A new hockey season begins Saturday for the Bruins and the other 29 teams in the National Hockey League. After a 100-plus day lockout, teams had less than a week to prepare for their openers.
So to preview the league, we’ll be brief, as well. Read our series of Top-3 lists to learn everything from the best Massachusetts players to the hardest hitters.
1. Mike Smith, Phoenix — On the books for one more year at $2 million. Bargain bucks for top-five goaltending.
2. David Desharnais, Montreal — Rare to see top-line centers earning $850,000 per year.
3. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia — One of the top three centers in the game alongside Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Bringing home a mere $3.75 million annually.
1. Dany Heatley, Minnesota — That $7.5 million annually looks more dated than a Ferrari Testarossa.
2. James Wisniewski, Columbus — At best, he’s a No. 3 defenseman. Yet somehow scored a six-year, $33 million deal.
3. Joel Ward, Washington — Scored the Game 7 winner against the Bruins last season. But not many fourth-liners pull down $3 million annually.
Most respected players
1. Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit — Yet to find a single opponent with a bad thing to say about the center.
2. Shane Doan, Phoenix — Plays with an edge, but a gentleman off the ice.
3. Ryan Callahan, N.Y. Rangers — Every GM and coach wants Callahan on his team.
Best Massachusetts players
1. Cory Schneider, Vancouver — Time for Marblehead native to shine in the puck-stopping spotlight.
2. Keith Yandle, Phoenix — Smooth-moving defenseman from Milton triggers the attack.
3. Ryan Whitney, Edmonton — Scituate native will be go-to veteran on young club.
Coaches on hot seat
1. Joel Quenneville, Chicago — Too much talent for there not to be results. Mediocre goaltending can be a coach killer.
2. Todd McLellan, San Jose — Perennial playoff disappointments might see regular-season shakeup if things start poorly.
3. Joe Sacco, Colorado — Young assistants (Tim Army, David Quinn) waiting in the wings if Avalanche can’t find traction.
1. Niklas Kronwall, Detroit — Can take the wind out of opponents with his trademark hip-first blast.
2. Milan Lucic, Boston — About time for Lucic to do some damage on a pane of glass.
3. Dustin Brown, Los Angeles — All too happy to run you over.
1. Joe Thornton, San Jose — Some tread is off the tires, but hands and eyes are still among game’s best.
2. Henrik Sedin, Vancouver — Almost unfair when twin brother Daniel knows exactly where to go.
3. Nicklas Backstrom, Washington — Puts sweet dishes right on Alex Ovechkin’s blade.
Best brother duos
1. Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Vancouver — Nothing can match twin telepathy.
2. Eric and Jordan Staal, Carolina — Yet to play together on same NHL team. But should be deadly 1-2 center punch.
3. Luke and Brayden Schenn, Philadelphia — One is a defenseman. Other is a forward. Both play with bite.
Most respected fighters
1. Shawn Thornton, Boston — Always fights according to The Code. Almost too honest.
2. Brandon Prust, Montreal — Tough, straightforward scrapper.
3. George Parros, Florida — Clearly an Ivy League man.
Best players with two first names
1. Bobby Ryan, Anaheim — Can play all three forward positions.
2. James Neal, Pittsburgh — Doesn’t hurt to play with Evgeni Malkin.
3. Luke Adam, Buffalo — Budding power forward, if he gets more ice time.
Best non-hockey bodies
1. Dustin Byfuglien, Winnipeg — Could be a good wingman for Vince Wilfork.
2. Erik Karlsson, Ottawa — Slighter than an Abercrombie & Fitch model.
3. Jhonas Enroth, Buffalo — Listed as 5 feet 10 inches. Maybe when he’s wearing his goalie skates.
Best players with worst reputations
1. Phil Kessel, Toronto — Was sixth in league scoring last season. Regularly derided as soft.
2. Jason Spezza, Ottawa — As skilled as they come. Not known for playing with jam.
3. Dion Phaneuf, Toronto — Not on Nathan Horton’s Christmas list.
Best offensive defensemen
1. Erik Karlsson, Ottawa — Game-changer from back end.
2. Kris Letang, Pittsburgh — Quick to get the puck to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
3. Dan Boyle, San Jose — Graybeard still an elite skater.