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The Toronto Maple Leafs were named North America's worst sports franchise; Wild have a goalie scramble going; more must-read NHL stories.

By Allan Muir
September 19, 2014

An annotated guide to today's must-read hockey stories:

 The Maple Leafs have been named the worst sports franchise in North America. That may be so, but this looks more like someone was trolling for page views that wouldn't have been there if they'd picked, oh, the Jacksonville Jaguars or the Houston Astros.

 He may have come off like a gum-smacking punk in his press conference on Thursday, but a defiant Phil Kessel is the least of the problems in Toronto.

 If ever an NHL head coach has been set up to be fired if his team stumbles out of the gate, it is the Leafs' Randy Carlyle. He's been tasked with making the team better, but without the assistant coaches he trusts.

NHL training camp scrapheap: PTO players who may stick

• Never a dull moment in Minnesota. One day after announcing that they had invited goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to camp, the Wild signed restricted free agent Darcy Kuemper and suspended goaltender Josh Harding. Worth noting here that Bryzgalov could still win a job in Minny, but that's going to be a lot tougher with Kuemper in the house.

 Tracey Myers tries to come up with a list of the five top questions facing the Blackhawks as they head to camp. That she really only comes up with three questions shows you what kind of shape this club is in.

 With ownership spending to the cap this season, the Avalanche are looking for a few good fans.

Penguins' Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin to miss start of training camp

• Line combos and competition on the blue line are the top unknowns that the Penguins face as they head to camp on Friday.

 The meticulous prep work of new coach Barry Trotz sets the tone as the Capitals begin training camp.

 Jaromir Jagr says he wants to play until he's 50. Who's betting against him?

 The Lightning are out to prove that last season's second-place finish in the Atlantic Division was not a fluke, but rather a sign of great things to come. Forget the division—with the depth that GM Steve Yzerman added to the roster over the summer Tampa Bay is a legitimate contender to challenge for the Eastern Conference title.

 Another day, another take on the Bruins' salary cap woes. The sense continues to be that something will happen sooner rather than later, but the reality of it is that no one is lining up to help GM Peter Chiarelli with his contract problems. Boston is going to have to swallow hard to get something done here.

 Ryan Johansen won't be the only top-six forward missing from camp in Columbus. Nathan Horton is injured ... again. Looks like the Bruins got it right when they passed on re-signing the fragile winger to a long-term deal.

NHL's 2014-15 Preseason All-NHL Teams: first, second, third

• How about some good news for the Blue Jackets for a change? Here's a great piece from Aaron Portzline on how the team has helped hockey take root in central Ohio. This looks like the first in a multipart series, so keep your eyes open for the follow-ups.

​​• After spending the past two seasons in the Eastern Conference cellar, the Panthers believe they can make a run at the playoffs.

 The performance of Nail Yakupov and the team's ability to get off to a good start will be key to the Oilers' success this season.

 Judging by these vintage ads, cigarette and beer-loving whales kept The Hockey News afloat for years.

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