3 teams primed to take a step forward in 2015-16
Several NHL teams are well-positioned to make 2014-15 a distant memory.
Whether it was due to injuries, bad luck, or a little of both, a few squads that struggled last season will fare better in 2015-16.
Related: 3 teams likely to take a step back in 2015-16
Here are three teams that should improve in the upcoming campaign:
Somehow, the Stars had a far better road record (24-15-2) than home (17-16-8) last season, which is never a good sign. Dallas finished 10th in the Western Conference, five points out of a playoff spot.
There are reasons to be optimistic this time around. General manager Jim Nill looked to address the club's needs this summer, adding goaltender Antti Niemi to compliment Kari Lehtonen, dealing for veteran forward Patrick Sharp, and signing defenseman Johnny Oduya.
The Stars tied for the eighth-best Corsi For percentage in the NHL at 52.2 last season, and they should generate even more shot attempts with 20-year-old winger Valeri Nichushkin back after losing most of 2014-15 to injury.
The key will be improving upon last season's mediocre goal differential (+1), and Dallas' bolstered blue line led by Oduya, Alex Goligoski, John Klingberg, and Jason Demers should be up to the task.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets allowed the sixth-most goals per game and led the league with over 500 man-games lost to injury in 2014-15, but general manager Jarmo Kekalainen isn't worried.
Defenseman Ryan Murray, the team's second-overall pick in 2012, is healthy after being limited to 12 games last season.
Kekalainen acquired forward Brandon Saad from the Chicago Blackhawks as part of a seven-player deal in June.
Provided the Blue Jackets are luckier on the injury front in 2015-16, and if they get more than 51 games from Sergei Bobrovsky, more than 47 from Brandon Dubinsky and more than 31 from Boone Jenner, they could compete for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
New York Islanders
The Islanders make the move to Brooklyn's Barclays Center, where they should be motivated to make an impression and improve upon last season's first-round playoff exit.
New York will continue to lean on an impressive young core of forwards in John Tavares, Ryan Strome, Anders Lee, and a healthy Kyle Okposo, who missed 22 games in midseason after having surgery to repair a detached retina.
Okposo managed only 10 points in the remaining 21 contests including the playoffs, but now that he's back to full health, he's primed to approach his career-high of 27 goals, established in 2013-14.
Strome took a big step forward in his sophomore season, scoring 17 goals and registering 50 regular-season points before adding four points in the Islanders' seven-game series loss to the Washington Capitals.
If the Islanders can sign restricted free agent Brock Nelson and get improved play from Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy, and the rest of the defense corps, they could take a step forward in 2015-16.