This is the 2016-17 preview of the Atlantic Division. And just like last season, the season preview will be division-by-division, and it will all be covered within the span of 4 days.
Key Additions: David Backes, Dominic Moore, Anton Khudobin
Key Losses: Loui Eriksson, Chris Kelly, Zach Trotman
This season seems to be a transitional year for the Bruins. Last year, they had issues on defense and on the road. Their young guns like Frank Vatrano, David Pastrnak, and Torey Krug are all coming into their prime, so there should be some optimism. But despite adding David Backes, is the Bruins offense good enough to compete in the Atlantic?
Key Additions: Kyle Okposo, Dmitry Kulikov, Anders Nilsson
Key Loss: Mark Pysyk
The Sabres are building off of a season in which Jack Eichel showed he’s not the future of the team, but the here and now. Now you add Kyle Okposo to the list, and the future of the Sabres look more brighter than ever.They’re still a long ways to go from being a playoff contender, but you can never say never.
Detroit Red Wings
Key Additions: Frans Nielsen, Thomas Vanek, Steve Ott
Key Loss: Pavel Datsyuk
Despite the additions above, that loss below was major. When Pavel Datsyuk decided he was going back to Russia, the first thought was this was the first sign of the end of an era in Detroit. With this upcoming season being the final season at Joe Louis Arena,the hope is to extend the longest active playoff appearance streak in North American sports to 26 years. That might be in doubt, because you really don’t know if Frans Nielsen (a speedy player), Steve Ott (a physical grinder), and Thomas Vanek (a playmaker), is going to fill the holes that Datsyuk vacated. This team should be good enough to extend the streak, but right now, I have them as a bubble team.
Key Addition: Keith Yandle, James Reimer, Jason Demers, Colton Sceviour, Jonathan Marchessault
Key Losses: Brian Campbell, Al Montoya, Teddy Purcell, Jiri Hudler
The Panthers surprised everyone by winning the Atlantic Division for the first time in franchise history; their first division title in five years. What propelled the Panthers to an amazing season was 43-year old Jaromir Jagr literally turning back the hands of time, and putting the team on his back. During the offseason, they bolstered their defense by signing Keith Yandle and Jason Demers. They also signed James Reimer to help alleviate the workload of Roberto Luongo. Quite frankly, the Panthers are a legitimate top-three team in the Atlantic, because they have the right mix of balanced lines and an even stronger defense corps.
Key Additions: Shea Weber, Andrew Shaw, Al Montoya, Alex Radulov
Key Losses: P.K. Subban, Lars Eller
It was a disastrous year for the Habs. When Carey Price went down, so too did the team. Even a Winter Classic win over the Boston Bruins in Foxborough didn’t help take away the sting of disappointment. But all of that change with one trade. When the Canadiens traded P.K. Subban to Nashville for Shea Weber, that trade was the most significant trade since Chris Chelios was traded to Chicago for Denis Savard in 1990. They traded away a personality for a no-nonsense, business-like defenseman: someone who wouldn’t be a distraction to the team. They also got an offensive boost by signing Andrew Shaw. This team should be better, but it all depends on whether or not Price remains healthy.
Key Addition: Chris Kelly
Key Losses: Patrick Wiercioch, Mika Zibanejad, Alex Chiasson
Not a lot has changed with the Senators in the offseason, but when Guy Boucher was hired as their new head coach, the Sens got some structure back. I don’t expect a lot from the Senators this season, but the should be improved from last season.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Key Addition: Cory Conacher
Key Losses: Jonathan Marchessault
The Lightning didn’t need to do much, except re-sign their core. And they did just that. Steven Stamkos was re-signed to an 8-year max contract worth $66 Million. Victor Hedman was re-signed to an 8-year max contract worth $63 Million. Alex Killorn was re-signed to an 7-year contract worth $31 Million. With the core remaining intact, the Bolts will be the standard for the Atlantic Division for years to come.
Prediction: Atlantic Division Champions
Toronto Maple Leafs
Key Additions: Frederik Andersen, Matt Martin, Roman Polak
Key Loss: Michael Grabner, P.A. Parenteau
The future has arrived in Toronto. A new logo, new uniforms, and the arrival of AM34 aka 2016 number-one overall pick Auston Matthews. Add the acquisition of goalie Freddie Andersen, and you have the building blocks of the rebirth of the Toronto Maple Leafs, but don’t expect a lot from this work in progress this season, despite hosting the NHL Centennial Classic on New Year’s Day.