1. How bad will their defense be following Scott Niedermayer's retirement? Probably very bad, though there are reasons for hope. First-round pick Cam Fowler, 18, showed smarts and great skating ability in preseason play. Luca Sbisa, 20, has boundless potential. After them, it's a patchwork of veterans such as Lubomir Visnovsky, Paul Mara and Andy Sutton. Goaltender Jonas Hiller deserved combat pay last season for compiling a .918 save percentage while opponents took an average of 33.4 shots per game, second-highest in the NHL.
2. They will have trouble keeping the puck out of their own net but shouldn't have trouble scoring. New captain Ryan Getzlaf had a monstrous training camp. Right wing Corey Perry looks bigger and more abrasive, if possible. Bobby Ryan struggled at center but should top 30 goals on the wing. Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu are still productive. Youngsters Dan Sexton (nine goals in 41 games last season) and Matt Beleskey bring energy.
3. Welcome Generation Next. Getzlaf's election as captain in a vote by teammates was significant. Niedermayer led by example. Getzlaf will lead by words and example, which means he must stop taking chippy penalties and yapping at the officials.
4. How special are their special teams? Their power play was fifth in the NHL last season, fueled by Selanne's 14 power-play goals in 54 games and Niedermayer's 22 power-play assists. Their penalty killing ranked 24th and was tested far too often.
5. Can they start well enough for Coach Randy Carlyle to be there at the finish? A slow start last season buried them, and they've emphasized starting well. Carlyle had support from General Manager Bob Murray last season, but a rocky start or prolonged slump could test Murray's loyalty.