The Atlantic is a weird, polarized division. There’s some “cream of the crop” at the top and the bottom is mushy and confusing. Here we go, alphabetically.
Where is this team without Tuukka Rask? Well, they’re doing just fine. Even though Taylor Hall, Brad Marchand, and Charlie McAvoy are injured, these Bruins just don’t die. Patrice Bergeron is back, and so is David Krejci. Their goaltending is understated, and they have a good mix of veteran, steady players. I wonder, however, if they don’t have a lot of youngsters able to fill holes as needed. Oh yeah, and Mike Reilly:
The perennial “can’t get anywhere near the playoffs” Sabres might actually surprise us this season, but we’ve been saying that since at least 2015 when Jack Eichel was drafted. The Sabres are young, but they’re exciting. I love watching Dylan Cozens and Tage Thompson, and it’ll be great watching Owen Power develop with Rasmus Dahlin. I don’t know that their offseason was the best, and that might leave them in the lower portion of the division standings once again.
After Nashville saw Detroit a bunch in the shortened 2020-2021 season, we only saw our “favorite” Red Wings twice last season. The “Yzer-Plan” is working perfectly - additions like Andrew Copp, David Perron, and Ben Chiarot will certainly make Detroit competitive. Fan-favorites Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond will be back for more. They did more than the Sabres this summer, but they may just want to get comfortable in the mushy middle.
Yeah, they did some stuff....like sign Matthew Tkachuk. Former Pred Nick Cousins is a Panther now. In net, Sergei Bobrovsky and Spencer Knight will certainly show off as one of the better goalie tandems in the Atlantic. The Panthers were nearly unstoppable last season until the playoffs came around. Can they do more this postseason? We have 82 games to find out whether Florida is better, worse, or the same.
The Canadiens fell off a cliff last season, but their second half showed the skill and talent of their youngsters under head coach Martin St. Louis. Nick Suzuki took over the “C” from Shea Weber, and the Habs chose Juraj Slafjkovsky in the 2022 Draft. Kirby Dach was acquired in a trade, and the Habs have seen more change over the last year than most teams see in 3-4 seasons. They’ve got the kids, and the kids are fun.
The Senators might actually also be...fun. Claude Giroux was locked up in the offseason, and the Sens traded for Alex DeBrincat. DeBrincat himself puts the Senators in “Top 3” contention in the Atlantic, but it’s possible they don’t have enough on defense. If that’s the case, I’d expect Pierre Dorrion to look for an available d-man as the season gets started.
The Lightning made it all the way to the Cup Final last season and lost to the Avalanche. They’re still an excellent team, don’t get me wrong. However, some roster moves to ensure that the stars get paid had to happen, and those offseason moves included new Predators defenseman Ryan McDonagh. Ondrej Palat signed elsewhere, but the Bolts acquired some pieces in Vladislav Namestnikov, Ian Cole, and Phil Meyers. If they didn’t have such an incredible goalie, they’d be a little bit more questionable, but the Lightning will be a tough out in the playoffs once more.
Ah, yes, the Leafs. The perennial first-round loss, often in a crucial Game 7. They shored up their goaltending (I guess...) with Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov. They traded depth pieces for other depth pieces in cost-saving efforts, including former Pred Calle Jarnkrok. This might be the year, or this might be the year that Toronto gets another GM. It’s very much a massive question mark. No matter the regular season results, if Toronto can’t get past the first round, it means nothing. The Leafs are excellent up front, but all the goals in the world can’t erase the trauma of multiple first-round exits.
Wild Card - Buffalo Sabres
Division Winner - Florida Panthers
Biggest Surprise - Detroit Red Wings