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2013-14 NHL Season Predictions: Atlantic Division

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Well, everyone, we’ve arrived. The offseason is past and the preseason is drawing to a close, which means the grind is about to begin. 82 games (Yay, no lockout shortening!) await our teams, with the best fighting for the honor of having their names engraved on one of sports’ greatest trophies, while the rest go golfing and fire people. Here at NOTSC, we fancy ourselves to be experts on our respective sports, which is why I’m here to break down this season. New divisions, new teams (just kidding. Suck it, Quebec), and new faces are ready to be judged like Miley Cyrus. This time, we move to the Eastern conference, where we’ll begin with the Atlantic Division.

 

Atlantic Division

Boston Bruins: The first-loser Boston Bruins (Remember, second place means first loser). They had to go and ruin Toronto’s hopes in spectacular fashion before blowing themselves up in what might have been an even more shocking manner. Embarrassment runs high in Beantown as the team hopes to get back to the Cup and actually win it. On offense, the team finally landed Jarome Iginla (I’m still expecting the Penguins to steal him back on a technicality somehow) and they acquired Loui Eriksson to combine with the return of the majority of their core from last year. However, Gregory Campbell and Patrice Bergeron are still recovering from all of their injuries, and the defense, despite still having Zdeno Chara,  is shifting towards younger players in Torey Krug, Dougie Hamilton, and David Warsofsky. Signing Tuukka Rask to a long-term extension has solved the goalie issues for the forseeable future, however, and having a killer offense with an all-star goalie will ensure this team makes the playoffs again.

Buffalo Sabres: Another team flirting with train wreck status, the Sabres are on thin ice (pun emphatically intended) this year. Ryan Miller appears to be on his way out, and Thomas Vanek, the team’s primary scorer, might be joining him. The team addressed its defense this offseason, drafting Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov, but they are rookies who may not make an early impact. Outside of the draft, not much else really occurred this offseason. This team won’t be “Calgary Flames” bad, but they will be bad enough. No playoff appearance this time.

Detroit Red Wings: This isn’t even fair. Not only is the NHL breaking up one of the greatest rivalry matches to have ever existed, but they are placing Detroit in a weak division. It’s almost like the league can’t handle the thought of a playoffs without the Red Wings. I smell a rat. As for the on-ice product, I highly doubt they will sneak up on teams this year. Bringing in Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss, combined with signing Pavel Datsyuk to an extension, has made the Red Wing offense ridiculously potent. Jimmy Howard will continue to provide a consistent force between the pipes, as well. The major weak spot on this team is defense. Kronwall will continue delivering bone-crushing (yet clean) hits, but there is nobody after him who is at the same caliber. Dan DeKeyser will look to take a step forward in his (technically) rookie season, but nobody else appears to be a stalwart. This team is similar to the Bruins in the sense that they have killer offenses, and while Howard is not the same in terms of skill as Rask, it will be enough. That, combined with having risque photos of Gary Bettman a weak division, will ensure they make the playoffs once again.

Florida Panthers: Ah, the Panthers. The team is on the verge of being sold, but since they won’t undergo a Phoenix Coyotes-esque debacle, that can essentially be ignored. However, the on-ice product is still a mess. Offensively, having Rookie of the Year Jonathan Huberdeau is a plus, but the team is very young, with Nick Bjugstad and 2nd overall pick Alexander Barkov being tasked with anchoring the team’s second and third lines. On defense, captain Ed Jovanovski is injured (shocker), and nobody else outside of Brian Campbell has anything close to resembling talent. In goal, the team was supposed to hand the keys to Jacob Markstrom, but the front office couldn’t resist grabbing Tim Thomas, who spent the last year out of hockey and is now trying to come back in a state that is more than fitting for him: nice weather, political ideology, and retirement central. This team not make the playoffs, but I don’t expect a horrible team. yay, mediocrity!

Montreal Canadiens: Oh Canadiens, our favorite enigma. Last year’s team was able to beat the Bruins for the division, but got bounced in the early rounds of the playoffs. Of course, an enigma isn’t an enigma without a question, so here’s the riddle: Which Carey Price will we have this year? Will we see the good Price, who anchors the net consistently and keeps his team in the game every night? Or will we see the crappy Price, whose play will infuriate his Quebecois fanbase and possibly lead to a call-up of the top goalie prospect in this year’s draft, Zach Fucale? The answer to this question may not determine the outcome of the regular season, but it could dictate the postseason. On offense, Rookie of the Year nominee Alex Galchenyuk will look to build off an impressive rookie campaign alongside Brendan Gallagher, and P.K. Subban will look to prove practically everyone outside of Montreal that his Norris trophy was actually deserved (cough Suter cough). This team will make the playoffs. The real question is whether it’s as a division winner, or a wildcard.

Ottawa Senators: I fully expect Eugene Melnyk to hire computer experts to discover who I am if this prediction is in any way negative (I am really paranoid about such things), but it doesn’t matter, because I’m American and free speech laws are awesome. A report surfaced over the summer revealing that the team has been losing million over the last few years, and the league is trying to force Melnyk to sell his stake in order to prevent another ownership debacle caused by financial mismanagement (looking at you, Coyotes and Devils). While the report has been disputed, it is worth keeping an eye on. As for the players, this team is just as talented as could be expected. Acquiring Bobby Ryan was huge, and having him along with Cory Conacher, Jason Spezza (who’ll be heading to Detroit soon enough), and Milan Michalek makes this offense potentially exciting. The defense is lead by Erik Karlsson, who will use his super Achilles tendon to guide the team throughout the year, and Craig Anderson still won’t fall apart. This team will make the playoffs again.

Tampa Bay Lightning: I’m gonna be blunt. The prospect of a Lightning-Panthers rivalry is so…boring. This doesn’t have anything to do with the team’s predictions, but I’m just want to go ahead and say it. This team was bad last year. This year, though, I am making a bold prediction that this team will be significantly improved, and might even contend for a playoff spot. On offense, Steven Stamkos will continue to try to convince people he is the best player in the league by scoring an octillion goals, and the addition of Jonathan Drouin will make that job easier. Martin St. Louis is approaching Selanne territory is that he doesn’t seem to age, and Valtteri Filppula will look to show Detroit that they gave up on him too soon ans that he is still an offensive force. On defense, Mattias Ohlund, Victor Hedman, and Radko Gudas will run the defense corps. The biggest question is in goal. Ben Bishop and Anders Lindback will try to establish themselves as clear-cut starters, but if either or both falter, then the season will be another long one for Bolts fans. I think one of the two will step up, however, and I expect a better season out of this team.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Better go ahead and get this out of my system. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! There, now I can function without thinking of “The Collapse.” In all seriousness (or rather, as serious as a parody site can be), this team is pretty decent. Offensively, the team retains Nazem Kadri, Phil Kessel, and Joffrey Lupul. Adding David Clarkson was a good move, but he has already knocked himself out for the next 10 games for being an idiot (technically, he made an illegal line change, but that is the same as being an idiot). On defense, Dion Phaneuf, Jake Gardiner, and Cody Franson will serve as leaders. The strength of this team, however, is goaltending. This team has a legitimate chance of having two #1 goalies in Reimer and Bernier. Overall, this team will contend for a playoff spot all year.

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