Welcome back to Puck Drop: NHL Preview 2013-14, where our hockey department gives you a detailed look at each team and divison around the NHL leading to the start of his hockey season. Check back often as new teams are added to our Puck Drop page. Today we take a look at the 2013-14 Metropolitan Division.
The NHL is entering its first season with the newly realigned divisions. There are now four divisions, two in each conference. How the guys in Toronto chose the name “Metropolitan division” is completely beyond me, though it does fix some of the problems from before. The divisions are now geographically sensible (well, except the Atlantic) and the newly remodeled “Metro” division now includes the Penguins, Capitals, Rangers, Devils, Islanders, Hurricanes, Blue Jackets and Flyers. You can pick any one of these teams and make the argument that a playoff push can be made, which is why people (co-workers) may disagree with some of these rankings. So without any further hesitation, let’s get started.
If you click on the team name, you can read the full preview on that team from a fellow LWOS writer. Our hockey writers weigh in with their own versions of the division standings at the end.
8. New York Islanders, (2012-2013 – 55 points, 16th Overall, 8th in Conference, 3rd in Division): Despite making the playoffs for the first time since 2007, I have the Isles ranked last going into next season. This is a very controversial pick, and one that none of my fellow LWOS hockey writers agree with (as seen at the bottom of the article). In the offseason, the Islanders lost captain and leading puck-moving defenseman Mark Streit to Philadelphia. They traded their 2009 first round pick Nino Niederreiter for hard hitting winger Cal Clutterbuck. Neither of these moves made sense to me, especially letting your captain (who you had more then enough cap room to re-sign) go to crosstown rivals in Philadelphia. Letting Niederreiter go, who was the fifth overall pick in the 2009 draft, for just Clutterbuck simply doesn’t make sense when you could have packaged him to get a more skilled player. Also, never trade a guy named Nino since you may never get one again. I know the Islanders don’t want to spend money, which is why they have $15 million in cap space including $28 million next season. Even after the moves I have pointed I disliked, the one I disagree with most is keeping Evgeni Nabokov as the number one goaltender. Nabokov is the only actual NHL goaltender in the entire organization, is 37 and can’t play 60 games a season. Backup Kevin Poulin is not ready for the big leagues and more time in the AHL would do him some good. Overall, this team does have a superstar in John Tavares but the lack of everything around him simply can’t make the playoffs in an 82 game season. Prediction: 13th place in Conference
7. Carolina Hurricanes, (2012-2013 – 42 points, 26 Overall, 13th in Conference, 3rd in Division): The Hurricanes had a disappointing season last year. Injuries to goaltender Cam Ward and star winger Jeff Skinner derailed the season. Going into next season, they have a very strong top-six forward core in Tlusty/E.Staal/Skinner/Ruutu/J. Staal/Semin. Not many teams have such a strong top six and even though Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner had down years, look for them to bounce back. Much of the success will come down to if number one defensemen Joni Pitkanen can stay healthy, and it remains to be seen. (Pitkanen is out indefinetly with an ankle injury). The main reason the ‘Canes were bad last year was that goalie Cam Ward missed almost the entire season due to injury. If he returns to form, they can be good. I just don’t trust the defense. Prediction: 11th place in Conference
6. New Jersey Devils, (2012-2013 – 48 points, 22nd Overall, 11th in Conference, 5th in Division): The Devils had a wild offseason. To put it in perspective, here’s who has left the Devils and who was added: Gone – Ilya Kovalchuk (via retirement to the Motherland) and David Clarkson(signed in Toronto). Additions – Cory Schneider, Michael Ryder, Jaromir Jagr and Ryane Clowe. This upcoming Devils team is hard to dissect due to the amount of changes that have occurred, though I still like the team a whole. Schneider will play 50+ games this season and is the goalie of the future. The additions of Jagr and Ryder, along with bounce back seasons from Zajac and Henrique can help on the power play. Although the defense was a bit disappointing last season, Andy Greene was spectacular on the blue line and the team has good depth at defense to play better than last season. Overall, scoring will be an issue and may be too much to overcome. Prediction: 10th place in Conference
5. Philadelphia Flyers, (2012-2013 – 49 points, 20th Overall, 10th in Conference, 4th in Division): Philadelphia has made some bold decisions this off-season. The buyouts of Ilya Bryzgalov and Danny Briere left the team with some big cap space. Notable additions include Vincent Lecavalier, Mark Streit and Ray Emery. The additions of Vinny and Streit certainly help, but it’s the goaltending that’s the main issue. Can Ray Emery be the number one goalie on a team that makes the playoffs? No one can say because nobody knows, but I have my doubts. I can’t put this team in the playoffs when they have question marks at the most important position on the ice. Prediction: 9th place in Conference
4. Columbus Blue Jackets, (2012-2013 – 51 points, 17th Overall, 9th in Conference, 4th in Division): After a shocking season last year, the Blue Jackets aim to make the playoffs this year. Columbus added winger Nathan Horton in free agency, and when he returns from injury around November/December he will be the perfect addition to this hockey team. Vezina winning goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky won’t have to be as dominant in net to carry the team, although will have to maintain elite form which I believe he will. Overall, this team’s forward and defensive depth can take them to the playoffs. Prediction: 7th in the Conference.
3. Washington Capitals, (2012-2013 – 57 points, 10th Overall, 3rd in Conference, 1st in Division): The Capitals won their division last season then lost in the first round. Did they improve the roster from last year? They lost Mike Ribiero and added Mikhail Grabovski. Huge improvement? Not exactly. With MVP Alex Ovechkin returning to true Great 8 form towards the end of the season, a full 82 game season from him will bring this squad to the playoffs, and if the likes of Nick Backstrom and Mike Green stay healthy and show up in the playoffs? This team will be deadly. Prediction: 5th in the Conference
2. New York Rangers, (2012-2013 – 56 points, 12th Overall, 6th in Conference, 2nd in Division): The Rangers on paper are an incredible team. Arguably the best goaltender in the league, solid blue line and decent scoring. But, as often as people say this, the game isn’t played on paper. The Rangers were dominated in the second round by the Bruins last season after a disappointing regular season. There’s no question they’ll be a playoff team, it’s the playoffs that concern me. They haven’t improved the roster in any significant way other than firing coach Jon Tortorella and bringing in former Canucks coach Alain Vignault. Brad Richards is still a huge question mark after being scratched from the lineup in the playoffs due to poor play. Even if he bounces back and has a great season, the Rangers will be forced to compliance buy him out due to his ridiculous cap hit. Either way, this team is still stellar. Prediction: 4th in the Conference
1. Pittsburgh Penguins, (2012-2013 – 72 points, 2nd Overall, 1st in Conference, 1st in Division): Pittsburgh went all in last season. Mid-shortened season the Penguins added Douglas Murray, Brendan Morrow, Jarome Iginla and Jussi Jokenin. All of this culminated in getting swept by the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference finals. Goaltending was their number one issue as Marc-Andre Fleury was pulled during the playoffs in favor of aging netminder Thomas Vokoun. He played well, but nowhere near enough to take Pitt to the next level like Fleury has. Pittsburgh’s playoff success hinges on Marc-Andre Fleury’s play. The Penguins will dominate the regular season as usual but goaltending is still a question. With Crosby and Malkin fully healthy this team is still a nightmare to match up against. Prediction: 1st in the Conference
Here are how our other Writers see the division breaking down.
Mitch Tierney (@thehockeymitch)
1. Penguins -x 2. Rangers -x 3. Flyers-x 4. Blue Jackets 5. Capitals 6. Islanders 7. Hurricanes 8. Devils
Russell McKenzie (@lastwordBigMick)
1. Penguins -x 2. Rangers -x 3. Caps-x 4. Blue Jackets -x 5. Flyers 6. Isles 7. Hurricanes 8. Devils
Dom Simonetta (@dasimonetta)
1. Penguins 2. Capitals 3. Rangers 4. Islanders 5. Blue Jackets 6. Flyers 7. Hurricanes 8. Devils
Ben Kerr (@lastwordBKerr)
1. Penguins -x 2. Rangers-x 3. Capitals -x 4. Flyers-x 5. Islanders 6. Blue Jackets 7. Devils 8. Hurricanes
Cristiano Simonetta (@CMS_74_)
1. Penguins -x 2. Capitals -x 3. Rangers -x 4. Islanders 5. Blue Jackets 6. Flyers 7. Devils 8. Hurricanes
Shawn Wilken (@CrimsonSkorpion)
1. Penguins -x 2. Rangers -x 3. Flyers -x 4. Blue Jackets -x 5. Capitals 6. Islanders 7. Canes 8. Devils
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