It’s Hockey Time! Nick Walsh takes a look at the Atlantic Division.

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Atlantic Division Preview

With the National Hockey League 2017-18 season starting in a few weeks, and training camps underway, final team rosters are being put into place. Team front offices will have to decide which players will point them in the right direction, while making numbers work to pursue a Stanley Cup.

The 2016-17 season in the Atlantic division showed competition skyrocketing, with the Boston Bruins, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens clinching playoff berths after falling short in the previous season. It provided the example that different talents can take you anywhere. Boston’s experienced leadership lead their young guns to the Stanley Cup Playoffs while Toronto’s star-studded rookie trio Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander put on a show over at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, getting the job done as well.

Boston:  

After the Bruins’ bittersweet exit in the first round of the playoffs, losing in 6 games to the sneaky dangerous Ottawa Senators (later in article), the team was left bruised and exhausted. The team had to call up impressive young prospect Charlie Mcavoy from his college campus a few weeks prior to play after several players fall down to injury late in the season like Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo, and Adam McQuaid.

It was obvious that GM Don Sweeney and his staff had some work to do. In June, they capped off the 2017 NHL Draft with a B- rating (in my opinion). After losing smooth skating defenseman Colin Miller, Boston went on to sign AHL scoring leader, winger Kenny Agostino and defenseman Paul Postma off of free agency. As Don Sweeney has said in the past, the youth of the organization need a chance to make the big leap in playing in the National Hockey League, and with training camp currently underway, rookies Anton Bjork and Jake DeBrusk look very promising to crack the starting roster, potentially landing as linemates on the Bergeron and Krejci lines.

Jordan Szwarz (left), Kenny Agostino (center), Paul Postma (right) are

all new additions to the team this year

 

 

 

 

 

Offseason improvements: B

Season Expectation: Playoff Contender

Buffalo:

The Sabres organization has been in the midst of an awkward rebuilding stage for the past several seasons, never truly finding their stride. Promising young players, including Jack Eichel, Samson Reinhart, and Evander Kane hope to provide speed and scoring to their offense while Rasmus Ristolainen and Marco Scandella provide life on the blue line. The story of the summer for Buffalo has been their re-acquisition of former captain Jason Pominville. Though he hasn’t regained the captaincy upon his arrival just yet, it won’t be a surprise if the “C” is sewed back on his jersey before puck drop of the regular season. Don’t expect the Sabres to make any drastic jumps up the standings this year, but the organization is on the right track towards a winning team.

 

Offseason improvements: A-

Season Expectation: Playoff Hopeful

 

Toronto:

Toronto’s skillful youth talent is nothing short of impressive. The rookie trio of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander alone had 191 combined points on the regular season. They are turning the franchise back towards their successful roots, but now with unmatched speed and unique talent. Management added much-needed NHL experience to the roster by signing forwards Patrick Marleau and Dominic Moore to contracts. Those moves are exactly what will help Toronto stay in future playoff contention, and, to many people, makes their chances of a Stanley Cup Championship even larger.

Offseason Improvements: A-

Season Expectation: Playoff Contender

 

Detroit:

The highlight about Detroit’s mostly unproductive offseason was the opening of their brand new, state-of-the-art Little Caesars Arena, which is replacing the historic Joe Louis Arena. The fresh environment for the players and fans lightens the burden for the drop in success they have experienced after missing the playoffs for the first time since their monumental 25 year playoff streak. The only notable moves from the summer have been the 3 year signing of defenseman Trevor Daley, from the reigning Champions Pittsburgh Penguins, and also the resigning of Tomas Tatar to a four year deal. The team isn’t expected to make the playoffs this year, but is trying to whittle their way through this tough slump.

(Above) New Little Caesars Arena features unique gondola style seating,

allowing fans to watch the game suspended over the crowd.

Offseason Grade: B

Season Expectation: Hopeful/rebuilder

Florida:

The Panthers organization has been a transition team that have been expected to be on the rise. However, with recent setbacks from the expansion draft, losing breakout young forward Jonathan Marchessault, and buying out veteran forward Jussi Jokinen, the team now has to go back to the drawing board to fix these holes. In one attempt, the team signed F Evgeny Dadonov to an entry level contract over the summer and is looking to build from there.

Offseason Grade: C

Season Expectation: Hopeful/rebuilder-on-the-run

Tampa Bay:

With a fully healthy Steven Stamkos, and the addition of 4-time Stanley Cup Champion Chris Kunitz, the “Bolts” seem to be in a comfortable spot, looking into the regular season. The Lightning have been a dangerous team besides their previous season slump, competing in the Eastern Conference and Stanley Cup Finals in the past few years. It won’t be a surprise if we see another powerful surge into the playoffs when their combination of veterans and young guns take off with chemistry.

 

Offseason Grade: B+

Season Expectation: Hopeful/Contender

 

Ottawa:

The Senators have gone from a rebuild-on-the-go team to a dangerous threat to the rest of the league. They had the odds against their favor for all of the playoffs as they eliminated the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers. The defending Stanley Cup Champions, Pittsburgh Penguins, took them down in the Eastern Conference Finals, on their way to winning back-to-back cups. The Senators recently just resigned goaltender Craig Anderson to a two year, $9 million contract extension. Ottawa will only get better than from where they stand right now, and will continue to grow into the future.

 

Offseason Grade: B+

Season Expectation: Contender

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It’s Hockey Time! Nick Walsh takes a look at the Atlantic Division.