The 2015/2016 KHL season is just few weeks away and approaching really fast. Teams have upgraded, Spartak Moscow has returned and we’re ready to begin the season. Before that happens, let’s present a series of articles – KHL Top Teams for 2015/2016 season, where we will look through and try to predict Top 2 teams of each conference and an underdog team to figure out who are the favorites to fight for the Gagarin Cup at different points of the season. From pre-season to midway point of the season, until the playoffs, we will cover it in this 6 article series.
Preseason look in KHL’s Top teams for 2015-2016 season
Part 1 – Western Conference
The wild Western conference teams have been stepping up big time lately, for quite a few seasons. The East was the dominant force of the KHL, but now both sides look quite similar. As we’re heading into the 8th season of the league’s existence, score is 4 to 3 when it comes to Gagarin cup’s for each conference, with East still being in the lead. There is a good chance to get that equalizer triumph for the West, so lets take a look at which teams could fighting for the Cup.
After falling short on the last years playoffs against later Gagarin Cup victors SKA St.Petersburgh, in the conference semi-finals, Dynamo is looking to bounce back. After a loud offseason where former head coach Olegs Znaroks, who stepped down last off-season after handing the leadership of the team to his long time assistant Harijs Vitolins, announced that he no longer wants to be consulting his former team, stating that it puts too much pressure on the shoulders of rookie Vitolins. With the first season in the books and Vitolins learning what it’s like being the a head coach with some experience gathered he’s ready to lead the team back on top, attempting to win their third cup in five seasons. The team also lost their president. Mr. Rotenberg left the team to try overtake the leadership of Russian Hockey Federation. Dinamo has practically the same core as last season, with one of their to-be leaders Kaspars Daugavins preparing for another season to improve his game even more. Dinamo’s top defensemen Matt Robinson has to stay healthy in order to be reinforce the clutch factor that this team is well known for.
Despite last years failure in the conference finals, the Army team is ready to rocket ahead of everyone else during the regular season, trying to secure another Russian championship title (awarded to the team that gets most points during regular season). On paper CSKA is by far the best team in the league, dragging along names like Alexander Radulov, who was the absolute leagues leader last year with 71 points (24 goals, 47 assists) in just 46 games played, Stephan DaCosta and newly acquired goalie Viktor Fasth, who spent his last season with the Edmonton Oilers. Fasth will most likely share his time between the pipes with last years starting goalie Stanislav Galimov, in an attempt to sweep away the lack of defense on a team that focuses on offense. Despite lack of top calibre defense, they managed to keep their goal differential as high as +109. Yes you did read that right, CSKA outscored their opponents by 109 goals, and all that because of offense and elite goaltending. No one has a doubt that CSKA is eager to get a cup under their belt and this could be the season where they not only blow up the charts again, but finally come out victorious this time.
Dinamo Riga – The Underdog Team:
Last year was a nightmare for the Latvian team. First, the money problems during the beginning part of the season, which affected players and team was nowhere to be found. You could draw the lines between Latvia and Buffalo.Bboth teams just sucked so bad that some people said that Dinamo Riga had entered the tank for McDavid, too bad he is drafted in KHL already. Dinamo bought out their Captain Georgijs Pujacs, got rid of Marcel Hossa, almost made the playoffs, yes ALMOST but they didn’t. Offseason was approached with uncertainty, the team was searching for a sponsor that could keep them alive. The KHL kept extending theirs until Dinamo finally found a sponsor, and it seems to be a real good one. As preseason approached Dinamo was rumored to have on-going talks with an NHL player, then they signed Tim Sestito to a one-year contract. Things started to swing. Next thing Dinamo did was steal Joakim Eriksson off the Utica Comets roster, but was that enough? No, they signed defensmen Steven Seigo, forward Felix Schutz, and the icing on the cake? A former Buffalo Sabre that was bought out by the team – Ville Leino, which is when everyone started cheering. After a few preseason games this team looks to be ready for competition and potentally a run to make the playoffs, which they most likely will. The team has some chemistry and their top 6 looks like legitimate KHL top 6, including Dinamo Riga’s long time forwards Lauris Darzins, Mikelis Rēdlihs and Miks Indrašis alongside with the imports. Now, the only thing that team should be worried about is the captaincy. Sandis Ozoliņš is gone. No one seems to be a fit for the job, and that has really dragged the team down. If a captain is found and the chemistry keeps building, we have Dinamo as the Underdogs that are contenders for the Gagarin Cup.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of the KHL preview coming soon!