The 19 people who will define the 2018-19 NHL season – Sportsnet.ca

At the centre of every good (and bad and ugly) hockey story, you’ll find people. Here are the 19 newsmakers and game-breakers who are defining the 2018-19 NHL season — ranked in order of importance.

19. James Neal

If Calgary GM Brad Treliving goes out, he’ll go out swinging. Sure, expelled coach Glen Gulutzan (replaced by Bill Peters) was the fall guy for a disastrous ending to 2017-18, but Treliving didn’t stop there. Dougie Hamilton was shipped to Carolina in a blockbuster that saw Peters’ old troops Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm come to Alberta. But the spend on UFA Neal (late of Vegas), who’s been to two straight Cup finals, speaks to a Flames identity that needs more heart and dirt and depth scoring. If Neal can be the Neal Treliving believes he can be, Calgary should make the dance. If not, that’s the kind of $28.75-million (mis)investment that costs jobs. Playing in the bottom six, it’s been a less-than-smooth adjustment for Neal and a situation that bears watching.

18. Jim Montgomery

Marking the third Dallas Stars coach in three autumns, the Montgomery hire reinforces the trend of NCAA coaches graduating to the pros and signals impatience in the Lone Star State after back-to-back underwhelming performances by a pricy roster with some marquee names. Portrayed as a players’ coach (he tweets regularly!) with a colourful personality, Montgomery is an excellent communicator who will let his horses run, but he needs to develop the Stars into more than a one-line threat.

17. Rasmus Dahlin

Buffalo is a knowledgeable hockey town with a pretty arena and a devoted fan base that deserves nice things, not a seven-season playoff drought and rebuilds on top of rebuilds. Led by captain Jack Eichel and 2018 play-now No. 1-overall draft pick Dahlin, Jason Boterill’s Sabres offer

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