A look at the East

A lot of things have changed in a month in the East. The Sabres lost their co-captains. The Devils lost Rafalski and Gomez. The Rangers grabbed Gomez and Drury. The Flyers decided to replace every player on their roster.

Clearly all these moves will make the Eastern Conference much different than it was at the beginning of last year, but what are the expectations for each team…
I will take a look at each team, their losses and gains, and see exactly where I expect them to fall next year. I’ll give a high-end prediction, and low-end prediction and then an expected finish for each team. I have decided not to factor in major injuries unless a player has a history of them in order to eliminate the “out of playoffs if team misses 400 man games” low sides.

Buffalo Sabres – Lost their two co-captains and the points that go with them. This will impact them a lot as now focus falls on players like Vanek (his new contract doesn’t help either) and Afinogenov and they will have to learn to play with additional pressure from opposing teams. On the bright side Connolly should be around the entire season and they have a ton of young depth just waiting for a chance to break out. Don’t forget Miller too, he doesn’t get a lot of talk but he’s probably the single most important player on the team and keeps them in a lot of games
High: Repeat presidents trophy if all the young players click and Connolly has a great comeback year
Low: 7-8 seed if teams can adjust to their speed or Connolly can’t play the entire season due to concussion issues.
Prediction: 5 seed

New Jersey Devils – Lost two big names to free agency and replaced them with Zubrus. Not a slouch, but not an upgrade either. Still have possibly the greatest goalie ever between the pipes so you can never count them out. Their tight defensive system will also help diminish the impact of losing two stars.
High: Win the East if Brodeur has another year like last.
Low: 7-8 seed if teams can finally break the now weaker defense
Prediction: 4 seed

Atlanta Thrashers – Would have been a 5 seed last year if not for the divisional win. Didn’t really do much in the free agency market either good or bad. With Kovalchuk, Hossa and Holik they can still do some damage though and Lehtonen is very young and could have a career year. On the other hand he could slip and this team will struggle
High: Divisional win, 3rd seed if they play about as well as last year and goaltending holds up
Low: Out of the playoffs if the goaltending isn’t there. Remember it’s only a 6 point drop from 3rd to 9th
Prediction: 8th seed

Ottawa Senators – Another team that didn’t make a lot of headlines in the last few weeks however they also lost very little. Assuming they’re able to retain Emery (would be surprised if they didn’t) this is essentially the same team that just played in the Cup finals. One of the pre-season east favorites.
High: 110 point conference win season if everything stays
Low: 5-7 seed if a wheel shakes loose during the season
Prediction: 2nd seed (100-105 points)

Pittsburgh Penguins – By far the most talented young team in the league now captained by the most talented players. They’ll have an extra year of experience on all the youngsters, especially Fleury, and will have the leadership of Roberts and Rechi all year long. Possibly the pick from the east.
High: 115 point season to win the conference and presidents trophy if all goes to plan. On a side note, Crosby breaks 150 points.
Low: 4-6 seed for one of the few teams where a low is hard to see
Prediction: 1st seed (105-110 points)

New York Rangers – One of the biggest question marks of the east. Everything could mesh the way they hope and they can turn into an odd on favorite for the cup. On the other hand bringing in two big contracts can alter the dressing room a lot.
High: Win the division with a 2-3 seed if it all meshes
Low: 8-10 seed, they weren’t that far in this year and extra egos could cause issues
Prediction: 6 seed

Tampa Bay Lightning – I really like the addition of Ouellet and their big 3 make this team tough to beat on any night. Boyle is a strong presence in the back and they have the cap space to bring in some help down the stretch. They aren’t that far removed from winning the cup remember.
High: Divisional win and a 2nd seed
Low: 11-12 seed. Goaltending is a question on this team, if it falls so do they
Prediction: Divisional win and 3rd seed

New York Islanders – Wow, where do you start. Do they even have anyone besides DiPietro left? Easily took the biggest losses July 1st and although Guerin and Comrie are good editions this team is a lot worse than 12 months ago. I guess on the plus side they have a lot of cap space.
High: Tavares is able to be drafted a year early
Low: He isn’t
Prediction: 15 seed

Toronto Maple Leafs – I can hear the flaming starting already. On a more serious note, this team fixed their two major weakness from last season, Goaltending via Toskala and a winger for Mats Sundin via Blake. They finished 1 point out of the playoffs last year while losing a ton of games due to injuries. The Toskala/Raycroft duo looks to be promising assuming the latter isn’t moved in the next few months.
High: 4 seed
Low: 10 seed
Prediction: 7 seed

Montreal Canadien – Made some interesting moves that should improve the team despite losing Souray to free agency (ultimately to the Oilers). Huet is still capable of playing very well and they lost a good amount of games due to circumstance last year (injury, flu).
High: 5-7 seed
Low: 12 seed
Prediction: 9 seed

Carolina Hurricanes – No big moves either way here however this is a team that is only 1 year removed from winning it all after posting 112 points. Another one of the Easts big question marks which is reflected in the huge gap between high and low. Playing in one of the leagues weakest divisions could work to their advantage.
High: Divisional win in the 3rd seed
Low: 14 seed
Prediction: 12th seed.

Florida Panthers – Not really sure anyone notices these guys still play hockey. They did address their goaltending need with the addition of Vokoun however as a whole the team is still full of holes.
High: 9-10 seed
Low: 14 seed
Prediction: 13 seed

Boston Bruins – They have a goalie now but it remains to be seen if they can fix the other problems with the team. They showed flashes last year and remained in the hunt for a bit but eventually fell off. I expect something similar this year.
High: 8th seed, Goaltending could fix it all, who knows
Low: 14th seed
Prediction: 14th seed

Washington – Nylander, Kozlov and Poti will bring a lot to the table. Kolzig remains between the pipes which keeps them in a lot of games they shouldn’t be in. Still remains to be seen if they can get everything going well again.
High: 6-8 seed
Low: 14 seed
Prediction: 11 seed

Philadelphia Flyers – Wow. Talk about turning a team around in a hurry. They went from odds on favorites to win the entry draft to probably the leagues most improved team in the course of a month. They fixed goaltending, they got a couple solid d-men, they got scoring, now to see if it fits together which makes them the biggest question mark of the league to me. Still need to o
vercome being a slow team.
High: 4-6 seed It could all come right
Low: 14 seed So many new faces could make it hard to get the season going and could leave them as sellers at the end
Prediction: 10 Seed Yes they’re improved, but they were downright awful last year, I give it another year before everything is good.

For those who don’t remember all the individual predictions here are the compiled results. I have also included a little note to show how far up or down from last year I expect the team to go

1. Pittsburgh Penguins (+4)
2. Ottawa Senators (+2)
3. Tampa Bay Lightning (+4)
4. New Jersey Devils (-2)
5. Buffalo Sabres (-4)
6. New York Rangers (0)
7. Toronto Maple Leafs (+2)
8. Atlanta Thrashers (-5)
9. Montreal Canadien (+1)
10. Philadelphia Flyers (+5)
11. Washington Capitols (+3)
12. Carolina Hurricanes (-1)
13. Florida Panthers (-1)
14. Boston Bruins (-1)
15. Quebec Nordiques (hehe)
16. New York Islanders (-7)

Just to point out some last things.
– Although teams like Florida and Boston improved I don’t see much upswing in the standings for them due to the teams around them (Washington and Philly) also moving up.
– The only team I expect to be way out of the race is the Islanders. Above that and there’s a chance any team could make it.
– 7 of the 8 playoff teams return with the Isles making an exit and the Leafs coming in.

I would appreciate if people would keep the flames about a given team or this type of article out of here and offer only their thoughts on my analysis and predictions. It’s possible I missed something, feel free to point it out.

38 Responses to A look at the East

  1. CrosbyMalkin66 says:

    Id say thats a pretty reasonable outlook. I like the Pens first and Ottawa second. I like Washington possibly challenging this year.. maybe even getting that 3rd seed if Atlanta and Tampa suck it up.

  2. getzlaf15 says:

    I agree with your predictions but I think Toronto will move up to fourth or fifth place in the conference.

  3. aj_furf says:

    I agree with most of your analysis and predictions.  The Pens were on fire in the second half last year and I think they've made the additions that will have them jump out to an early lead in the East.  I think the Sens are almost a sure bet to win their division, and while the 3rd seed is a toss-up, I agree the TB will grab it.

    I foresee the Flyers getting off to a really slow start which will get the media buzzing about another fire sale.  However I think they will pull it together and squeek into the 8th seed by the end of the regular season.  I see Atlanta being the odd team out in this equation.

    Other than that I'd swap the NY Rangers and the NJ Devils just based the players gained/lost this off-season.  There'd be some quality 1st round matchups with the following standings:

    1. Pittsburgh
    2. Ottawa
    3. Tampa
    4. NY Rangers
    5. Buffalo
    6. NJ Devils
    7. Toronto
    8. Philadelphia
    9. Atlanta
    10. Montreal
    11. Florida
    12. Carolina
    13. Washington
    14. Boston
    15. NY Islanders

    I can see this being Ottawa's first time beating Toronto in the playoffs and finally getting that monkey off their back (then getting swept in the 2nd round by the Rangers)

  4. BLUE_AND_WHITE says:

    I think Tampa and Carolina could be switched. otherwise very well done.

  5. ranger_fan says:

    I still stand by my statement of the Washington Capitals winning the southeast division and thus 3rd seed. I am not saying that they are better than the four other teams but this team played with so much passion with very little talent. Their defense is going to determine their fate. But they will have two big lines, a potentially lethal PP, and Kolzig. I say they are the "Cinderella Story"

  6. Glucker says:

    I think it's safe to say NYR will be better this year then last… my predictions:
    11) Thrashers
    13) Bruins
    14) Panthers
    15) Islanders

  7. Glucker says:

    Capitals and Lightening could switch positions…

  8. bernie1parent says:

    i dont like your predictions at all, i think they are very unreasonable.  You're giving a team with absolutely no offense what-so-ever the 4 seed, i mean, come on.  Even with brodeur, whose aging, the devils will fall further then that, no higher then the 6th seed. 
    2-pittsburgh (dont think its fleurys break out year yet, but the offense is still there)
    3-Florida (a lot of young players up and coming and with the addition of voukoun, that'll put them up over the playoff mark, its just a matter that the south is extremely weak that 92 pts could win the division)
    4-Buffalo (still a lot of talent on the farm team and team itself, how far they slip though depends on miller, i have faith)
    5-New York Rangers (defense is horrendous, but we'll see how the offense and lund handle everything)
    6-Atlanta (not much has changed, i still think they could win the division, but im going to give florida the edge)
    7-Toronto (have improved, but not enough to put them up in the top tier)
    8-Flyers (greatly improved, playing in the toughest division of all keeps them from moving any higher, but expect seeds 7-11 to be all within 5-6 pts of each other)
    9-Devils (i really do not trust this team, no offense, aging goalie, even if he is marty brodeur)
    10-Montreal (they always die)
    11-Tampa (no goaltending, offense can only take you so far)
    12-Carolina (where did they go?)
    13-Boston (did they resign bobby orr yet?)
    14-Washington (anything beyond the first line is weak, goaltending is decent but their defense hasn't shown anything)
    15-Isles (need i say any more)

  9. morrissey says:

    1. Pittsburgh Penguins

    Youth will improve and have increased veteran presence – the team to beat.

    2. Ottawa Senators

    Very much the same team that went to the finals last year – still a contender.

    3. Tampa Bay Lightning

    Only finishing 3rd because they will win a terrible dvision – too much cap space tied up in too few players.

    4. New York Rangers

    Drury & Gomez is an upgrade over Nylander, will have Avery from day 1. Need defence.

    5. Buffalo Sabres

    Major losses to UFA market, but from possibly the deepest roster.

    6. Montreal Canadiens

    Youth will continue improve, could get breakout seasons from several players. Need defence.

    7. Philadelphia Flyers

    Much improved but from a terrible base.

    8. Toronto Maple Leafs

    UFA additions enough to make playoffs…this year. Roster quality drops off very quickly.

    9. New Jersey Devils

    Major losses on an already thin roster, Brodeur will have to be stellar for team to finish higher.

    10. Atlanta Thrashers

    It's called defence.

    11. Washington Capitols

    Better but this team has no depth.

    12. Carolina Hurricanes

    Old and slow players will be older and slower than last year.

    13. Florida Panthers

    Thanks Mike Keenan for setting this team back years.

    14. Boston Bruins

    Team still not committed to winning.

    16. New York Islanders

    After initially laughing at Garth Snow's appointment, I rather liked what he did once on the job – apparently none of the players did though.

  10. bleedingblu says:

    If the Montreal Canadiens youth continue to progress they will barely make the playoffs… if they don't they will finish 10th. I think they have some good young talent but I don't think they are talented enough to carry a team to 6th spot! Look at the roster stats last year…. a lot of minuses along with low scoring! Its wishful thinking…

  11. the_word says:

    Dude, didn't you know, Hamrlik is going to win the Norris and Montreal has the greatest collection of young prospects ever in the history of sports. Their still gonna need a year to develop though, so Montreal will only make it to game seven of the Stanley Cup finals. But in the years that follow, calling the Habs a contender will be an understatement. Forget twenty four cups, they'll end up with fifty.

    Now here is a game for non Hab fans, name 5 of their prospects off the top of your head (its ok if you can't, because no one can).

  12. nj814 says:

    First off i agree with your predictions mostly with all the teams and think that any south east team has a chance to win the division

    1 Pittsburg- So young, so talented. another year of experience and a potential scoring winger
    2 Ottawa- Kept the core just gotta resign Emery and i see them pitt and rangers with a big lead int he east
    3 Washington- My upset. Great scoring talent and a good goalie that can keep them in games. Nylander is a perfect fit for Ovechkin
    4Rangers- As long as the new additions mesh, could be the team to beat but i see chemistry problems eary then dominating the second half. not enough to beat pitt tho
    5 Buffalo- lost the big 2, still have a ton of depth and vanek and afinogenov will be the new big 2
    6 New Jersey- Always said not to make the playoffs, always do. Elias is more a a playmaker than a goalscorer anyway. Brodeur wil carry the team
    7 Toronto- great new additions definetly a playoff team with chance to be higher
    8 Canadiens- lost souray got hamerlik, not much of a downgrade and if the team can not get the flu this year should slip into the playoffs
    9 Thrashers- i like the thrashers and think any team in the southeast can win. See them missing the playoffs by 1-2 points
    10 Tampa- Same as atlanta but worse goaltending and if one of the big 3 gets hurt this team is dead in the water
    11 Flyers- good additions but i dont se ehow people think a back up goalie and briere can bring this team from 15 to a playoff spot. just not happening
    12 Carolina- i dont know what happened tot his team. If wardhas a good year then they could be top of the conference. the biggest question mark to me
    13 Bruins- Fernandez is good but not good enough. A couple more years and kessel will carry this  team to the playoffs but not yet
    14 Panthers- A good young team but still needs a few more years
    15 Islanders- Too many key loses. Just not a very good team but who knows maybe dipietro can carry them

    what do you guys think

  13. the_word says:

    With so many games within the division, at least two teams from the SE make the playoffs. Washington is a bold prediction, but I discounted Pittsburg last summer, so who knows.  I hope your right about the Fyler because they'd be screwed for years as their right up against the cap.  I think Buffalo is going to fall a little further back.

  14. EddieAVS says:

    ummm ok. do i get anything

    Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn, Carey Price, Kyle Chipchura, and… Grabovski. Corey Locke, O’byrne…

  15. rangers914 says:

    why does everyone think the rangers defense is so bad you guys need to watch a ranger game jsut because they dont have pronger or rafalski or whoever else doesnt mean there not good..you people forget in the last 33 of the last 44 games of last season opponents scored less than 3 goals against the rangers and that was WITH the losses of Fedor Tyutin for 3 weeks and Karel Rachunek for 3 weeks and dont say it was all Lundqvist because it wasnt if you watched their games there were some where lundqvist didnt have to break a sweat 25 shots on goal was alot against lundqvist during that stretch so i would say there defense is NOT an issue like everyone is making it

  16. ranger_fan says:

    Everyone thinks that because they've seen Malik play!

    The Rangers D in my opinion isn't underrated either. The reason being is the Rangers offense dominated time of possession, and not necessarily the defense.

  17. MikeGartner says:

    I like Ottawa as the #1.  Not sure why everyone is sold on the Pens being the squad to beat.  The are a good team, excellent offence, but their goaltending is extremely shaky at best.  The Rangers defense is far from horrendous, as noted by their late season run, where the D held opponents to less then 3 goals a game, often times to less then 20 shots.  Does everyone forget how this D played against Atlanta in the playoffs?  While I agree their may be problems of meshing, on paper, the Rangers are looking very forminable.  Devils make the playoffs.

  18. MikeGartner says:

    I am amazed at how Malik can cause such discredit to what amounts to an otherwise unknown, younger, mobile defense corp.  Malik, for a man of his size, must of played with Poti for too long because all he does his poke check, and when he misses an assignment, he misses badly.  His +/- is an abberration.  Girardi, on the big stage, is quite the comlimentary defensemen.  With Staal coming up, the D is in good shape.  Im not saying its the Devils of 199x-2003,  But its good for the new NHL. 

  19. the_word says:

    The problem is that I don't know if your right or not.  If so, I suspect you cheated or are a closest Habs fan.  If you can prove otherwise you get free tickets to the 2010 World Series, but (spoiler alert) I'm going ruin it for you the Habs win one too.

  20. hatterson says:

    I agree the rangers will be better, and will probably hit 100 points.  However given that the top 4 last year had 105+ points (this obviously excludes the gimme 3 seed) they can easily hit 100-102 points and still get the 6 seed.
    I see a real drop (upwards of 10 points) between the top 5 (Sens, Rangers, Pens, Sabres, Rangers) and the rest.

  21. hatterson says:

    Yea the southeast division is very hard to gauge.  If a few things drop right any of the 5 teams could conceivably take the 3 seed.

    Things could also swing the other way and the division crashes and only gets in the playoffs due to the automatic 3 seed.

  22. hatterson says:

    In order to hit the 4 seed they have to beat one of Buffalo/Ottawa and two of Rangers/Jersey/Pens.  I just don't see that happening (even though I'd love it to).

  23. hatterson says:

    Marty may be aging but he's coming off possibly the best statistical season a goalie has ever had.  Even if he loses a step from that he's still top 3 in the NHL.  I can't count the Devils out of the playoffs until game 82.

  24. BLUE_AND_WHITE says:

    the habs have a good youth system. 2nd in the league, as they brag about, i dont think so. all those guys still ahve to turn out.

    Tlusty=S. Kostitsyn
    plus they have A. Kostitsyn, Locke, fischer

  25. rcichard03 says:

    roy was still pretty dominate when he was old …. dont mention hasek he just has a good team around him … throw him on a terrible team like clbj and watch those 20 shots a game go up to arou8nd 40-50 and watch blow outs like 9-0

  26. rcichard03 says:

    kostitsyn made the team already … hes not a prospect …. pogge  is far better then pice…. stramen dangles like mad …. they picked up grabovski , chipchura might have the edge on kulemin … but to say there equal and kulemin was just drafted is funny ….tht means tht he will be better…if kulemin has as many years as chipchura in development … then he would be bettewr..idk where u get the 2nd best youth system in the leaugue … if ur talking about hockeyd futures ur on fu.cken crack … cuz tht site knows nothing

  27. tacitus says:

    i find it easier to rank the divisions first then rank the conference



  28. toomanymistakes says:

    Very very good article very reasonable 

    Souteast I think is more or less up for grabs 
    In also think that this will prolly be the year that NJ finally drops out of the 
    playoffs losing thier best defencemen and pp quaterback not to mention 
    thier 1st/2nd best scoring foward I just don't see Brodeur and Elias carrying 
    the load it is too much to ask. I also think that Buffalo might be in for big dropoff..
    Vanek and Afingenov will be the #1 scorign threats and teams will key on them which they are not used to. 
    Southeast- up for grabs early favs are Tampa-Atlanta
    New York Islanders no no jk Rangers
  29. bernie1parent says:

    wow, the additions of biron and briere are the only things the flyers did apparently from your statement above, cause thats far from the truth.
    Smith, Timmonen, Hartnell, Lupul, Briere, Biron.  Thats one helluva offseason, one that should put them over the edge if they mesh with the present team.  I mean, briere feeding gags, throw one more french canadian on there, and thats nuts!

  30. mooresy44 says:

    i hear ya there, but the bluejackets didnt get blown out this year with a goalie who has no where near the capability brodeur does

  31. mooresy44 says:

    bruins are going to make playoffs.  watch

  32. mooresy44 says:

    Nobody has any faith in the Bruins, are there no Bruins fans left after the thing we would all like to have back in the thornton trade?

  33. Quebec4Life says:

    I agree for some of it, but it should look a lot more like this.

    1. Pittsburgh
    2. Buffalo
    3. Tampa
    4. Ottawa
    5. New York Rangers
    6. Florida (big surprises coming from coach Martin and Vokoon thats just my opinion)
    7. Philadelphia (slow start, but best in second half)
    8. Montreal (Youngsters will prove there's hope in montreal)
    9. Washington
    10. New Jersey (hopefully we won't see that boring team in the playoffs)
    11. Toronto
    12. Atlanta (Biggest deception)
    13. Carolina
    14. Boston
    15. Hamilton Bulldogs (c'mon even them would kill New York Islanders…)
    16. New York Islanders


  34. EddieAVS says:

    i guess you know much more…

  35. PointMeAtTheSky says:

    Good article, here are my predictions:

    1. Ottawa : they're Ottawa, and i gave them the edge over the Pens because they're more experienced.

    2. Pittsburgh: No need to explain this one.

    3. Atlanta: the only other  tram that could compete for this is Tampa. Hossa and Kovalchuk can match Vinny and Marty, and Lehtonen is better then what the Bolts have.

    4. Buffalo: Still very deep, will still compete for the division…but fall short.

    5.New Jersey: they're friggin New Jersey, come on!

    6: New York Rangers: I doubt that Gomez and Drury will give them much of a boost. Gomez is a slight improvement over Nylander, but not by much, and Drury isn't a high scorer…but a good clutch player that will help…In the playoffs.

    7: Tampa: the Big 4 will help them make the play-offs, but don't expect too much.

    8: Toronto: Improved on their weaknesses, can make the play-offs, but won't go far.

    9: Montreal: will make a push for the play-offs but may come up short.

    10: Carolina: will also make a push, but also may come up short

    11: Philadelphia: I have many doubts about their "improved team"

    12: Florida: improved, may make a push, but still not good enough/

    13: Washington: the day will come, but not yet.

    14: Boston: again, will fight for a spot, but too many better teams.

    15: New York Islanders: not as bad as some people seem to think, but too man better teams.

  36. PointMeAtTheSky says:

    Sorry for the typos, I have course meant team, not tram. and Many, not man.

    Also: I'm hoping for Mr Murray to make a big deal today, one that'll really benefit the team and improve it. It's my 19 birthday today, and what better present could I ask for? God loves me. 😀

  37. the_word says:

    The Hamilton Predators have a better chance of making the playoffs next year.

  38. DoubleDown says:

    what is wrong with the youth of today? why can none of you kids write properly or string together a single coherent sentence?

    as for your analysis, it's not even worth debating because you're a blind homer, and you know absolutely nothing about the Habs.

    where the Habs will finish is anyone's guess. could be 12th, could be 5th. who knows? no team other than pittsburgh and maybe LA is going to be as reliant on so many 1st, 2nd and 3rd year players playing such prominent roles on the team, especially if Price or Halak end up starting. it's a tough call and my honest answer is I have no idea if they'll make the playoffs or not.

    but this junk with Leaf fans tearing down our prospects is getting silly. get over it. we have a lot of good prospects and a bright future. why do you care anyway? it's not your team. i'm not going to say price is better than pogge until one or both make the show, but to say that pogge is far better than price–what are you basing this on? the fact that pogge had all that AHL success this season and was named playoff MVP at 19 and Price flamed out as a 20-year-old?

    come on man…shut your mouth and open your eyes for once…

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