2013-14 NHL Season Predictions: Metropolitan Division


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. To conclude our predictions, I’m taking a look at the Metropolitan Division. Not because I’m saving the best for last, but because I wanted to take this space to voice my displeasure against the stupidest name the league could have come up with. *seethes with rage for a few moments* Meh, let’s get on with it.


Metropolitan Devision

Carolina Hurricanes: The Staal Clan Hurricanes are in an intriguing position as the season prepares to start. In case you missed it, top defenseman Joni Pitkanen is out for the year with an ankle injury. This has made things interesting in Raleigh, since the team decided, after failing to find a defenseman with the last name “Staal” (who wasn’t on another team), to pick up Ron Hainsey. Outside of Justin Falk, the defense is rather…boring. The offense, excluding the Staals, consists mainly of Tuomo Ruutu, Jeff Skinner, Alexander Semin, and 5th overall pick Elias Lindholm. The team’s strength is in net. Cam Ward is still Cam Ward, but the team managed to sign Anton Khudobin to be the backup, essentially forming a potent tandem that should serve to keep the team in games. They won’t make the playoffs, but they will have a better record than last year’s squad.

Columbus Blue Jackets: It’s fascinating how having a competent front office can do wonders for a franchise. After having established their identity as perennial cellar dwellers, a new President and GM took the team all the way to the end, falling just short of a playoff berth. Now, with a move to the Division-That-Must-Not-Be-Named, the Blue Jackets find themselves back in near the cellar. The offense is relying on Marian Gaborik (who did oh so well when in the same role with the Rangers), Nathan Horton (who will miss a good chunk of time due to shoulder surgery), and…somebody else. Defense revolves around Jack Johnson (who probably hasn’t come to terms with the Kings deserting him) and Nikita Nikitin (whose cool name unfortunately doesn’t stop opposing players). The team did manage to keep Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky (Number one cop on the force!), but time will tell if his play last season was real, or merely a fluke. This team won’t make the playoffs this year.

New Jersey Devils: *The opening line for this prediction has retired and appeared somewhere in a Russian newspaper.* This team has been through the ringer this offseason, with the retirement/desertion of Ilya Kovalchuk, as well as the team being sold. However, there are some bright spots. The team might have found a replacement for the departed Kovalchuk in Damien Brunner, who joined the team on a tryout only to get a contract one week later. The team also made a huge splash in acquiring Cory Schnieder from the Vancouver Canucks, thereby acquiring Martin Brodeur’s heir apparent. Despite these, the team’s outlook for the season is bleak. The offense is old, with Adam Henrique the only proven player who is young. Ryan Clowe, Jaromir Jagr, Patrick Elias, and Dainius Zubrus are still the core, but they are what is known in hockey parlance as “old as dirt.” The defense is shaky after Bryce Salvador, with Marek Zidlicky and Anton Volchenkov serving as the only major proven pieces. What makes this worse for fans is that, not only will they be bad this year, but they forfeited their 1st round pick due to circumventing the salary cap when they tried to sign Kovalchuk. Bottom line, unless the team surprises everybody and makes the playoffs (which is as likely as Kovalchuk returning), this team will be bad, with nothing to show for it. How depressing.

New York Islanders: Behold, the team of surprises. The Islanders squad surprised many by actually, you know, making the playoffs last year. Granted, they drew the Penguin juggernaut in the first round and were summarily dispatched, but not before destroying Marc-Andre Fleury’s reputation, which can be considered a moral victory, right? Regardless, the team is out to prove that last season wasn’t a fluke. John Tavares, anointed the team’s scapegoat captain this offseason, will look to lead an offense that also has Brian Okposo, Michael Grabner, and Casey Cizikas, but took a hit in losing Brad Boyes. On defense, the team dealt Mark Streit, but was able to sign Travis Hamonic to a long-term deal, giving the team a young defender to build around. The  biggest area of weakness is in net. The team brought back Evgeni Nabokov, who is no longer the same as he was when he played in San Jose. This team will compete, but they will only go as far as Nabokov will let them. I’m predicting a close race, with the team just squeaking into the playoffs.

New York Rangers: Ah, the Rangers. The team everyone associates New York hockey with (Sorry, Islanders) is facing the ultimate test. Henrik Lundqvist, god of goalies, is in the final year of his contract, and reports are surfacing that suggest he will not negotiate with the team if they cannot come to an agreement before the regular season begins. The thought of having such a huge distraction has to give Alain Vigneault fits. Well, it would, if Vigneault wasn’t used to goalie controversy. This year will be interesting. Ryan Callahan was named captain of the team, and he will look to lead an offense alongside Rick Nash,Carl Hagelin, and (maybe) Chris Kreider. Derek Stepan finally decided pulling a P.K. Subban wasn’t his style, but having held out for as long as he has will have an impact, at least in the early part of the season. Marc Staal (who still receives a contract from the Hurricanes every day, despite being signed) and Ryan McDonagh (who just signed a pretty nice deal of his own) will head the defense, and Lundqvist will continue to perform his spot-on “brick wall” impersonation night in and night out. The team’s season will depend on King Henrik. If he signs, the team will be fine. If not, the New York media will drive this team into the ground, er, ice, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they missed the playoffs as a result. The team is at the mercy of a king. How interesting…

Philadelphia Flyers: No more Bryzgalov. This makes me sad. My sorrow is as vast as universe. Humongous big, my sorrow. *waits a few moments* Well, now that my sadness is past, it’s time to break this team down. The Flyers will be looking to make the playoffs this year after falling flat last year. The biggest change will be in net, with Ilya Bryzgalov expelled from Philly and replaced by the second coming of Ray Emery, who will be under impossible pressure as fans will expect him to go undefeated, solve world hunger, and end both the Syrian and the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts. The offense is still relatively potent, with Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn, Scott Hartnell, and Tampa castoff Vincent Lecavalier. The defense is still without Chris Pronger (whose career may be over, unfortunately), but they acquired Mark Streit, who will work with Braydon Coburn, Kimmo Timonen, and Luke Schenn. This team is like the Islanders in that goaltending will determine their fate, except this team’s fate is a little clearer. They will be improved, but they will fall short of the playoffs.

Pittsburgh Penguins: No need to embellish this. They’re making the playoffs.

Washington Capitals: The final team of our predictions, the Caps are another fun case. Alex Ovechkin is still there, so the team will be good. But what about the rest of the supporting cast? After Nicklas Backstrom and Brooks Laich, the team is a veritable question mark when it comes to offensive production. Filip Forsberg would have been an interesting addition, but the team dealt him to Nashville for Martin Erat, and Evgeni Kuznetsov is still in Russia. Defensively, Mike Green is the only name-brand defenseman on the roster, and that’s because he’s an alternate captain. In goal, Michael Neuvirth and Braden Holtby will continue to try to win the job from each other, making them a goalie by committee. This team is still plenty good though. A playoff trip is expected.

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