Now, with a lineup that might be even more dangerous, the Wings are back in a familiar spot, but will a new set of challengers be able to deliver an upset that has bitten Detroit in the past?
Check out the 10 things to look for on frozen pond this year, and get the complete rankings after the jump.
Bruce Bennett, Getty Images
Jamie Sabau, Getty Images
Dave Sandford, Getty Images
Don Smith, Getty Images
Jim McIsaac, Getty Images
Nam Y. Huh, AP
Richard Wolowicz, Getty Images
Andy Marlin, Getty Images
Niklas Larsson, AP
Dave Reginek, Getty Images
- 1. Red Wings
They're the defending Stanley Cup champs. They got the biggest fish in the free-agent market with Marian Hossa coming over from the team they beat in the finals. And the Red Wings are a strong bet to win back-to-back Cup titles since the Yzerman squads of the late 1990s.
- 3. Stars
Right now, the Stars have become this year's trendy pick for the Cup, as with Marty Turco in net, it's hard not to see Dallas being able to mount a run this spring. The Stars are hoping to give aging center Mike Modano another chance to lift Lord Stanley this spring.
- 4. Canadiens
Montreal enters the year as the class of the Eastern Conference, although it will need to put aside the playoff struggles it had against Boston and Philadelphia to make its 100th season a truly memorable one and claim the franchise's 24th Stanley Cup title.
- 5. Ducks
A year removed from their Stanley Cup run, the Ducks brought back Teemu Selanne for yet another shot to try to get the Finnish Flash one more skate with the Cup. The Ducks' core is getting older, but the Ducks' fate likely lies with Jean-Sebastien Giguere's play in net.
- 6. Capitals
While Alex Ovechkin will be hard-pressed to top his 65-goal performance this season, the Caps overall are a much deeper team than they've been in recent years. The big question mark in Washington is if Jose Theodore can give the Capitals enough stops to go deep in the playoffs.
- 7. Flyers
After a very short rebuilding phase of one season, the Flyers come into the new season back as one of the Eastern contenders. After an impressive run to the third round, Martin Biron has also shown he's capable of being a No. 1 goaltender for a team with a chance to win the Cup.
- 8. Penguins
Thanks to the salary cap, the Penguins' training facility had to install a revolving door this offseason. However, with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin still in the 'Burgh, the core is here for another strong Cup run - if the team can recapture the chemistry of last spring.
- 9. Devils
Martin Brodeur (now apparently selling himself as MB30) is on pace to break Patrick Roy's NHL-record win total of 551 this year, but New Jersey still needs a bit more scoring punch up front if the Devils want to help MB30 equal Roy's Stanley Cup ring total of four.
- 10. Flames
Outside of Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin, Jarome Iginla had a tremendous (and underappreciated) season in Alberta, and he could be able to help the Flames replicate their Stanley Cup finals run of 2004 if the team can survive the brutally tough Western Conference.
- 11. Sabres
After Sabres fans have suffered a year of suffering more bad news than a stockbroker, things are a getting a bit brighter for Buffalo. With Ryan Miller signed to the fold long-term, this team isn't quite the Cup contender of old, but it could make things very interesting in the Northeast.
- 12. Blackhawks
At least Cubs fans will finally be able to see a team capable of winning a playoff series playing at Wrigley. Patrick Kane and the 'Hawks look ready to climb into the playoff mix, as long as Cristobal Huet holds up to the workload in net with him taking the No. 1 spot.
- 13. Senators
The Senators still have a decent core of Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley, but Ottawa's turmoil and lack of depth in goal led to a spectacular collapse last season. The Sens still have firepower, but they can't get very far with their leaky defense and goaltending.
- 14. Wild
With Marian Gaborik's time in St. Paul apparently winding down, Minnesota's window of opportunity to make another playoff run is closing along with it. While the Wild have the defense and goaltending, Gaborik's one of the few on the team who can light the lamp consistently.
- 15. Rangers
Chris Drury takes over the "C" from departed captain Jaromir Jagr, but New York's fate this year depends on how long Henrik Lundqvist plays well and keeps his team in games. So far, the Rangers were able to grab a pair of wins in Europe, but they need to be consistent to contend.
- 16. Bruins
Boston's big hopes for a big-ticket free-agent signing never materialized. However, at least the Bruins should have a healthy Manny Fernandez and Patrice Bergeron added into their lineup this season, so this team should make some strides over last year's club that overachieved.
- 17. Hurricanes
After a storm surge of injuries has hit Carolina in the preseason, the team should lobby to change its alternate logo to a Red Cross rather than the current hurricane warning flag. This team can still tread water as long as Cam Ward plays at his Conn Smythe best this season.
- 18. Avalanche
The Avalanche have Joe Sakic back in the lineup, but having Andrew Raycroft and Peter Budaj in the net isn't like the old days of having Patrick Roy in the crease. This could be the first truly bad Colorado club since the team was still wearing the baby blue fleur-de-lis back in Quebec City.
- 19. Oilers
While the price of oil has skyrocketed over the past 20 months, the Oilers' stock has been way down since sending Ryan Smyth to Long Island in 2007. However, Edmonton is looking to turn the tide, hoping that picking up Erik Cole from the Hurricanes can pick up a stagnant offense.
- 20. Coyotes
The good news coming out of Arizona this summer is that Olli Jokinen has arrived from Florida to help the club. The bad news is the prospect of making the playoffs in the Western Conference appears to be as tough as a long trek across the state's brutal deserts.
- 21. Lightning
Tampa Bay tried to speed up the rebuilding process this summer with a spending spree that brought in Ryan Malone and Olaf Kolzig, along with the draft's top pick Steve Stamkos. It probably won't get the results the new owners hope for, as the goaltending leaves a lot to be desired.
- 22. Predators
The Predators spent a lot of last season worrying if they'd end up playing in Kansas City this season. Now, while the team's future appears secure in Tennessee, the team will have trouble going anywhere in the tough Western Conference.
- 23. Blues
Another team deserving of wearing the Red Cross symbol, losing Erik Johnson with a golf cart injury will set the team's impressive performance last season back. St. Louis will have a tough time making it back to the postseason it used to regularly qualify for.
- 24. Panthers
If history serves as any guide for Florida's prospects this season, the Panthers will begin to play good hockey once they're pushed to the brink of elimination in the playoff race. If only the team knew the points gained in October and November are worth the same as those won in March.
- 25. Blue Jackets
The Jackets gave a noble effort towards securing the team's first playoff berth last season with a franchise-best 80-point effort that had them on the brink of the .500 mark, but Columbus has taken a step backwards and it's just reverted back to Rick Nash carrying the club.
- 26. Canucks
The Canucks made history by making goalie Roberto Luongo a captain - even though he can't actually perform the duties of a captain. Kind of like how the Canucks can try to call themselves a Stanley Cup contender when they can't really fill the role.
- 27. Kings
The Kings continue to be a mess. With the team's uncertain goaltending situation, a revolving personnel department and a tough division, it likely means another winter of people staying away from Staples Center when the Lakers aren't in the building.
- 28. Thrashers
You've got to feel bad for Ilya Kovalchuk, as an Atlanta franchise which once looked like it had a very bright future now simply is a mess. A reported loss of nearly 60 percent of season-ticket sales added with this thin club certainly won't make Philips Arena a fun place to be.
- 29. Islanders
When a team brings in Doug Weight and tries to sell its team as a youth movement, you might not have a very good NHL franchise on your hands. Fired ex-bench boss Ted Nolan might be the luckiest man around to have been spared another season of trying to coach up a sub-par team.
- 30. Maple Leafs
New coach Ron Wilson tried to temper the expectations of hockey-mad Toronto recently, saying that the Maple Leafs aren't going to be winning the Stanley Cup this year. We're certainly not going to disagree.