This is my first post I have ever made, so give it a read and feel free to tell me what you think (either here or on twitter @NHLsensandstuff)!
Before I begin I should say a few things. One, I will be trying to do this for all 4 divisions, I figured it was easy to do it by division the ranking all 31 teams. Two, this is purely my opinion, I try to incorporate facts on why I think these things but if you have a disagreement again, feel free to let me know. I would be more than happy to debate it and extend on why my opinion is what it is.
The atlantic division is a crazy competitive and tight division this year, and I could see almost any team making the playoffs, and almost every team missing the playoffs. To make it easier where I see each team, I split it up into 3 categories. Out of playoffs, Wild card team, Division Leaders.
Out Of Playoffs
8. Detroit Red Wings.
Detroit is the only team in the Atlantic I truly do not see a chance for them to make the playoffs. They were already bad this year, did not improve and also their “key” players keep getting older. Despite having the 4th highest cap hit in the league, they also boast one of the oldest cores. If they finally start using the few stud youngsters they have properly (Anthanasiou Mantha) they could still be alright. The blue line is brutal aside from Mike Green and adding Trevor Daley is not going to save it. It’s possible Mrazek/Howard play like crazy and they do not finish last, but I wouldn’t hold my breath too much on these guys.
Wild Card Teams
7. Florida Panthers
6. Ottawa Senators
5. Boston Bruins
4. Buffalo Sabres
Now BEFORE you start screaming that a team is too high or too low here, just hear me out. All of these 4 teams are going to be ridiculously close, like 5-8 points apart or less for all 4. I could also seeing any of these teams snatching a top 3 spot in the division, which I’ll get to later. For Florida, the offseason has been a head scratcher. They have seemingly gone away from their “Computer Boy stat” base. They butchered the expansion draft giving up multiple good players to Vegas for… Reasons? As of July 16th according to www.capfriendly.com they only have 11 forwards, 6 defense and 2 goalies rostered. I would expect they will sign some cheaper players to PTO in August but still. Buying out Jokinen and releasing Jagr seemed weird. However, they (shouldn’t) be so injury bitten this year so it is possible they still play great with their core players. Now for Ottawa, as a Sens fan myself I would love nothing more than for another ECF run. However, I feel like that is very unlikely, last year was their year if they were going to win with this roster. This year they could have still been a competitive threat in my opinion, if they would have dumped Phaneuf or Ceci (or both) and picked up a decent FA dman, and maybe a good depth forward or two. Instead they signed AHLer Nate Thompson. I mean, why? The dude is actually worse than Chris Kelly and maybe even more of a liability than Chris Neil. Which is hard to do. However, they still have the best defenseman in the world which makes them a bubble team, along with some good guys up front in Stone, Hoffman and Turris that keep them competitive. Also Thomas Chabot and Colin White all year should be fun, I expect them to compete for a playoff spot, but it is nowhere close to a lock. Boston, well they have the big 3 up front. Elite Bergeron, and studs in Marchand and Pasternak. That and Rask playing really well is enough to take you to a playoff spot by itself (see last year). A full year of Macavoy is going to be huge, and Torey Krug is very good. Hopefully Chara stops playing 20+ minutes a night though. They are another bubble team for the lack of depth, and one injury could derail them. However, like everyone else I could see them taking a top 3 spot if everything goes right. Buffalo may be the biggest surprise on this list, however their new GM has made a lot of very good moves since taking over. Bringing in Nathan Beaulieu for nothing and Marco Scandella to at least improve the brutal defense core, bringing in a solid backup in Chad Johnson for when Lehner gets cranky, and even a smart, low risk high reward signing on Benoit Pouliot who had one rough year. The defense core is still weak, but it is at least improved and they have a scary offense. Jack Eichel for a full year is going to be fun to watch, and if Lehner plays as good as he did last year they should be fine. I have them competing for the wild card and probably being the best of this group of 4, again this could easily change, but I expect a decent jump from Buffalo this year.
Competing For Division Title
3. Montreal Canadiens
2. Toronto Maple Leafs
1. Tampa Bay Lightning
I have Montreal in this category just because I have them third, but i could straight up see them being anywhere from first to seventh in this division. How does Bergevin still have a job? He has crushed his defense, the Drouin deal made sense but losing Beaulieu and Sergachev and possibly Markov kills. Also not resigning Radulov and offering him the same contract after he already told Dallas yes was hilariously bad. Credit to Bergivan for dodging a bullet in the expansion draft and somehow having McPhee take Emelin for free. Also the Schlemko trade was good, not enough though. Their forwards are, meh. They could have been real good with a top 6 of Patches, Galchenyuk, Radulov, Drouin, Danault and Hemsky(?). The reason I keep them at 3rd is because of Carey Price and Carey Price alone. I expect another Vezina caliber season out of im, but if that doesn’t happen the Habs are in huge trouble. I debated placing them with the wild card teams but kept it simple and placed them here. No Elite CP31 = No playoffs. Now for those Maple Leafs. I am a sens fan, and it is going to pain me to hear all the Leafs fans talk about how good they are for the next 10-12 years, but hey there is no denying it. This Leafs team is young, and a ton of fun to watch. They got better this offseason and even if they did nothing another year of growth fro Matthews, Nylander and Marner is scary enough. I think they overpaid and gave too much term to Marleau, but he for sure helps them like crazy this year and they are going to have 3 legit 1st lines, that is terrifying. If Tampa isn’t the team winning the division I have the Leafs winning it. Hainsey is an improvement over Polak, again the term and money is meh but that is a very movable contract, bottom line is: The Leafs are Actually Good. Now for Tampa, the team I have winning it. Steve Yzerman is a wizard. He managed to get Sergachev, Palat and Johnson all while wasting 3 mil on Dan Girardi. I am still not sure what on earth that was and it is one of the very few mistakes Yzerman has made. If Cooper plays Girardi right and has him 3rd pair it’ll be fine. This team has a stacked offense and Hedman is a legit beast. Stralman is pretty sick too, not to mention a full year of Vasilevsky is exciting. The Kunitz signing was pretty safe bet as well. If their core stays healthy all year this is a legit cup contender and my favourite from the Atlantic, maybe even East,
Those are my thoughts, what do you think? Feel free to leave a comment or send me a tweet. And once again, pretty much all these teams are going to be very close, the parity in the Atlantic is crazy and there are 7 teams I could easily see making playoffs, and with an injury or two I could see how any of the 8 could miss. It’ll be a fun year to watch, hope you enjoyed!
My name is Alex, this is my page, all thoughts are mine and feel free to comment on what you think! Enjoy!