October is about more than pumpkins and playoff baseball.
Hockey returns Wednesday as the defending Stanley Cup champion Blues prepare to raise their banner and open the regular season against the Capitals. But St. Louis' battle for a repeat won't be the most intriguing narrative to watch unfold.
Here are three storylines to follow heading into the 2019 NHL season.
How will Lightning rebound after disastrous exit last season?
The Lightning tied the league record for the most wins in a season with 62, averaged 3.96 goals per game — the highest mark since 1996 — and tallied an impressive 30 road victories to dominate the regular season. But a shocking first-round exit from the playoffs after being swept by the Blue Jackets left Tampa Bay dismayed and confused. The Lightning had previously been eliminated in Game 6 and Game 7 in the Eastern Conference finals at the hands of the Penguins in 2016 and the Capitals in 2018. Still, expectations remain high for the Lightning with Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman locked in. The team just needs to find a way to overcome their postseason woes.
Can Canada-based teams stay relevant amid Stanley Cup drought?
It's been a while since Lord Stanley took a trip north of the border. In fact, it's been more than 25 years since Montreal last won the championship in 1993. But Canadian teams have shown signs of progress in recent years, and just last season the Flames won the Western Conference regular-season title, the Jets finished second in their division and the Maple Leafs finished with 100 points while also making the playoffs. There's reason to believe all three teams could return to the postseason and perhaps even be joined by the Canadiens or Canucks.
What's next in Seattle expansion?
The NHL's newest team won't hit the ice until the 2021-22 season, but there's plenty of work to be done before then. The club was recently awarded an AHL expansion franchise in Palm Springs, Calif., and general manager Ron Francis added Ricky Olczyk as the club's assistant general manager to compliment director of hockey administration Alexandra Mandrycky. Francis also announced the addition of several scouts, including Cammi Granato, who became the NHL's first female scout. But the team still needs to add more personnel while the arena at Seattle Center undergoes redevelopment. Oh, they also need a name.