The Hard: Dallas didn't have a 40-goal scorer last year but helped itself in the off-season by signing free agent Pat Verbeek, a small (5'9", 190 pounds), tough wing who scored 41 for the New York Rangers in '95-96.
The Soft: Franchise center Mike Modano hasn't gotten 100 points in any of his seven NHL seasons. If Modano doesn't explode this year—the addition of Verbeek and center Joe Nieuwendyk (acquired midway through 1995-96) makes it more difficult for defenses to zero in on Modano—forget it.
Tailor-Made: New coach Tom Renney got his players' attention when he announced that beer was banned on team charter flights as part of his program to return Vancouver to prominence. A former Canadian Olympic coach, Renney has a knack for salesmanship. From 1980 to '83 he ran the Cuff 'N' Collar menswear store in Trail, B.C.
Stand Pat: Despite having a ho-hum defense and being threadbare at center, general manager Pat Quinn did little in the off-season to improve the club. The Canucks lost free-agent center Cliff Ronning, who signed for $1.2 million with the Coyotes—almost $3000,000 more than Vancouver was offering.
The Rocket Returns: Right wing Pavel Bure, a two-time 60-goal scorer who played in only 15 games last season after undergoing reconstructive knee surgery, is back at full strength. "Sometimes when you're playing you complain there are too many games or you're too tired," says Bure, a.k.a. the Russian Rocket. "But when I had to practice alone for six months, I appreciated how exciting it is to go on the ice with 18,000 people cheering for you."
Mighty Ducks of Anaheim
Kariya Question: Left wing Paul Kariya, who scored 50 goals in his sophomore season last year, missed all eight exhibition games because of a groin muscle strain. He hopes to be fit enough to start the regular season, but Anaheim won't rush him. If Kariya aggravates the injury and misses a prolonged stretch, the Ducks will be dead.
Marriage Can Re a Kick: During right wing Temmu Selanne's two-day bachelor party in Helsinki last summer, friends blindfolded him, plugged his ears with cotton and surprised him by placing him on a soccer pitch in front of 10,000 fans who had come to see a professional game. (The Finnish soccer federation was in on the gag.) Selanne even played and hit the post on one shot. "The joke in Finland is, If you can survive the stag, the marriage is nothing," says Selanne.
St. Louis Blues