montreal; Bolland in Toronto; Vincent Lecavalier in Philadelphia; and Bobby Ryan in Ottawa.

Q. How many teams have new coaches?

A. Five: Lindy Ruff in Dallas; John Tortorella in Vancouver; Alain Vigneault in New York with the Rangers; Patrick Roy in Colorado; and Dallas Eakins in Edmonton.

Q. What coach is on the hottest seat?

A. Mike Yeo in Minnesota. The Wild better win at least one round in the playoffs or Yeo will be toast.

Q. Are six outdoor games too many?

A. Absolutely not. This lets more fan bases experience the greatness of the event.

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