2013-14 NHL Preview: Atlantic Division (Part 2)

atlantic_2

The Red Wings will enjoy their new division as they finally get the move they wanted to the Eastern Conference. Although they will be one of the big stories in the realignment it is not the only one for the new Atlantic Division. Joining the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, and Boston Bruins the Detroit Red Wings will be a part of a truly Original Six division. It was a debate when Detroit had asked to move as a move to the East only leaves one Original Six team in the West bringing some of the biggest teams into one area. The top earning teams and the biggest draws for many will no longer be spread out but for the NHL it is no longer a big issue. Although the league has struggled in some areas they have also seen a growth in most areas. The Original Six are still the teams that all franchises aspire to as they will never leave the NHL and are the strongest teams in the league. Still teams outside of the Original Six are gaining popularity and so the move to the East by the Detroit Red Wings did not mean as much for the league. For the fans it meant everything though as the move means a lot more Original Six rivalries. The Toronto Maple Leafs look to quickly redevelop their old school rivalry with the Red Wings as both spent plenty of time in the same division before Toronto moved to the East. The rivalry will get off to a great start this year as well when both teams face off for the Winter Classic in the Big House that will be sure to break records for NHL attendance. Meanwhile the rivalry between the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins has remained intact with the realignment. This is good for the league and for both teams as it has become one of the most legendary and best rivalries in the game. The Battle of Ontario and the Canadiens-Leafs rivalry will also remain in this division while another rivalry may just brew. The Leafs and the Florida teams have had a limited rivalry in the past as plenty of Torontonians will be seen in the arenas during the winter as the Snow-Birds will be out in force and will be sure to create a bit of resentment between the teams. The realignment will have plenty of effects and in the Atlantic division these effects are plenty. Rivalries will stay intact and will be formed as teams look ahead to a new year and a new path to the playoffs. The remaining four teams will look to this new path as we outline the rest of the division in Part 2 of the Atlantic Division preview.

 

Montreal Canadiens

montreal_canadiens

The Montreal Canadiens were not very happy about the way their team performed in 2011-12 and they would do something about it. After finishing near the bottom of the league the Canadiens would completely revamp the organization firing their GM and their head coach. Going into 2012-13 the Canadiens would look to a new GM in Marc Bergevin and a new-old coach in Michel Therrien, who returned to Montreal for his second stint as head coach. The expectations were not very high although finishing at the bottom of the league was out of the question for the team. Still the new leadership group would change the team completely taking them from one of the worst teams in the league to a playoff team. The Canadiens would find themselves back in the playoffs as the new leadership provided a new attitude for the team. The Canadiens are embarking on a new path as Bergevin is not happy with their long time reputation of being a team with plenty of talent but no grit. They have regularly been a team modeled after a European national team as they continue to find smaller talented players but ignore the big physical guys that can bring a team to the Stanley Cup. Bergevin has started to change that for the Canadiens as they have looked to some tougher guys like Alexei Emelin, Brandon Prust, and Brendan Gallagher. The trio of tougher grittier players are the sign to what Bergevin wants to do with this team. They will be joined by tough guy George Parros to add another layer of grittiness to the team. The skill is still there as well with players like PK Subban, Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec, Alex Galchenyuk, Rene Bourque, and Lars Eller. The Canadiens have plenty of offensive talent to press any team but it is their defence that is the place of worry. PK Subban is a great offensive defenceman but his defensive abilities can come into question. The defence is not as solid as they would like and in front of Carey Price who struggles at times it could mean that the offence will be leaned on this year. The Canadiens are on their way up in the standings and that trend will likely continue. The Canadiens can expect to be back in the playoffs again this year and can be a factor in the playoffs as they seem to be getting better every year.

 

Strength:
Depth up front
– The amount of offensive power that the Canadiens have is great as it is a mix of young and veteran talent that can create a good three lines of offence along with some support from offensive defencemen that will let the Canadiens overwhelm some teams

Weakness:
Lack of Grittiness
– The Canadiens have improved on this with Bergevin at the helm but the addition of Parros is not exactly what they need as a big forward that can actually get involved in the offensive production is still in need for this team

Biggest Addition:
Danny Briere, RW (Free Agent, Phi)
– As much as Bergevin would have loved to sign Vincent Lecavalier to provide a big body Danny Briere was the next best thing as he is still a productive offensive player that will be sure to provide secondary scoring

Biggest Loss:
Alexei Emelin, D (Injury)
– There were a few losses for the Canadiens this year but none were bigger than the loss of Emelin who will miss the entire season after undergoing knee surgery as the physical defenceman will miss a good chunk of the first half of the season

 

Ottawa Senators

ottawa_senators

The Ottawa Senators have been playing the underdogs in the last few years as they continue to be overlooked. That time might be over though as they have consistently been a team to watch in the NHL and will be one again. The Sens have constantly been in the mix in the last few years and are hoping to do so again this year. They will have to do so with a major change though as their longtime captain and the heart of their team will no longer be with the team. Daniel Alfredsson was the face of the Sens through the ups and downs in the last decade after being named captain in 1999. Now Jason Spezza becomes the first new captain since 1999 and the Senators will have to move on. They will need to put the loss out of their minds and concentrate on the fact that they have been a better team and hope to continue their rise. The biggest part of this rise has been the emergence of Craig Anderson as a star goaltender and the backstop that most teams want. Anderson has come from anonymity to being one of the best but there are still questions of whether he can continue this or if he will end up like he did in Colorado where he had one great season and then faltered in his second year. A big reason as to why Anderson has been good for more than just one year has been the development of the Ottawa defence led by Erik Karlsson. Karlsson and Marc Methot are a great pairing and a very big part to the Sens ability to keep teams off of the board. The defence is the key for the Sens but the offence will see an improvement this year as well. They will miss Alfredsson but the addition of Bobby Ryan is more than enough to make up for that loss. Bobby Ryan will help the newly minted captain Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek while Kyle Turris hopes to continue his development and new Clarke MacArthur will look to make an impact. The Senators are a defensive first team and are looking to continue their climb. They will see the team get better and will fight for a playoff spot this year among a number of good teams as a playoff appearance is very likely whether it be the wild card or a division spot.

 

Strength:
Defence
– Erik Karlsson, Marc Methot, and Jared Cowen will all play a massive role in the defence and if anything gets by these big mobile blueliners Craig Anderson is a more than capable last line of defence as the Sens will once again be good at shutting teams down

Weakness:
Leadership Void
– Nobody knows how Jason Spezza will be as a captain as the usually quiet forward will probably lead by example and not be very vocal as the loss of Daniel Alfredsson will have its biggest effect in the locker room

Biggest Addition:
Bobby Ryan, LW (Trade, Ana)
– Alfredsson was a great leader but he had lost a step and getting a younger winger to fill the void in Bobby Ryan is a great way to go to replace Alfredsson as he will become an offensive force for the Sens

Biggest Loss:
Daniel Alfredsson, RW (Free Agent, Det)
– He was definitely not the same player he used to be but he was a leader above all and now he is gone as the face of the Sens will be playing on another team that they will see often this year reminding them of the void

 

Tampa Bay Lightning

tampa_bay_lightning

The Tampa Bay Lightning will join a new division this year alongside Florida as they enter a tougher division in the hopes that a young team can make an impact. It was only a few season ago that the Lightning were the new up and coming team that was the one to watch in the 2011-12 season. Then they would fall hard from their perch and would lose the coach that got them there in the process. Guy Boucher had turned the team around almost single-handedly but his new trap system did not last and the Lightning found themselves near the bottom of the league. Now Jon Cooper takes over as the full-time head coach and will look to some new weapons to make this offence one of the best. They will miss Vincent Lecavalier who left for Philadelphia and leaves a void at captain that will be filled by either Steven Stamkos or Martin St. Louis. Even without Lecavalier the Lightning are a potent offence that only got better in the draft. The addition of Jonathan Drouin has many people wondering just how good the Lightning might be. If they put the playmaking Drouin with Stamkos many believe the numbers will only increase. Drouin spent last year dishing to Nathan MacKinnon and would help MacKinnon to become the #1 overall pick and if he can do the same to Stamkos this offence may be unstoppable. The defence is the worrisome part of this team though as the offence can be powerful but if they let too many goals it won’t matter. Victor Hedman needs to step up and be the leader they need while the lone bright spot was Radko Gudas who brought a physical presence to the blueline after being called up that they are hoping he can bring back again this year. They will need to be good too as the goaltending situation only got slightly better this year with the addition of Ben Bishop. Bishop will likely share starts with Anders Lindback as a goalie battle may last the entire year. The Lightning have gotten better but they need more work especially in their own end. Expect them to overwhelm teams with their offence this year but have a tough time against good defensive teams that will see them improved but out of the playoffs.

 

Strength:
Offence
– Steven Stamkos has won the Maurice “Rocket” Richard twice since entering the league and the addition of playmaker Jonathan Drouin will only help while the rest of the offence will provide just enough support

Weakness:
Goaltending
– Ben Bishop is an upgrade but he is still not a true #1 goalie or at least hasn’t proven it yet as the Lightning continue to search for a goalie that can end their longtime search and provide that backstop that can bring them to the playoffs

Biggest Addition:
Jonathan Drouin, LW (2013 Draft)
– Drouin was a big reason to why Nathan MacKinnon became the #1 pick in the NHL Draft as his ability to control the puck and make something out of nothing allowed MacKinnon to score goals and he looks to do the same with Steven Stamkos as a rookie

Biggest Loss:
Vincent Lecavalier, C (Free Agent, Phi)
– Losing a captain is never a good thing and the loss of Vincent Lecavalier is a big one although the Lightning will have some experience to help the big offensive presence is a big hole on the ice that the Lightning did not fill

 

Toronto Maple Leafs

toronto_maple_leafs

The Maple Leafs have been the picture of dysfunction in the NHL as the most valuable franchise in the league and yet the one who held a 7-year playoff drought and a 45-year Stanley Cup drought. The first drought would finally come to an end last year while the Stanley Cup drought looks to continue to be the longest in NHL history. Now the question is whether or not last year’s playoff appearance was a fluke or a sign that the Leafs are finally turning things around. The Leafs go into the 2013-14 season with some key additions and some developing stars that they hopes can help them to their second playoff appearance in a row. The Leafs would try to go out and find a top defenceman but could not find one for the right price as they will go into the new season with the same defence from last year. Dion Phaneuf will once again lead this team and will try to erase the memory of a bad play in the playoffs that completed an unthinkable comeback by the Bruins. As the defence stayed the same the offence would change slightly as Dave Nonis would add two players that fit the tough style that the Leafs want to have. David Clarkson and Dave Bolland are not the biggest name additions and neither may play on the top line but they are exactly what the Leafs want. Tough gritty players that can score but will also be annoying to other teams and can hold their own in the scrums. The Leafs would also go out and get the goalie they believe they need to get into the playoffs once again. Despite a great performance by James Reimer last year the Leafs would trade for Jonathan Bernier who will likely take the top spot but the second he struggles the controversy will begin once again as there will be no end to the goaltending debate in Toronto anytime soon. The Leafs are finally on a path that can lead to success but they will need to avoid the usual distractions that come with playing in hockey Mecca. The Leafs still have some holes but expect them to battle for the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference with the goaltending situation the difference maker in them making the playoffs or not.

 

Strength:
New Direction
– The new style essentially started with Brian Burke and a lot of credit has to be given to the former GM but the path has been continued by Dave Nonis as the Leafs look to become a team that nobody wants to play because they will beat you up and it is beginning to work

Weakness:
Bad Memories
– Last year’s exit from the playoffs is not easy to forget as the Leafs would blow a 4-1 lead in Game 7 against the Bruins and they will need to get over that and focus on the task at hand rather than dwelling on the past no matter how many times the media will remind them

Biggest Addition:
Jonathan Bernier, G (Trade, LA)
– It is not necessarily the biggest addition for being the best addition but it will be the most talked about as James Reimer essentially lost his starting job with the addition of Bernier in what will be the biggest story throughout the year as the goalie controversy continues

Biggest Loss:
Mikhail Grabovski, C (Free Agent, Was)
– He may not have produced to the level that the Leafs wanted him to but there is no doubt that he was a spark plug in the playoffs and may be missed with the lack of any really great centres on the team

 

Atlantic Prediction:
1. Boston Bruins
2. Montreal Canadiens
3. Ottawa Senators
4. Detroit Red Wings
5. Toronto Maple Leafs
6. Tampa Bay Lightning
7. Florida Panthers
8. Buffalo Sabres

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 168 other followers

%d bloggers like this: