The new Atlantic Division looks nothing like the Atlantic Division of old. In the new Atlantic, both of the teams from Florida join the Detroit Red Wings (previously playing in the Western Conference) and the all of the clubs from the previous Northeast Division. This division has several strong teams along with clubs that are desperate to work their way out of the basement after a tough 2012-13.
Teams listed in order of predicted finish.
Boston Bruins (2012-13: 28-14-6; lost in Stanley Cup final)
After finishing second in the Northeast last year, the Bruins rode their offensive depth and strong goaltending from Tuukka Rask to within two wins of their second Stanley Cup in two years. Looking to do the same thing this upcoming season with a different result, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli made a few bold moves. Gone are the likes of Tyler Seguin, Jaromir Jagr, Rich Peverley and Andrew Ference. In are solid offensive players in Jarome Iginla and Loui Eriksson, making this year’s Bruins’ offence potentially stronger than last season’s group. With the moves, the Bruins still have great depth at offence, a solid group of young defencemen and a star netminder in Rask. Put all these things together, and you have a Cup contender who should win the division with relative ease.
Key acquisitions: Jarome Iginla, Loui Eriksson
Key departures: Andrew Ference, Jaromir Jagr, Rich Peverley, Tyler Seguin
Detroit Red Wings (2012-13: 24-16-8; eliminated in second round of playoffs)
For the first time in a long time, the Red Wings come into a season where they're not a divisional powerhouse team to beat. While the Red Wings are still a solid hockey club, they don't exactly strike fear into their opponents the way they used to. This is a club that is getting older on offence, especially with the addition of Daniel Alfredsson, and one whose defence has taken a step back. However, the Wings do have one of the best goaltenders in the league in Jimmy Howard -- a guy who can steal games. The team is now in a tougher division than it used to be, which means that, come April, the Wings may be the odd team out of the playoff picture.
Key acquisitions: Daniel Alfredsson, Stephen Weiss
Key departures: Damien Brunner, Valterri Filppula
Ottawa Senators (2012-13: 25-17-6; eliminated in second round of playoffs)
It's tough to think that a team will be better with the loss of its team captain and greatest player in franchise history. This is exactly the case for the Ottawa Senators, despite losing Daniel Alfredsson to their new division rival, the Red Wings. The Senators will have a healthy Jason Spezza with something to prove, along with the newly acquired Bobby Ryan, to help ease the loss of Alfie. The club also has a strong goaltender in Craig Anderson, who is coming off a career year and looking to show his team that it was not a fluke. A healthy Erik Karlsson will be anchoring a solid defensive corps, and should everyone stay healthy and perform as expected, the Sens should be able to find their way into the postseason once again under terrific head coach Paul MacLean.
Key acquisitions: Joe Corvo, Clarke MacArthur, Bobby Ryan
Key departures: Daniel Alfredsson, Sergei Gonchar
Montreal Canadiens (2012-13: 29-14-5; eliminated in first round of playoffs)
Montreal surprised many last season by winning the Northeast. Unfortunately, the Habs got knocked out of the first round in five games by a much hungrier Ottawa Senators hockey club. Going into this season, the Canadiens have youth and talent on their side. The team has one the league’s best defenceman in defending Norris champ P.K. Subban, an elite goaltender in Carey Price, and an offence that finished fifth in goals scored. With the addition of Daniel Briere and lessons learned from last season's swift playoff exit, the Canadiens should be able to lock up a wildcard spot in what will be a hotly contested race.
Key acquisitions: Daniel Briere, Douglas Murray, George Parros
Key departures: Colby Armstrong, Michael Ryder
Toronto Maple Leafs (2012-13: 26-17-5; eliminated in first round of playoffs)
The Maple Leafs qualified for the postseason for the first time in seven seasons last year and came within one win of getting to the second round. But instead of progressing in the off-season, they might have regressed and put themselves in a tough position to make the playoffs this year in a much tougher division. David Clarkson was the team’s big signing during the off-season, but is he really worth $36.75 million over seven years? The team also re-signed forwards Tyler Bozak and Nazem Kadri, both of whom must have a big year for the Leafs’ offence. The team, however, did get better in goal with the addition of Jonathan Bernier. But will the tandem of Bernier and James Reimer be enough to get the Leafs into the playoffs? There appears to be more questions than answers in Leafland.
Key acquisitions: Jonathan Bernier, Dave Bolland, David Clarkson
Key departures: Mikhail Grabovski, Clarke MacArthur, Ben Scrivens, Matt Frattin
Tampa Bay Lightning (2012-13: 18-26-4; Did not make the playoffs)
After not making the playoffs last year, it looks like 2013-14 will be another tough season in Tampa Bay. With the likes of Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, Teddy Purcell, and newcomer Valtteri Filppula, the team should have no trouble scoring goals; the Lightning finished third in the league in that category last season. It's the goaltending of Anders Lindback and Ben Bishop that will be the question. Lindback struggled with inconsistency last season, and Bishop was not with the team long enough to make an impact. For head coach Jon Cooper, this will be his first full season as an NHL head coach -- and it looks like it will be a long and grueling one for the Lightning.
Key acquisitions: Valterri Filppula
Key departures: Mathieu Garon, Vincent Lecavalier
Buffalo Sabres (2012-13: 21-21-6; Did not make the playoffs)
With so many questions heading into the off-season regarding UFAs-to-be Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek, nothing has really been answered. Both remain with the hockey club. While Miller and Vanek have done much for the club and are the team’s two best players, their presence will not be enough to put the Sabres in the postseason. The Sabres did not make any upgrades during the off-season, and furthermore, there is still chance that they could end up losing both Miller and Vanek at some point. It's clear the Sabres will struggle. Once that happens, Sabres general manager Darcy Regier, if he is still the team’s GM at that point, will need to blow things up and rebuild this once-proud organization.
Key acquisitions: Jamie McBain, Henrik Tallinder
Key departures: Nathan Gerbe
Florida Panthers (2012-13: 15-27-6; did not make the playoffs)
Much like their Floridian counterpart, the Panthers appear to be in for a long and tough season. When they were in the Southeast, there was always a chance for the team to make noise considering it was one of the weaker divisions in the Eastern Conference. Well, their division has become significantly tougher under realignment, and with no impactful signings made in the off-season, the team is destined for a tough year. The Panthers' defence is aging, their offence is quiet, and no one quite knows what they're going to get out of goaltenders Jacob Markstrom and Scott Clemmensen (and Tim Thomas?). For a state with a lot of sunshine, the Panthers will once again fall under a dark cloud this upcoming season.
Key acquisitions: Bobby Butler, Joey Crabb, Scott Gomez
Key departures: Jack Skille, Jose Theodore, Stephen Weiss
Hottest rivalry: Every time the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens play each, it is hard-hitting, exciting hockey at its absolute best.
Big question: What direction are the Buffalo Sabres going in? The franchise used to be a perennial playoff contender that was tough to beat. If they can't turn things around this season, how does management react?
And the playoff teams will be... Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators, Montreal Canadiens