Breaking Down the Atlantic Division
The Atlantic Division for the past couple years, has been one of the worst divisions in all of hockey. But that’s too be expected when you have the Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Buffalo Sabres, and the Red Wings in the same division. However, the tables have turned.
For the past couple seasons, the division was pretty much the easiest path to the playoffs for the Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, and the Florida Panthers. This year will be different. And with that, It’s time to breakdown and predict the Atlantic division(biases set aside).
1.) Tampa Bay Lightning
The Tampa Bay Lightning have done everything right within their organization. I once saw a tweet that stated how the Lightning have a elite roster right now because of Kucherov, Stamkos, Point, and Hedman. And that’s fair, but you have to realize something. Those are your tier one players and soon to be retired. But when they retire, people thinks they’ll drop off. That’s not the case; When they retire, they’ll have their tier two players ready to take a step up(Sergachev, Paul, Colton, Cirelli).
The Lightning have everything they need to continue in contention. Including one of the best goalies in the league with Andrei Vasilevskiy. And let’s just to be real honest with ourselves for a minute- as long as the Lightning have Vasilevskiy in net, they will be competing.
2.) Toronto Maple Leafs
I just stated how the Lightning are one of the best teams in hockey, and that’s true. However, if it weren’t for the Maple Leafs goalie situation, I do think that the Maple Leafs would win the Atlantic. I mean, when you have Auston Matthews, Marner, Tavares, Nylander, Muzzin, Rielly, and Giordano, it’s hard not to feel like they are one of the best rosters in hockey. That is as strong a core as any team in the league. In contrast to that statement, they’ve yet to do anything in the playoffs. And quite frankly, I’m not sure if they can repeat the spectacular season they had this past year.
When losing a guy like Jack Campbell who was a huge part to the success the Maple Leafs had last season, and when you consider how Giordano is getting older and has already shown visible signs of regressing, there are some signs that they won’t be the same team for this coming year.
I will also add this though, having added Ilya Samsonov, their goalie one situation is probably better off this year. I feel Samsonov is one of the better young goalies in the league. But, he still has to adjust to a different system. Moreover, he needs to step-up and play well when all the lights are on him because we all know that they will be.
3.) Ottawa Senators
This is the first surprising ranking on this list. But, I feel pretty strongly about it.
The Ottawa Senators have been considered one of the worst teams in hockey for the last half-decade right alongside the Red Wings, Sabres, and Canadiens. And before the NHL draft, I really thought that it would stay the same. But then they made some great moves and I feel they could be competing for the Stanley cup this year.
Going into the day of the draft, the Senators were able to acquire superstar forward, Alex DeBrincat from the Chicago Blackhawks for only a couple picks. Which, I feel we can all agree, was an absolute fleece by the Senators. Regardless if we like them or not, that was a great move by the Senators organization. But that wasn’t the only move they made.
On top of bringing in a superstar forward with DeBrincat, they also went out and signed Claude Giroux, and traded for goalie, Cam Talbot. Talbot, in my opinion, immediately improves their goaltending situation in Ottawa. And with the addition of Giroux, it gives them some extra veteran leadership for their young core of guys. Which brings me to the final point.
Their team already had a lot of young, talented players on their roster. To most that probably doesn’t scare them. I feel differently. Teams won’t be facing the joke of a team called the Senators. They will now be facing a team that will have a lineup consisting of Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stutzle, Josh Norris, Thomas Chabot, Erik Brannstrom, Drake Batherson, and Jake Sanderson. That’s a strong core if you ask me.
I personally feel that this off-season, they made every necessary move they needed to make if they wanted to compete. And I think they will.
4.) Boston Bruins
The Boston Bruins are a very strong team, but I don’t know how I feel about them heading into the season. I mean, they haven’t lost anyone, but something about their team feels off. I know that I probably sound a little crazy, but I feel like they are missing this piece that would help take their team over the hump. That is, if they want to compete. Maybe it’s because they didn’t really make any notable moves and other teams did.
I mean, they did sign Pavel Zacha which I think was a okay signing. But do any of us really think that is going to make a huge difference? I don’t. I think what keeps their team competing is their strong core of Pastrnak, Marchand, Bergeron, Hall, and McAvoy. I mean, they still have one of the best opening lineups in the league.
However, the thing that I feel will really take their team over the top is Jeremy Swayman. After Swayman began playing a fair amount, the Bruins really started to play well. Now he will get the chance to play the full season.
5.) Florida Panthers
This one is the most surprising one on this list, but I’ll explain why I have them so low here in a second if you bare with me.
I know you think that getting Matthew Tkachuk makes their team better, but In my opinion, they got much worse. Okay, much worse is an overstatement, but they gave up a lot to get Tkachuk. More than just Huberdeau, Weegar, a first and a prospect, no- it cost them more than that.
In order to make room in the cap, they had to give up a 60 point defenseman, and a 100 point winger. But they also had to let Claude Giroux and Ben Chiarot walk in free agency. Which, I know those two aren’t huge losses given the fact they only had them for half a season last year, but it’s still a loss.
Giroux brought a lot of leadership to their forward group and Chiarot was a leader on their defense. And they had to let both walk in free agency so they could acquire the 24-year old.
So, they lost a lot of good pieces this off-season, and I don’t feel Tkachuk counteracts those moves enough to make them better or even the same. I think they got worse. But, they still have Barkov, Ekblad, Bobrovsky, Knight, Tkachuk, Lundell, and Reinhart.
I just don’t feel their team is as good as it was.
6.) Detroit Red Wings
Now we get to the team we all know and love- the Red Wings. The Red Wings have improved a lot this off-season. Unfortunately, so has just about every other team in the Atlantic which could make this season very frustrating for us Red Wings fans.
As we all know, the Red Wings signed multiple players this off-season. They added Andrew Copp, David Perron and Dominik Kubalik to help out the forwards. They also added left-handed defenseman, Ben Chiarot as well as Olli Maatta. But to top it all off, they also added goaltender, Ville Husso.
The Red Wings have made a ton of great moves this off-season. But as I said before, so has every other team in the Atlantic. If the Red Wings want to compete, they are going to have to really take a step up defensively and in the crease. But this is what I’ll also add- they are going to be in a much better system this year than in previous years.
For the last couple years, the Red Wings have had Jeff Blashill behind the bench coaching their team. But, the Blashill era is done; And the Lalonde era is beginning. And Lalonde has been apart of winning teams. He was the assistant coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning in which he won two Stanley cups. Now, he’ll look to bring one to Detroit.
The Red Wings could really look do well this season, but I still have my concerns as far as their roster goes and how it compares to the other teams in the league.
7.) Buffalo Sabres
The Buffalo Sabres are my seventh ranked team in the Atlantic, but I could honestly see them doing very well this season.
The Sabres are historically bad and have been the joke of the NHL for years. However, in recent years, I’ve noticed how much better their organization has gotten and I feel we saw glimpses of that last season.
Looking back on the trade that sent Ryan O’Reilly to the St. Louis Blues, the Sabres were supposed to get a superstar sniper in Tage Thompson. But up until this year, he hasn’t really lived up to that title. And just when it seemed like his career was going to be labeled “bust” he breaks out. On top of that, you may even be able to make the argument that he is one of their best players. But that’s not all.
In a trade that sent Jack Eichel to the Vegas Golden Knights, they got Alex Tuch and top prospect, Peyton Krebs. Between those two, they have a young future and that’s before we’d even begin talking about Dylan Cozens, Rasmus Dahlin, Owen Power, and Matthew Savoie. They are on their way, I just don’t think they are ready yet.
8.) Montreal Canadiens
The Montreal Canadiens are going to be better this season than they were last year, but they still won’t be very good. The Canadiens have very poor center depth, they have a very lackluster defense, and they have a team that deals with so many injuries all year round. This season won’t be much different.
I like what they did in terms of the trade for Kirby Dach, but I will stand by this statement “They Should’ve drafted Shane Wright”. They don’t have very good centers or wingers, but Wright can play both. Additionally, Wright is ready to play day one. He’s perhaps the most pro-ready player we have seen since Alexis Lafreniere.
Nonetheless, they won’t be very good this year and I expect them to be one of the worst teams in hockey.