2016-17 Eastern Conference Preview

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Who doesn’t like predictions? The Eastern Conference was wild last season with lots of surprises and lots of things we expected. Why should you trust me to predict this years East? For one I predicted Florida to finish in the top three in the Atlantic last year, they did. I predicted Boston would miss the playoffs, they did. On the other hand, I also predicted Columbus would make the playoffs, yeesh.

Here are my predictions for the 2016-17 Eastern Conference.

Metropolitan Division

Metropolitan Standings
Team
Projected Points
Points last season
Additions
Subtractions
Comments
1st
pens115104NoneJeff Zatkoff, Ben LovejoyThe Penguins found their groove in the playoffs last season. The defending champs have three great goal scoring lines. They're fast, and they can score as much as anyone in the league. Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury may not last the whole season as the teams duo, but for now it's maybe the best 1-2 punch in the NHL. Re-signing Matt Cullen will help more more than people think as well.
2nd
caps110120Lars Eller, Brett ConnollyJason ChimeraThere will be some regression in the nation's capital. It's just nearly impossible to replicate 56 wins. However, this team is still a Stanley Cup contender, and a top five team in the league. We could see a massive year from Evgeny Kuznetzov who was top ten in the league in scoring last year. There window is closing on defense to win. Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen are getting up there in years, so they need to capitalize while they still have those two, and Ovi as he enters the end of his prime. Braden Holtby is now an established elite goaltender, so from top to bottom this is a flat out great team.
3rd
flyers10096Dale WeiseNoneThe Flyers did very little in the off-season. All honesty they didn't really need to do anything. Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek is still as good as you get in terms of dynamic duos. They struck gold last year with "The Ghost" Shayne Gostisbehere as their number one defenseman. Michael Del Zotto being out 4-5 weeks will hurt, but this d-core is deeper than in years past, and they can get through it. Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth took turns looking amazing last year, and were a big reason Philly made the playoffs. For one of the only times in the past decade they have a steady crease.

Atlantic Division

Atlantic Standings
Team
Projected Points
Points last year
Additions
Subtractions
Comments
1st
tampa109 pts97 ptsNoneNikita Kucherov (Unsigned RFA)Tampa resigned Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman in the offseason, keeping their foundation in tact. To this point Nikita Kucherov remains unsigned, which is a big loss. The Jonathan Drouin saga finally appears to be over. Tampa should finally get to see what their team looks like with both Drouin and Stamkos playing well. For now, Ben Bishop remains on the team, but there's a solid chance he's traded before the deadline. It would be a disappointment if this team doesn't at least make it to the conference finals.
2nd
panthers98 pts103 ptsKeith Yandle, James Reimer, Jason Demers, Colton Sceviour, Reto Berra, Mark Pysyk, Jared McCannBrian Campbell, Al Montoya, Teddy Purcell, Jiri Hudler, Erik GudbransonThe defending Atlantic champs are set for some slight regression this season. With the entire division around them improving, Florida won't default into first place again. However, they're bringing back almost everyone, except Brian Campbell. To replace Campbell they signed Keith Yandle in the off-season. They also traded away Dmitry Kulikov to Buffalo, but did get Mark Pysyk back. Seemingly they've improved on defense. With Luongo and Jagr back, along with a sharp new logo, the Panthers will be fun to watch by their 45 fans.
3rd
habs95 pts82 ptsShea Weber, Alexander Radulov, Andrew Shaw, Al MontoyaP.K. Subban, Tom Gilbert, Lars EllerCarey Price is back. If you remember, last year the Habs started 11-0 with Price before his injury. When he's back between the pipes, this is at least a playoff team, if not one that can challenge for the division. In the off-season the Habs traded P.K. Subban for Shea Weber. This will hurt them more than most think. Weber has regressed over the past couple years, but it's gone unnoticed because of the play of his former partner Roman Josi. He has the potential to be exposed in Montreal. Michel Therrien is a below average coach and he's proved that by misusing his best forward Alex Galchenyuk for his entire career.

Wild Card

Wild Card Standings
Team
Projected Points
Points last season
Additions
Subtractions
Comments
1st
rangers97 pts101 ptsMichael Grabner, Jimmy VeseyEric Staal, Viktor StalbergThis team is very lucky that Henrik Lundqvist is still a great goaltender. Over the past two years the Rangers have gone from having one of the best blue lines in the league, to it being a weakness. Marc Staal and Dan Girardi have really declined, and are shells of what they used to be. Ryan McDonagh is still a great defenseman, but that's it. At forward there's a lot to like. A nice group of young guns including Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Jimmy Vesey, Mika Zibanejad and Kevin Hayes are complemented by some good veterans in Rick Nash, Derek Stephan, and Mats Zuccarello.
2nd
sabs94 pts81 ptsKyle Okposo, Dmitry Kulikov, Anders Nilsson, Alex NylanderMark Pysyk, Chad JohnsonAdding Okposo and Kulikov should help both the offense and the defense. Over the last 41 games of last season, Buffalo was on a 94 point pace. I'd expect that to continue as long as Robin Lehner stays healthy. There's potential for an even better finish if Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, and Rasmus Ristolainen explode.
Wild Card Standings
Team
Projected Points
Points last season
Additions
Subtractions
Comments
3rdcanes93 pts86 ptsTeuvo Teravainen, Bryan Bickell, Lee StempniakNathan GerbeDo not underestimate the Carolina Hurricanes. Bill Peters is one of the best coaches in the NHL. Last year Carolina ranked top ten in basically every defensive stat. They're very good at stifling the other team, limiting them to few scoring opportunities. Problem is their goalies don't stop the few saves they have to make. Cam Ward and Eddie Lack combined for the 2nd worst save percentage in the NHL. They invested a 2nd round pick in Lack last season, so expect some improvement. There just isn't enough support for the solid defense to make the playoffs.
4thisles90 pts100 ptsAndrew Ladd, P.A. Parenteau Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen, Matt MartinThe Isles lost their 2nd and 3rd best players this off-season. The team was unable to resign Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen, so they went out and paid big money for Andrew Ladd. Problem is Ladd is past his prime and cannot replace that same type of production. Halak looked amazing at the World Cup of Hockey, but he's known for going off for two weeks, than disappearing for a month.
5thbruins86 pts93 ptsDavid Backes, Anton KhudobinLoui Eriksson, Brett Connolly, Chris Kelly, Lee StempniakThe Bruins still think that they're in "win now mode". I hate to break it to them, but they're not. Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Brad Marchand and not enough to carry the goal scoring. David Backes is severely overpaid, and there isn't much past that. The defense is much worse. Chara is a shell of what he used to be. He just can't skate well enough to keep up anymore. Torey Krug is the next best guy... Yeah, Torey Krug. Decent offensive defenseman, but who is he stopping? They were desperate enough to bring on Christian Ehrhoff on a PTO, and it's not insane to think he'll be in their top four even to start the year.
6thdevils86 pts84 ptsTaylor Hall, Beau Bennett, Ben LovejoyAdam Larsson, David Schlemko, David WarsofskyThe Devils getting Taylor Hall is a huge credit to them. It might be the most one sided trade in NHL history. He will certainly help, but the defense is just horrible right now. We'll see if Corey Schneider is good enough to carry this team to the playoffs or not.
7thjackets80 pts76 pts Pierre-Luc DuboisFedor TyutinThe roster isn't half bad. Problem is you're maniac coach. John Tortorella cannot coach a winner in today's NHL. The forwards are pretty good, but they have too much of the same. They don't have enough pure skilled players to score consistently. Sergei Bobrovsky is capable of carrying this team as he did a few years ago, but will he show up?
8thwings76 pts93 ptsFrans Nielsen, Thomas Vanek, Steve OttPavel DatsyukThe Red Wings and their playoff streak will come crashing down this year. Frans Nielsen is a very good player, that being set they'll be lucky if he repeats Datsyuk's production. Their defense is bad. Niklas Kronwall and Mike Green are far past their primes, but yet they're relied on for key roles. This teams only hope is Petr Mrazek carrying them. If they were smart they'd trade Jimmy Howard to get some defensive depth.
9thsens73 pts85 ptsChris KellyPatrick WierciochOttawa is another team that will come crashing down. When Erik Karlsson isn't on the ice, Ottawa is one of the worst analytical teams in the league. That's why he plays 30 minutes a night. They cannot continue to succeed with this strategy. Craig Anderson is underwhelming at this point in his career. They also took on the Dion Phaneuf contract... gross. They also seemingly refuse to play Mike Hoffman on top lines, so the Sens shoot themselves in the foot.
10th
leafs72 pts69 ptsAuston Matthews, Frederik Andersen, Matt Martin, Roman PolakMichael Grabner, P.A. Parenteau, Stuart PercyYes, Auston Matthews is going to be a superstar in the NHL. It appears he'll be great the moment he hits the ice. However, the Leafs have not addressed their major issues. Frankly, they're still in rebuild mode. They're on the back half of it, but still in it. Frederick Anderson is already injured, and Jhonas Enroth is the backup. They lost arguably two of their best forwards from last season in Parenteau and Grabner as well. This team is still far too young to do anything major.

Written by Joe DiBiase

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