Who is the class of the Metropolitan Division?
The NHL season is on its way back and after a nice preview with the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, the momentum rolls right into the regular season. We will take a look at the Metropolitan Division and look at the moves of each team including 2016 Stanley Cup Champions the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Metropolitan division should be a tight race this year with everyone eyeing for a spot in the postseason.
Carolina Hurricanes: The Hurricanes missed the playoffs last year and seem to be in the middle of trying to get back to the top of the Metropolitan division. The Hurricanes looked to bolster their offense with the additions of Bryan Bickell, Viktor Stalberg, and Lee Stempniak. This is a move in the right direction for a team that finished in 6th place last year in the division. The usually strong Cam Ward will be looking to bounce back this year and get back to his form that made him a top-tier goalie over the past few years. The Hurricanes will certainly have an opportunity to compete this year with their offseason moves and hopefully can get back into the postseason.
Columbus Blue Jackets: The Blue Jackets followed up a playoff year with a very rough 2015 season. Finishing well at the bottom of the division and towards the bottom of the NHL. Sergei Bobrovsky, who won the Vezina in the 2012-2013 season, had an injury-filled year that never was able to really get on track. If he can get back on the top of his game the Blue Jackets can compete and certainly be better than last years performance. The addition of Sam Gagner and number 3 overall pick Pierre-Luc Dubois should help Nick Foligno on offense and give Columbus a little more of a scoring attack. The Blue Jackets do have a good amount of prospects that may look to break into the NHL lineup but are still a year or two away from heading back to the post season.
New Jersey Devils: The Devils missing the playoffs is something that is not said very often, however, last year was not a great season for New Jersey. New Jersey is not usually a team when they miss the playoffs that sits quietly and this offseason was no different. In the biggest head-scratcher of a trade of the offseason the Devils traded Adam Larsson for 2010 Number 1 overall pick Taylor Hall. When this trade went down everyone was stunned at the fact that is all the devils had to give up for a player who is entering his prime and will provide an immediate scoring spark for a team that really needs it. Corey Schneider in net will definitely keep the Devils in many games and if their offense and proves they can return to their usual top of the division form.
New York Islanders: The Islanders made it to the Eastern Conference semi finals after upsetting a favored Florida Panthers team in the first round of last year’s playoffs. The Islander’s are a young team who made some major changes in the offseason by losing Franz Nielsen and Kyle Okposo, but adding Andrew Ladd and P. A. Parenteau. Of course, when you mention the Islanders it’s impossible to leave out the Captain John Tavares. He has continued to step his game up year after year and don’t expect a slow down this year. Also adding Jason Chimera who was a huge contributor for the Washington Capitals last year will help the scoring depth for the Islanders. The defense is also still very solid with the likes of Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk holding down the blue line. If goalie Jaroslav Halak can play like he did in the World Cup of Hockey the Islanders can compete for the top of the division and make an even deeper run in this year’s playoffs.
New York Rangers: The Rangers early exit from last year’s playoffs is something a team that is two years removed from a Stanley Cup Final appearance take lightly. They still have arguably one of the top 10 goalies in the league with Henrik Lundqvist between the pipes. The addition of Nathan Gerbe and a much sought after college free agent Jimmy Vesey will really make the rangers look different up front. They will certainly miss the defense of now departed Keith Yandle and that area will be the part of he Rangers team that will be the most intriguing to watch to see how they are able to protect King Henrik. The Rangers do not seem to be the same powerhouse that they have been in recent years and with a lot of teams in their division showing a lot of improvement the Rangers will have a lot of work to do this year to make it back to the postseason.
Philadelphia Flyers: The Flyers are coming off a year where expectations were certainly high and after a rather rough regular season used a hot streak to get in the playoffs as the 8th seed. The emergence of Defensemen Shayne Gostisbehere as a legitimate scoring threat from the point brought a wrinkle to the Flyers that has not been there for a long time. Forward Brayden Schenn is coming off a career year that saw him hit a career high in goals and it made up for the lack of production from Jakub Voracek. With the additions of Dale Weise and Boyd Gordon to sure up the 3rd and 4th lines the Flyer’s may be able to get higher than the 8th seed this year. There is a very good chance the Flyers will keep No. 7 overall pick from 2015 D-man Ivan Provorov on their blue line which will bring another offensive threat from that position. With two goaltenders both in the final year of their contract in Steve Mason and Michael Neuvirth it will be interesting to see how this season will play out. Captain Claude Giroux will be looking to bring the Flyers back to the top of the division and compete for a playoff spot.
Pittsburgh Penguins: The 2016 Stanley Cup champions had a rather quiet offseason while celebrating their title. A team that is still built to win right now with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessel will again be a threat to repeat as champions. They are arguably the exact same team that dominated throughout much of last year. The goaltending situation is going to see the return of Marc-Andre Fleury and the emergence of Matt Murray who propelled them to a title last year makes the Penguins an even scarier team. Expect the Penguins to be right at the top of the Eastern Conference again this year and in search of a repeat and the second back-to-back title in franchise history.
Washington Capitals: Last year’s President’s Trophy Capitals were again eliminated early in the Postseason. This has ben a trend in the Alexander Ovechkin era that Washington fans are surely getting tired of. The loss to the eventual champions in the second round of the playoffs is of course, something that makes the early loss hurt a tiny bit less, but after such a dominant regular season the post season exit leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. The addition of Center Lars Eller from the Canadiens will certainly improve the already potent offense. A very strong defense that is led by Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen will certainly have the Capitals in the top of the division and conference yet again this year. Plus Vezina Trophy winner Braden Holtby has established himself as one of the top 3 goaltenders in the league. The Capitals are a dangerous team that needs to figure out their postseason struggles, and if that can be fixed they are poised for a deep run into this years Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Division Standings Predictions
- Pittsburgh Penguins
- Washington Capitals
- New York Islanders
- Philadelphia Flyers
- New York Rangers
- New Jersey Devils
- Carolina Hurricanes
- Columbus Blue Jackets