A new NHL season kicks into full gear this week and, suddenly, we’re going to have plenty of meaningful hockey on our hands. That’s great news but, assuming you’ve got limited time, attention and viewing screens, you’re probably going to need to make some tough decisions about where to direct your attention. After all, not all games/teams are created equal when it comes to entertainment value, so you’re going to want to choose wisely in order to maximize the viewing experience.
As such, here’s a handy guide to the watchability of the league’s 32 teams.
Anaheim Ducks | Watchability: Medium
When you have Trevor Zegras on your team, the watchability floor is elevated simply because there’s a chance he could do something outrageous on any given night. Outside of Zegras, the Ducks have some nice building blocks (the arrival of Mason McTavish will be fun to keep tabs on), but they may still be a little ways away from being a contender worth taking seriously.
Arizona Coyotes | Watchability: Ironically high
The Coyotes are the trash TV of the NHL — it doesn’t have to be particularly good or meaningful to have entertainment value. Arizona may be icing one of the worst teams of the salary cap era and playing in a college arena. So things are going to get weird in a hurry and that’s worth checking in on.
Boston Bruins | Watchability: Medium
Typically the Bruins don’t deliver the most high-octane brand of hockey, but we’ll see how much different the system is under new coach Jim Montgomery. Starting the season without Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy is going to hurt the product a bit. Still, they have a competitive roster that’s worth monitoring as long as the team can keep its head above water in the first month or so. Plus, this could be the final season of Patrice Bergeron and/or David Krejci, so there’s a little of “The Last Dance” energy to this group. Enjoy it while you can.
Buffalo Sabres | Watchability: Low
There’s a decent crop of young talent, and the rebuild should start coming clearer into focus. However, I wouldn’t expect too much just yet. The Sabres exited the “trash TV” category and at least have some respectability, but that actually hurts the entertainment value for anyone outside of Buffalo. If there are two main selling points, it’s the potential Calder Trophy campaign of Owen Power and the return of the legendary “goathead” jersey.
Calgary Flames | Watchability: High
It’ll be fascinating to see how a new-look Flames team comes together with Jonathan Huberdeau and Nazem Kadri in the mix up front. On paper, they still look to be a legitimate contender with plenty of talent across the board. Losing Matthew Tkachuk is a bummer because he’s one of the league’s best pot-stirrers and that’s always fun to watch. They do have Darryl Sutter, though, so you’re gonna get some funny faces behind the bench at least.
Carolina Hurricanes | Watchability: High
They seem to be a darling Stanley Cup contender and, once again, they should be fun to watch given how much sustained pressure they can apply on an opposing team. I’m excited to see Brent Burns register 75 shots a game.
Chicago Blackhawks | Watchability: Very low
Colorado Avalanche | Watchability: Very high
The reigning Stanley Cup champs have as dynamic and explosive a lineup as you’ll find in hockey. Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar are two generational talents that are capable of making the highlight reel every night. The skating ability of this team is unmatched. If you’ve got a chance to see this team in person, it’ll help you appreciate them even more.
Columbus Blue Jackets | Watchability: Medium
Dallas Stars | Watchability: Medium
The Stars are an aging, projected middle-of-the-pack team that has been best-known for choking the life out of opponents via good defensive structure and good goaltending in recent years. That’s not super appealing from a neutral entertainment standpoint. That being said, Jason Robertson is fun, and there are a few more points of interest. Can Tyler Seguin rediscover the offensive touch? Will the Stars be more exciting under Pete DeBoer? Can Jake Oettinger continue to be the elite monster in net that he was last postseason?
Detroit Red Wings | Watchability: Medium to low
The rebuild is coming along, and they definitely improved this summer. I’d be surprised if they blew anyone away this year, though. The Yzerplan preaches patience, and we’re probably going to have to wait a little bit longer before these guys really start to command our attention. However, I’m thrilled that Elmer Soderblom made the opening-night roster. A 6-foot-8 forward that brings an extremely rare combination of skill and size? Sign me up.
Edmonton Oilers | Watchability: Very high
They have Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl — that alone gets them into the “must-see TV” category. Plus, they switched back to the royal blue jerseys and now will return to being one of the best-looking teams in the league. Personally, though, I’m going to miss the never-ending circus that was Mike Smith in net. Jack Campbell has some big shoes to fill in terms of entertainment value.
Florida Panthers | Watchability: High
This is a team that averaged over four goals a game en route to winning the Presidents’ Trophy last season before trading their leading scorer in Jonathan Huberdeau and changing coaches over the summer. So, yeah, there’s plenty of intrigue to see what kind of carryover they’ll have as a unit. At the very least, Matthew Tkachuk will give them more of an edge and increase the chaotic factor, and we can all appreciate that.
Los Angeles Kings | Watchability: Medium-plus
The Kings vaulted back into relevance last season and should be even better this year, so I think they’ll fall somewhere in between medium and high on the entertainment scale. They added Kevin Fiala, who had 85 points in 2021-22, and will get back Drew Doughty on the defensive end. Plus, it’ll be worth monitoring some of their younger players with potential (Quinton Byfield, Arthur Kaliyev, Alex Turcotte) to see if they make major strides. There’s always the chance of a Jonathan Quick meltdown in net, too.
Minnesota Wild | Watchability: High
Kirill Kaprizov is my preseason pick to win the Hart Trophy as league MVP, and he alone should command your attention. Then you throw in a talented and deep roster that includes up-and-coming young stars like Matthew Boldy, Marco Rossi and Calen Addison? This is a far cry from the “Minnesota Mild” teams that lulled the league to sleep for years.
Montreal Canadiens | Watchability: Medium
This team could very well provide a perfect mix of ironic and unironic entertainment. On one hand, you have some legitimate reasons to check them out, including a revamped forward group that now features Kirby Dach, Sean Monahan and top overall pick Juraj Slafkovsky. Then there’s the question of how Martin St. Louis will fare in first official season as head coach and whether he can continue to get the most out of Cole Caufield. On the other hand, this team is clearly transitioning (perhaps even tanking), and they have a very uninspiring and inexperienced defensive group playing in front of an underwhelming goaltending duo. If you like sky-high scorelines, this could be the team for you!
Nashville Predators | Watchability: Medium
The Preds were the final playoff team in the Western Conference last season and, while they weren’t overly exciting, they were certainly respectable. That’ll probably be their general vibe again this time around, though I’ll be curious whether Matt Duchene can replicate the explosive offensive season he (finally) delivered last season.
New Jersey Devils | Watchability: Low-plus
The Devils are a candidate to take a step forward this season, as long as Jack Hughes stays healthy and they can get a few saves here and there. However, their ceiling is probably a bubble team. They’re probably not going to steal your attention most nights.
New York Islanders | Watchability: Low-plus
The Isles are coming off a disappointing season in which basically everything that could have gone wrong did. But even when they were grinding out wins and making back-to-back trips to the East final under Barry Trotz, they still weren’t the most riveting team to watch. I expect the Islanders to bounce back this year. Perhaps they’ll open things up a bit more under new coach Lane Lambert, but the lack of offseason movement — coupled with their suffocating defensive identity — presents a lack of exciting selling points.
New York Rangers | Watchability: High
Though certainly imperfect, the Rangers were one of the more fun and intriguing teams in the league last season due to their rising stock and the outlandish play of Igor Shesterkin. Now that they have our attention and made some changes over the summer, the pressure is on to continue that momentum and keep reaching the entertainment bar they’ve set.
Ottawa Senators | Watchability: High
Ottawa had itself an offseason, adding Alex DeBrincat and Claude Giroux to the front end of a forward group that already featured some very fun, young players. Now we’re left wondering if one of the league’s most frequent punching bags has an elite top six and could be on the road to relevancy. The Sens might be a little chaotic on the defensive end, but there’s intrigue when it comes to the arrival of Jake Sanderson. Plus we’ll have to find out how much better Cam Talbot makes them right away. It’s hard to know what their ceiling is right now, but they’re at least drawing plenty of interest.
Philadelphia Flyers | Watchability: Ironically high
Yes, the Flyers look really bad on paper, and morale in Philly seems very low at the moment thanks to some of Chuck Fletcher’s recent swings and misses. This team could be a glorious mess racing its way to the bottom. But, on the bright side, a team coached by John Tortorella is rarely boring, for better or for worse. Torts and Philadelphia is a match made in anger management heaven.
Pittsburgh Penguins | Watchability: Medium
They’re committed to staying the path and keeping the window open with this current core, and I think we can all probably guess how this season is going to go. We’ll all doubt them, especially when half the roster gets injured, and yet they’ll continue to find surprising levels of success and make the playoffs thanks to some guys you’ve never heard of scoring like 30 goals next to Sidney Crosby. Some day, the wheels might fall off, but it probably won’t be this season.
San Jose Sharks | Watchability: Low
The Sharks will probably continue to be stuck in no man’s land — not really good or bad enough to warrant your attention. They have an aging, uninspiring roster that features some guys you’ve probably heard of but nobody you’re really gonna rush to watch. It’s a tough place to find yourself. But, hey, the new uniforms are good.
Seattle Kraken | Watchability: Low-plus
The inaugural season was a disaster, and we still have plenty of questions about the way they approached the expansion draft. However, the future doesn’t look terrible. It’ll be fun to see what Matty Beniers and Shane Wright can bring down the middle in their first full seasons, and I really like the addition of Oliver Bjorkstrand. I’d be careful getting your hopes too high, though, as coaching and goaltending are still major question marks capable of sinking them.
St. Louis Blues | Watchability: Medium
The Blues were surprisingly fun and successful last season thanks to a deep forward group and the emergence of Ville Husso, who did a good job supporting a blue line that was basically held together by Scotch tape. Well, Husso is gone, but that forward group largely remains intact. So we could be seeing plenty of goals on both ends of the ice.
Tampa Bay Lightning | Watchability: High
They came awfully close to pulling off the near-impossible three-peat last season, and if that doesn’t demand your attention … well, you’re not even worth trying to please. Yeah, they’re getting older, have lost a few pieces due to cap constraints and can tend to be a rollercoaster during the regular season, but Tampa isn’t worth bailing on — especially while they still have a roster core that includes Andrei Vasilevskiy, Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point and Victor Hedman.
Toronto Maple Leafs | Watchability: Very high
For better or for worse, the Maple Leafs are typically VERY entertaining during the regular season. (You probably already know how it goes in the playoffs.) That should remain the case in 2022-23 as they return a talented core that includes reigning Hart winner Auston Matthews (who scored 60 goals last season), John Tavares, Mitch Marner and William Nylander. The stakes continue to climb, too, as there’s probably an inevitable shakeup on the horizon if this group can’t finally put together sustained success that carries over into a playoff run. But stop me if you’ve heard this one before: There’s some concern about this team holding it together on the back end. After a very sketchy year of goaltending, they’ve decided to trot out a new duo of … Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov. That could be an adventure on any given night.
Vancouver Canucks | Watchability: Medium
I’ll be honest: I don’t really know what to expect from this team … and maybe that’s enough intrigue in itself. Bruce Boudreau helped them climb out of an early-season hole and find a respectable finish last season, but they missed the playoffs and still have some outstanding questions. What kind of start will they find under Boudreau this year? How good will Elias Pettersson be? Can the defense hold it together? Your guess is as good as mine, but we’ll have to tune in to know for sure.
Vegas Golden Knights | Watchability: Medium-plus
The Knights are looking to bounce back to a legitimate Western Conference contender after a disappointing, injury-plagued season that culminated in their first missed postseason in franchise history. They’ll be under new bench leadership this year with Bruce Cassidy, and it should be interesting to see what he gets out of that group, particularly Jack Eichel in his first full season with Vegas. They have enough high-end talent to headline a night’s slate, but they’re also flawed, particularly in net, so there’s the potential for things to go sideways again, too.
Washington Capitals | Watchability: Medium
The Capitals are a lot like the Penguins in that they’re also an aging team trying to keep the contending window open. Despite some key injuries (Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson to start the season), they Caps will probably continue to find enough success to warrant your attention. Plus, Alex Ovechkin is going to continue to chip away at Wayne Gretzky’s goal record, and that alone is worth paying attention, especially if the Russian machine continues to operate at the age-defying level he found last season.
Winnipeg Jets | Watchability: Medium
Coming into this season, it feels like the Jets are in a make-or-break spot. After some rumblings of a divided locker room last season, there was an expectation that they’d make a significant change or two to their core this summer. But instead of a big splash, they hired veteran coach Rick Bowness and re-organized their leadership structure, stripping the “C” from now ex-captain Blake Wheeler. Will that be enough to provide a renewed sense of direction? Or will more disappointment push them toward bigger changes? It feels like things could go either way, but Winnipeg heads into a new season with another pretty good roster on paper with a mix of familiar and new players worth watching. Cole Perfetti could play himself into the Calder mix if all goes to plan.