Stanley Cup Finalists Looking Forward
The NHL will have some new looks next year. Already, St. Louis and Anaheim have chosen new coaches, despite both teams having made the playoffs. The entry draft and free agency deadline are just around the corner. So a month from now we will have a much-better idea of how teams will shape up going forward. But for now let's look at the prospects for 2016's finalists, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks. It may have nothing to do with Stanley Cup Finals betting line for 2017. But it's fun looking ahead.
Pens Have Future
The Penguins are battling history. The Stanley Cup hasn't had a repeat winner since the Detroit Red Wings did it in 1997. But that shouldn't keep them from the dynasty talk that the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks generated from winning alternately in recent years. And the Pens have the stuff to do it. GM Jim Rutherford has assembled what could become a machine, with a mixture of experienced and young talent that could last. They also have a first-class coach in Mike Sullivan. They could even have a bargaining chip in a trade deal. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was having a good season until he went out with a concussion in March. That put Matt Murray in goal, and he was outstanding. If Fleury sees No. 2 in the cards, he may go somewhere that needs a No. 1. But the Pens' core players are still under 30, and have positive futures. The Pens should be expected to make another run.
Sharks Have Work
The Sharks are a different story. They were playing with house money when they conquered the St. Louis Blues to win the Western Conference title. After a couple of games in the finals, it was clear that the Sharks were outclassed. Their blue line was exploited, and their lack of scoring depth was exposed. So they need to work in the offseason to counter those issues. The heart of the club is still young enough that its championship window remains open. But Pacific Division rivals in Los Angeles and Anaheim await to turn things around. Beyond that, there are Chicago, St. Louis and Dallas in the West.
Yes, it is way too early to contemplate Stanley Cup finals betting line for a year from now. But the future - and futures - look much better for the Penguins than the Sharks.