Busy offseason sets up intriguing new NHL campaign

Mon Oct 5, 2015 1:13pm EDT
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By Tim Wharnsby

(Reuters) - From rookie phenom Connor McDavid to old coaches in new places to a fresh overtime format and another Chicago Blackhawks title defense, the upcoming 2015-16 NHL season is full to the brim with intrigue.

McDavid is considered the best prospect to reach the NHL since Sidney Crosby a decade ago and the 18-year-old Canadian carries the burden of gargantuan expectations while playing on an Edmonton Oilers team that, at nine seasons, owns the league's longest playoff drought.

Edmonton, with former San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan now behind the bench, are one of seven teams who changed coaches in the offseason. The most high profile move saw Mike Babcock join the rebuilding Toronto Maple Leafs after 10 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings.

Babcock, who signed a mammoth eight-year contract worth $50 million, was replaced by Jeff Blashill, who will try to steer Detroit into the playoffs for the 25th consecutive season, the longest current streak in the NHL.

It will be up to all 30 head coaches to figure out tactics for a new overtime wrinkle that will see three-on-three play replace four-on-four action as part of the NHL's bid to create more scoring and reduce the number of games decided by shootout.

Chicago certainly have the skill to succeed in overtime, but with their third bid in six years to win back-to-back Stanley Cups the defending champs once again will have to overcome the loss of key players as well as the Patrick Kane situation.

The Chicago standout showed up for training camp the target of a sexual assault investigation in connection with an incident that allegedly occurred in his home in early August.

Kane, 26, has not been charged and denies any wrongdoing. The NHL has not taken any action against the Blackhawks forward and the case took a bizarre turn last month when the accuser's lawyer abruptly quit.   Continued...

JChicago Blackhawks defenseman Kimmo Timonen (44) holds the Stanley Cup up during the 2015 Stanley Cup championship rally at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports - RTX1H5DV