I will preface all of this with the fact that this is my first attempt at a blog and also that while yes I am college student my grammar is terrible. But since training camp is about a month away and trade rumors are becoming few and far between, I have decided to give my analysis and predictions of each division over the next few weeks to be capped off with my playoff predictions and analysis to come at the end. My first installment of seven will look at the Atlantic Division.
1. Pittsburgh Penguins – 53-22-7 (113 points) - 2008 Atlantic Division Champs
This pick is probably going to shock a lot of people in New York but I think the Penguins are going to be a force to be reckoned with this year. The Penguins have managed to retain two solid veteran presences in their line-up this year by re-signing both Mark Recchi and Gary Roberts, but that is not the main reason why I think the Penguins will win the division. The Penguins will win the division because of a breakout season by Marc-Andre Fleury, the 1st overall pick has had some playoff experience and I anticipate that he will draw on that experience to help the Penguins to a division title and another playoff berth. We all know that the Pens can score but with the addition on Darryl Sydor and Peter Sykora I except the Pens be much better in front of Fleury this year. The only weakness on this team is there back-up goaltending, I would really like to see them sign Brian Boucher or Ty Conklin or anyone a little more proven then Danny Sabourin.
2. New York Rangers - 50-23-9 (109 points)
I think the Rangers are going to be extremely close to the Pens all season and it should a fun race to watch down the stretch but I think the Rangers mediocre defense cost them the division championship. It is very obvious that the Rangers made some huge moves this off-season and I think they are no doubt contenders for the Stanley Cup but they are going to have to get another good year out of King Henrik and Jaromir Jagr. Don’t get me wrong I think signing Drury and Gomez were great signings but I think Slats made a big mistake by commenting on well known malcontent Sean Avery about his arb hearing. The biggest question in my mind is how does Avery react this season to some comments he sure did seem hurt by. If Avery keeps his head up and works hard and doesn’t become a distraction then I could very easily see the Rags winning this division, but since I don’t see that I also don’t see the Rags winning the division.
3. New Jersey Devils - 41-31-10 (92 points)
The Devils will certainly miss Gomez and Raflaski this season but were able to get two guys who should fill the roles well enough to make the playoffs. Danius Zubrus can fill in some of the shoes of Scott Gomez as he can be a physical center who can setup up a scoring winger and still put the puck in the net when called upon. Karel Rachunek will certainly help to fill the shoes of Brian Raflaski but should come up short, Rachunek can also be a solid power play quarterback for the devils and hopefully allow Elias and Zubrus to pick up some more power play goals. I put the Devils at third place and into a 6 or 7 seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs simply because Broduer will win this team some games it shouldn’t and get them back into the playoffs. Look for the Devils to make the playoffs in the last couple weeks of the season.
4. Philadelphia Flyers – 35-35-12 (82 points)
I think that even if you put some nice lipstick on a pig it is still a pig, that is my thought on the Flyers off-season. Adding guys like Daniel Briere and Scott Hartnell and Joffery Lupul all seem like good additions to the Flyers but when you think about these additions they look a lot better on paper then they will on the ice. Daniel Briere has been a big part of what the Sabres have done over the last couple of years but has also had his stats inflated by playing with a good power forward in Jochen Hecht and a pure goal scorer in Vanek (on the PP) and Pominville (regularly). Briere also has had a lot of injury problems over his career, in 9 NHL seasons only 4 times has he played 70 games or more in a season. The Flyers also made a big splash and signed 25 year old power forward Scott Hartnell to a six year 25.2 million, Is it just me or does 4.2 million a year seem like a lot for a guy who has yet to put together a 40 point season. Hartnell can certainly get better but I don’t see the potential in him. Jeffery Lupul made his name known during the Ducks playoff run in 2006. Lupul compiled 100 + points over two seasons with the Ducks and at 22 years old looked like a top line winger. Lupul then found his way to Edmonton where he certainly went backwards in terms of points. The Flyers are hoping a change of scenery will help to get Lupul going again but don’t count on it, much like in Edmonton Lupul is again surrounded by mediocre talent and I think he will continue to struggle. The Flyers however definitely got better but still come short of the playoffs this year.
5. New York Islanders- 28-41-13 (69 points)
As if losing Jason Blake was not tough enough for the Islanders, everyone else in there division got a lot better this off-season. If you put the Islanders in the Southeast I think they probably finish in second place in the division and may make the playoffs again but having 32 games against the four teams above is certainly going to make a repeat of last years playoff run hard to come by. The Isles have quietly made some good moves that may benefit them for the future and I think they will still be a very competitive team that will be in a lot of its games, but there division is just to strong for a mediocre team. If Ted Nolan can get this team into 3rd place in this division and back into the 8th seed in the playoffs it would be an amazing feat for the veteran coach but I certainly don’t see it. This Isles are a decent team in a tough division.
I would love to hear everyone’s comments and thoughts on my predictions and analysis, however please keep it clean, I will show you the same respect you show me.