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