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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.