by PuckStopsHere on 10/04/13 at 12:13 AM ET
The season has just begun but it is too early to find any meaningful trends this season. I am completing my predictions by looking at the Atlantic Division. This misnamed division is one of the newly aligned divisions this year. It is odd that Detroit is in the Atlantic Division while New York teams are not. Which city is closer to the Atlantic?
1. Boston Bruins - Fresh off a Stanley Cup final berth, this is one of the better teams in the NHL. Patrice Bergeron leads their forwards and may be the best two-way forward in the game. David Krejci, Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic provide some depth with Loui Eriksson and Jarome Iginla joining the group. Zdeno Chara may be the best defenceman in the game and he leads a group including Dennis Seidenberg and Dougie Hamilton. Tuukka Rask is a good starting goalie.
2. Detroit Red Wings - I think this is a team beginning a slow decline but that may not be seen in the standings due to their move to the East Conference. The easier travel that comes with this may actually improve their winning percentage. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are two very good forwards but where is the depth? If pressed I would pick Stephen Weiss as the number three forward but he will likely be well back of the top two. Niklas Kronwall is their top defenceman but he is no Lidstrom. Jimmy Howard is their number one goalie and he is a step back of the top goalies in the league. There is still a good level of talent here, but the offensive stars are aging. I think they will improve but it is largely schedule and not an improving group of players.
3. Ottawa Senators - Despite injury to their top forward Jason Spezza, top defenceman Erik Karlsson and top goalie Craig Anderson this team was still a solid playoff team. They should be even better with those players healthy. Young players Kyle Turris, Bobby Ryan and Mika Zabinejad will help provide depth (Zabinejad may be starting the year in the AHL but I think he will have a good NHL season).
4. Montreal Canadiens - Montreal took a big step up in the standings. It was exaggerated because their 2011/12 season was worse than it should have been. Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec and David Desharnais lead a solid group of forwards. PK Subban is the reigning Norris Trophy winner on defence and Andrei Markov provides good depth. Carey Price is a good goalie and is a solid pick to be Canada`s surprise starter in the Olympics.
5. Tampa Bay Lightning - Tampa doesn`t have great depth but their top two forwards in Steve Stamkos and Martin St Louis are the best twosome any team in the league can offer. That should keep the Bolts out of the cellar. Their depth at forward is weak - is Teddy Purcell their third best forward? On defence, Victor Hedman and Matt Carle are their top. Anders Lindback is the top goalie and he has done little to show he is a top quality NHL starter.
6. Toronto Maple Leafs - This team had their first playoff berth in almost a decade so conventional wisdom is that things are looking up. The problem is that happened despite the worst puck possession in the league. Phil Kessel is a very good offensive player. Nazem Kadri provides depth and must match a very good 2013 season. Joffrey Lupul could be solid if he bounces back from injury. Dion Phaneuf is their top defenceman but he hasn`t lived up to expectation recently. Cody Franson may be the top defenceman in Toronto this year. In goal, Jonathan Bernier will likely take over as number one goalie. I doubt James Reimer will match his last season.
7. Buffalo Sabres - Ryan Miller`s days as a top goalie appear to be over and if he cannot be an all star then this team is in trouble. Christian Ehrhoff and Tyler Myers are their top defencemen. Tomas Vanek has some offensive ability but Cody Hodgson and Tyler Ennis are the best depth behind him. This team will have a long season.
8. Florida Panthers - Florida looks like a team of misfits. They added Tim Thomas, Ryan Whitney and Tom Gilbert at the last second after nobody else wanted them. If Thomas is back in form of a couple years ago, this team could significantly exceed tis prediction, but I am skeptical of the shape he kept himself in at age 39 after a year off. Tomas Fleischmann and Jonathan Huberdeau are their top offensive players. Brian Campbell is a strong offensive defenceman with little defensive value. It`s not clear that a dependable defensive defenceman exists here.
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