2013-14 NHL Preview: Atlantic Division (Part 1)

atlantic_1

The newly revamped alignment of the NHL will have its effects in every one of the new divisions including the new Atlantic Division. The Atlantic Division will see a new host of teams from the Northeast join the division. In fact the entire Northeast division has joined the new Atlantic Division among a number of familiar faces. Then there are the new faces for many of these teams in the form of the Florida teams who will move from the southeast to the Atlantic. The biggest move this year though is the addition of a team that has wanted to be a part of the Eastern conference for years. The Detroit Red Wings have been sitting in the Western Conference since they began their long history. The Red Wings had played Eastern teams for years since the Original Six period but expansions would force the league to move teams around. Caught up in the moving was the Red Wings who would move to the Western Conference and play the Eastern teams less than usual. They would be in a strange spot though as they were located more East than any other Western team in the league and would have to travel much more than most other teams. The Red Wings have still been one of the most successful teams in the NHL but have regularly requested a move to the Eastern Conference. They would get their wish this year when the NHL announced their new divisional lineup and would give the Red Wings their wish. So the Wings move into the Eastern Conference and will be looking to make an impact early in the new division. The Red Wings have been one of the best teams in the NHL over the past decade and will look to take this dominance into the Atlantic Division. They will have some other dominant teams to contend with though as the Boston Bruins look to continue their strong play from the Northeast division into the new Atlantic Division. Meanwhile the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens will try to continue their upswings and use this new division to get back to greatness. Then there are the other teams that will not be too happy about their moves as the Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Buffalo Sabres might dread the new more competitive division. The Atlantic Division will be an interesting combination of success and failure this year and every team is looking for their chance to make an impact on the new alignment. As the season is ready to start there is plenty to talk about in the Atlantic Division with eight teams ready to take a playoff spot. Here is the first four of these teams in Part 1 of The Sport Addiction 2013-14 Atlantic Division Preview.

 

Boston Bruins

boston_bruins

The Boston Bruins are quickly running out of time in the NHL as they continue to get older and continue to ignore young talent. It has worked for them so far as the Bruins have been one of the most successful teams in the last few years. Even last year the Bruins would make it to the Stanley Cup Finals and come up just short against the Chicago Blackhawks. Although their experience has helped them so far the Bruins are quickly running out of time to win another championship. The thought process is that these veterans have the experience that a team needs to win a Stanley Cup. The problem is that the NHL continues to get faster and younger and when the Bruins rely on older players who are beginning to lose a step the young teams can outplay them. This year the strategy continues as the Bruins have lost a number of their role players from last year including the young star Tyler Seguin and in their place have brought in a number of veterans. Nathan Horton, Rich Peverley, Andrew Ference, and Jaromir Jagr are all gone and in their place come in a number of veteran players to keep the experience going. The Bruins will once again look to their defence to lead them as Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Adam McQuaid, and Johnny Boychuk are all back to lead the team in front of Tuukka Rask. The defence is a good one but like most of the team they are aging and are not the quickest of groups although their physicality makes up for it. On offence some key contributors are gone but the base of the top lines remains with the addition of Loui Eriksson and Jarome Iginla to fill some holes. The issue for the Bruins will be the depth of scoring ability as the top two lines are good but after that there are questions. They have built their reputation off of the ability to roll three lines that can score and this year that third line might not be there to provide secondary scoring. The offence may not be as potent as they once were but that defence remains crippling and will be the reason that the Bruins remain a factor in the NHL. The Bruins are running out of time but time is not up yet as they will battle for the division and will be a factor in the playoffs this year.

 

Strength:
Experience
– Experience has worked for the Bruins and is a factor as they do not panic in big situations when the stress can get to a different team and that is what helps them to calmly get through the most difficult parts of the season

Weakness:
Aging Team
– Last year it was visible that players like Zdeno Chara were beginning to lose a step against faster younger players and although he is still one of the best defenceman in the league this pattern will continue with the Bruins closing in on that age cliff where play falls off

Biggest Addition:
Jarome Iginla, RW (Free Agent, Pit)
– After a trade period where Iginla blocked a trade to the Bruins in order to go to the Penguins the veteran would go to the Bruins in the offseason for one purpose as he looks to win a Stanley Cup before he retires

Biggest Loss:
Rich Peverley, C (Trade, Dal)
– Although Nathan Horton and Tyler Seguin will be missed it is Peverley that will be missed the most there were no replacements for him brought in to provide a solid reliable player on the third line that can provide secondary scoring

 

Buffalo Sabres

buffalo_sabres

The Buffalo Sabres seemed to be on the right path when Terry Pegula bought the team and immediately began making improvements. He would begin to spend money in order to improve the arena and improve the player’s quarters in the arena. It looked like they had an owner that was willing to spend money to help this team get back to the playoffs and back to being a force in the NHL. Then the team went on the ice as nothing transpired as they Sabres have gone downhill quickly in the last few seasons. Now they go into the 2013-14 season looking to pick up the pieces and trying to rebuild this team. The management and staff are going in to the season essentially scouting the best players in the draft assuming they will get a chance to pick near the top of the 2014 draft. The only bright spot in past years for the Sabres has been in net where Ryan Miller has been the rock that allowed the Sabres to win games. That is not the case anymore as Miller will likely start in goal simply to show him off to interested teams that want to trade for him. The future is Jhonas Enroth who will likely take over the starting role whether Miller is traded or not and will hope to be the start to a solid team. In front of Enroth will be a defence with some reinforcements but a lot of questions. Tyler Myers need to step up and be the leader for the future that the Sabres were hoping he could be when he was signed to a 7-year $38.5 million before last year. Myers needs to be the leader and will get some reinforcements with the addition of Jamie McBain and Henrik Tallinder. The offence will be sure to see a lot of change this year as there are very few players safe from movement. Cody Hodgson, Tyler Ennis, and Mikhail Grigorenko are the young base for this offence while everyone else around them is up for grabs for the right price. The Sabres are clearly looking at a finish at the bottom of the league this year and there is not much to say otherwise. The rebuild will get underway this year and there will be plenty of changes leaving Buffalo out of the playoffs and looking at a top draft pick.

 

Strength:
Defence
– The Sabres have the talent on defence that can make them a good defensive team and if everyone plays up to their potential it could be a solid base for this team to build around as they can help to win some games this year

Weakness:
The Rebuild
– With changes almost inevitable this year the Sabres will see a lot of new players come and old players leaving as there is little commitment to winning in Buffalo which does not bode well for the product on the ice

Biggest Addition:
Henrik Tallinder, D (Trade, NJ)
– The Sabres seem to be content with building slow but they wanted to at least get some help on the blue line and would get it with Tallinder who played alongside Tyler Myers in his rookie season and will look to be a solid member of the defensive group

Biggest Loss:
Nobody
– They would not trade Ray Miller this offseason instead seemingly waiting for the right price and until he is gone the Sabres will not have lost anybody that will have a major effect on the team this year

 

Detroit Red Wings

detroit_red_wings

The Red Wings have finally gotten their wish this year as they were moved to the Eastern Conference. Now the Red Wings get a shorter travel schedule with more games only a small distance away. This could mean a great deal for a team that has essentially become known for being the veterans in the NHL and less travel can help the veterans. If there is a blueprint about how to deal with an aging team though, it is in the Detroit offices as they have become the most consistent team in the NHL. The age began to show itself last year though as they were no longer a guarantee to make the playoffs as they would instead fight for their spot. This year they are hoping that their downward trend can stop with a better mix of young and old talent to try to become the team to beat in the new Atlantic Division. This year the team is made up of a number of players on the younger side of 30 which is a young team for the Red Wings. Still they could not resist one of the more experienced players in the free agent pool. The Wings would sign former Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson, 40 years old, to join the top line with Henrik Zetterberg, 32 years old, and Pavel Dasyuk, 35 years old, to make a very experienced and good line. The offence will be joined by a number of other veterans but they will be mixed with some younger players including Tomas Tatar and Joakim Andersson that will represent the system that Detroit has. On defence the loss of Markus Lidstrom is past them and they continue to move on with Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Eriksson, and Kyle Quincey filling the void. Behind them is Jimmy Howard who came into his own last year as one of the best goalies in the league and will continue to be a solid backstop for the Wings. Detroit is happy to be in the Atlantic Division and with their presence the level of competition has increased as they hope to bring their consistency to the new division. The trend has not been good for them though as they have getting worse every year and may find themselves battling for one of the automatic spots this year although at least a wild card is in the future.

 

Strength:
Franchise Stability
– There is no more consistent team in the NHL than the Detroit Red Wings and they enjoy that as they continue to make the playoffs every year and continue to give the players every chance to win games and make the playoffs every year

Weakness:
Aging team
– The age question has loomed over the Red Wings for years but last year was really the first year that everyone saw the age really have an effect as they would fight for a playoff spot and would be a non-factor in the playoffs

Biggest Addition:
Daniel Alfredsson, RW (Free Agent, Ott)
– He is exactly what the Red Wings love as he is a veteran player that has lost a step but is looking to the Red Wings to give him the last boost and chance to finish his career on top like they have done with so many people before him

Biggest Loss:
Nobody
– There were some losses for the Wings but nobody that had a massive impact or was not replaced by another better player as the Red Wings got rid of the players whose production decreased and brought in players who can produce

 

Florida Panthers

florida_panthers

The Florida Panthers are probably not too thrilled to see a new division as they will go from a division with two powers to a division with a lot more. The Atlantic Division will be clearly split between the teams who have a shot and those who don’t Florida is hoping to be a team with a shot but may sit with the teams that don’t. They are a team in transition as they would win the Southeast division in 2011-12 and look to be on their way to a good run. Then reality struck in 2012-13 when they would finish among the worst teams in the league. The Panthers will now look to a young corps to try to get the team back to their winning ways of 2011-12. It will be a challenge though as they have a lot of talent but very little experience. Unlike other teams in the division the veterans on the Panthers will not be the ones to watch as instead the young guns will be the ones to lead the team. The Panthers top young gun will be the one that everyone will look to in Calder Trophy winner Jonathan Huberdeau. He will once again be the focus of this team although it will not all rely on him. Tomas Fleischmann and Kris Versteeg will join Huberdeau in the offence while 1st round draft pick Aleksander Barkov will likely be a part of this team as well. Barkov will add two years of experience from the Finnish League and will look to make an immediate impact and try to earn the second straight Calder Trophy for the Panthers. The defence will be a mix of experience and youth as the Panthers hope that two veterans can help two young stars. Brian Campbell and Ed Jovanovski will represent the veteran presence and will try to help Erik Gudbranson and Dmitry Kulikov develop. Behind this mix will be another young star in Jacob Markström who at 23 will take over the starting role. There will be mistakes this year as with any young team in the league but the talent is there. Hope is alive in Florida and although they will likely miss the playoffs this year they may be on the right path towards getting back to the playoffs and becoming a consistent threat.

 

Strength:
Young Talent
– Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Erik Gudbranson, Jacob Markström, and Dmitry Kulikov are all very talented and in very different ways giving the Panthers plenty of young fresh talent that could develop into key role players

Weakness:
New competition
– The Atlantic Division is a tough one with some dominant teams and some teams on the rise while the Panthers sit somewhat in the middle with potential that might not be seen against the best of the new division

Biggest Addition:
Aleksander Barkov, C (2013 Draft)
– The second overall draft pick in 2013 Barkov will look to make an impact immediately and could do just that with experience playing against bigger older talent in Finland as he tries to follow in Jonathan Huberdeau’s footsteps and win the Calder Trophy

Biggest Loss:
Stephen Weiss, C (Free Agent, Det)
– He doesn’t fit the young mentality of the Panthers but he is a good veteran who is under 30 that could have provided some key leadership and secondary scoring among a host of unproven talent in Florida

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