Puck Drop Preview: 2014-15 Atlantic Division

By
Updated: September 4, 2014
Boston Bruins v Montreal Canadiens

Welcome to Puck Drop Preview 2014-15, where our hockey department gives you a detailed look at each team from around the NHL leading to the start of this hockey season andPuck Drop Preview offers our insight and analysis. Makes sure to stick around until the end of the series, where we’ll offer our full predictions for the standings in each division, and eventually our collective LWOS 2014-15 Stanley Cup pick. You can check out all our articles on our Puck Drop Page.  Today is the Atlantic Division

 

Last season:

The Boston Bruins took top honors in the Atlantic division last year, finishing with 117 points and well ahead of the second ranked Tampa Bay Lightning squad. The Lightning finished with 101 points, just a single point ahead of the Montreal Canadiens. The Detroit Red Wings managed to squeak into the post season with a 93-point campaign, leaving Ottawa (88 points) Toronto (84 points), Florida (64 points) and Buffalo (52 points) on the outside looking in. For most, it was no surprise to see a perennial powerhouse like the Bruins finishing with the division title but this year is a whole new year. Last Word On Sports took on a panel of writers and asked them where each team will find themselves once the season is over. Below, our writers projected the teams finishing rank, from #1-8.

Puck Drop Preview: 2014-15 Atlantic Division Projections

Charlie Clarke – @LWOScharlieocc

1. Montreal Canadiens

With the Bruins on the verge of a decline, and everything looking up for the Habs, this could be a very good year for Montreal. PK Subban has a new contract and will want to prove he’s worth it, and Max Pacioretty is due for another big year.

2. Boston Bruins

This season could be the beginning of the end for Boston. The loss of Jarome Iginla will hurt their offensive production, and there’s no cap room to add anyone. Zdeno Chara is 37, and is surely on the decline.

3. Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning (or, more specifically, Ben Bishop) will likely regress this year. However, the weakness of their division will allow them to retain a divisional playoff spot, especially with Steven Stamkos healthy the whole season.

4. Toronto Maple Leafs

With a new-look bottom six and a culture shift, things are finally looking up for the Leafs. They’re a hard team to predict, but it’s reasonable to think they could manage one of the two wild card spots in the East, barring another collapse.

5. Detroit Red Wings

This year might be one too many for the Wings. Their stars are aging, and clearly prone to injury. Jimmy Howard is a very average goalie, and won’t be enough to get Detroit into the playoffs.

6. Florida Panthers

The major thing the Panthers have been lacking for ages is a goaltender. Now they have one in Roberto Luongo. The Panthers could well be on the edge of the playoff race this year, with some good young talent.

7. Ottawa Senators

The losses of Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky will hurt the Sens. Unless Craig Anderson has another spectacular year, this won’t likely be a fun season for Ottawa.

8. Buffalo Sabres

While the Sabres won’t be quite as bad as they were last year, they will remain in the basement of the Eastern Conference. They’ll be front and centre in the Connor McDavid sweepstakes

Markus Meyer – @Markus_Meyer27

1. Tampa Bay Lightning

What was once an average defense, is now among the stronger blue lines in the East with the additions of Garrison and Stralman. They have an elite sniper in Steven Stamkos, a strong, balanced bottom-6, and a great goalie tandem headlined by Vezina finalist Ben Bishop. To me they’re the best team in the East.

2. Boston Bruins

While the Bruins certainly didn’t improve, they didn’t get much worse. They are still one of the deepest teams in the NHL, have a solid one-two punch up the middle with David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron, and have Vezina winner Tuukka Rask between the pipes. They’re still a powerhouse.

3. Montreal Canadiens

Losing Vanek may hurt, but they replaced him with another reliable scoring winger in P.A. Parenteau. On defense they lost defensive rock Josh Gorges, but replaced him with the steady Tom Gilbert. I hesitate to say they improved but it’s hard to say they regressed either, as they’ll also see further development from the likes of Alex Galchenyuk.

4. Florida Panthers

Perhaps the most improved team out East, the Panthers broke the bank to sign free agents Dave Bolland, Jussi Jokinen and Willie Mitchell, and while these deals are questionable financially, there’s no doubt they will help the team. Roberto Luongo will provide strong goaltending and look for further development from the abundance of young talent. They’re going to be a fun team to watch.

5. Detroit Red Wings

The Red Wings saw tremendous progress from young stars like Danny DeKeyser and Gustav Nyquist in 2014, but unfortunately also saw age catching up with the likes Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. They will need the core to stay healthy (especially Jimmy Howard), as well as have the youngsters take over. Detroit’s playoff streak may be in jeopardy.

6. Ottawa Senators

Losing Jason Spezza was a huge blow, no matter how much Kyle Turris has improved. Yes, Bobby Ryan will likely return to 30 goal form and Craig Anderson will probably bounce back to an extent, but that’s not enough to push the Sens back to playoff form. Look for a major shakeup as Ottawa looks likely to miss the post season for the second consecutive time.

7. Toronto Maple Leafs

Maybe I’m not giving them enough credit here, but I don’t see how this team is much different from last season. Adding Komarov and Santorelli certainly solidifies the bottom-6, but the biggest issue was the back end, and all they did there was swap Gunnarson with Polak, which was a backwards move in my opinion, and added 37-year-old Stephane Robidas. Robidas cannot save this team defensively. Unless Carlyle really hits all the right buttons, this is not a playoff team to me.

8. Buffalo Sabres

They did make improvements, adding Brian Gionta, Matt Moulson, Andrej Meszaros, Josh Gorges and 2nd overall pick Sam Reinhart, but not nearly enough to move out of the basement. This was a no-brainer.

Nick Di Giovanni – @LWOSNick

1. Montreal Canadiens

The losses of Brian Gionta and Josh Gorges are key departures to the leadership group, but the Habs young core of PK Subban, Brendan Gallagher, Max Pacioretty and Carey Price could lead the way this year. We saw that they could beat division rivals in the playoffs last year in Tampa Bay and Boston, so why shouldn’t they finish atop the Atlantic Division?

2. Boston Bruins

A once great powerhouse in the Eastern Conference, somewhat of a mini-dynasty over the past four or five years may have finally fallen after the collapse against Montreal in the playoffs. The loss of Jarome Iginla is massive and Peter Chiarelli found no one to replace him. The aging Bruins squad will not finish first in the East this year- but it should be a close race to the finish.

3. Tampa Bay Lightning

Without Steven Stamkos and an angry captain for most of last season, the Lightning still pulled through for home-ice advantage in the playoffs. After trading away some of their nucleus in Nate Thompson, BJ Crombeen and Teddy Purcell, the Lightning filled a huge hole in defence with the signing of Anton Stralman. The team doesn’t look as good as last year’s, so they will fall one position.

4. Detroit Red Wings

A bit of a surprise that the Red Wings made the playoffs considering how many broken wings they had but a young core of up and coming players flew high. Danny DeKeyser, Tomas Tatar, Brendan Smith and Gustav Nyquist are the Wings of the future and may just lead them into a wild card spot for a record 24th straight playoff appearance in the spring of 2015.

5. Toronto Maple Leafs

The Maple Leafs were unusually quiet this year regarding big acquisitions, probably because they seemed to have struck out on some big names. Josh Gorges refused a trade to T.O. so they went out and signed injury prone Stephan Robidas to plug a hole on the blue line. New father Jonathan Bernier is the number one goalie and the Leafs playoff hopes will rest on his shoulders as the rest of the team doesn’t have what it takes to make it to the post season.

6. Buffalo Sabres

Major improvements in a fast rebuild spear headed by GM Tim Murray in Buffalo. Veterans Josh Gorges, Brian Gionta and Andrej Meszaros will lead the young players like Sam Reinhart, Zemgus Girgensons and Mikhail Grigorenko into the stars they were projected to be. Matt Moulson, Tyler Ennis and Cody Hodgson will lead the production line to no avail as this team is still far from a playoff spot.

7. Florida Panthers

Hockey genius Dale Tallon is finally shaping up this roster into a special team, bringing in Roberto Luongo in March, along with Dave Bolland, Derek MacKenzie and Jussi Jokinen. The young core on defence with Erik Gudbranson, Dimitri Kulikov and possibly Aaron Ekblad will be a bright spot for the southern U.S. team. Making the playoffs shouldn’t be Florida’s goal, improving their win record and developing their players is their top priority right now.

8. Ottawa Senators

Marian Hossa. Dany Heatley. Daniel Alfredsson. Now Jason Spezza joins the list of fan favourites to leave Ottawa for a better chance to win. Is Erik Karlsson next? They sure hope not because the team will rely heavily on him to not finish in this projected spot. Before owner Eugene Melnyk cleans house, Paul MacLean is in charge of this team, that means more losses for the Senators. Hopefully management wakes up and realizes it’s not 2007 and it’s time to rebuild.

Griffin Schroeder – @gSchroedes16

1. Boston Bruins

Despite losing a prevalent goal scorer in the form of Jarome Iginla, the Bruins are still the Bruins. In the offseason, they did not acquire any big name talents, but with the fact that the Presidents Trophy winners did not lose anyone else, it should not be a huge surprise. With their current core of game-changers like agitator Brad Marchand, two-way gem Patrice Bergeron, Norris candidate Zdeno Chara, and Vezina Winner Tuukka Rask, they will again be a difficult team to stop in the quest for a division title and Stanley Cup for that matter.

2. Tampa Bay Lightning

GM Steve Yzerman was busy this offseason down south. With additions by the names of highly sought after free agent defenseman Anton Stralman, grinder Brian Boyle, and an experienced blueliner in Jason Garrison, Yzerman is moving the team in the right direction. They did part ways with Teddy Purcell and signed aging veteran Brenden Morrow to replace him on the wing, but this is not a big hole. With such a deep team filled with so much young talent including Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, possibly Jonathan Drouin, Victor Hedman, Steven Stamkos, etc, the Lightning will challenge the Bruins for a division title and finish second with another progressive year.

3. Detroit Red Wings

Despite a pretty uneventful offseason, the Red Wings have the capability-and personnel- to surprise the East. This team, when healthy, is still a force to be reckoned with with stars such as Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg working their magic. The influx of youth was seen last year and will play a big part again this season with names like Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Jurco, and Riley Sheahan getting their roles elevated. Top prospect Anthony Mantha could be added to that list as well if he makes the team. The defensive core is young, but growing. Danny Dekeyser has shown that he has the poise and ability to be the best defenseman on the team. Brendan Smith had his miscues last season but also showed some offensive flair from a blueline that needed it. The team also has Mike Babcock who is considered by many (myself included) to be the best coach in the NHL. If the Wings can stay substantially healthy this season, their point total will most likely rise from the 93 they had last season and get them into the playoffs much more smoothly.

4. Montreal Canadiens

GM Marc Bergevin had one thing on his mind above all others this offseason: sign PK Subban. He accomplished that and has secured his position as #1 on the blueline for at least the next eight years. The Habs made it far last season and some say if they had goaltender Carey Price all series in the East Final would have gone to the Stanley Cup Final. This team still has plenty of balanced scoring and talent, with players like Alex Galchenyuk, Lars Eller, and Brendan Gallagher growing as they are as well as gifted defenseman Subban excelling at the rate he is already with a Norris on his mantle. Max Pacioretty showed how prolific a scorer he could be and will continue to do so this season. The team stayed intact in the offseason and will make it into the Stanley Cup Playoffs yet again, behind their net minder and balanced talent.

5. Toronto Maple Leafs

To be honest, the Leafs did not play so well after the Olympic break last season. With a skid that reached its height at eight games, Randy Carlyle and crew had questions to answer in the offseason. The Leafs hired Brendan Shanahan as their President and proceeded to have an intriguing offseason. Flipping Carl Gunnarsson for Roman Polak, losing Mason Raymond and Nikolai Kulemin, extending Jake Gardnier, trading Jerry D’Amigo and signing James Reimer all showed the characteristics of an up and down offseason. The Leafs wanted to go the shutdown route on D to help Jonathan Bernier out, but Polak and Robidas are up there in age an are questionable. With up and coming defensemen in Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly, there could be some saving grace on the blueline as well. All in all, the Leafs had an on and off summer, and this will not aid their efforts in getting to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which is very questionable at this point with their blueline the way it is.

6. Florida Panthers

Another year, another period of growth for a young Florida Panthers team that will not see hockey after April but will show some good flashes of what the future could hold. They received a significant upgrade in goal with the addition of Roberto Luongo, and they shelled out some dollars to make other notable moves as well.  The Panthers also received a retooling on their blueline. Getting Aaron Ekblad 1st overall isn’t too shabby, as well as signing Stanley Cup winner Willie Mitchell to a 2-year term. With names like Aleksander Barkov, Dylan Olsen, Brandon Pirri, Jimmy Hayes, Dimitri Kulikov, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Eric Gudbranson, the Panthers have a lot to look forward to, and this season will show signs of what could be.

7. Buffalo Sabres

As they say, it’s a process in Buffalo. Trading away their biggest pieces of value in Ryan Miller and Tomas Vanek last season, the Sabres have accepted the rebuilding phase. GM Tim Murray made some solid moves in the offseason with acquiring former Montreal Canadiens Captain Brian Gionta, bringing sniper Matt Moulson back for 5 years, and bolstering a shoddy blueline with Josh Gorges and Andrei Meszaros. Drafting Sam Reinhart in the top three in the draft does beg the question of NHL time this season and it will be interesting to see how Murray and head coach Ted Nolan handle the situation. It will be the first of a few years of rebuild in Buffalo, but with names like Tyler Ennis and Tyler Myers still relatively young, things could change in the coming years.

8. Ottawa Senators

Ottawa’s gone on some tough times recently. Once a playoff regular, now without Jason Spezza or Daniel Alfredsson. David Legwand was a solid addition for two years, as he is a veteran that will hover around 50 points, but losing Ales Hemsky and Spezza as mentioned before hurts. They still have a gem of a defenseman in Erik Karlsson and will have the task of building around him, but it will be easier said than done. The goaltending situation is uncertain as well, with goaltender Craig Anderson getting a healthy 3-year $12.6 million deal while back-up Robin Lehner is signed for three more seasons. It will be interesting to see how the situation plays out with Lehner sharing starts with Anderson. All in all, the team will have to rely on breakout stars such as Mike Zibanajad and Alex Chiasson with the help of team leaders such as Ryan and Karlsson if they do not want to finish in the cellar of the Atlantic.

Nick Godin – @FlyingOrr

1. Montreal Canadiens

The Habs had a successful season last year, making it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals. Although the Habs lost some key players during the offseason, notably Daniel Briere and Thomas Vanek, they still have a solid team. They also added P.A. Parenteau, Tom Gilbert, and Manny Malholtra. P.K. Subban is also coming off a huge contract, forcing him to prove that he’s worthy of the money.

2. Boston Bruins

The Bruins lost many players to free agency this offseason. These players include Chad Johnson, Shawn Thornton, Andrej Meszaros, Corey Potter, and Jarome Iginla. Although many of these players are irreplaceable, the Bruins are still one of the best teams in the league. But in order for the Bruins to achieve second place in the division, their rookies are going to have to hit the ground running.

3. Detroit Red Wings

The Red Wings proved that they’re a legitimate threat in the Eastern Conference, especially considering it was their first year in the new conference. They made the playoffs, and although they were knocked out in the first round by the Boston Bruins, they now have a sense of how things work in the East.

4. Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning finished 2nd in the Atlantic Division last season. They had a decent season, however they were knocked out in the first round of the playoffs by the Montreal Canadiens. It was ultimately Ben Bishop’s injury that caused the Lightning to collapse, and you could possibly see the effects of the collapse carry on into next season.

5. Ottawa Senators

The Senators were put in a bad situation when former captain Jason Spezza announced that he wants out of Ottawa. They understood that regardless of who they get in return, it won’t satisfy the team like Spezza did. Due to that, it looks as if the Senators could miss the playoffs for a second consecutive year.

6. Toronto Maple Leafs

The Leafs had a very disappointing season last year finishing in 6th place. They also failed to qualify for the playoffs.The team hasn’t progressed since their latest collapse, so unless they make any huge changes, they’ll likely stand at 6th place.

7. Buffalo Sabres

The Buffalo Sabres are likely to finish 7th place in the standings, which is actually an improvement considering it’s the Sabres. They have consistently been the worst team in the NHL, but thanks to Tim Murray’s offseason acquisitions, the Sabres are likely to move up in the standings for the next few years.

8. Florida Panthers

The Panthers will be competing with the Sabres for last place. The Panthers have some new names added to the roster that will definitely assist the team, most notably Dave Bolland, Willie Mitchell, Jussi Jokinen, Shawn Thornton and first-overall draft pick Aaron Ekblad, however the Sabres have also added many good players in the offseason, giving the Panthers the unfortunate likelihood of finishing in last place.

Shawn Wilken @CrimsonSkorpion

1. Boston Bruins

The Bruins will find themselves in the same spot this year with a rejuvenated Milan Lucic and a freshly re-signed David Krejci. The loss of Jarome Iginla indeed hurts the team overall from a goal scoring perspective but the youth and team toughness will prevail over any minor adjustments. I expect Tuukka Rask to have another stellar season while Zdeno Chara’s age will finally catch up to him, allowing for the youth to settle in more comfortably.

2. Montreal Canadiens

The loss of Josh Gorges and captain Brian Gionta was tough to swallow for some but their replacements have made the pain go away. The addition of P.A. Parenteau and Jiri Sekac into the top 9 rotation allows for a variety of different line combinations including the return of the kid line with Lars Eller, Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher. The Tom Gilbert signing will pay dividend as the Canadiens will be able to roll a potent powerplay punch on both waves.

3. Detroit Red Wings

Last year, the team had to suffer from some major injuries to key players allowing for their youth to really step up and earn their way. Now with a healthy Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg along with the experience the youth gained through last season, the Red Wings will be a dangerous one and are an improved team. Their defense is young and tough and the only question mark seems to be goaltending but even then, the team overall can cover up and minor gaff in the system.

4. Tampa Bay Lightning

A step down from last year? I think so. Martin St. Louis was around for the majority of last season and was a big reason as to why the Lightning looked so threatening. With St. Louis now gone, a new look on defense and the question in the air regarding Ben Bishop and if he can repeat his performance of last year, there are too many “ifs” playing into the Lightning pulling off the amazing season they did last year. Still, they have the grit and tenacity to stick in there and grab a wild card spot.

5. Florida Panthers

One of the most improved teams this off-season, the Florida Panthers have a real good shot at being a competitive club. A capable goaltender is a great way to start and Roberto Luongo as the starter is a fantastic way to begin things. Signing a veteran defenseman with two Stanley Cup rings, there’s another and they also hope young Aaron Ekblad will be ready to go. Up front, Jussi Jokinen and Dave Bolland will look to add some secondary scoring to a core that has the likes of Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov. Inxperience will lead to their shortcomings in the end but the Panthers are absolutely on the rise.

6. Toronto Maple Leafs

Like clockwork, the Leafs will begin their season with giving their fanbase some hope. A playoff spot? A team that can win it all? It’ll sure look that way until three months later, when everything comes crashing down. With Joffrey Lupul’s inconsistency at remaining healthy (starting to think it may actually be a consistency, considering his track record of injuries) and Phil Kessel trying to do it all himself, the team lacks the offensive firepower from top to bottom to be a playoff team. Jonathan Bernier is a capable starter but how long can he stand on his head before the Maple Leaf spine cracks?

7. Ottawa Senators

The telltale signs that the Senators will crumble start and pretty much end with the departure of Jason Spezza. Outside of the top line consisting of Kyle Turris, Bobby Ryan and Clarke MacArthur, where do the Senators find additional scoring help? Again, question marks come in bunches regarding what the core of the Senators forward group can do and their defense outside of Erik Karlsson and Marc Methot looks shaky at best. The desperation will come from in goal, where Craig Anderson will look to hold the fort down and keep his team alive. Unfortunately for him, the Senators just don’t seem to match up on paper against most of the division.

8. Buffalo Sabres

In order to get to the cap floor, the Sabres had to spend some big money on veteran Brian Gionta. They brought in the likes of Josh Gorges and Matt Moulson, both whom are excellent additions to the forward and defense groups and the rookies will be getting their feet wet as well. Before you run, you must walk and the Buffalo Sabres will continue to walk and get the hang of things with their system and where they go. Youngsters Sam Reinhart, Zemgus Girgensons and Rasmus Ristolainen will certainly pay their dues and the the goaltending tandem of Jhonas Enroth and Michael Neuvirth is on the verge of having a difficult season ahead.

Matt Ricks – @M4TR1X2

1. Montreal Canadiens

The Montreal Canadiens had a very successful season last year and I almost believe they probably would’ve won the Eastern Conference final had you subtracted one Kreider-Price collision. That being said, I believe this year will have bigger expectations and with many of their impressive young core players still growing, they’ll be at the very least a finalist for a playoff position in the Atlantic division.

2. Boston Bruins

The President Trophy winners of 2014 are a shoe-in for a playoff position and more. With the B’s being very minimal with moves over the course of the off-season, they preserved a still very powerful team in the Eastern Conference, regardless of their subtractions. There’s no doubt in my mind that Boston could be in the Eastern Conference final.

3. Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning have a very powerful group of forwards and if Bishop can have the same season, there’s no reason not to look out for Tampa Bay this year. There’s not a doubt in saying that the Lightning should be expected of more than a first round sweep in the playoffs.

4. Detroit Red Wings

The Detroit Red Wings just aren’t exactly what they used to be for so long now, a dominant force, and a definite playoff competitor or Cup contender. If goaltender Jimmy Howard can step up, having the likes of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg healthy, and head coach, Mike Babcock can continue to work his magic, the they will be a contender for the playoffs. With the Atlantic being as strong as it is, the wild card maybe their way into the post-season once again.

5. Toronto Maple Leafs

With some vast improvements on defense, the Toronto Maple Leafs look to be a better team. It’s still unproven if they truly are a playoff contender though and the hope for them will be to grab a wild card position. If Bernier or Reimer turn it on, the Leafs can be fairly lethal in the Eastern Conference but not to the extent of a division leader. It will be interesting if head coach Randy Carlyle can gather his team’s attention and be on the same page, but unless those “ifs” fall true, Toronto will be near in the same position as last year.

6. Ottawa Senators

Losing your star center and captain generally doesn’t exactly help your team, especially when your return that’s even plausible to play in the NHL right away may only be at the very most a 2nd liner. The Ottawa Senators have some gaps to cover with the loss of Jason Spezza but the team has grown and there are some key players that can help stretch Ottawa to maybe a wild card position. For the most part the team is mediocre on paper next to a lot of the East and will probably end up in the middle of the pack scraping by and duking it out for one of the last wild card positions.

7. Buffalo Sabres

The rebuilding Sabres finished as the very last team, last season, so you can’t exactly expect an astonishing season in 2015. However the Sabres management did make some adjustments in the off-season adding the likes of Matt Moulson, Brian Gionta, Andrej Meszaros, Josh Gorges, and more. Their goaltending however is questionable with Micheal Neuvirth and Johnas Enroth. The team is still rebuilding and waiting on their young talent to arrive but with the new leadership in the room, this season shouldn’t be as rough as 2014.

8. Florida Panthers

The Panthers were greater only to the last place Sabres last season and management made some rather doubtful moves through the off-season. Dave Bolland, Jussi Jokinen, and Willie Mitchell aren’t exactly superstars. On paper the defence looks fragile and as for goaltending, Roberto Luongo is questionable with his helping hand of defence and age creeping up on him. Playoffs for Florida would seem a long stretch and more likely will be in the basement at next season’s end.

Ben Kerr – @LastWordBKerr

1. Boston Bruins

The Bruins haven’t done much this off-season, due to being in cap jail. However they are still the best team in the Conference.  Yes, the loss of Iginla does hurt, and they probably don’t run away with things the way they did last year, but they are still in first.

2. Montreal Canadiens

Overlooked for how much they really improved this off-season, and the Habs were already pretty good.  Parenteau is a big upgrade on Briere.  Gilbert is an upgrade on Gorges. Add to that continuing to develop youth, and the Habs grab home ice.

3. Tampa Bay Lightning

I like this team, in fact I was one of the few LWOS prognosticators to put them in the playoffs a year ago.  However, this summer i feel like they are being overrated.  Yes, they added Stralman, Ggarrison and some vets.  Lets not forget a few things though.  First, Ben Bishop is not likely to put up a .930+ save percentage again.  Second, they had 3/4 of a season of Marty St. Louis, which they don’t have now, Third, the addition of Stralman isn’t so much an improvement as it is a replacement for Sami Salo who was brilliant last year.  Overall they are still good, still going to be a ~100 point team, and going to be neck-and-neck with Montreal again.

4. Detroit Red Wings

They just haven’t done enough to challenge the top three, especially on defense where they needed to improve and didn’t.  Gustav Nyquist is a very good young player, but I expect him to regress from last season where he was just unreal in the second half.  He’ll be good, but that was just a pace that very few players can maintain.  They fight to keep the playoff streak alive.

5. Toronto Maple Leafs

Got better on the bottom lines, and should improve on the powerplay.  Not sure the defence has improved though, unless Morgan Rielly takes a quantum leap forward in his second year (He’ll be great, but I don’t think this is the breakthrough year).  Can Bernier keep up his phenomal play? The Leafs will be better but, I still see them missing the playoffs, but they aren’t horrible.

6. Florida Panthers

A full season of Roberto Luongo and a number of veteran additions this off-season, along with the continued growth of the youth make them better than last year.  However its still not enough to make the playoffs.

7. Ottawa Senators

Losing Spezza makes the Sens into a one line team up front.  That worked when Spezza was hurt in 2012-13, but the smoke and mirrors didn’t work last year.  They fail again this season.  There are some pieces here, but Melnyk has to spend to rebuild a core that is falling apart now (with Spezza and Alfredsson leaving) and Phillips not getting any younger.

8. Buffalo Sabres

Buffalo is gonna suck again, but hey they have the best prospects in the league, and multiple picks in the 2014 draft, which is looking like a great year.  Hang in there, the rebound will be painful but worth it.

Ben Kerr also provided the following individual award predictions for this upcoming season:

Division Top Scorer: Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning

Division Top Scorer (defencemen): Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators

Division Rookie of the Year: Jonathan Drouin, Tampa Bay Lightning

Division Breakout Performance: Alex Galchenyuk, Montreal Canadiens

Division Best Goaltender: Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens

Best Bet in the Division to win an NHL Award: Patrice Bergeron, Selke

Consensus LWOS 2014-15 Atlantic Division Standings:

1. Boston Bruins (1.6 average rank)
2. Montreal Canadiens (1.875 average rank)
3. Tampa Bay Lightning (2.875 average rank)
4. Detroit Red Wings (3.8 average rank)
5. Toronto Maple Leafs (5.3 average rank)
6. Florida Panthers (6.25 average rank)
7. Ottawa Senators (6.75 average rank)
8. Buffalo Sabres (7.3 average rank)

 

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