NHL Season Preview: Atlantic Division

Montreal Canadiens

The Habs finished first in the Atlantic and second overall on their way to the Eastern Semis evetually falling to the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games.

Key Additions
None to Report

Key Departures
None to Report

A dominant regular season and an MVP performance from goaltender Carey Price last season had the Habs fans seeing Stanley. Unfortunately, they couldn’t handle the triplets line of the Lightning and were exposed. Good news is, the Habs return much of the same cast. Hart winner Carey Price seems to have turned into the consistent force he was hyped up to be which spells trouble for the rest of the teams in the east and P.K. Subban is one of the best defense-man and is a huge impact on the ice . If they can display the same amount of team effort they did last season they should have no issue making the playoffs.

Prediction: First round exit from the playoffs

Tampa Bay Lightning

The Bolts seek to defend their Eastern Conf. title in the upcoming season. A young squad certainly on the rise gives hope to the entire state of Florida for hockey.

Key Additions
Erik Condra UFA

Key Departures
None to Report

The Lightning are a young team (26 avg age) and they have the best shooter in the league in Steven Stamkos. Stamkos isn’t their only weapon as anyone who watched the playoffs can tell you. The Bolts are filled with stars in the making and the Stanley Cup Final put many of those guys front and center. Tyler Johnson is the first one that comes to mind as he was a monster in the postseason centering the “triplets line” with Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov. As good a Johnson is, Palat is just as good. In fact NO one in the league has a better ‘goals’ for percentage at 5v5 than Palat (via Scott Cullen). Bottom line is the Bolts have ton of rising talent and will be a force in the east for at least 3 more seasons.

Prediction: Second Round exit from the playoffs

Detroit Red Wings

Somehow the Wings made the playoffs last season, well not somehow because they are the definition of consistency so it makes sense that they made the playoffs last year. Here is where I’m shocked, they took the Bolts to seven games in the first round. I was sweating for sure.

Key Additions
D Mike Green UFA
F Brad Richards UFA
Coach Jeff Blashill

Key Departures
Coach Mike Babcock

Head Coach Jeff Blashill has big shoes to fill, big shoes indeed. The Wings haven’t missed the playoffs in 24 seasons and this hockey crazy fan-base expects nothing less. That being said, they also haven’t had a strong playoff run since appearing in the cup finals in 2009 (losing to the Pens). The Wings are an aging team. Household names Pavel Datsyuk (36), Henrik Zetterberg (34) and Johan Franzen (35) are slowing down and the Wings will have to dip into their prospects and younger forwards like Tomas Tatar if they expect to keep this impressive playoff appearances record up. Luckily Tatar had a career year last year, rising goaltender Petr Mrazek has show he is capable to replace Jimmy Howard and guys like Xavier Ouellet, and Riley Sheahan have shown promise.

Prediction: The Wings will miss the playoffs. The combined effect of a new coach and an aging forward corps keeps them in it all season but they just miss out.

Ottawa Senators

The Sens were one of the most exciting teams to watch down the stretch last season. 14 points out of a playoff spot after the All Star Break, the Sens got hot and charged their way into the playoffs.

Key Additions
None to Report

Key Departures
None to Report

Much like the Lightning, the Senators are a young team on the upswing, poised to contend for a couple of seasons. It all begins with goaltender Andrew Hammond. After the all-star break after the season, the Hamburglar was INCREDIBLE. He went 20-1-2 over his last 23 starts allowing 1.79 GA and posting a .941 SV %. If he can put up close to those numbers, the Sens will do just fine. After all they return a solid D corps headed by Erik Karlsson, and budding forwards like Mika Zibanejad, and JG Pageau. They also have this guy Bobby Ryan, I’ve heard he is pretty good.

Prediction: Second round exit from the playoffs

Boston Bruins

The B’s missed the playoffs last season which is a gigantic failure in bean-town. They had been consistently competitive and near the top of the east for the past couple of years. Unfortunately, GM Don Sweeney seems to have no clue what he is doing.

Key Additions
F Brett Connolly
F Matt Beleskey
F Zac Rinaldo (not a typo)

Key Departures
F Milan Lucic to LAK
F Carl Soderbeg to COL
F Marc Savard to FLA
D Dougie Hamilton to CGY

Bruins fans you may want to sit down for this. It is going to be a ROUGH season for the Bruins. On the positive side, G Tuukka Rask and Patrice Bergeron are still beasts, on the negative Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg are 37 and 33 respectively, the powerplay is only going to get worse without Lucic, Zac Rinaldo is going to take a bajillion penalties, and your GM failed to add some much needed scoring help unless you believe that Beleskey and Connolly can significantly improve the offense.

Prediction: Rinaldo has a breakout season scoring 30 goals on his way to become a superstar in the NHL………….LOL. No playoffs Bruins, start booking your tee-times. I feel your pain I REALLY do.

Florida Panthers

The biggest story for the Panthers last season was game day attendance. Honestly, I don’t blame them. The team has only made the playoffs 4 times since joining the NHL in 1993. They had a hot streak in 2012 when they finished first in the division but since then the outlook has been bleak.

Key Additions
F Marc Savard

Key Departures
None to report

The Panthers are rebuilding, SLOWLY. You can see that they are building around D Aaron Ekblad, F Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov, it is just going to take time. The addition of ageless Jaromir Jagr last season will help them on and off the ice as he will be a great mentor for the young kids. I’d say the Panters are two years away from making the playoffs.

Prediction: Miss the Playoffs

Toronto Maple Leafs

The Leafs disappointed again last season missing the playoffs which triggered a massive overhaul from the GM all the way down. New GM Brendan Shanahan is committed to rebuilding.

Key Additions
F Daniel Winnik
F P.A. Parenteau
F Kasperi Kapanen
D Matt Hunwick

Key Departures
F Phil Kessel

Toronto is rebuilding, as they should be. The team has basically been stuck in purgatory since famously collapsing to the Bruins in the 2013 playoffs. They never seemed to gain their confidence back. With Kessel gone the Toronto crazy media and fanbase will place the pressure on young James Van Riemsdyk who has impressed over the past three seasons. Whether or not he is ready to carry the load of an entire team remains to be seen.

Prediction: I expect the Leafs to show some fight this season. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were hanging around the wild card spot at the All Star Break, I just don’t think they have enough steam to make the postseason.

Buffalo Sabres

The Sabres were once again among the bottom feeders in the NHL last season which led to the departure of head coach Ted Nolan. Perhaps one of the most unfair decisions to take place in the league last year. Nolan was dealt an awful hand with the Sabres, nonetheless, enter former Pens bench boss Danny Bylsma.

Key Additions
F Jack Eichel DRAFT
F Ryan O’Reily from COL
G Robin Lehner from OTT

Key Departures
F Cody Hodgson

Statistically the Sabres won the #tankforMcDavid contest. Too bad the NHL LOVEs the Oilers. However, Buffalo got a pretty great consolation prize in Jack Eichel, kid has WHEELS. Eichel on a line with Evander Kane is scary to think about. I’m not sure it’s scary enough for the Sabres to make the playoffs, but they are certainly trending in the right direction. They are a young team poised to grow. Plus Zemgus Girgensons is just a great name.

Prediction: Miss the playoffs

photo credit: Flags via photopin (license)

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