Here’s part two in the division by division preview series. You can find the Atlantic Division preview here.
New York Rangers
Regular Season Record: 53-22-7-113 pts
Regulation or Overtime Wins: 49
Shootout Record: 4-5
How good were the President’s Trophy winning Rangers last season? So good that they thrived while starting goalie Henrik Lundqvist had to miss a big stretch due to a scary puck to the throat incident. Backup Cam Talbot, who has left town for Edmonton, helped the Rags weather the storm as they earned the most points in the East, and the entire NHL. New York will look to go deep again this season, but the tough Metro competition will prove too much. They’ll finish 3rd in the Metro, and be knocked out of the greatest tournament in sports too early for their liking.
Regular Season: 45-26-11-101 pts.
Regulation or Overtime Wins: 40
Shootout Record: 5-4
Braden Holtby silenced any critics he might have had, posting the best season of his young career. It turns out, he was good against other teams besides the Bruins who he blanked in 3 tries. The team got breakout season candidate Evgeny Kuznetsov some seasoning which will be valuable as they try and stay afloat in the early going with Nick Backstrom out w/an injury. Washington parted ways with Mike Green, which I think will be a net positive. American National Team John Carlson will be steady on the back end in front of Holtby as the Capitals charge full steam toward the playoffs. They’ll be the 2 seed in the Metropolitan bracket, but I’m not drinking their playoff success kool-aid. Another early exit for Washington.
NY (Brooklyn?) Islanders
Regular Season Record: 47-28-7-101 pts
Regulation or Overtime Wins: 40
Shootout Record: 7-6
A team with a lot of promising signs on the offensive end over the last several seasons finally took a giant step forward. Adding Jaroslav Halak in goal, plus Johnny Boychuck and Nick Leddy on the blue line, the Islanders were not messing around. They’ve moved on from the once promising Michael Grabner, but will be returning a young squad with playoff experience. They’ll fall back to earth a bit this season, but are a scary Post season matchup for anyone. They’ll be a safe wild card and could be a big spoiler in the early rounds of the playoffs.
Regular Season Record: 43-27-12-98 pts
Regulation or Overtime Wins: 39
Shootout Record: 4-6
Apparently, Pittsburgh has decided their biggest weakness was offensive fire power. Phil Kessel joins a team already blessed with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin for what could be the most absurd 3 v 3 unit iced all year. The Penguins are going to score a ton of goals this year, they’ll win the Metro division, but as has been the case since Pitt won the cup goaltending will hold them back from a deep playoff run. If they win the President’s Trophy, they will likely avoid a match up with the Islanders, who have proven to be more than a handful to the Penguins over the last few years.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Regular Season Record: 42-35-5-89 pts
Regulation or Overtime Wins: 33
Shootout Record: 9-2
The only luck experienced by the Blue Jackets last season was their best in the NHL 9-2 shootout record. Outside of that, it was a year to forget. Nathan Horton wasn’t able to suit up at all due to his likely career ending back surgery, and the injury bug extended far beyond him. They added Toronto passenger David Clarkson to a team that when healthy has shown some sparks. An offseason trade to bring in Brandon Saad boosts some of the buzz around this team. They’ll compete with Detroit/Boston/Ottawa/NY Islanders for the two wild card spots.
Regular Season Record: 33-31-18-84 pts
Regulation or Overtime Wins: 30
Shootout Record: 3-11
The Flyers were not a good hockey team in 2014-2015. They finished 16 points out of the playoff structure, were even worse than the B’s in the shootout, and never gained any traction. They have offensive talent for days with Giroux and Voracek, but there are serious questions on the blue line and in goal. They waived $30 million man Andy MacDonald so they’ve at least recognized what needs improvement, but as an organization they have a long way to go. They’ll finish closer than 16 points out of the playoff structure, but won’t be good enough to make the playoffs in the end.
New Jersey Devils
Regular Season Record: 32-36-14-78 pts
Regulation or Overtime Wins: 27
Shootout Record: 5-7
Similar category as the Flyers, but with more internal drama. Longtime GM Lou Lamiorello’s departure could loosen some of the institutional delays with player development, but not immediately. New Jersey is going to follow a lackluster campaign with one that could net them a top 3 pick in the 2016 draft.
Regular Season Record: 30-41-11-71 pts
Regulation or Overtime Wins: 25
Shootout Record: 5-7
Despite their bad season, Carolina did not benefit from the franchise altering luck of winning the draft lottery to draft Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. They ended up with BC’s Noah Hannafin, who is a quality prospect, but they won’t be helped by the player this season. Another up and mostly down season is in store, with perhaps an improved chance at moving up in the draft lottery.