By Jenny Masters
The Flyers open the 2021-22 regular season at the Wells next Friday night against the Canucks.
And they’ll be trying to make the playoffs again after missing last season.
The Islanders have reached the third round two years in a row. They’ll carry that success into the regular season, especially if they can get some more goals.
The Hurricanes have had a major turnover in goal and on defense, but coach of the year Rod Brind’Amour can make it mesh.
The Capitals‘ core is getting older, but is still productive. The key question is how long Nicklas Backstrom will be out and how well they handle his absence.
The Penguins are also dealing with major season-opening injuries in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but if any coach can overcome that, it’s Mike Sullivan.
Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher beefed up the defense, but Philadelphia will need the 2019-20 Carter Hart, not last season’s version.
The Rangers are bigger and tougher and Gerard Gallant will coach them well. But youngsters Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafrenière must take a step forward in their development.
The Devils made solid acquisitions in Dougie Hamilton and Jonathan Bernier, but they’ll need another season or two to become a playoff team.
The Blue Jackets moved on from coach John Tortorella with longtime assistant Brad Larsen, but they should remain a last-place team.