Usually, I would do the NHL season preview doing all 4 divisions in the span of 4 weeks. This season, it’s gonna be different. I’m going to preview all 4 divisions in the span of 4 days. Yes: 4 DAYS. I am going to challenge myself by posting back-to-back-to-back-to-back entries within the span of the next 96 hours.
And now, without further ado, this is the 2015-16 preview for the Atlantic Division.
Key Additions: Matt Beleskey, Jimmy Hayes, Matt Irwin
Key Losses: Milan Lucic, Dougie Hamilton
It was a somewhat tumultuous offseason in Boston after the Bruins missed the playoffs for the first time since 2007. General Manager Pete Chiarelli was fired, and was replaced by Don Sweeney. Milan Lucic was traded to Los Angeles, and Dougie Hamilton was traded to Calgary. I’m not going to say it’s a rebuilding year for the Bruins, but this season’s a litmus test for whether or not Head Coach Claude Julien is a perfect fit for Don Sweeney’s system.
Key Additions: Ryan O’Reilly, Jamie McGinn, Cody Franson, Robin Lehner
Key Losses: Cody Hodgson, Mikhail Grigorenko, Nikita Zadorov
The rebuilding continues in Buffalo, but there are cornerstones now laid in the foundation. The Sabres drafted Jack Eichel second overall in the draft. Tim Murray traded for a couple of veterans in Ryan O’Reilly and Jamie McGinn. They even got a new head coach with a lot of experience in Dan Bylsma. There’s still a long ways to go to be a playoff contender, but the Sabres have taken the next step forward.
Detroit Red Wings
Key Additions: Mike Green, Brad Richards
Key Losses: None
This ain’t the same Detroit Red Wings you knew last season. After Mike Babcock went up to Toronto, The Red Wings promoted Grand Rapids Griffins head coach Jeff Blashill to become the new head coach in Detroit. Most of the pieces are in place for Blashill because most of the players now playing in Detroit, he coached them in Grand Rapids, and was a part of the Griffins’ 2013 Calder Cup Championship team. Add veterans like Mike Green (who will ease some of the workload off of Nicklas Kronwall), and two-time Stanley Cup Champion Brad Richards, and the Red Wings might just extend their playoff streak to 25 consecutive seasons.
Key Addition: Reilly Smith
Key Losses: None
The Panthers made a surprise bid to try to make the playoffs last year. Thanks to the emergence of 2015 Calder Trophy winner Aaron Ekblad and forward Nick Bjugstad, and the acquisition of 43-year-old Jaromir Jagr, the Panthers had a +25 points improvement. Now can they build upon that improvement? Not much has changed, but can the Panthers take the next step forward, or are they going go take that step back?
Key Additions: Alex Semin, Zack Kassian
Key Losses: P.A. Parenteau, Brandon Prust
Under a career season from Hart Trophy, Vezina Trophy, and Ted Lindsay Award winner Carey Price, the Montréal Canadiens won their second division title in the last three seasons. However, finding offense from Habs forwards turned out to be problematic when they faced the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Habs should have the same regular-season success this season, but come playoff-time, can the forwards step it up and not let Carey Price become THE story?
Key Additions: None
Key Losses: Erik Condra, Robin Lehner
Thanks to the emergence of Mike Hoffman and Andrew Hammond, Ottawa surprised everybody and finished third in the Atlantic Division last season when it looked like they were all but done! For head coach Dave Cameron, can he keep momentum rolling into this season in Canada’s national capital?.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Key Addition: Erik Condra
Key Losses: None
The Tampa Bay Lightning proved last season that the 2013-14 season was no fluke. They became the first NHL team to eliminate three Original Six teams in the playoffs dispatching the Red Wings in 7, the Canadiens in 6, and the New York Rangers in 7 with Game 7 played on Madison Square Garden ice! There wasn’t a lot of turnover for Tampa, but out of all the teams in the Atlantic, the Lightning is a team that should be feared.
Prediction: Atlantic Division Champions
Toronto Maple Leafs
Key Additions: Michael Grabner, Matt Hunwick, Nick Spaling, Shawn Matthias, P.A. Parenteau
Key Loss: Phil Kessel
Toronto’s got 99 problems…and thankfully Phil Kessel’s not one of them anymore. As a part of trying to move the Maple Leafs back into positive relevancy, Brendan Shanahan fired General Manager Dave Nonis, and interim head coach Peter Horachek and his entire staff.Then h did the unthinkable: first, luring Mike Babcock away from Detroit and make him Leafs Head Coach. Then, he lured away the architect of New Jersey’s successes by naming Lou Lamoriello as General Manager. And then Kessel was traded to Pittsburgh for Nick Spaling, Tyler Biggs and Tim Erixon. Boy, did Shanny scorch the earth, and I do hope something grows out of it, but for now, like Mike Babcock said in his opening presser as Leafs head coach, there’s going to be a lot of pain.