One way to look at this is the whole league is returning from injury that kept them out for 34 games. Here are a few things you can expect to see in camp and in the early going:
1. Guys who played in Europe and the ‘A’ will be noticeably ahead of players who hung out at scrimmages and/or skated on their own.
2. Adjusting to the ice. It’s much harder for goalies because the angles are all different. The primary and secondary high percentage shooting areas cover more space on the larger European ice surface. For skaters, it’s mostly adapting to the feeling of being hurried on the smaller NA ice.
3. Teams with little roster turnover will have a jump over teams breaking in new players at key positions. Count our Ducks among the latter.
4. Expect 35 or fewer players invited to camp. Maybe fewer than 30 for teams without many roster questions. You will also see a more tryout contracts offered to the many UFA’s available by teams with unanswered roster questions.
5. Sloppy play! When you come back after a long layoff the hardest thing to get back is your timing and coordination. Give it 5 weeks and a dozen or so in season games before becoming overly judgmental.
Overall, this is quite different from the start of season where everyone is starting even. You’ve got guys coming in from the ‘A’ and Europe who are in game shape playing with and against guys trying to find their legs. Goalies adjusting to angles.
And maybe most of all will be the Refs. Let’s hope there’s an improvement on the uneven and unpredictability of the officiating. Consistency in penalty calling will do more than anything else in returning the game to the players and fans.