Atlantic Division 2014-15 Preview
By Brett Malamud
We’ve hit Monday and are now just TWO days away from the start of the NHL season. If you missed the first preview, here’s the link to the Metropolitan Division preview. The preview of divisions continues with a look at the Atlantic:
With the loss of Jarome Iginla in free agency, the Bruins will look for someone on the current roster to replace the 30 goal scorer. They dealt Johnny Boychuk to the Islanders yesterday to clear three million dollars off of the salary cap but remain 800,000 dollars over the cap. Patrice Bergeron, who tied Iginla for the 2013-14 team lead in scoring, will attempt to replicate his performance of last season. On defense, Zdeno Chara remains under contract for the next 4 seasons, and he shows no signs of slowing down with his age. Third year defenseman Dougie Hamilton will continue to grow and comes off of a year in which he had seven goals and 18 assists for 25 points. Tukka Rask will continue to produce wins in net and should carry them the distance.
The Sabres have stockpiled themselves with draft picks headed into the upcoming season, acquiring first round picks from both the Islanders (in the Thomas Vanek trade) and the Blues (In the Ryan Miller/Steve Ott trade). While the Blues pick is expected to be a late 1st round pick, the Islanders pick could be the jackpot to the first pick and Connor McDavid. However, with the Islanders trades on Saturday, the pick could end up as a mid to low first round pick. The Sabres picked Sam Reinhart with the 2nd overall pick in this year’s draft. Reinhart may start the season in the AHL, but could work his way up to the NHL by mid season. The team signed Matt Moulson a few months after dealing him to Minnesota. They also signed Brian Gionta, Andrej Meszaros and Josh Gorges. Jhonas Enroth will most likely be the starter in goal, but Michal Neuvirth will challenge him for some playing time. Tyler Myers will lead the defense, which will certainly better than last season. While the team has improved, they’re not expected to go anywhere in April.
Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings are an interesting team to watch this year. They come in with a streak of 23 consecutive appearances in the playoffs, a streak that may come to an end this season. Pavel Datsyuk already hurt his shoulder and should start the season on IR. He’ll be back around late October. Henrik Zetterberg will hope to carry the offense without him. Jimmy Howard remains between the pipes and hopes to improve from last season. Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Tatar will help to give Detroit some youth. But after them, the Red Wings look pretty old when it comes to their more significant names.
The Florida Panthers come into this season after drafting Aaron Ekblad with the first overall pick in the draft this past June. The 18 year old defenseman looks ahead to his future in the NHL which is up in the air for this season. There’s a chance that Ekblad is left off the roster at the start of this season, much to the disappointment of the Florida fans who’d like to see the youngster out on the ice. Aleksander Barkov comes off of a great rookie season and hopes to build on that. Jonathan Huberdeau could skate alongside Barkov to form a one two punch in Florida. In goal is Roberto Luongo, a major piece that can help them in the next few seasons as he finishes out his career.
The departure of former captain Brian Gionta and former assistant captain Josh Gorges to Buffalo signals a need for leadership. Defenseman P.K. Subban hopes to fill that role, along with Andrei Markov, Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty, who were all named assistant captains by GM Marc Bergevin. It’s just the second time in team history that the Canadiens do not have a captain. Carey Price remains a stud in net. The Habs will look ahead to matching a season that ended in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The trade of Jason Spezza to Dallas signals a bit of a rebuild for the Senators. Bobby Ryan, Kyle Turris and Clarke MacArthur will take over the top line. Recently signed forward David Legwand looks to fill in the second line center slot. Erik Karlsson leads a defensive unit that allowed the most goals since they allowed 291 goals back in the 1995-96 season. It will be tough for the men in net, after the Sens signed both Robin Lehner and Craig Anderson to three year deals. Both goalies could be starters and that creates a controversy. That is something that I will definitely keep my eye on.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Steven Stamkos leads the Lightning after coming off of that broken tibia that he suffered last November. Without Martin St. Louis by his side, the first line wing slot is vacant. Enter Jonathan Drouin. The rookie hopes to fill that void on the first line and is sure to be a Calder Trophy candidate. Brenden Morrow and Ryan Callahan will provide some veteran leadership, which will definitely help the young Lightning players. Ben Bishop comes off of a season in which he was named a Vezina Trophy finalist, but was hurt in the playoffs and underwent surgery on his elbow over the offseason. The Lightning hope that he can stay healthy and that they won’t have to rely on the aging Evgeni Nabokov.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk remain as a deadly pairing on offense. Dion Phaneuf heads the defensive unit. They lost Dave Bolland, Nikolai Kulemin, and Mason Raymond, which should allow the younger players such as Nazem Kadri fill bigger roles within the club. Jonathan Bernier will be the starting goaltender for the team that allowed a league-high 35.9 shots per game last season.
Brett Malamud is a Computer Science Major at Binghamton University. He is the co-founder of dabuzzza.com. His favorite athletes are Derek Jeter and Todd Bertuzzi. You can follow him on twitter at @brettnyy