Battling in the Atlantic

This current offseason has certainly changed the look of many teams. These new looks could be viewed both for the good or bad of the team in many’s eyes. However, this season is full of tighter divisional races as well as conference and league wide competetion. One very tight division that could go in several directions is the Atlantic. I take a look at each team and who came in and went out and where I predict them finishing in the division come April.


Penguins- The Penguins began last season with high hopes of the playoffs when they had on board Palffy,Lemeuix, Recchi,Leclair,Malone, Crosby and Gonchar. Many expected them to get a spot in the playoffs and some even thought that they would be a cup contender. However, things obviously went bad when Palffy and mario retired and the rest(except crosby) didnt meet expectations. So, they were again one of the worste teams and got the 2nd draft selection.

This summer they have acquired: Dominic Moore, ROnald Petrovicky, Jarkko Ruutu, Nils Ekman, and Mark Eaton, possibly Evgeni Malkin

This summer they have lost Surovy,Boguineky.

Theyre defense gets a boost from the quick eaton and they get a little more offense in Nils Ekman. However, they may also have first rounder Evgeni Malkin come October depending on how his situation goes. This would give the Penguins a huge boost and have a great 1-2 punch in Crosby-Malkin. This would be one of the best in the nhl assuming he lives up to his hype. However, even with Malkin this team just is not deep enough to raise themselves into playoff contention. They are improved over last year but this young team still needs time. In a few years they will be incredible with the young core of Malkin, Crosby,Staal… However, I think that they will battle it out with the Islanders for 2nd to last place and I think that the Penguins will find their way in front of the Isles.

NJ Devils- Even with major cap problems right now, as it stands, this team is dangerous. They will have a healthy Elias from the start, which is very important because of how his return impacted the team last season. Brodeur is without doubt going to shine again, like always. However, the big question lurking in everyones’ mind is, who are they going to deal in order to get below the cap limit? The answer to this question, in my opinion, could mean a division title or a mediocre season. If they wind up having to get rid of one of gomez,gionta,madden,rafalski I beleive that they will not be the team they were last year. If you get rid of Gionta you lose your highest scoring player as well as your fastest. If you lose Gomez, you lose a player with a tremendous skill set who can find teamates and create chances as well as put the puck in the net. If you lose Madden, you lose one of the better defensive forwards in the game that has been a vital part to the team’s succesful defense. Last, if Rafalski is gone, they lose their best dman who was their PP QB and is very quick. Without him, their defense suffers immensly. I am under the impression that they will have to move an impact player so that they can be under the cap once again. As it stands now, I rank this team as the divisional champions. However, if they lose any of those players mentioned I beleive they will finish 3rd in the Atlantic.

Philadelphia Flyers- Last summer brought very high hopes to philly. All hockey experts sang their praise for Bobby Clarke when he announced the signings of Forsberg, Hatcher and Rathje. We were then picked to win it all by many. However, the first half of the season did not dissapoint as we found ourselves on top of the league. However, injuries appeared right and left and one by one most of our players began a 2nd half a season of hell. Suddenly, our defense looked slow and terrible, our offense looked like a one line squad. And our goaltending was again becoming shaky and a question mark. However, this summer brought, hopefully, new beginnings to a very succesful season as Clarke was determined to address several key issues from last year. They had trouble with keeping up with faster teams like buffalo, so they got Geoff Sanderson, Randy Robitalle,Mark Cullen, Lars Johnson, Nolan Baumgartner,and Marty Murray. Also, we had a lack of scoring depth so he signed those players mentioned above along with trading for Kyle Calder. With the ability to roll 3-4 lines that can all contribute, along with a new mindset of an all out attack offense, I beleive that the Flyers will finish 1st in the division givin that the devils lose one of the players I mentioned. Otherwise, they will finish 2nd. If you wish to view a more in depth look at all aspects of the team for next year, look at my recent article on the flyers…

NY Rangers- Last year this time, hockey “experts” picked this team to finish near the bottom of the conference. However, with the phenominal play of Jaromir Jagr and the emergence of Petr Prucha, along with the stellar and vezina worthy goaltending from Henrik Lunqvist, the Rangers were able to grab a spot in the playoffs and hold on. However, when Jagr went down in the playoffs, everyone knew that they were done. This only showed me how much they depended on him for their offense. However, this summer they have acquired Brendan Shanahan, Matt Cullen and Aaron Ward and Adam Hall. With these signings they have certainly added more ability and depth up front. Shanahan showed no signs of slowing down last season as he put up wonderful numbers for a very talented Detroit club last season. If he mantains his form, he will be a huge boost for this team. However, if his aging begins to weigh down upon him, this signing will begin to look like a bust. Nevertheless, he will provide some great leadership to NY. Also, Matt Cullen and Aaron Ward both came off of a great playoff run and a very succesful season that led to a stanley cup for both. They provide some much needed depth and a winning attitude to a city that expects to win. I expect this Rangers club to finish 2nd in the atlantic, if the devils lose one of those players, or 3rd if they do not.

NY Islanders- Even though this team was not picked to do much last season, they did not disappoint the experts. The team looked like it was falling apart while its important pieces werent staying together. THis team really needed great seasons from Satan, York, Yashin, and its goalies but they did not come through. The defense also showed how weak it was in not playing around Dipietro. So, out went Kvasha, Parrish and in, this summer, came Sean Hill, Brendan Witt, Tom Poti, and Mike Sillinger. These defensive signings will certainly help a poor defenisive squad while Sillinger will provide a fairly young team with leadership and offensive abilities. However, I do not expect a better year, in fact I think they will finish even below the Penguins this season.

Final thought- I think that the divison could be up for grabs for the devils, rangers, and flyers. However, much depends on how the devils handle their current cap difficulties.

23 Responses to Battling in the Atlantic

  1. I_hate_LA says:

    The atlantic division’s order should like this…

    NY Rangers: Adding Shanahan, Cullen, Ward, and Hall could spell chaos for the other clubs. Lundqvist is questionable during the playoffs, but I won’t be surprised if he pulls off a Cam Ward; and during the regular season he was an acrobat. A healthy Jagr would also add more offense as seen what he is capable of.

    Philadelphia Flyers: Forsberg and Co. are going to make it tough for any team in the atlantic. If Gagne signs then they will definitely be ranked second. There is also young talent found in Carter who looked pretty impressive throughout the season. Nittymakki is going to be impressive as well.

    NJ Devils: Brodeur will always be spectacular. Getting Elias back will definitely help them as seen when he healed from his hapitatis illness. If there is a way that both Gomez and Gionta can be re-signed then I think NJ will be up there, but I can’t see that happening.

    Penguins: It looks like Malkin will be dropping by, which is not looking good for the other clubs at all. I think Malkin will have a good season, but it’s his first year and you’ll never know. With Recchi coming back and if palffy decides to come out of retirement then i think they will be really good offensively; however, they’re lacking defense.

    NY Islanders: Ummmm…. I don’t know, but they don’t look as competitive as the other clubs on paper, but we’ll just wait and see as the season unravels.

    Go ahead and make your own judgements, but don’t come and bash my opinion because it’s just only mine.

  2. pensfan21 says:

    regaurding the pens, the crosby/malkin punch will be one of the best in the NHL, the only way you can argue against is if you missed the olympics. the only way i see the pens making the playoffs this year is if they revert to the pens of the early 90’s and beat teams 7-6, 9-8, ect. i think they have the firepower to do it, but thats only if everyone lives up to their potential.

  3. I_hate_LA says:

    First of all thanks for not bashing me and my opinion. Second, I think the Pens will thrive with the addition of Malkin and I think they have a better chance of making the playoffs than many clubs, but I can’t see them being handed the cup right off the bat. Third, there is no doubt that the Pens will be a force for many many years.

  4. gojiclan says:

    I think the devils are in a little more trouble than people think. Not only is Gomez in a bad place with his cap number, but also don’t forget how potent the line of Gionta-Gomez-Elias was. During the end of the season they kept the team winning. Gionta might not be on the team either at this point, as his contrat remains to be taken care of by Lou. Losing Rafalski will be more of a hit to their success than people think. We are all talking about the offense but he was a major player ont heir defensive squad.

    I am also wondering when (if) Brodeur will begin to show signs of age. He has played more than any other goalie during the past 10 seasons, i think he is averaging 70+ games a year. He didn’t look like the monster he used to be in this past playoffs, and I am wondering if a further weakend defense will show more of that.

    I also think the flyers will finish anywhere from 1st to third in their division. If forsberg stays healthy, and they sign gagne *which i am sure they will* than they have a definite shot at the first place. IF the whole team is injured, like they were last year, than they are in a worse spot than last because they don’t have the likes of Handzus and others to help stop the bleeding.

  5. NjDEVSFN says:

    Elias Gomez Gionta WAS a great line

    last season finished with the following:

    Parise Gomez Gionta

    Elias Brylin Langenbrunner

    of course, the PP was

    Elias Gomez Gionta

    Rafalski Langenbrunner

  6. Doctor says:

    Here is how the Atlantic division will fall:

    1- NY Rangers: A good hockey club starts with good goaltending and works its way out. The Rangers don’t only have great goaltending, but young goaltending as well. Lundqwist is a vezina caliber goalie who will win plenty of awards in his time and Montoya may be just as good in a few years. The Rangers defensive corp is young, big and skilled. Staal is the real deal, as I have followed him for two years now through work and had the oppurtunity to see him play. He is a rock on defense. Tyutin is a future all star and Roszival only led the NHL in plus minus last year. Kasparitis, Hall, Ozonolish, Malik and Pock are players that any team in the NHL would use. The unbelievable thing about the Rangers though is that their offense is just as potent these days. Pock had a breakout year last year and will only improve his play making to raise his points to around a point per game. Immonen, one of NY’s top prospects, an incoming rookie, will be the Rangers #2 centre next year and if he plays up to his most modest scouting report, he will make a calder run. The addition of Shanny gives the Rangers a much needed veteran boost and creates an off wing first line with the likes of Jagr and Nylander to feed him whatever he needs to get 40 plus goals by june. Even with the loss of Rucinsky and Sykora, Straka is still around and the Rangers simply have too much firepower. The energy line is still looking strong despite Ortmeyer’s condition and Moore’s departure. I can gurantee that the Rangers will win the atlantic for all of these reasons.

    2- Philadelphia Flyers: Injuries will almost bump the Fylers into 3rd, but fantastic depth will save them. Forsberg and Gagne, as talented as they are, will not win a team a stanley cup alone and fortunately for the flyers, they have the ammunition to make up for their injuries and contract complications. Umberger, Carter and the rest of the Flyers prospects are solid. Pitkanen showed flashes of offensive brilliance last summer. Nittymaki will pull through this year and that is that. Hitch***** and the gang will stay in contention until January and take off running as soon as Forsberg gets chemistry with his linemates post physical therapy.

    3- Penguins: At this time last year if anybody told you the Rangers would dominate the Atlantic division for major stretches of the season you would dismiss them as either fans or idiots. For similar reasons to the Rangers, the Penguins will make the playoffs. Their goaltending is superb in Fleury who by all reports has grown into his shoes. But the Penguins may be the only team in the league whose goaltending is a moot issues. Why? Because of their young prodigies. Through work I have watched Malkin for years now and I assure you he that he will be the best big man in the league. He has stretches where his game mirrors Lemiux in his prime and his mean streak is dangerous. His shot is a cannon and his skating stride is heavy. There is no stopping him. Another big man the penguins just picked up is Staal. By all reports he is stronger than his brother was at his age, as he can bench close to 500 pounds. No team with a 1-2-3 punch like Crosby-Malkin-Staal will not make the playoffs. I don’t mind if you disagree, but know that this is a difference of opinion and I get paid for myn. Although the Pen’s defense is still questionable, there is no denying that it got better over the summer with the elk’ signing and Fleury simply growing into grown man clothes.

    4- Devils: Elias is one of the best players in the league and if it was not for his deal, a basement bargain, the Devils would not be in contention. But they are still in deep salary sh*t and there is not a way out this year. The Devils cash is tied up and their defense is sorely lacking. Although the Devils still have the best goalie in hockey, I have to ask whether he is enough considering that they will unquestionably not be able to sign at least one of their top point producers and in the following years two to three more will depart. The next few years mark a rebuilding phase for the Devils if they are smart and choose to act before Brodeur retires, for when Broduer retires, the Devils do not have a foundation anymore.

    NY Islanders: I am done with being optimistic about DiPietro. DiPietro can’t make a blocker save if it is shot to the top corner. He just can’t make a save against that shot. Every time the Islanders played Tampa last year, St. Louis had almost a 1000% shooting percentage because he would just shoot top corner. Jagr too. every sniper in the game knows that DiPietro, despite being able to save many dekes with that butterfly stance and pass the puck like a fancy d man, can not save a high blocker shot. So DiPietro, in my opinion, is not a good foundation. From there on out the Islanders just get worse and worse. I don’t see the Islanders making the playoffs with Yashin on contract. It’s both symbolic and a cause and effect. Yashin, while he plays hard on some nights, is in general an enigmatic and one sided player who has too much potential for his own good. And his supporting cast is undersized. Very undersized.

    Look for a Rangers-Ducks stanley cup this year.

  7. I_hate_LA says:

    I agree, you’re probably more right than I am.

  8. kamullia says:

    I do not think it is too much of a stretch to think that there are decent possibilities to have 4 teams from this division in the playoffs.

    At the end I expect to see Atlanta, Boston, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, and Toronto battling for the final 2 playoff spots with Florida, the Islanders, Tampa Bay, and Washington clearly out.

    Carolina gest such a break from clearly being in the weakest division in the East. That is why although I love the rivalries of playing a team 8 times in your division, it gives a clear advantage in points to teams in weak divisions. I wouldn’t mind seeing the division games down to 6, instead of 8 in that respect, but I am ok with the status quo.

  9. segalkiller says:

    I_hate_LA- i agree completely with ur prediction. why would any1 bash them? its the only possible order.

  10. deuceswild says:

    I can see how NJ, NYR and philly allmake the playoffs again but who would be the 4th. Certainly not Islanders with what their team is shaping up like at the moment. Too many holes, no depth. Pittsburgh has a chance….in a couple years. They also have too many holes on defense and their goaltending is also not that good. Yes they have some up and comers in staal and malkin and crosby but staal is not playing this year and the team has not improved much from last year and they were terrible.

  11. kamullia says:

    Pittsburgh’s defense will depend on their young prospects, but that might not be as bad as everyone believes:

    1. Gonchar was 8th in scoring among all defensemen and was totally atrocious in more than half the season, so his resurgence was remarkable. The question for him is can he keep his PIMs down, but he should in theory because of good defensive help this year.
    2. Whitney was 38th in scoring among all defensemen and on a really bad team that is extremely good, more so for a rookie. He is bound to improve by all signs thus far, but he is only one year removed from his rookie season. He was a call up last season (an early one), and ended the year in the first pairing with Gonchar. This will be his first full NHL season.
    3. Welch was called up for 5 games only total, and during real bad times when the only call-ups were allowed for injury. He reminded me of Larry Murphy, even if that is a mouthful. The Pens at that time were not only bad on defense, but were totally banged up. He responded with (1+3=4, even). He will be a rookie in his first full season, but everyone has reiterated he is more than ready and capable to log top minutes easily. 6-4 212 can skate extremely well for his height, extremely good passer, great slap and wrist shots.
    4. Eaton is a solid defensive defenseman. All he has to do is be himself and he will be perfect for the Penguins.
    5. Orpik improved significantly in his defensive aspects, and he is a player everyone has to keep their eyes on while on the ice, unless they prefer to watch the nice pretty lights above. He has been getting better consistently, but needs to keep his PIMs a little lower.
    6. Scuderi has shown mostly to be a very capable defensive defenseman, but has had rare lapses. He could become another Eaton, but regardless the Penguins will not have to rely on him for significant ice-time with their lineup. He also has constantly improved.
    7. Melichar is a coin. Flip every 20 seconds of ice time or so, and that determines how he will play. But they should not have to rely on him much at all (if any).
    8. Cairns is liability. But he is the muscle when it is time to beat up on someone, and he is a pretty tough customer at that. Basically put him on the ice for 10 seconds, let him find the punching bag, or get him off.
    9. Paul Bissonnette was THE best defenseman in camp a couple of years back, but was so young that was sent back to juniors. He has only been a pro for a year now, all of it in the AHL, but he has already shown he is capable and could be relied upon when necessary.

    Starting goaltending is not an issue in Pittsburgh. Yes, they have Fleury who is still learning, but this will be his first full season in Pittsburgh and did so by earning the spot. He is a capable NHL starter as is, and shows stellar abilities in just about every game. He should improve from last year, but even if he did not, the Penguins will not lose games because of him. Thibault will be the backup, and he will be used sporadically, but at that level he should be ok. Let’s keep in mind that Thibault did have a hip problem and had surgery for it, so it is very possible for him to improve his performance, especially considering you can not go much lower than he did last year.

    Offense is not much of an issue. Once Malkin adjusts to the rink-size and pace (not expected to be an issue), you can put two pylons next to him and he will get plenty of points, similar (if not better) than what Crosby did last year. Malkin makes a big difference also because it will shift positions for many players to play where they are more effective, and not feel out of position.

    But the most improvement on this team was in the blue-collar lines. Apparently Shero’s idea was to make sure to have responsible and capable 3rd and 4th liners and he has them now. All defensively responsible, and with their system it will help the defense more than ever.

    They will heavily depend on the youngsters, but they will do so by choice because they have shown they are ready. They do have a problem as far as depth is concerned on defense, but it is also true that Shero has plenty of room and money to address such, if he wants to. The goal for this team is not winning a Stanley Cup this year, but everyone seems to feel more than capable to reaching the playoffs. If they do not, it won’t be by much. For the ones who do not know the players, it will be a surprise, but for the rest it will be a surprise if they do not battle for a spot at the end of the season (and if so Therrien will be long gone by that time).

  12. BruMagnus says:

    It is not the only possible order.

  13. BruMagnus says:

    Excellent post. The Rangers could be scary this year if Jagr doesn’t get injured and if Shanny gets even 30+ goals.

    I especially agree with what you say about goaltending being the cornerstone of a team’s success. I think what you wrote about Pittsburgh is exactly right. People seem to have no clue how spectacular Malkin is, and will be. Although I don’t see Staal playing this season, it’s of no real concern. The Penguins will fight for a playoff spot. Fleury will show he is a top goalie as he will finally have a decent team starting in front of him (and not one where Dick Tarnstrom is the leading scorer). As for defense. Gonchar proved at the end of last season that he still has it. He’ll get 65+ points this season. Whitney will develop into his own as well. Mark Eaton, a great signing, will get lots of ice time to shutdown opposition, and Brooks Orpik (improved by +33 last season from his rookie) will punish players with some hits (hopefully not too dirty). Then there’s Noah Welch, who is being talked about like Mark Staal and Luc Bourdon. Then the Penguins veteran player in Melichar as the 6th dman. I think this squad, with Malkin, indeed has playoff written on it. And in the next 2-3 seasons, when Crosby and Malkin are fighting for the Art Ross, and Staal is 3rd line center, and Fleury is looking like Patrick Roy, it’ll be a fracking scary team to watch.

    I said in a post ages ago that the Atlantic will be the strongest division in the East, sending 3, or possibly 4 teams to the playoffs.

  14. BruMagnus says:

    I don’t see Pittsburgh’s defense being that bad this year. Yes I realize it isn’t the top defense in the league, but it isn’t the poorest anymore either. There may not be much depth, but if none of the top 5 get injured, I see a playoff year.

    Kamullia said it best:

    “The goal for this team is not winning a Stanley Cup this year, but everyone seems to feel more than capable to reaching the playoffs. If they do not, it won’t be by much. For the ones who do not know the players, it will be a surprise, but for the rest it will be a surprise if they do not battle for a spot at the end of the season (and if so Therrien will be long gone by that time).”

    I think people will be surprised.

  15. deuceswild says:

    How is the rangers better than the flyers other than in goaltending and slight edge in defense. Offense has to be better with philly. Rangers didnt change that much i mean they lost rucchin and rucinsky and got shanny cullena nd hall

  16. nyrhockey094 says:

    Rangers are better then the Flyers. They have the edge in goaltending. They dont have a slight edge in defense, they have a big one because not only is their defense good, but its young. And no philly isnt clearly better in offense. Yeah the Rangers will depend heavily on their top line of Jagr Straka Nylander, but Prucha, Shanny, Immonen, will contribute heavily. I do think Marcel Hossa will have a much better season and Adam Hall was a great acquisition who will put up a few goals. The Rangers will get more of a contribution from their 3rd and 4th line guys. Rucchin, Rucinsky= getting old. The only reall offensive threat we lost was Petr Sykora. But he was more of a clutch threat then an all around threat. The Rangers powerplay is going to be DEADLY this year, Jagr, Straka, Nylander, Shanny, And Rosival didnt get much PP time last year but he showed he could do a decent job of playing QB on the PP. Even if Philly does have the slight edge in offense, the Rangers havea huge edge in goaltending and defense.

  17. deuceswild says:

    They dont have a huge edge in goaltending either though. Nittymaki will be solid. Offense has to be to the flyers side thought i mean yeah the rangers picked up a few nice additions but they dont have the great scoring depth that the flyers have.

  18. Pock_53 says:

    it was gionta gomez parise

    and elias langs and brylin which made the devils dangerous w/ 2 scoring lines

  19. Jrugges says:

    I honestly think the Islanders have a chance at a playoff birth, the team went down hill after dipietro went down. 63 games also had a winning record. The deffense is much improved with tough gritty deffensemen in Hill and Witt, also a smooth passers in Zhitnik, and now poti. They went out and got Sillinger which will bring some leadership, also some scoring depth. They have a nice young deffense men in Joel Bouchard(one of the fastest in the nhl). Now you can only hope Satan, and Yashin can step up there play. While Blake needs to keep being well Blake. Atleast they’ve got to look better than the penguins. Fluery hasnt shown me he’s anywhere near a number one goalie yet. The pens also dont have much depth on wingers and what happens if something terrible happens to one of there key plays(Crosby). Then what do they have?

  20. flyerjim says:

    Sorry dude, I hate….HATE the Rangers, but they are a better team this year. Lundqvist is better than Nitty and Esche & arguments can be made for Jagr and Forsberg as to whose better. They are both in similar spots right now with a solid veteran core and some real talented younger guys and prospects…..but the Rangers are SLIGHTLY better, for now.

  21. kamullia says:

    Pittsburgh’s defense this year is just very young, that’s the real knock on them. Not that they’re not capable. And with moving Melichar (or even Scuderi), Odelein, and Cairns out of the regular nightly lineup they have what Philadelphia still does not (and I forgot to mention): mobility. Being more specific, they have lateral mobility. In today’s NHL that makes a world of difference.

    But they are young in key positions and they will have to get over that fact. If they don’t, they’ll get trapped into taking penalties and that will throw everything out the window. But Whitney has showed his poise already and Welch certainly did, especially on the game he deflected an own goal and turned right back and strong-armed a few forwards and then scored one of his own (and had assisted on another). That is not suc*****bing under pressure.

  22. kamullia says:

    I still don’t get why b-itch, c-ock, c-um are not allowed while shit and others are (is ***** allowed? I guess I’ll find out soon). If you’re gonna block offensive words, block them ALL. You can not be selective about it. Otherwise, take the blocks off.

    Makes it impossible to use words like Hitchc-ock, doc-ument (and its derivatives), circ-umventing, and on.

    The word bleeped was succ-umbing, for those interested, which means to quit fighting, to submit to or yield to.

  23. big_booty says:

    There is no reason to believe that the Atlantic Division standings will be any different than last year.

    The only team in the division that underwent any significant improvement this offseason is Pittsburgh, pending (of course) the Malkin signing. The rest of the division seemed to tread water. Their gains are offset by their losses. They only moved their rosters laterally.

    1. NJ

    2. Phila.

    3. NYR

    4. Pitts.

    5. NYI

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