By: Josh Chodor
The Eastern Conference in the NHL does not expect to surprise many. The dominant teams still appear to be the Penguins, Lighting, and Capitals, as it has been for years. Teams like the Rangers, Islanders, and the Panthers look to contend in the regular season and struggle once April and May roll around. And for young teams like the Maple Leafs and Sabres, the year looks to bring development for their prospects but not likely playoff berths.
The Metropolitan Division:
Can anyone say that the Capitals and Penguins are not the front runners in the Eastern Conference. Pittsburgh is coming off of their second Stanley Cup title in the Sidney Crosby era, and comes in to the season healthy. Washington is coming off of (another) President’s Trophy winning season, yet had (another) frustratingly early exit. No matter where the two teams end up in the standings come April, both clubs know that the true test will come in the playoffs. Elsewhere in the division, the Rangers, Islanders, and Flyers look to contend once again for the last few playoff spots in the conference. The Devils, Blue Jackets, and Hurricanes are all on the rise, but don’t seem to be ready to make their next big jump.
The Atlantic Division:
With the re-signing of Steven Stamkos this offseason, the Lightning have firmly planted themselves in the driver seat of the Atlantic division. While the Panthers, Canadiens, and Bruins all have the talent required to contend, they all have high injury potential and many other downsides. For Florida, the concern is how well Jaromir Jagr will continue to perform with Jonathan Huberdeau out for several months. The Canadiens will have Carey Price back, but will the rest of their team come through? Meanwhile, in Detroit, the Red Wings are stuck in stagnation, with an aging core and several prospects who have not yet turned the corner. Detroit’s 25-year playoff streak may be in jeopardy by the last part of the season. And for Buffalo, Ottawa, and Toronto, only the Senators think they have a chance at winning. Ottawa has a mixed basket of players, proven performers like Dion Phaneuf, Derrick Brassard, and Erik Karlsson, as well as the youth element in Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone. A new hockey season brings unexpected twists and turns, but these are just some things to watch out for.
(Featured Image: Sarah A, Flickr)