The Atlantic Division is the weakest in hockey and is home to many teams who fit the “lolcow” title. Many of the teams in this division once had something great going for them. However, due to recent decline, teams like the Red Wings, Bruins, and Canadiens have gotten worse over the past few seasons. Poor management has also played a factor in their decline as well.
The Atlantic also has been home to a few bottom feeder teams such as the Sabres, Senators, Panthers and Maple Leafs. Some of these teams have had glimpses of recent success such as the Leafs, Panthers, and Senators. But none of those teams have established themselves as anything more than bubble playoff teams in the post 2013 lockout era.
The only real consistent threat as of late has been the Tampa Bay Lightning. They are one of the best managed teams in hockey and have a great range of young and veteran talent. Montreal and Boston have had their share of good seasons in 2013/2014 and 2014/2015 but have since not been as dominant. With that, here is how I think the Atlantic will shape out this season.
8.) Detroit Red Wings (70 Points)
The Wings are toast. They are going to be bad for a very long time. Their prospect pool is very weak, their defense is a minefield, their goaltending is inconsistent, and they have so many big contracts locked into older players who are either not that great or are not going to help them going forward. The only team with less ROW’s than the Wings last year (24) was Colorado with 21. They won 9 games via the shootout and still only finished with 79 points. They are completely cap strapped and one of their best young players in Andreas Athanasiou is threatening to walk to the KHL. Last season was only the beginning of the disaster that is to become of the Detroit Red Wings.
7.) Florida Panthers (83 Points)
I know they are more than likely to have Huberdeau and Barkov for longer than they did last season. However, they had a very uninspiring offseason. Their defense and goaltending is above average. Their offense is very middle of the pack however as they have a lack in depth scoring. Losing Marchessault to Vegas is a huge loss and so is losing Reilly Smith regardless of his contract. The organization is a disaster and I don’t expect much from the Panthers this season.
6.) Buffalo Sabres (85 Points)
A full season of Jack Eichel is going to help. Phil Housely has been a very highly regarded defensive coach and could be a huge help to struggling Buffalo blueline. Hopefully for the Sabres, Housely can help shape Ristolainen into the elite defenseman he has the potential to become. I like the small little moves Buffalo made this summer and think it can help them to improve. They are still a year or two away from playoff contention in my eyes however.
5.) Ottawa Senators (89 Points)
I don’t think Ottawa will regress as much as everyone says they will. Many people believe Ottawa should be one of the worst teams in the league. I say any team with Erik Karlsson on it has a chance to be at least an average team. Craig Anderson is no slouch in net either. The rest of the team however is very uninspiring to me. Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone are excellent young forwards for Ottawa but outside of that I am not impressed.
4.) Boston Bruins (92 Points)
I don’t think Pastrnak is going to be a Bruin for much longer. I see a Tyler Seguin like situation about to occur. Boston used to be one of the scariest teams in the NHL. I am no longer scared of them at all. Marchand, Bergeron, and Rask are great. Chara is old and almost irrelevant along with most of their D-corps outside of McAvoy and Krug. They have a huge lack of depth scoring which will come to bite them even more if they trade their number one scoring option in Pastrnak. I don’t see Boston getting better any time soon and I was not that impressed with them as is last season when they made the playoffs.
3.) Montreal Canadiens (98 Points)
In my opinion, this is the most poorly managed team in the Eastern Conference. The Subban trade was a shocking abomination last offseason. This seasons offseason disaster lies within the contract of Karl Alzner. What the hell is that? I’d personally rather have Beaulieu but they shipped him to a division rival for a third round pick. They rely to heavily on their goaltending which is not an effective way to win a Stanley Cup which is apparently what they want to do. Carey Price is good enough to get Montreal to the playoffs, but when it comes to the playoffs, they can never piece it together. Another decent regular season followed by a disappointing playoffs is in order for Montreal.
2.) Toronto Maple Leafs (102 Points)
As a Leaf fan it feels so good to finally consider them as a contender. The most concerning thing to me is how injuries will effect them. They were easily the healthiest team in hockey last season and I don’t think that can happen twice in a row. The Leafs potentially have the best offense in the league as they had six guys on the team with at least 50+ points. Hopefully Freddy Andersen can be as good as he was last year along with all of the other Toronto rookies.
1.) Tampa Bay Lightning (112 Points)
This is by far the team I am most afraid of in hockey. They are young and have superstars in their prime such as Hedman and Stamkos. They were the most banged up team in hockey and sold at the deadline and still managed to finish one point out of a playoff spot. Andrei Vasilevsky is one of the best young goalies in hockey right now and is only going to continue to get better. Not to mention guys like Palat, Johnson, Kucherov (who could have won the Hart trophy imo), Point, Namestnikov, and Koekkoek. They are one of the best built teams in the NHL and I predict them as the presidents trophy winners this season. (That Dan Girardi contract tho).