Archive for September, 2014

Sportsnet Unveils New State-of-the-Art Studio for NHL Broadcasts

Yesterday, Rogers Communications, the new Canadian English broadcast rights-holder to the NHL, unveiled a one-of-a-kind, state-of-the-art studio that will be the home of hockey in Canada for the next 12 years. Covering 11,070 square feet or 1,024 square metres, Rogers turned Studio 41 of the Canadian Broadcast Centre into the brand-new home of the NHL on Sportsnet, Hockey Night in Canada, Rogers Hometown Hockey, and Sportsnet’s Hockey Central. Created by Jack Morton PDG, the design firm that created CTV’s 2010 and 2012 Olympic sets, the NBC Sports Group studios in Stamford, Connecticut, Golf Channel’s studios in Orlando, the NBA on TNT studio in Atlanta, and ABC’s World News Tonight set in New York, the set took 8 months and C$4.5 million to go from concept to reality.

Taking a page from the NBA on TNT studio, the main feature of the new set is a 38′ x 11′ ultra-high resolution monitor dubbed “Goliath” The monitor is flanked by a catwalk where a host can introduce the broadcast to a game. The main desk, which will be used for Scotiabank Wednesday Night Hockey and Hockey Night in Canada, takes a page from FOX Sports’ main studio in Los Angeles and completely rotates 360 degrees. There are a couple of unique features to the set. “The Waterfall” is a 32-monitor video wall/floor that also doubles as a demonstration area to talk about plays and breaking them down. One of my favorite features of the new set is the Puck Wall: a vertical monitor and accompanying wall containing 30 pucks for all 30 NHL teams. When an analyst takes one of the acrylic pucks from the wall and is places into the holster at the bottom of the control module, associated imagery and statistics for that respective team pop up on the monitor. There is also a digital control pad on the control module where an analyst can switch statistics for the featured team selected on the wall. The Rogers Tech Zone features a 90-inch touchscreen monitor where an analyst can break down plays like a coach, and where live stats can be featured. Just a stone’s throw away from the Puck Wall is something that I like to call “Strombo’s Corner”: an interview area with George Stroumboulopoulos’ signature red chairs to talk about what’s going out in the world of hockey. The final part of the set is the area where Sportsnet’s regional NHL broadcasts will have their desks to broadcast.  Two of the desks are duplexed with the lower-level desk equipped for radio simulcasting Sportsnet/Sportsnet Radio’s “Hockey Central at Noon.” The third regional set will double as the desk where Don Cherry and Ron MacLean will do Coach’s Corner.

As for watching the game itself, there will be new graphics: not the one used by CBC for the last three seasons, and not the one Sportsnet has been using for the last three years. These new graphics are designed in-house by Rogers Creative Group, featuring 10 different custom opening animations (One each for Sportsnet’s five regional broadcasts, Two for Hockey Central, and three for Rogers’ nationally-televised broadcasts), 250 player animations, and more than 1,000 support animations that enhance storytelling and game analysis for viewers across Canada. Also, when you get to watch Hockey Night in Canada, you’ll get to hear an updated version of Colin Oberst’s “Canadian Gold”, reorchestrated by the man who brought you the theme of Blue Jays Baseball on Sportsnet, Canadian musician and composer Stephan Moccio. For some of you, you might consider the new studio the ultimate man-cave. For me, the set officially cements Rogers’ place as Canada’s Home for Hockey for the next 12 years.

To see photos of the Sportsnet’s new NHL studio, please refer these two articles (courtesy of Sportsnet.ca):

Unveiling Sportsnet’s New NHL Studio & The Studio By the Numbers: http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/sportsnet-unveils-new-hockey-central-studio/

10 Things to Know About Sportsnet’s New NHL Studio: http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/rogers-sportsnet-unveils-new-nhl-hockey-night-in-canada-cbc-studio-10-things-to-know/

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2014-15 Pacific Division Preview

This is the final part of my 2014-2015 NHL season preview. Here’s my preview of the Pacific Division:

Anaheim Ducks

Key Additions: Ryan Kesler, Clayton Stoner, Dany Heatley

Key Losses: Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu, Jonas Hiller, Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa, Mathieu Perreault

Yes, the Ducks did win the Pacific Division, but they were ousted in the second round by their rival, the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings. After the retirements of Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu, I thought the kings would lose their luster. That all changed when the Ducks traded Nick Bonino and Luca Sbisa to Vancouver for Ryan Kesler. Kesler will fill in that second-line center role vacated by the departure of Koivu, and with the signing of former Wild winger Dany Heatley, the Ducks top-six forwards look much better than what they were last season. Also, I’d expect a breakout season from both Devante Smith-Pelly and Emerson Etem this season.

Prediction: Second

Arizona Coyotes

Key Additions: Sam Gagner, B.J. Crombeen, Joe Vitale

Key Losses: Radim Vrbata, Mike Ribeiro

It’s a new era for the renamed Arizona Coyotes, and the acquisitions of Sam Gagner and Joe Vitale will help the Coyotes at forward, but once again, the Coyotes’ success will have to depend on the health of goalie Mike Smith and forward Martin Hanzal. If the both of them remain healthy, the Coyotes could potentially play the role of dark horse this season.

Prediction: Sixth

Calgary Flames

Key Additions: Mason Raymond, Deryk Engelland, Jonas Hiller, Devin Setoguchi, Brandon Bollig

Key Losses: Mike Cammalieri, Shane O’Brien, TJ Galiardi

This is year two of the Flames’ rebuild, and I don’t expect much from Calgary this season, but I do expect Sean Monahan to build more momentum after a breakout rookie season, and, if he makes the opening night roster, Sam Bennett making an early impact in his first year playing in the NHL. Also, the addition of Jonas Hiller did solve the Flames’ problems in net after Reto Berra carried the load last season before being traded to Colorado at the deadline last season.

Prediction: Seventh

Edmonton Oilers

Key Additions: Benoit Pouliot, Mark Fayne, Teddy Purcell

Key Losses: Sam Gagner, Ryan Smyth

If you take a look at the checklist made famous by legendary NBA coach Pat Riley, the Edmonton Oilers should be considered an “upstart” team. But after finishing the 2013-14 season with the worst record in the Western Conference, the Oilers ended up with a top-three draft pick for the fourth time in five seasons. Leon Draisatl was selected, but will probably be headed back to Prince Albert to keep on honing his skills. As for the current Oiler team, Darnell Nurse will probably start the season in Oklahoma City. The addition of Teddy Purcell will help fill in the role vacated by the trade of Sam Gagner. And can Ben Scrivens build on a season where he was entrusted to be a no. 1 goalie? Other than those questions, like their provincial rival, I don’t expect much from Edmonton this season.

Prediction: Sixth

Los Angeles Kings

Key Addition: Adam Cracknell

Key Loss: Willie Mitchell

Last year, the Kings went through three Game 7s, including the improbable first-round comeback against the San Jose Sharks to win their second Stanley Cup championship in the last three years. Now they’re looking to do something that hasn’t been done since the Edmonton Oiler dynasty: win three Stanley Cups in a four-year span. Most of the players from last season’s team are still there, and I don’t see any reason why my prediction for the Kings from the last couple of seasons is going to change this year.

Prediction: Pacific Division Champions

San Jose Sharks

Key Additions: None

Key Losses: Dan Boyle, Martin Havlat, Brad Stuart

Don’t let the losses fool you.: the Sharks have been waiting over five months for their chance at redemption after blowing a 3-0 series lead to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the Playoffs last season. Everyone knows the Sharks’ window of oppurtunity to win a Stanley Cup is rapidly closing. Joe Thornton an Patrick Marleau are both not getting younger, and Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski need to step up and fill those shoes properly. With Dan Boyle out, expect Mirco Mueller to step in his role as a top-four defenseman. Believe me, the Sharks are a good team, but can they deliver when it matters the most: in the playoffs? only time will tell

Prediction: Third

Vancouver Canucks

Key Additions: Ryan Miller, Radim Vrbata, Derek Dorsett, Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa

Key Losses: Ryan Kesler, Jason Garrison, David Booth, Jordan Schroeder

Much like the 2012 Boston Red Sox, the 2013-14 Vancouver Canucks were an absolute disaster. The John Tortorella experiment failed miserably, the Sedin twins underperformed, and Roberto Luongo finally got his wish and left Vancouver to “take his talents and return to South Beach”. Once the season ended, the Canusks had a major front office shake-up. Canucks legend Trevor Linden was named team president, General Manager Mike Gillis was fired and was replaced by Boston Bruins assistant general manager Jim Benning, and John Tortorella was replaced by former Medicine Hat Tigers head coach Willie Desjardins, who led the Texas Stars to a Calder Cup last season. The shake-up continued on Draft Day, when the Canucks traded Ryan Kesler to Anaheim for Nick Bonino and Luca Sbisa, traded Jason Garrison to Tampa Bay for a draft pick, and acquired Derek Dorsett from the Rangers in another Draft Day trade. On the first day of free agency, the Canucks made a bold statement and signed free-agent goaltender Ryan Miller and veteran forward Radim Vrbata. I expect a huge bounce-back season from the Canucks in 2014-15, and who knows? They might just be a playoff contender once again.

Prediction: Fourth

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2014-15 Central Division Preview

Here’s my predictions on the Central Division for this season:

Chicago Blackhawks

Key Addition: Brad Richards

Key Losses: Michal Handzus, Brandon Bollig, Nikolai Khabibulin

The Blackhawks were one goal away from making a return trip to the Stanley Cup Final for the third time in five years. Unlike like the year before, the Hawks were on the other side of the story as Alec Martinez ended their bid to repeat in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals with an overtime-winning goal. But don’t let that one loss fool everyone else in the NHL.  The Blackhawks were rebuilt to win, and they’ve done exactly just that; becoming one of the most successful teams in the NHL in the last five years. Like last year, this team didn’t have to change much, because they didn’t need to. The only major change the Hawks made was letting Michal Handzus walk into free agency and sign Brad Richards to a one-year contract after he got bought out by the New York Rangers in the offseason. The biggest move in the offseason was one out of necessity. On July 16, the Blackhawks signed franchise players Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews to long-term contract extensions. Eight years, $84 million each; $188 million worth the price. If it wasn’t for their record against their own division, the Hawks wouldn’t have finished third. I still believe they are the team to beat in the Central Division, because they are one of the few teams in the NHL to excel on offense, defense, and  goaltending.

Prediction: Central Division Champions

Colorado Avalanche

Key Additions: Jarome Iginla, Danny Briere, Brad Stuart

Key Losses: Paul Stastny, P.A. Parenteau, Jean-Sebastien Giguere

The biggest surprise in the NHL last season was the Colorado Avalanche. No one thought the Avalanche would win the Central. But the stellar play of 2014 Calder Trophy winner Nathan MacKinnon, 2014 Lady Byng Trophy winner Ryan O’Reilly (who would’ve had a penalty-free season if he hadn’t played the puck with a broken stick), and a career year from 2014 Vezina Trophy finalist Semyon Varlamov led the Avs to a 52-win, 112-point season. During the playoffs, they were a little bit green, but played like a veteran team all the way to a Game 7 situation. There’s no doubt the Avalanche are for real, but it’s sometimes hard to catch lightning in a bottle twice. The Avs can do that with the addition of veterans Jarome Iginla, Danny Briere, and Brad Stuart. Who knows…they might have a chance to steal the Central Division again.

Prediction: Third

Dallas Stars

Key Additions: Jason Spezza, Ales Hemsky, Anders Lindback

Key Loss: Alex Chiasson

The Stars scratched and clawed their way to a playoff spot last season. and gave the Anaheim Ducks a run for their money. And like las year, a blockbuster trade bolstered the Stars’ lineup, trading away Alex Chiasson for Jason Spezza. And with the free-agent signing of Ales Hemsky, maybe a little bit of Edmonton magic will be conjured in Big D by H & H (Horcoff and Hemsky). This team might be considered a “bubble team”, but this bubble team should be able to eke out another wild-card berth if they play good this year.

Prediction: Fifth

Minnesota Wild

Key Additions: Thomas Vanek, Jordan Schroeder, Brett Sutter

Key Losses: Matt Moulson, Clayton Stoner, Cody McCormick

The Minnesota Wild added another major Twin Cities native to the team. The biggest signing the Wild made this offseason was bringing in Thomas Vanek. The Wild have the tools to make another Playoff bid, but their biggest question mark is their goaltending situation. Niklas Backstrom has been hampered by injuries, Josh Harding has been suspended for sustaining a non-hockey injury, and Darcy Kuemper still hasn’t proven himself as a NHL-caliber goalie. If the Wild can figure out their goalie situation, then they can be considered a playoff team. But as of now, they’re a bubble team.

Prediction: Fourth

Nashville Predators

Key Additions: James Neal, Olli Jokinen, Derek Roy, Mike Ribeiro

Key Losses: Patric Hornqvist, Michael Del Zotto

This is not the Nashville Predators you’re used to seeing. Thanks to a couple of moves, like hiring Peter Laviolette as their new head coach, and acquiring goal-scoring forward James Neal from Pittsburgh, the Predators now put a high emphasis on offense and goal-scoring, a tactic that wasn’t used in the previous 16 seasons under Barry Trotz. Howver, there’s not much to be expected this season, because the Predators are still a work in progress. If Pekka Rinne gets back to form after an injury-plagued season last year, maybe the Preds have a chance to contend for a playoff spot.

Prediction: Sixth

St. Louis Blues

Key Additions: Paul Stastny, Carl Gunnarson

Key Losses: Ryan Miller, Vladimir Sobotka, Brenden Morrow, Derek Roy

There ain’t no cure for deja vu…or should I say Deja Blues? The last two playoff seasons in St. Louis looks more like an episode of the Twilight Zone.

  1. The Blues’ first playoff round matchup is against the defending Stanley Cup champion.
  2. Alex Steen scores the game-winning goal in overtime in Game 1.
  3. Barret Jackman scores the game-winning goal in Game 2.
  4. The Blues get shut out in Game 3.
  5. The Blues lead 3-2 at the end of two periods in Game 4, only to lose the game, 4-3.
  6. The Blues tie Game 5 on a goal by Alex Pietrangelo in the third period, only to lose the game in overtime, 3-2.
  7. The Blues score one goal in Game 6, and are eliminated from the playoffs after leading the series 2-0.

If the circle is going to break, thay can’t have a repeat of the end of last season in which they lost nine of their final 14 games of the regular season. The Blues do get a major addition in the form of St. Louis native Paul Stastny. However, their goaltending is a little bit questionable. Most likely, Brian Elliott will be the Blues’ starting netminder, but Jake Allen, last year’s winner of the Baz Bastien Memorial Award as the AHL’s best goaltender, wants to prove that he belongs. Just by seeing him last year with the Blues’ AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, Allen might have a case to being the no. 1 goalie in St. Louis.

Prediction: Second

Winnipeg Jets

Key Additions: Mathieu Perreault, T.J. Galiardi

Key Losses: Olli Jokinen, Al Montoya

For the Jets, not much was changed in the offseason, but as Paul Maurice enters his first full season as Jets head coach, this opportunity gives him time to establish an identity for his team. Will it be versatile? Hard-hitting? It’s not gonna be an easy task, but there are bound to be growing pains, and I won’t be surprised if the Jets are either trend up or trend down because of those times.

Prediction: Seventh

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2014-15 Metropolitan Division Preview

Here’s my predictions on the Metropolitan Division this season.

Carolina Hurricanes

Key Additions: Tim Gleason, Jay McClement

Key Loss: Manny Malhotra

The Carolina Hurricanes were not that good last year. Injuries, a bottom-five ranked power play, and slow starts led to a “.500 season”. That called for a change, and it came in the form of new head coach Bill Peters. Peters had success as a head coach in Rockford, but can he turn a team around at hockey’s top level? It can happen, but this is this just the first year, and success isn’t determined after only one season.

Prediction: Seventh

Columbus Blue Jackets

Key Additions: Scott Hartnell, Jerry D’Amigo, Brian Gibbons

Key Losses: Derek MacKenzie, Blake Comeau

The Jackets had their best season yet last season. They also won their first playoff game in franchise history. So where do you go from here? Up. The biggest move the Jackets made in the offseason was trading R.J. Umberger to Philadelphia for noted goal-scorer Scott Hartnell. If he, and a healthy Nathan Horton, become effective, this team could be a threat to steal a top-three spot in the Metro.

Prediction: Fifth

New Jersey Devils

Key Additions: Mike Cammalieri, Martin Havklat, Scott Clemmensen

Key Losses: Mark Fayne, Anton Volchenkov

It’s a new era in New Jersey. For the first time in over 20 years, the Devils’ number one goaltender is not Marty Brodeur. Cory Schneider is getting the chance to be a full-time No. 1 netminder in the NHL, and he could have a chance to have a career year in 2014-15. Not much change was made to the roster, but the most significant change was the addition of Mike Cammalieri. I don’t see much change to where the Devils will finish this season, but I guess they’ll win a game in a shootout this upcoming season. I was, and still is, surprised that they were 0-13 in games that ended in a shootout last season. That was probably the primary reason that the Devils missed a wild card berth by five points.

Prediction: Sixth

New York Islanders

Key Additions: Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin, Jaroslav Halak, Chad Johnson, Cory Conacher

Key Loss: Evgeni Nabokov

The New York Islanders took a huge step back last season, but they’re trying to send the Nassau Coliseum out in style with at least one more playoff run. So what did Garth Snow do? Upgrade the goalie by bringing in Jaroslav Halak and signing former Capital Mikhail Grabovski and former Maple Leaf Nikolai Kulemin. I don’t think it’ll do much for the Islanders this season, but it will all be different when they move to Brooklyn.

Prediction: Eighth

New York Rangers

Key Additions: Dan Boyle, Ryan Malone

Key Losses: Brad Richards, Benoit Pouliot, Anton Stralman, Brian Boyle, Derek Dorsett

The Rangers made a deep run in the playoffs last season, beating the Philadelphia Flyers in seven games, beating the Pitytsburgh Penguins in seven games, and beating the Montréal Canadiens in six games to represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Final. Unfortunately, the Rangers were no match to the Los Angeles Kings, who just simply outplayed the Blueshirts in the five-game Final. So can the Rangers go deep again? Yes. The emergence of Chris Kreider and the solid goaltending of Henrik Lundqvist give the Rangers a legitimate chance to win the Metro. The Rangers also signed Dan Boyle to help bolster the blue line, and Martin St. Louis is there to give them leadership; a sure-fire player worthy of being the next captain on the New York Rangers.

Prediction: Second

Philadelphia Flyers

Key Additions: R.J. Umberger, Nick Schultz

Key Losses: Scott Hartnell, Steve Downie

With the exception of the trade of Scott Hartnell to Columbus for R.J. Umberger, the Flyers’ offseason was pretty much quiet. And that’s pretty much what I expected. The Flyers don’t need to tinker with what they already have, because the Flyers almost pulled off the upset against the Rangers in the first round by forcing a seventh game at Madison Square Garden. The Flyers CAN contend for a top-three spot in the metro. As for R.J. Umberger, I just hope the last image of him as a Flyer is not this:

Prediction: Third

Pittsburgh Penguins

Key Additions: Patric Hornqvist, Christian Ehrhoff, Blake Comeau, Steve Downie, Nick Spaling

Key Losses: James Neal, Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen, Jussi Jokinen

If you had to take a look at “overachievement” last season, a picture of the Pittsburgh Penguins would be the number-one definition. Yes, the Penguins won the Metropolitan Division, but this team lost to a New York Ranger team that finished 13 points behind them in the division in the second round of the playoffs. That result cost general manager Ray Shero and head coach Dan Bylsma their jobs. Enter the picture new general manager Jim Rutherford and new head coach Mike Johnston. The first big move was trading away goal-scorer James Neal to Nashville for role-players Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling. Then the Pens signed Christian Ehrhoff to hopefully fill in the role that Brooks Orpik had played last season. The role left behind by the departure of Matt Niskanen should be filled in by 2012 first-round pick Derrick Pouliot. This team has the tools to win the Metropolitan Division once again, but they should make a legitimate deep playoff run if all goes well with the Pens in 2015.

Prediction: Metropolitan Division Champions

Washington Capitals

Key Addition: Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen

Key Loss: Mikhail Grabovski

One of the biggest problems last year with the Washington Capitals was their defense. Luckily, the Caps nabbed a pair of defensemen from Pittsburgh. They also brought in a new coach who puts a primary emphasis on defensive play. The Caps signed both Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik away from Pittsburgh to help add depth to the blue line. And after fifteen years building hockey success in the Music City, Barry Trotz heads to Washington where he has the tools set for a division-contending team. And when you have the most productive goal-scorer in the last decade, this team should not only bounce back from a lackluster season, but this is a team that should make the playoffs.

Prediction: Fourth

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2014-15 Atlantic Division Preview

Here’s Part 1 of my 2014-15 NHL season preview. As usual, I will do this every Monday for the next four weeks. This week, I preview the Atlantic Division.

Boston Bruins

Key Additions: None

Key Losses: Chad Johnson, Jarome Iginla, Shawn Thornton

The Bruins had an incredible season last year. They won the Peresidents’ Trophy for the first time since 1990. Tuukka Rask won the Vezina Trophy. Patrice Bergeron won the Selke Trophy. And for the fourth time in the last six seasons, the Bruins won their division. However, their season came crashing down on them in the second round, when they were ousted by their biggest rival, the Montréal Canadiens, in an epic seven-game series. The Bruins will once again contend for top spot in the Atlantic,  because if this team ain’t broke, don’t even bother to fix it.

Prediction: Atlantic Division Champions

Buffalo Sabres

Key Additions: Matt Moulson, Brian Gionta, Josh Gorges, Cody McCormick

Key Losses: Christian Ehrhoff, Ville Leino

The rebuilding continues in Buffalo, but there will be a little bit more star power (Moulson), and a little bit of experience (Gionta, Gorges) in the Sabres Lineup. If Sam Reinhart gets to play this season, you will see the cornerstone on which the Sabres will build upon play on the ice. Most likely, the Sabres are playing for the rights to draft either Jack Eichel or Connor McDavid this season. Oh, and Tyler Ennis will be a part of the blueprint, too.

Prediction: Eighth

Detroit Red Wings

Key Additions: None

Key Loss: David Legwand

Call this “The Curious Case of the Detroit Red Wings.” Like Benjamin Button, this “veteran” team is getting younger. Thanks to the emergence of forwards Tomas Tatar and Tomas Jurco and defensemen Danny DeKeyser and Brendan Smith, these four are bringing the experience that they learned from winning a Calder Cup in Grand Rapids two season ago to Hockeytown. They’ll be in the playoff picture, so long as they stay healthy.

Prediction: Fourth

Florida Panthers

Key Additions: Dave Bolland, Jussi Jokinen, Derek MacKenzie, Shawn Thornton, Willie Mitchell, Al Montoya

Key Loss: Scott Clemmensen

It all started with one trade. The Florida Panthers’ build began when Roberto Luongo was welcomed back to South Florida. Then they hit the jackpot by selecting Aaron Ekblad first overall in the 2014 NHL Draft. Then came the free-agent gold rush. One of the constant complaints the Panthers have made over the last few years was they haven’t spent a lot of money to get quality players. Well, look who they got to go over the salary floor: two-time Stanley Cup champion forward Dave Bolland, two-time Stanley Cup champion defenseman Willie Mitchell, and two-time Stanley Cup champion tough guy Shawn Thornton. Add veteran forwards Jussi Jokinen and Derek MacKenzie, and this team should improve over last year’s team by a lot, but they still have a long way to go if they want to be considered a playoff team again.

Prediction: Sixth

Montréal Canadiens

Key Additions: P.A. Parenteau, Tom Gilbert, Manny Malhotra

Key Losses: Brian Gionta, Thomas Vanek

The Habs made an improbable run to the Eastern Conference Final last year by sweeping the Lightning in the first round and ousting the top-seeded Bruins in the second round. One of the reasons why was P.K. Subban, who was rewarded this offseason with a max contract of 8 years worth $72 million. Had Carey Price stayed healthy, the Canadiens would’ve made the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 21 years. Out of all the teams in the division, the Habs look like a legitimate threat to steal the Atlantic Division away from the Boston Bruins this season.

Prediction: Second

Ottawa Senators

Key Additions: Alex Chiasson, David Legwand

Key Loss: Jason Spezza

Don’t call it a “rebuild”, or even a “reboot”. The Ottawa Senators are in the middle of a “refresh”, and this refresh includes extensions a-plenty, to their goaltending duo (Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner), two of their rising defenseman (Mark Borowiecki and Eric Gryba), and two of their top-six forwards (Milan Michalek and Clarke MacArthur). Add a rising forward like Alex Chiasson, and the Sens might contend again for a playoff spot.

Prediction: Fifth

Tampa Bay Lightning

Key Additions: Anton Stralman, Brian Boyle, Jason Garrison, Evgeni Nabokov

Key Losses: Teddy Purcell, Nate Thompson

The Tampa Bay Lightning was the biggest surprise in the Eastern Conference. Led by the emergence of Vezina Trophy finalist Ben Bishop and Calder Trophy finalists Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat, The Bolts finished the season with a 46-27-9 record, which was second in the Atlantic. I’m sure the Lightning can build upon last season with the addition of Anton Stralman and Brian Boyle from the New York Rangers. And with the addition of Jonathan Drouin rounding out the Bolts’ top line and Jason Garrison bolstering the blue line, the Lightning should, and will, be a top-three team to no one’s surprise this year.

Prediction: Third

Toronto Maple Leafs

Key Additions: Roman Polak, Matt Frattin, Stephane Robidas, David Booth, Daniel Winnik

Key Losses: Dave Bolland, Nikolai Kulemin, Mason Raymond, Carl Gunnarson

Last season, the Leafs didn’t take that step forward from 2013. They took a huge step back, and it led to a huge shakeup in the front office. Brendan Shanahan was hired as the Leafs’ new president, and one of Shanny’s first hires was hiring 28-year-old Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds general manager Kyle Dubas as the Leafs’ new assistant general manager. If you saw the movie “Moneyball”, you probably know how Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane used sabermetrics to build a competitive baseball team. Dubas is using similar tactics to help Dave Nonis turn the Leafs around. And it could all start with Willie Nylander. The Leafs may not playing for anything in 2014-15, but this team’s not gonna roll over for anyone.

Prediction: Seventh

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