SPNHL, Season 32: Season Preview
By: Jake H. Dietrich.

It’s the calm before the storm again, and the wailing sirens in the intro to Propagandhi’s “Note to Self” are very fitting to be writing this article to. The lead singer is a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are the only team with a rookie GM this season and a team that went from disaster last season to looking like a contender this season.

Enough about trivial facts, let’s get down to business here. After the dynasty dismantled last season, the New Jersey Devils rose up to claim the crown of the Stanley Cup Champions of the SPNHL. Defending that crown is going to be more difficult than ever, as there are 11 very talented teams who have the potential to make a run at the cup in the thirty-second season of the SPNHL.

There are some all-time greats returning to the SPNHL, talented rookies looking to make a name for themselves, former GMs returning to management positions and tons of other intriguing stories heading into this season. Being the last 5 week season before the lengthy summer season, there will be a mad dash for the finish line, and starting your season with a series of wins is crucial for teams who want to be in that playoff picture.

Let’s take a look at the 12 teams we’ve got in contention this season. We’ll take a look at their projected (for the GMs that didn’t DM me) or actual (thank you to the GMs that did DM me) starting lineups, and give a quick profile of their team. At the end of it all, we’ll rank them by conference and get an idea of how the playoff picture is gonna look. Don’t bet on it, I’m not Miss Cleo giving out free readings.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

NEW JERSEY DEVILS
GM: Dirty-D.

Starting lineup:
LW: SmokeShowJoe.
C: Dirty-Dietrich.
RW: Rich2K8.
LD: DBS.
RD: Bergy.
G: Turtle.

And we’re back! Rich and I return with a strong defensive squad featuring former Norris winner DodgeBlueShells and two key players on last season’s Colorado squad: Bergy and Turtle. Joined by forwards such as Joe and Saunter and with a depth chart that includes MinorThreat and IMC, we feel that our Devils will have a similar build to the defensive juggernaut of the real Devils in the 2000s.
TEAM RATINGS:
Offense: 3. Rich is a phenomenal goal scorer, and the defensive playmakers we have surrounded him with will keep him scoring goals. However, will the lack of additional elite talent weigh us down?
Defense: 5. With a starting duo of DBS and Bergy, a defensive focus at forward, and utility players who can step up and carry the load when duty calls, we feel very confident in our ability to defend our net.
Goaltending: 4. Turtle was the starting goalie for Colorado and William M. Jennings trophy winner last season, and he and rookie Sleepeh will form a strong duo in New Jersey.

NEW YORK RANGERS.
GM: Scalz.

Starting lineup:
LW: MJVoell.
C: Deathclown.
RW: Single-G6.
LD: Nowell.
RD: Smiirk.
G: PNCPark (the whole arena).

After a disappointing season, Scalz returns with the strongest team he has had as a GM in this league. Having the second overall pick for a second consecutive season, Scalz is almost becoming the real-life Edmonton Oilers of the SPNHL (might get confusing, don’t worry about it). With two second overall picks in single and Clown being paired with MJ in front of nowell and Smiirk (or Chief and Scalz) and PNC in net, the Rangers have a good chance at making the playoffs.

TEAM RATINGS:
Offense: 4. They have plenty of talent at forward, and probably would have gotten 5 out of 5 if it weren’t for the poor availability of their starting C and LW. However, if the team makes playoffs, they’ll be a force to be reckoned with.
Defense: 4. Arguably the deepest defensive core in the league, the Rangers have 4 skilled natural defenders who can support the explosive offense on breakouts and in the offensive zone.
Goaltending: 3. PNC is a decent goalie, but has had trouble in SP in the past. Playing behind a team like the Rangers should make life a little easier for PNC and hockeyman, for those games PNC can’t play.

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
GM: Turd.

Starting lineup:
LW: jmm420.
C: Arrowhunter.
RW: Jeff.
LD: Pliskin.
RD: Monokuuu (PLAYS DEFENSE FOR YOUUU).
G: Turd.

Turdburgler made the playoffs in his second season as a GM, with the Penguins taking the eventual champions to seven games in the first round. While keeping a couple key players in Pliskin and TragicMagic, the Penguins have a new look on offense with Jeff, JMM, and Arrow forming a dangerous top line with supporting options in Monokuuu, Duckweed, and “Holy fucking shit it’s Baseball Mike”.

TEAM RATINGS:

Offense: 4. Jeff is an unbelievably talented player and JMM could be the leading scorer amongst rookies, but will Arrow be a flash in the pan and Tragic’s defensive style match with these two wingers? Will the rookie wingers in Vital and Huncho be as successful as the other wingers on this squad?
Defense: 3. Plisk and Mono are good defenders, and BaseballMike will support them well, but they don’t have the talent at D to compete with the other teams in this conference.
Goaltending: 4. Turd is turd. He’s a great starting goaltender and doesn’t get the credit he deserves. He’ll be the main and perhaps only goaltender for Pittsburgh.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
GM: Uber.

Starting lineup:
LW: xLeGenDaRyy.
C: Stonerboy.
RW: Stamkos.
LD: Uber.
RD: Ajax.
G: Rancher12345.

That top line may be one of the strongest in the league. Uber is carrying on the TrueLegend legacy in Tampa by building one of the strongest teams not only in the conference, but perhaps in the league. Stamkos, Stoner, and Legend have incredible offensive prowess on that line (housing two former first overall picks) and Uber found himself a stalwart of a defensive partner in Ajax. Backstopped by Rancher and Daf while also having Full_Melt and PoolMagician as reserves, it’s gonna be hard to beat the Bolts.

TEAM RATINGS:
Offense: 4. With an incredibly dangerous top line, the Lightning already have an edge over most teams. With Full_Melt and Pool as backups, the Bolts are easily one of the strongest offensive teams in the league.
Defense: 4. Uber and Ajax are one of the best starting pairs in the league bar none, but the lack of depth at the position may cause some issues in case one of them can’t play a game.
Goaltending: 4. Rancher is a former Vezina and Conn Smythe winner and was crucial in New Jersey’s cup victory last season, and with a strong support in Daf, it will be very difficult to score on Tampa this season.

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
GM: Shadow.

Starting lineup:
LW: MrBean.
C: Shayne.
RW: NJ.
LD: GodsPlan.
RD: Notorious.
G: Shadow.

Shadow took over the Leafs this past offseason and made a huge move by trading the first overall pick for an all-star defender in GodsPlan and a first round pick. He got Gods’ brother in NJ and built a solid squad with Noto as Gods partner on the back end, while Shayne and Calder winner MrBean form the top line with NJ. Shadow will backstop this squad with Defacin as his backup, and reserve options in Muse, Jared, and Appler compliment this Toronto squad nicely. Will this Toronto squad fall apart like they did halfway through last season?

TEAM RATINGS:
Offense: 4. NJ and Bean are solid wingers who can score goals, but will Shayne or Muse emerge as the starting C? Both are capable, as Muse is a natural C with lower availability and Shayne is an RD with higher availability. Time will tell.
Defense: 4. GodsPlan is a stud at LD, and Shayne can play RD if need be. My question marks are Appler and Noto. Both have experience at D, just haven’t had oodles of success at the position. Maybe this season marks a change.
Goaltending: 3. Shadow is a good goalie, but after a solid couple of seasons at RW, his move back there makes me question it. Not too much is known about Defacin, so his perennial question mark brings down this team’s grade.

WASHINGTON CAPITALS
GM: Kozmo.

Starting lineup:
LW: Extendo.
C: Ransom.
RW: Fluri.
LD: Rankin.
RD: Le-Mollz.
G: Snipeshotty.

Kozmo comes back to the East after some regular season success in the West and brings back Ransom, who has helped Koz get to the finals before. He forms a top line with Fluri and Extendo while Rankin and Le-Mollz hold down the fort in front of the best goaltending duo in the league in Snipeshotty and Westsidehockey. With depth forwards in GermanGretzky and Aurelduhaime and defenders in steelersfan and way2goal, the Capitals have the deepest and best-rounded squad in the Eastern conference.

TEAM RATINGS:
Offense: 4. Ransom is an extraordinary talent up front who can excel as a defensive forward or light it up as a playmaker, and with the dynamic offense of Fluri, Kozmo may have found his Ovechkin and Backstrom. Or Kuznetsov. Maybe Extendo is Kuzy.
Defense: 4. Rankin was touted as one of the best defenders heading into this draft, and with three very talented support defenders in Mollz, Steeler, and Way2Goal balance this team out nicely on the back end.
Goaltending: 5. Last season’s Vezina winner and a goalie that brought the Penguins to the Stanley Cup Finals in season 27. Need we say more?

WESTERN CONFERENCE

EDMONTON OILERS
GM: Vandoos.

Starting lineup:
LW: u12bme.
C: Servnspike (miss you :’( )
RW: LeCupidon.
LD: Beaster.
RD: Sportsgeek.
G: Vandoos.

Vandoos has built a solid team, but will they amount to anything?We say this every season about the Edmonton Oilers, but now that the remnants of the French Connection are cleared, Cupidon has two solid forwards in Jason and Serv to play with, while their defensive pairing of Beaster and Sportsgeek will play well together in front of Vandoos. Backup forwards in Cam, Nutty, and Pooky while Bubba and ElRookie support the back end make for a deep Edmonton squad.

TEAM RATINGS:
Offense: 4. Cupidon is easily one of the best players in the league, and with Jason moving from LD to LW with Serv between them, Edmonton finally has a bonafide top line that reminds me of that Pasta-Bergeron-Rat line in Boston.
Defense: 3. Beaster is a great defender, and while Sportsgeek is good too, Bubba’s lack of experience will either cost this defense or force Jason to move back to LD and take away from that dangerous top line.
Goaltending: 3. Vandoos says he is better this year, but the reputation that he and ElRookie have in net is not a shining one. They’ll be relying on the defense a lot this season, otherwise it may not be pretty.

LOS ANGELES KINGS
GM: PistolPete.

LW: Pete.
C: Hypey.
RW: Sudzy.
LD: CapCan (like Kapkan from Siege except less explosive (sorry))
RD: NowYoDead.
G: Chad the Bitch.

This team genuinely scares me. Pete and Chad went to get some sun in LA and brought some dangerous forwards with them. They have the best top line in the league in Sudzy, Hypey, and Pete playing in front of arguably the best goalie in the league even though he’s a toxic fuck. The issue here may be defense as CapCan and Dead are decent defenders but lack depth at the position. Still, with offense and goaltending like that, they will have very few issues.

TEAM RATINGS:
Offense: 5. Dude, come on. Sudzy, Hypey, and Petey? Unreal. That’s a terrifying line. Dumais and Tedd are no slouches as backup forwards, so LA can feel confident with whoever they put out there.
Defense: 3. The crack in the armour of this team. CapCan and Dead will be this team’s top defensive pairing, but they aren’t that cornerstone defender that most teams need. KC and Fully loaded, their backup defenders, won’t be either.
Goaltending: 5. I despise Chad more than anybody in this league. He’s a great big pain in the ass. He is one of the best goalies I have ever played with and is worth every penny of his large salary.

NASHVILLE PREDATORS
GM: Peacekeeper.
LW: Oriole.
C: Serg.
RW: Yesse (animal).
LD: Kaxoman.
RD: UltimateGamer.
G: Peacekeeper.

Peacekeeper returns as a GM and got stuck with a team that had the privilege of drafting late in every round. The Predators picked up some good players, with a top line of Oriole, Serg and Yesse being supported on D by Kaxo and UltimateGamer. Peace drafter a decent top line to play in front of him, while housing some good backup options in Francey, Bundy, Shaggy, hockeygirl, and ShawnSauve. Nashville has a decent squad, but might find themselves at the bottom of the West.

TEAM RATINGS:
Offense: 3. The Predators have a core of gritty, forechecking forwards with a couple finishers in Yesse and Shaggy. However, they lack the overall offensive prowess that other teams possess.
Defense: 4. Kaxoman and Gamer form a solid defensive pairing, while Shawnsauve and Bundy have also played D in the past. Every season, a team becomes the “utility team”. This is it.
Goaltending: 3. Peacekeeper’s limited availability will require lots of other players to step up and hold down the pipes. Francey looks to be playing net this season, but time will tell if he is as good as he says he is (he says he’s elite. Cool)

VANCOUVER CANUCKS
GM: Triix.

Starting lineup:
LW: Fishhure
C: Triix.
RW: Bstieboy (I’m telling y’all, it’s sabotage!)
LD: Redconcept.
RD: At-ezz.
G: Five-star.

Triix had a bit of a tumultuous season, going from first overall pick to frequently traded throughout the season. To avoid all that BS, he took over as the GM of the Vancouver Canucks and has assembled a solid team. He anchors an immensely talented top line with Fishhure and Bstie, while playing in front of a tight back end (puns?) of redconcept, at_ezz, and fivestar. Shepard and Bruins are good pickups to support their defensive and goaltending efforts, while Ruggle and Wukie will make for good backup forwards.

TEAM RATINGS:
Offense: 4. It would have been a 5 if Fishhure had better availability. All three of their starters are scoring machines and putting them together will result in the Canucks running away with a lot of games this season.
Defense: 4. At_Ezz is a solid RD and Shep has proven himself as a solid defender, but the big question will be how well RedConcept plays out of net. His play at LD could make or break this team.
Goaltending: 4. Fivestar backstopped the Leafs to the finals a few seasons ago, but had a rough season last season. He’ll be looking to return to form this season and with help from Bruins, backstop the Canucks on a deep playoff run.

VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS
GM: Sliyum.

Staring lineup:
LW: Neeposh_Patrick (PLANET PATRICK).
C: Defenestrate.
RW: FrankPompei.
LD: JamieBenn.
RD: Sedinpower (National Hockey League).
G: Sliyum.

A lot of people’s early picks to win the Stanley Cup, the Vegas Golden Knights returned to their first cup final after dismantling the Colorado Dynasty, but fell short to the Devils. This season, they snagged one of the best players in SP history in Sedinpower, and built a team around him that includes Sliyum’s buddy Jamiebenn, FrankPompei, a talented playmaking C in Defenestrate, and Sedin’s old buddy Patrick. With Hossa, Benner, and Bosanceros as backup forwards and Ush as a backup defender, the Knights have a good shot at making the Finals again.

Offense: 4. Defenestrate is one of the most underrated players in this league, and will light it up on a line with Patrick, Pompei, or whoever they put with him. Benner as a backup forward is a huge steal for this team as well.
Defense: 5. Sedin has won the Norris trophy for two seasons in a row, while Jamie and Ush have established themselves as utility players who are best suited as defenders, giving this team the best defense in the west.
Goaltending: 4. Sliyum is a former Hart winner who nearly backstopped a team to a cup this past season. If he plays more, and Bigwalks holds his own as a backup goaltender, he may capture the cup for the first time in 5 seasons.

WINNIPEG JETS
GM: Reaper.

Starting lineup:
LW: Reaper.
C: Hyper.
RW: Kidmoney.
LD: Eggman.
RD: Plastic_World.
G: Dophares.

After losing in the first round to the Avs last season, Winnipeg has found themselves some new weapons to play with. Reaper and Kid form an electric top line with the returning Hyper, while former Colorado GM Eggman and Plastic hold down the fort in front of Doug to form a solid top line. With backup defenders in RoyalKC, Deadant, and HrdWrk, while ArmyBoy handles backup G duties, the Jets have a very deep squad that has the potential to make a deep playoff run.

TEAM RATINGS:
Offense: 4. Reap and Kid are an institution in Winnipeg, and have been trying to find the right forward to play with for a few seasons. Hyper should fill that role jusssst fine and their line will put a lot of pucks in the back of the net.
Defense: 4. Eggman has won many championships at defense, but will he be successful with new defensive partner Plastic? Having Royal and HrdWrk as a backup pairing isn’t too bad either.
Goaltending: 3. Doug is decent but in his chances to prove himself as a starter, he hasn’t had the greatest success. ArmyBoy’s limited experience at D has been poor up to now, so here’s to hoping it won’t translate to G.

RANKINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE:

Tampa Bay Lightning.
Washington Capitals.
Toronto Maple Leafs.
New Jersey Devils.
New York Rangers.
Pittsburgh Penguins.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Los Angeles Kings.
Vegas Golden Knights.
Vancouver Canucks.
Winnipeg Jets.
Edmonton Oilers.
Nashville Predators.

Some folks will be upset with their rankings, that’s for sure. They’ll either think they’re too high and be “Oh I’m trash :(“ even though they have a career 3.0 PPG, some will think they’re ranked too low but don’t realize that they aren’t the backbone of the entire team, and some people will be content and won’t bitch about a thing and the world will suddenly combust. Watch it happen. Tell people you love them while you got the chance.

One thing is certain: There is a great field of talent assembled into 12 solid teams with varying strategies. Offensive powerhouses, defensive juggernauts, teams built from the net out, and more. There are a couple of teams that stand out amongst the rest, but anything can happen in the SPNHL and this season should be a perfect example of the chaos and unpredictability that comes with the league.

Tune in this Saturday (or sometime this weekend) to SPNHL: Off the Ice as Kozmo, Pliskin, Reap and I recap the events of this week, talk shit about our own and other teams, and completely ignore the topic as we catch the late game on Hockey Night in Canada (maybe that’ll be just me). You can catch us at twitch.tv/thespnhl_media, so subscribe if you haven’t already!

Good luck to everybody this week, and we’ll see you on the ice!

DD.

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