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NHL 2015-2016 Season Preview: Metropolitan Division

Our final division preview for the NHL is the one I have been looking forward to the most: The Metropolitan.

This division as a whole made huge splashes this offseason and will certainly be the most fun to watch as the NHL’s most elite goal scorers all come together: Alex Ovechkin, Sydney Crosby, Jonathan Tavares, Claude Giroux, and many more.

To catch up with the rest of the East, here’s my preview of The Atlantic Division

Want to see the West?  Here’s The Pacific and The Central Division previews.

Our saga may be coming to a close, but that just means hockey is coming back!

Carolina Hurricanes

  • Key Arrivals: [G] Eddie Lack (Trade with Vancouver), [D] James Wisniewski (Trade with Anaheim)
  • Key Departures: [RW] Alex Semin (Free Agent signed by Montreal)

Carolina has almost fallen off the face of the Earth since their Stanley Cup winning season in 2006, but it’s looking like they want to get back to the playoffs soon.  The ‘Canes made some great trades for two solid players in Eddie Lack and James Wisniewski to improve their defense.

Losing Alex Semin is probably a good thing as he just could not perform to the same level that he did in Washington, and we don’t need to get into the many stories about his unfavorable locker room behavior.

The Staal brothers will continue to lead this team, but unless they make a trade for the one Staal brother that plays defense in New York, the ‘Canes will be playing catch up.

Prediction: There isn’t much to write about Carolina as they have been very forgettable lately, but a strong 2015 draft can keep a small light of hope alive for the future.  Carolina is more than likely going to miss the playoffs again this year, especially in this division, but they certainly made the right moves to gain some momentum.

Columbus Blue Jackets

  • Key Arrivals: [LW] Brandon Saad (Trade with Chicago),
  • Key Departures: [C] Artem Anisimov (Trade with Chicago), [C] Marko Dano (Trade with Chicago)

The Blue Jackets were incredibly plagued by injuries last season as they set a record for most games missed from injuries.  The Jackets were more than capable of making the playoffs when they had a healthy team, and many aren’t expecting this season to be any different.

Nick Foligno and Ryan Johansen will be leading the forwards with newly acquired Brandon Saad, while Jack Johnson and Sergei Bobrovski will hold the backbone.  The Jackets traded hot prospect Marko Dano for an older version, Brandon Saad, in hopes to speed up the process of getting back to the post season.

Prediction: The Jackets are going to be extra careful this season to avoid injuries, but unfortunately hockey is a contact sport.  If the extra padding the players wear doesn’t slow them down, the Jackets can be in the wildcard race but they’ll be facing some hard challenges in this division.

New Jersey Devils

  • Key Arrivals: [C] Kyle Palmieri (Trade with Anaheim)
  • Key Departures: [D] Bryce Salvador (Retired)

New Jersey has jokingly been named the “retirement home” of the NHL and they certainly haven’t done much to change that.  Bringing in Palmieri to help Travis Zajac and Mike Cammalleri on the attack won’t do a whole lot to fix their problems at depth at forward.

Captain Bryce Salvador has retired, meaning the team loses a lot of leadership in the locker room, but some strong defensive prospects can help keep their defense solid in front of star goalie Cory Schneider.

Prediction: New Jersey has some great defensive prospects as well as Cory Schneider, one of the most underrated goalies in the league, to keep them out of last place.  Unfortunately New Jersey is going to struggle to stay out of the bottom five this year as the rest of the division they are in has certainly more to compete with.

New York Islanders

  • Key Arrivals: None
  • Key Departures: None

A badly timed injury to Travis Hamonic certainly didn’t help the Islanders in their seven game elimination to Washington, but the front office is certainly confident that the Islanders can make it back to the playoffs without any major transactions this offseason.

Captain Tavares, Johny Boychuk, and Jaroslav Halak will continue to improve as the Islanders are still as deadly as they were last year.  The Isles will be aiming to bring the playoffs to their new arena and make it past the first round as this team has a lot of potential.

Prediction: The Islanders are going to be a team to worry about for everyone else in the East, even if they end up as a wildcard.  Don’t expect them to win another four Stanley cups in a row, but the playoffs? YES! YES! YES!.

New York Rangers

  • Key Arrivals: [RW] Emerson Etem (Trade with Anaheim), [C] Jarret Stoll (Free Agent from Los Angeles)
  • Key Departures: [LW] Carl Hagelin (Trade with Anaheim), [RW] Martin St. Louis (Retirement)

King Henrik and the Rangers aren’t done terrorizing the East as they are still hungry for the Cup.  The Rangers have arguably the best defensive core in the league as well as a solid scoring depth up front, and that will not change this year.

The Rangers will be taking a chance on Jarret Stoll (recently arrested for drug possession and let go from LA) as well as Viktor Stalberg to replace the retired Martin St. Louis.  Both Stoll and Stalberg had very disappointing seasons last year, but they will have the tools in New York to have comeback seasons.

Prediction: Losing Hagelin may diminish their speed, but this team is still backed by a strong defense and goaltender.  Expect the Rangers to make the playoffs again, and more than likely playing the Washington Capitals at some point in the post season.

Philadelphia Flyers

  • Key Arrivals: [C] Sam Gagner (Trade with Arizona), [G] Michal Neuvirth (Free Agent from NY Islanders)
  • Key Departures: None

Last year proved that it is NOT always sunny in Philly, but Jakub Voracek certainly brightened their season.  Varacek was recently signed to a huge extension as he and Claude Giroux had great years, but it wasn’t enough to get the Flyers to the playoffs.

The Flyers couldn’t seem to find their defense and struggled last season keeping the puck out of their net.  The Broad Street Bullies will need a bit more on their backbone in order to compete in this division, but they definitely have the tools on offense to put points on the board.

Prediction: Expect Philly to be active in the trade market as they will be on the bubble.  If Mason can stay on top of his game, Philly is one defenseman away from making the playoffs in a very tough division.

Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Key Arrivals: [RW] Eric Fehr (Free Agent from Washington), [C] Nick Bonino (Trade with Vancouver), [RW] Phil Kessel (Trade with Toronto)
  • Key Departures: None

The Penguins made headlines all around the world announcing a stellar trade with the Leafs for Phil “the Thrill” Kessel.  Kessel will be joining elite players Sydney Crosby and Evgeny Malkin to make up possibly the best top 6 in the NHL.

Let’s look at the rest of this trade, however.  Pittsburgh traded a lot of prospects to get Kessel, as well as sacrifice a lot of defensive depth in paying the contracts of their star players.  Many are expecting Kessel to score over 40 goals this season as well as the team to glide into the playoffs.  No pressure, Phil.

Prediction: The Penguins are impressive to say the least, but are they too top-heavy?  Overall depth will be a huge concern for the team as many teams will be preparing strategies to match-up against their top 6.  It will be the season’s biggest disappointment if the Penguins don’t make it to the playoffs this year.

Washington Capitals

  • Key Arrivals: [RW] Justin Williams (Free Agent from Los Angeles), [RW] T.J. Oshie (Trade with St. Louis)
  • Key Departures: [RW] Eric Fehr (Free Agent signed by Pittsburgh), [RW] Joel Ward (Free Agent signed by San Jose), [LW] Troy Brower (Trade with St. Louis)

The trade in Pittsburgh overshadowed the huge pickups that the Caps made this offseason.  A team that has been known to crumble in game sevens added “Mr. Game 7” himself, Justin Williams, a three-time Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe winner.  The Caps also added T.J. “Sochi” to play along side Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.

The Capitals have great depth overall as well as Braden Holtby, who just came off of an incredible season in net.  While having an incredible top 6, they have what Pittsburgh lacks in depth to make a very dangerous and well-balanced team.  The Caps will be looking to get over the hump of the second round after dropping a 3-1 lead to the Rangers and finally get to the conference Finals.

Prediction: The Caps arguably have the best team on paper in this division.  If Ovi can continue his streak of scoring over 50 goals, it’s very tough to see this team missing the playoffs.  If Oshie and Williams gel with their respective lines, the Caps will be towards the top of the power rankings all season.

The Good

  • The Metropolitan will be the favorite to represent the East in the Stanley Cup Finals
  • Pittsburgh and Washington made big trades to have what will be the two highest scoring Top 6 in the league
  • Intense competition with some very big rivalries in this division

The Bad

  • The Hurricanes will probably stay irrelevant this year.
  • The Blue Jackets might be passive-aggressive to stay healthy

The Ugly

  • New Jersey is looking like they will ride the bottom of the standings since most of their players go to sleep at 5pm

Categories

NHL, Other Sports

Mike Ziegler View All

Hockey and Lacrosse writer for International Sports Hub

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