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NHL 2015-2016 Season Preview: Atlantic Division

Via www.thehockeynews.com
Via http://www.thehockeynews.com

We’ve covered the Western Conference, let’s move on to the Beasts/Leasts of the East.

For those who think West is best, here are my previews for The Pacific and The Central divisions.

Let’s get right into the Atlantic Division.

BOSTON BRUINS

  • Key Arrivals: [LW] Matt Beleskey (Free Agent from Anaheim)
  • Key Departures: [LW] Milan Lucic (Trade with Los Angeles), [D] Dougie Hamilton (Trade with Calgary)

Oh boy did the Bruins have some headlines this offseason, for all the wrong reasons.  The front office for Boston made a surprise trade with Calgary dealing the Flames a young defenseman, Dougie Hamilton, for a few draft picks.  Milan “I’m going to punch you in the face” Lucic was traded to the LA Kings, but was replaced by Zac “I’m also going to punch you in the face” Rinaldo.

Now that we have had a while to calm down, let’s really look at the Bruins’ roster after these trades.  They still have their strong core in Bergeron, Chara, Marchand, Rask, and Krejci.  This is still the big and bad Boston Bruins, sure they traded some solid pieces, but to think they will drop down to the bottom five is wishful thinking for any anti-Boston fans.

Prediction: Sure they made some questionable trades with two big contributors, but let’s remember the reason Boston barely missed out on the playoffs last year was because of a certain Hamburgler in Ottawa.  Expect Boston to be on the bubble again this season.

BUFFALO SABRES

  • Key Arrivals: [F] Jack Eichel (2015 2nd Overall Draft), [C] Ryan O’Reilly (Trade with Colorado), [C] David Legwand (Trade with Ottawa)
  • Key Departures: None

Buffalo had a very rough year. Aside from losing the majority of their hockey games, they also lost the draft lottery which would have given them Connor McDavid.  The Sabres did not come out empty-handed as they drafted the next-best player, Boston U’s Jack Eichel.  Eichel won’t be facing the same pressure to perform as McDavid will in Edmonton, but he will be seeing plenty of minutes on the top 6.

Buffalo will continue to develop their young-guns as well as finally get Evander Kane, who was injured for the second half of the season when traded from Winnipeg, some top-line minutes.  Buffalo is surely going to take their time in developing their team and getting the right pieces together to make Jack Eichel into a franchise player.

Prediction: Buffalo has a long way to go in their rebuild.  They won’t make the playoffs this year, but that’s not a bad thing at all.  Buffalo needs to take it slow, figure out what they need to build their team around Eichel, and be a major threat for the Cup in a few years.

DETROIT RED WINGS

  • Key Arrivals: [D] Mike Green (Free Agent from Washington), [C] Brad Richards (Free Agent from Chicago)
  • Key Departures: [Head Coach] Mike Babcock (Free Agent signed by Toronto)

The Motor City has shown no signs of slowing down with some great signings this offseason.  Mike Green will make Detroit’s powerplay a nightmare for opposing teams as he will bring his expertise from Washington to work with Zetterberg, Datsyuk, and Nyquist.

Losing their prolific head coach, Mike Babcock, may cause a small stir in the locker room.  However, the leadership of Datsyuk and Zetterberg will be enough to keep Detroit a team to watch.

Prediction: Mike Green will be a huge help to the powerplay if he is healthy.  Green has been known to be injury prone when worked too hard so he will need to stay on the ice to make an impact.  Don’t expect Detroit’s long playoff-streak to come to an end this year as their young prospects are only getting better and Pavel “Magic Man” Datsyuk still has tricks up his sleeve.

FLORIDA PANTHERS

  • Key Arrivals: None
  • Key Departures: None

Florida had a quiet offseason aside from a few trades that gained them some draft picks.  Panthers’ goalie, Roberto Luongo, stated in an interview that this was the year for the Panthers to make the playoffs, but does the lack of moves this offseason show their level confidence?

Florida was on the bubble last year, also falling to the hands of the Hamburgler, but certainly showed they can make the wildcard spot.  Florida will be relying on their players to continue their development as well as Luongo’s performance in net.

Prediction: Will Bobby Lou be right about his team making the playoffs this year?  A nice winning streak at the end of the year can definitely clinch them a spot in the wildcard.

MONTREAL CANADIANS

  • Key Arrivals: [RW] Alex Semin (Free Agent from Carolina), [RW] Zack Kassian (Trade with Vancouver)
  • Key Departures: None

The Montreal Carey Prices are looking to take another crack at the playoffs this year as they have brought in a few players to fix their lack of scoring depth.  Montreal’s defense was certainly outstanding last year as they were led by NHL MVP Carey Price and Norris winner P.K. Subban, but it was very obvious that Montreal was struggling on offense.

Alex Semin has had a lackluster career at Carolina and is looking for redemption at Montreal, while the addition of Kassian can also help get the puck in the net rather than relying on the puck staying out of their own.

Prediction: It’s no secret that Carey Price was the reason for Montreal’s success last season.  Can Price be a brick wall again this year?  If no, can the rest of the Habs pull their weight? If Montreal can gain some offensive power, they will be a favorite to win the Stanley Cup when we get to the all-star break.

OTTAWA SENATORS

  • Key Arrivals: None
  • Key Departures: [C] David Legwand (Trade with Buffalo)

I’ve referenced a famous McDonald’s mascot a few times this article and his identity belongs to this Ottawa team.  Andrew Hammond helped Ottawa on a great run to the playoffs solidifying his spot on the team full-time.  Norris winner, Erik Karlsson, and Calder-nominee Mark Stone were both a big help in Ottawa’s literal robbery of the Bruins’ playoff hopes and are looking to continue their success into next year.

No big pick-ups this offseason means the front office is confident in their team to repeat their playoff appearance, but can Hammond play a full NHL season?  While he did help the Sens get to the playoffs, he struggled against the Montreal Canadiens who eliminated the Sens in 5 games.

Prediction: The Sens are going to need a bit more help if they want to make the playoffs this year with Boston and Florida looking for revenge. Hammond has shown he can perform well, but he also showed he can’t do it all himself.

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING

  • Key Arrivals: None
  • Key Departures: None

The NHL Runner-ups won’t need to make any moves after a very successful season only to be dealt with by the Chicago Blackhawks.  Stamkos and the Triplets will be coming back for more as losing in the finals left a bitter taste.

Tampa Bay could have been eliminated in the first round after a controversial suspension of Detroit’s Nicklas Kronwall, but they handled both the Candiens and Rangers in the next two rounds to get to the finals, proving that they belonged there.

Prediction: Tampa Bay has proved that with a healthy Stamkos that they are dangerous.  No moves were needed to keep potential high as many expect the Lightning to strike twice and get to the finals again this season,

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

  • Key Arrivals: [RW] P.A. Parenteau (Free Agent from Montreal), [Head Coach] Mike Babcock (Free Agent from Detroit)
  • Key Departures: [RW] Phil Kessel (Trade with Pittsburgh)

The Maple Leafs’ fans were very disappointed last season and weren’t afraid to show it with protests and tossing jerseys onto the ice.  For those fans who threw their Kessel jerseys on the ice, they made a good call as Kessel was traded away to the Penguins.  Without a star player, Toronto will hope to build a solid core and build for the future.

Coach Babcock received a hefty paycheck to come to Toronto and that will keep him motivated to get the Leaves Leafs back on the map.

Prediction: Babcock is going to need a lot of time before the Leafs can get back to the playoffs.  Expect Phaneuf to be a trade target for a lot of teams at the deadline, which can bring in some more core players as they’ll want to get an early draft pick this year.

The Good

  • Detroit’s powerplay is going to rival Washington’s as the best in the league
  • Jack Eichel will be working hard to prove he should have gone number 1 in the draft
  • Tampa Bay will be coming back for more

The Bad

  • Boston traded some strong players, but they are still able to make a comeback this year
  • Ottawa is relying heavily on a young, unproven goalie

The Ugly

  • Toronto is going to be criticized for every move they make after trading their superstar

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Mike Ziegler View All

Hockey and Lacrosse writer for International Sports Hub

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