Finally, The Atlantic Division is the last division I will be previewing. The Atlantic Division might be the most diverse division in the league this season. It has 2-3 teams that could be legitimate Cup contenders that are capable of going far in the playoffs. It has 2-3 teams that are most likely contenders for a different prize come June, at least 2 of those 3 teams that is… It also has a couple of tweener teams that will be improved from last season and could be on the bubble of the playoff picture. So let’s look at where these teams could finish this season.
The Boston Bruins had a fantastic regular season with 50 wins and 112 points, finishing 2nd in the Eastern Conference and 4th in the entire NHL. They finished 6th in GF and 4th in GA, they also had the 4th best powerplay and the 3rd best penalty kill in the NHL.
Boston had a lot of rookies suit up this season around their core of players and they made a significant impact. Danton Heinen had 47 points as a 22-year-old, Jake Debrusk had a solid season and was also terrific in the playoffs. Charlie McAvoy is going to be a great defenseman in the NHL for a long time. They will all be counted on to play even bigger roles next season if Boston wants to remain near the top of the division.
Probably the biggest reason for Boston’s success is they have the best top line in the NHL. The trio of Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak is absolutely ridiculous. The last two seasons, whenever that trio is on the ice together they control the entire game and the ice is significantly slanted in Boston’s favor. The Bruins just don’t give up anything and they generate chance after chance, having that luxury makes things a lot easier for Boston. They have speed, skill, smarts, sandpaper and everything you could want in a line and they’re all on terrific value contracts.
IN: Joakim Nordstrom, Jaroslav Halak, John Moore
OUT: Riley Nash, Tim Shaller, Brian Gionta, Rick Nash, Tommy Wingels, Nick Holden, Anton Khudobin
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Jake Debrusk – David Krejci – David Backes
Ryan Donato – Danton Heinen – Anders Bjork
Sean Kuraly – Chris Wagner – Noel Acciari
Zedano Chara – Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug – Brandon Carlo
John Moore – Matt Grzelcyk
Boston’s top line alone could potentially get them into the playoffs, and I think their young players are going to be even better this season. Tuukka Rask is still a very good goaltender, they added depth on their blueline with John Moore to create competition on the backend. I believe the Bruins will be in the playoffs this season and they will compete for one of the top three spots in the division.
After finishing in the leagues basement for the third time in the last five seasons, the Buffalo Sabres finally had the lottery balls fall their way getting franchise defenseman Rasmus Dahlin with the 1st overall pick this past June. After finishing 31st in GF and 29th in GA, the Sabres made a lot of changes this summer.
Starting in the crease, they signed Carter Hutton to 3 year 8.25M contract hoping he can be a starting goaltender for them. Rasmus Dahlin will have a significant impact on their blueline, a full season of Brendan Guhle will have a positive impact for them as well.
Up front they made big trades bringing in Conor Sheary and Jeff Skinner to help a team that has struggled to score over the last five seasons. Highly touted prospect Casey Mittelstadt is expected to play a full season and has the potential to make a significant impact as a rookie. Sam Reinhart really came on strong in the second half of the season last year, can he build off that success this season? Jack Eichel is a superstar in the making and he will have a lot more help up front this season to work with.
IN: Jeff Skinner, Vladimir Sobotka, Patrik Berglund, Tage Thompson, Conor Sheary, Matt Hunwick, Carter Hutton, Scott Wedgwood, Rasmus Dahlin
OUT: Ryan O’Reilly, Hudson Fasching, Benoit Pouliot, Victor Antipin, Jordan Nolan, Seth Griffith, Josh Gorges
Jeff Skinner – Jack Eichel – Jason Pominville
Conor Sheary – Casey Mittelstadt – Kyle Okposo
Patrick Berglund – Sam Reinhart – Tage Thompson
Vladimir Sobotka – Zemgus Girgensons – Evan Rodriques
Nathan Beaulieu – Rasmus Ristolainen
Marco Scandella – Rasmus Dahlin
Brendan Guhle – Zach Bogosian
The Sabres have made a ton of upgrades this offseason and I do believe the they will be significantly improved this season. However, they have a lot of ground to make up and a lot of teams to leap frog in order to get in. There in a difficult division with Tampa Bay, Toronto and Boston having to play them 4 or 5 times each a season. Buffalo’s time to rise is coming very soon, but it’s not right now, I believe that they will be significantly better, but it won’t be enough to get them into the playoffs just yet.
After making the playoffs for 25 straight years and winning 4 Stanley Cups during that time, times are changing in Detroit. The Detroit Red Wings missed the playoffs for the second straight season and look to be in a dire need of a full rebuild. Their core has been declining for years and they’ve tide up way too much money in depth players. Captain Henrik Zetterberg will reportedly miss the entire regular season with a back injury which makes their already thin lineup even thinner. They finished 28th in GF and 24th in GA, there’s not a lot of optimism for the next couple of seasons for Red Wings fans.
They have a few good prospects coming, they had a very good draft this summer getting Filip Zadina 6th overall and Joe Veleno 30th overall. They also grabbed both Jonatan Berggren and Jared McIsaac in the 2nd round. On the roster, Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha provide some optimism up front but they don’t’ have a lot of pieces on their roster that can be core players 4-5 years from now.
Other then maybe Mike Green and Trevor Daley they don’t have a lot of mobility on their blueline and they lack a lot of youth. Cholowski, Saarijarvi and McIsaac are good pieces but they will be a few years away from being impact players. They signed Jonathan Bernier to a three-year contract to push Jimmy Howard in net and potentially become the starter as Howard is on the final year of his contract.
IN: Jonathan Bernier, Thomas Vanek, Filip Zadina
OUT: Xavier Ouellet, David Booth
Thomas Vanek – Dylan Larkin – Anthony Mantha
Filip Zadina – Frans Nielsen – Gustav Nyquist
Evgeny Svechnikov – Andreas Athanasiou – Martin Frk
Tyler Bertuzzi – Michael Rasmussen – Luke Glendening
Nicklas Kronwall – Mike Green
Danny Dekeyser – Trevor Daley
Jonathan Ericsson – Nick Jensen
The Detroit Red Wings have years to go before their back to being a playoff contender. They have very little depth and very little cap space to make any sort of upgrade. They don’t have the star power up front yet and they lack skill and mobility on the blueline. They need a few more years of good drafting before they will be able to turn things around.
The Florida Panthers got off to a slow start in 2017-18 but really started to turn it on after Christmas. They were 17-16-5 after the first three months of the season. After that from January on they went on a 27-14-3 run and won 5 straight games to finish out the season, missing the playoffs by just one point.
The Panthers went out and got Mike Hoffman from San Jose who flipped him right after acquiring him from Ottawa. Hoffman is a lethal scorer and will be a significant upgrade to the Panthers offense, adding to guys like Barkov, Huberdeau, and Trochek.
Jonathan Huberdeau and Evgeni Dadanov both had very good seasons last year. Aleksander Barkov might be the most underrated player in the NHL. Him and Trochek create a strong 1-2 centre punch and adding a winger that can score like Hoffman who he could potentially play with could be scary for other teams.
Their blueline has only 1 defenseman that is 30 or older and that’s Keith Yandle who still can play at a top 4 role. They have physicality, mobility and no one other than Yandle is older than 26. Goaltending is a little bit of a concern just because Luongo will be 40 at the beginning of April, but he seems to defy the age barrier every season. The Panthers need him to play the way he did last season and avoid a major drop off for them to get back into the playoffs.
IN: Mike Hoffman, Michael Hutchinson
OUT: Radim Vrbata, Connor Brickley
Mike Hoffman – Aleksander Barkov – Evgeni Dadanov
Jonathan Huberdeau – Vincent Trochek – Nick Bjugstad
Henrik Borgstrom – Jared McCann – Jamie McGinn
Frank Vatrano – Derek Mackenzie – Colten Sceviour
Keith Yandle – Aaron Ekblad
Michael Matheson – Mark Pysyk
Ian McCoshen – Alex Petrovic
The Florida Panthers missed the playoffs by just one point despite a slow start to the season. Their a better team than they were last season with the addition of Mike Hoffman. I believe the top 2 spots in the Atlantic are pretty much set in stone and there will be multiple teams contending for the third spot as well as those two wild card spots. The health and play of Luongo is key and if he can still carry the load this season then I believe the Panthers will get in. It will be a battle with teams for those two spots, but this is a good team and I believe they are good enough to make the playoffs this season.
The Montreal Canadiens are in a very tough situation this season. They have traded away multiple good players for lesser talent and have put themselves in a bad position in terms of icing a competitive team. Shea Weber, Paul Byron and Andrew Shaw are all expected to potentially miss at least the first month of the season recovering from offseason surgeries, Weber is expected to miss even longer. They’re also stuck in a division with two powerhouses in Tampa bay and Toronto, Florida and Boston will challenge for playoff spots, and Buffalo is on the upswing.
Montreal was 29th in GF last season and 25th in GA, there powerplay was above average at 13th but their penalty kill was 30th. There biggest offseason move was going out and acquiring Max Domi from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for Alex Galchenyuk. Domi is a very good playmaker however he doesn’t have the offensive ceiling that Galchenyuk has.
Montreal doesn’t have any top 6 centremen, they have no mobility and puck movers on defense to help them score goals. There game plan is going to have to be hope that Carey Price can stop almost everything in order to win games.
Guys like Pacioretty, Drouin and Gallagher can’t carry the load offensively on their own. Shea Weber being injured will hurt them, but he’s not going to bring a lot to the table anymore. He’s not a strong skater, he can’t move the puck or transition very well, he’s not going to generate much offense from the backend except for the powerplay. Montreal is going to have a very hard time scoring goals once again this season and it’s not going to get better anytime soon because they don’t have much assets to improve.
IN: Max Domi, Joel Armia, Michael Chaput, Matthew Peca, Xavier Oeullet, Tomas Plekanec, Tomas Tatar, Nick Suzuki
OUT: Alex Galchenyuk, Daniel Carr, Max Pacioretty
Max Domi – Philip Danault – Brendan Gallagher
Tomas Tatar – Thomas Plekanec – Jonathan Drouin
Artturi Lehkonen – Charles Hudon – Joel Armia
Jacob De La Rose – Matthew Peca – Michael McCarron
Victor Mete – Jeff Petry
Karl Alzner – Mike Reilly
David Schlemko – Jordie Benn
Montreal has traded away a lot of assets and have a lot of holes on their roster that aren’t going to be fixed in a year’s time. They have signed and traded for several bad contracts that will hinder their chances of making significant improvements even if they wanted to. Unless Price decides to never allow more then a goal or two a game and drags them into a playoff race, this is not a playoff roster and there are too many teams in their division who are significantly better then them. This will have to be a long process to turn things around in Montreal and they will be one of the teams contesting for a high pick in next June’s draft.
In a matter of a year’s time, the Ottawa Senators went from being a goal away from the Stanley Cup Finals to being in possibly the most undesirable situation an organization could be in. They just traded the best defenseman of his generation for an underwhelming return. Their two best players Duchene and Stone, are both UFA’s at the end of this coming season. Their financial situation is poor, and their owner has threatened to move the team. Multiple players on the team want out. They do not have their first round pick this year which will most likely be a high pick. It feels like things couldn’t get any worse for the Ottawa Senators.
They scored 13 more goals this past season then they did last year yet they also gave up 74 more goals then they did the previous season. They were 27th on the powerplay this past season and 26th on the penalty kill.
If there’s a bright spot for Ottawa is that they have several good young players on the team and in the system. Thomas Chabot will be a very important player for them for a long time. Colin White, Logan Brown, Alex Formenton, and Drake Batherson are all 21 years of age or younger who have potential to be good NHL players in the future. Not having their first rounder this season really hurts and might set the process back a year depending on where the pick is, however they do have a good pool of prospects to start a rebuild with.
IN: Mikkel Boedker, Julius Bergman, Mike McKenna, Brady Tkachuk, Chris Tierney, Dylan Demelo
OUT: Mike Hoffman, Alex Burrows, Fredrik Claesson, Erik Karlsson
Ryan Dzingel – Matt Duchene – Mark Stone
Mikkel Boedker – Chris Tierney – Bobby Ryan
Brady Tkachuk – Logan Brown – Colin White
Tom Pyatt – Zack Smith – Marian Gaborik
Thomas Chabot – Cody Ceci
Mark Borowiecki – Dylan Demelo
Ben Harpur – Chris Wideman
The Senators were in a tough position regardless of whether they kept Karlsson or not. Now they are in a world of hurt this coming season with Duchene and Stone both pending UFA’s and without their 1st rounder. Ottawa has some good young pieces that could make the team this year, but they also have lots of holes to fill that will take time. There are too many great teams in the East and Ottawa is one of the teams that are heading in the opposite direction. I don’t see the Senators in the playoffs this season and not for a few years at least. I’m sorry Sens fans, but I have a feeling that the Avalanche might be drafting well this coming June.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are looking to break through and get back to the Finals since losing in 2015 to the Chicago Blackhawks. They have one of if not the best team in the NHL on paper. Stamkos and Kucherov is arguably the best duo in the NHL and they are deep up front as well with Point, Palat, Johnson, Miller and Gourde. They have one of the best defensemen in the world in Victor Hedman, they got Sergachev in a trade with Montreal for Drouin and they picked up McDonagh at last years deadline. They finished 1st in the NHL in GF and 13th in GA, they had the 3rd best powerplay last season, however they were 28th on the penalty kill.
Tampa’s defensive numbers last season cam down a little bit over the back half of the season. Andrei Vasilevskiy looked like the clear Vezina winner in the first half but really came down in the second half showing lots of fatigue in his first season as a workhorse starter. McDonagh didn’t have as big of an impact as some people thought he would but with the games he played last season and an entire season this year I expect him to adjust soon enough.
IN: Andy Andreoff
OUT: Chris Kunitz, Andrej Sustr, Matthew Peca, JT Brown, Peter Budaj
JT Miller – Steven Stamkos – Nikita Kucherov
Ondrej Palat – Brayden Point – Tyler Johnson
Alex Killorn – Anthony Cirelli – Yanni Gourde
Cory Conacher – Cedric Paquette – Andy Andreoff
Victor Hedman – Anton Stralman
Ryan McDonagh – Dan Girardi
Braydon Coburn – Mikhail Sergachev
Yes, the Tampa bay Lightning will be in the playoffs this season. They didn’t have a busy summer, but they didn’t need to when they have the organizational depth that they have. Vasilevskiy will be more prepared for a starters workload this season and they need to fix their penalty kill. Regardless this team is way to good not to make the playoffs and I expect them to potentially go deep in the playoffs once again.
The Toronto Maple Leafs set franchise records for wins and points last season and was a period away from advancing to the second round of the playoffs. They were 4th in the NHL in GF and 12th in GA, they had the 2nd best powerplay in the league and they were 11th on the penalty kill. After a great regular season this past year what did they do this offseason? Well, they just went out and signed one of the best players in the entire league in free agency.
Adding John Tavares gives the Leafs a three headed monster down the middle with Auston Matthews and Nazem Kadri that aside from maybe Pittsburgh, nobody will be able to match up against. They have endless speed and skill on the wings with Marner, Nylander, Marleau, Kapanen, Johnsson and Brown.
Their right side on defense is not as strong as you would like it to be, however their left side is great, with Reilly, Gardiner and Dermott. They can all skate and they can move the puck and transition very well which I believe is the most important aspect of defense today. Frederik Andersen has shown inconsistency at times with Toronto but is a very good goaltender that can carry a heavy workload.
IN: Tyler Ennis, John Tavares, Josh Jooris
OUT: James van Reimsdyk, Tyler Bozak, Leo Komarov, Dominic Moore, Matt Martin, Roman Polak, Tomas Plekanec
Patrick Marleau – Auston Matthews – William Nylander
Zach Hyman – John Tavares – Mitch Marner
Andreas Johnsson – Nazem Kadri – Kasperi Kapanen
Tyler Ennis – Par Lindholm – Connor Brown
Morgan Reilly – Jake Gardiner
Travis Dermott – Nikita Zaitsev
Ron Hainsey – Connor Carrick
I don’t see very many teams if not any in the NHL that can compete with the Leafs up front. Their goaltending is good and their defense is a little better then most people give it credit for. If they defenders play good enough then that offense is just going to burry team’s possession wise on almost a nightly basis. This team will make the playoffs and they will be Stanley Cup contenders for a few years.