Here’s my predictions on the new Metropolitan Division this season.
Key Additions: Mike Komisarek, Andrej Sekera, Nathan Gerbe, Anton Khudobin
Key Losses: Jamie McBain, Joe Corvo, Dan Ellis
The Carolina Hurricanes started strong last season, and then their season snowballed after their top goalie Cam Ward suffered a severe MCL sprain. Besides the health of Cam Ward, another question that needs to be answered for the ‘Canes is can their defense be better this year? Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford signed veteran defensemen Mike Komisarek and Andrej Sekera to try to solve their problem in the back-end this year. However, with the team being in a new division, it’s gonna be tough.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Key Additions: Nathan Horton
Key Losses: None
The transition of the Blue Jackets from a Western Conference team to an Eastern Conference team is now complete. The addition of Nathan Horton will bolster the Jackets’ top-6 forwards, and 2013 Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky will try to help his team to a playoff spot after putting the entire team on his back and nearly making the playoffs last season. This team will contend, but I don’t know if they will make the playoffs.
New Jersey Devils
Key Additions: Cory Schneider, Jaromir Jagr, Michael Ryder, Ryane Clowe, Damien Brunner
Key Losses: Ilya Kovalchuk, David Clarkson, Henrik Tallinder, Johan Hedberg
Just imagine if your best player from last season wanted to void his contract to go back home. That’s what happened to Ilya Kovalchuk in the offseason. He voided the big contract he signed a few years ago to go back home and play in the KHL. Jersey’s Team is in the second year of rebuilding, and to help with the long-term future of this team, Devils GM Lou Lamoriello traded their first-round draft pick to Vancouver to get goalie Cory Schneider, who is now the heir apparent to the 41-year-old living legend, Marty Brodeur. And to replace David Clarkson, the Devils signed Ryane Clowe to a five-year deal. And to join Brodeur on the “elder skatesman” list, Jaromir Jagr signed a one-year deal in what could be the last contract he’ll ever sign as a player. This upcoming season could be a last hurrah for both Brodeur and Jagr.
New York Islanders
Key Additions: Cal Clutterbuck, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Peter Regin
Key Losses: Mark Streit, Nino Niederreiter, Keith Aucoin
The New York Islanders made some big strides last season, qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 2007. The Isles have not selected a new team captain yet, but if it is indeed John Tavares, this team could have a chance to return to the playoffs this year.
New York Rangers
Key Addition: Dominic Moore
Key Loss: Ryane Clowe
The Rangers were a really good team last season. However, the wear and tear from high expectations and the media circus that is John Tortorella cost him his job. This year, Alain Vigneault now takes the helm for the Broadway Blueshirts, and like in Vancouver, will lead the Rangers to success. The Rangers have all the pieces in place, but can they get over the hump to make another deep playoff run?
Key Additions: Ray Emery, Vincent Lecavalier, Mark Streit
Key Losses: Ruslan Fedotenko, Brian Boucher, Danny Briere, Ilya Bryzgalov
There was only one word to describe the 2013 Flyers season: UGLY. Much like the New York Jets quarterback dilemma, the biggest distraction for the Flyers was who was the number-one goaltender? Ilya Bryzgalov absolutely did not live up to the expectations of his contract, and since the Flyers couldn’t afford to keep Sergei Bobrovsky in Philadelphia, GM Paul Holmgren traded him to Columbus in exchange for former Calder Trophy winner Steve Mason. Maybe a change of venue was needed to give Mason another shot of being a premier NHL goaltender after struggling in Columbus the last 3 1/2 seasons. He’ll get some competition for the number one spot in net from Ray Emery. Emery, who won the Stanley Cup last season with the Chicago Blackhawks, spent the 2010 season with the Black and Orange before a battle with Avascular Necrosis placed his entire playing career in jeopardy. Also, the addition of veteran forward Vinny Lecavalier and veteran defenseman Mark Streit will hopefully give the Flyers a desperately needed rebound this season.
Key Additions: Matt D’Agostini, Rob Scuderi
Key Losses: Douglas Murray, Jarome Iginla, Matt Cooke, Brenden Morrow, Tyler Kennedy
The Penguins were the best team in the Eastern Conference last season. However, they ran into a big black-and-yellow brick wall called the Boston Bruins in the Conference Final and got swept in four straight games, scoring only two goals in that playoff series. Despite the struggles of Marc-Andre Fleury in net during the playoffs last season, I still believe that the Pens not only win the Atlantic Division, but I see them come out representing the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Final.
Prediction: Metropolitan Division Champions
Key Addition: Mikhail Grabovski
Key Losses: Mike Ribeiro, Jeff Schultz, Matt Hendricks, Mathieu Perreault
Beware, you’ve awaken a sleeping giant. That sleeping giant last season was Alex Ovechkin. He carried himself to a third Hart Trophy and the Capitals to another Southeast Division title. The Caps may be in a new division this season, but they, along with the New York Rangers, could potentially give the Penguins a run for their money at the Atlantic Division title.