With over two months till the season starts, and then 8 more until it ends, its impossible to try and guess the final standings. But, with over two months till the season starts, and nothing else to do, its fun. The following is my prediction, based on the current lineups and my opinions and thoughts about the game.
The atlantic division (in addition to being the one I know best) is setting up to be a very interesting one. The division features four of the league's top goaltenders, and division's offense has already been improved since last season (at least on paper). No matter what happens, it will be a close division, and the last 8 games of the season will be incredibly exciting (the season ends almost entirely within the division). The entire division is up for grabs, As of now, here are my predictions.
Islanders (-5 points)
Flyers (-6 points)
Penguins (-9 points)
Devils (-11 points)
The Rangers bought an impressive offense starting on July 1. On paper, their offense is scary. If Lundquist can anchor the defense, then Jagr, Drury, Shannahan, and Gomez will be able to power by the rest of the division. Much as I hate to say it as an Islanders fan, the Broadway Blueshirts are going to be a good team.
My Islanders have had more big-name departures than arrivals this summer. However, I beleive they will prove to be for the best. Yashin as a player and as a captain was uninspiring at best, I do not doubt that Guerin will be an improvement. They might not have come out of July 1 with drury or briere or even smyth, but they have Ted Nolan behind the bench, and they have slowly been assembling a corps of solid players whose styles fit in well with the "nolan system". Their defense is young and unproven, but if Dipietro can stay healthy most of the season (or if Dubie can pull out some more heroics), I think the Islanders will be solid nonetheless.
The Flyers have spent the offseason battling to regain respect after ending the season in the basement. I beleive the most significant move they've made to this end was last season's signing of Martin Biron. Getting Briere was big for the team, but one name cannot necessarily do it. At the start of last season, Forseberg was supposed to be their big name, and he was frustrated as his team sank. I'm still not sold on the Timmonen and Hartnell signings (especially their price tags), but only time will tell with that. I think the team will be competitive this year, but it takes a lot to move from last to first, and I don't think they have what it takes.
Sid the Kid might be the hero in Pittsburgh, and the new face of the league, but I'm not running to bet on them for the cup. I see their weakness (at least compared to the rest of the division, as they will be compared over 30 times as the season goes) in goal. Brodeur, Biron, DiPietro, Lundquist, I see all of them as world-class netminders, but I just can't put Fleury in that group yet. Maybe he'll grow into it, but not this season. For all their young firepower up front, the offensive forces of the Rangers and Flyers might turn out to be too much for them, and I can see them losing a lot of high-scoring games.
The devils are going to have an interesting season. New coach, new town, same devils defense-first style. Its risky putting such a perennial powerhouse as the Devils at the bottom of the division, they've always thrived in the past on discipline, defense, and some key homegrown players (not to mention a wall in goal). But they have a new coach, rookie to the NHL level, who will have the added pressure of trying to succeed in front of Lamorillo, who this past season has shown his willingness to fire coaches at the first sign of faltering. I predict the devils will, as usual, be taking a more defensive approach, but with the division's offense improving, and Brodeur getting older (The Maven Stan Fishler criticized him for playing too many games last season, tiring himself out), it will not be so easy.
This has been my first posting on this site. I tried to give some food for thought, keep things interesting. I hope it gives people something to think about and argue about.