A bunch of Canadian teams and the Wings. Atlantic Division Preview.

Atlantic Division is going to be so bizarre this season. There are four teams within like eight minutes of each other. Then there are two teams in Florida.

(In order of predicted finish)

1.  Detroit Red Wings

The Red Wings are a new addition to the Eastern Conference and will be a thorn in the side of every team.  You can almost guarantee one playoff spot will be taken by the Red Wings every year.  Even when the Red Wings looked like they were on the way down, they turned things around late last season and almost made the Conference Finals.  The depth of this organization is sickening and they look like they’re going to be a real contender again.  Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss signed with the Wings during FA and both are going to be hungry to have some playoff success.

Player to watch
Danny DeKeyser.  DeKeyser looks like he’s going to be an important piece of the Red Wing’s blueline for years to come.

Player not to watch
Daniel Alfredsson.  If you’re the Penguins and seconds away from winning a playoff game..

Games vs. the Penguins
Dec. 14 @ DET, 7 pm
Mar. 20 @ DET, 7:30 pm
Apr. 9 @ PIT, 8 pm

2.  Boston Bruins

After an incredible run to the Stanley Cup Finals, the Bruins crashed and burned all within a minute and lost the Cup on home ice.  It was a depressing ending to a great run.  The Bruins are still going to be a top team in the East, but they lost a key piece in Nathan Horton.  Jarome Iginla will fill his place, but can he still be a top player?  Maybe Claude Julien will let him play his actual position.  Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley were traded for Loui Eriksson.  This probably is a good deal for both teams as Eriksson is an excellent player who fits Boston’s game.  Andrew Ference left for the Oilers which isn’t a good loss.  Tuukka Rask had a great season will need to do that again if the Bruins want to go far.  Something tells me that the Bruins won’t be as fortunate in the playoffs.

Player to watch
Loui Erikkson.  It’ll be interesting to see how Eriksson reacts to the pressures of playing in Bean Town.

Player not to watch
Gregory Campbell.  Because all you will hear about him is how much of a hero he is. It gets annoying fast.

Games vs. the Penguins
Oct. 30 @ PIT, 8 pm
Nov. 25 @ BOS, 7 pm
Dec. 7 @ BOS, 7 pm

3.  Toronto Maple Leafs

Last season couldn’t have ended worse for the Leafs after blowing a three goal lead in the first round against the Bruins.  The Leafs did manage to make the playoffs after not making it in a long time but that loss still has to sting.  The biggest move  the Maple Leafs made this offseason was acquiring Goalie Jonathan Bernier from Los Angeles.  He is unproven as a starter but they now have two capable goalies in Bernier and Reimer.  David Clarkson signed a ridiculous contract with the Maple Leafs but is suspended for 10 games of the regular season after leaving the bench during a preseason line brawl.  The Leafs were able to re-sign restricted free agents Nazem Kadri and Cody Franson.  Dave Bolland and Mason Raymond also were added to the lineup.  This could be a good team who could reach the division finals or conference finals if everything goes well.  They are the Maple Leafs so the chances are slim.

Players to watch
Phil Kessel.  He just signed a long term deal with the Leafs.  He also likes to chop/slash the hell out of people.

Player not to watch
Colton Orr.  Because he adds essentially nothing and still holds a roster spot. Kudos to him.

Games vs. the Penguins
Oct. 26 @ TOR, 7 pm
Nov. 27 @ PIT, 7:30 pm
Dec. 16 @ PIT, 7 pm

4.  Ottawa Senators

After losing to the Penguins in a quick second round matchup, Daniel Alfredsson left in shocking fashion and signed a one year deal with the Red Wings.  The truth about this whole thing is that the Senators owner Eugene Melnyk is having some financial problems right now.  Maybe he paid too much for investigating Matt Cooke.  Anyways, the Senators replaced Alfie with Bobby Ryan from the Ducks but had to give up promising forward Jakob Silfverberg.  Clarke MacArthur and defensive pylon Joe Corvo signed during free agency.  This is still a young team, with a pretty good coach and good goaltending.  They should be able to squeeze into the playoffs, if not make a run.  Unless things fall apart, which could also happen.

Player to watch
Bobby Ryan.  Ryan will be a go to guy in Ottawa and should be able to meet his full potential.  He also shouldn’t have to worry about being traded for the first time in awhile.

Player not to watch
Chris Neil.  He isn’t a terrible player, but he does a lot of dumb stuff which is why you shouldn’t watch him.  Or maybe you should because it’s funny how dumb he is. 

Games vs. the Penguins
Dec. 23 @ OTT, 7:30 pm
Feb. 3 @ PIT, 7 pm
Apr. 13 @ PIT, 7:30 pm

5.  Montreal Canadiens

The Canadiens overachieved last season, and it’s no surprise.  When you have a coach like Michel Therrien, who holds players accountable, you’ll get good results.  But sometimes Therrien’s biggest strength is also his biggest weakness.  His team imploded against the Senators in the playoffs and he lost all his composure.  The Canadiens response to getting pushed around against the Senators was to sign Danny Briere after he was bought out from the Flyers.  They also picked up Doug Murray and George Parros to add some toughness and subtract speed.  The Canadiens won’t finish as high as they did last season but still should be a team that competes for a playoff spot or Michel Therrien may channel his inner Heisenberg.

Player to watch
Alexei Emelin.  After he went down with a major knee injury late in the season, the Canadiens weren’t the same team.

Player not to watch
Ryan White.  It seemed every time we saw highlights of a Canadiens game, he was taking a bad penalty.

Games vs. the Penguins
Nov. 23 @ MTL, 7 pm
Jan. 22 @ PIT, 7 pm
Feb. 27 @ PIT, 7 pm

6.  Florida Panthers

The Panthers were recently sold to new owners.  I’m not sure if that’ll make a difference for them but last year was a big letdown.  The goaltending didn’t hold up and they ran into a lot of injuries.  Stephen Weiss is gone and the Panthers are going with a youth movement.  Second overall pick Aleksander Barkov is going to make the team, college standout Nick Bjugstad should also be in the NHL this season.  The biggest move the Panthers made was signing Tim Thomas to a one year deal during training camp.  Thomas is rejuvenated after doing whatever he was doing and is an immediate upgrade in net, assuming he can still play.  This could be a tough team to play against but a lot would have to go right for them to make the playoffs.

Player to watch
Jonathan Huberdeau.  He won the Calder last season and looks like a franchise player for the Panthers.

Player not to watch
Scott Gomez.  What the hell happened to this guy?  He used to be good.

Games vs. the Penguins
Oct. 11 @ FLA,  7:30 pm
Nov. 30 @ FLA,  7 pm
Jan. 20 @ PIT, 7 pm

7.  Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning didn’t get worse but didn’t get better during the offseason.  They bought out longtime captain Vincent Lecavalier and signed Val Filppula for not that better of a contract.  Ben Bishop was a nice addition late in the season for the Lightning and should give them some stability in goal.  Jon Cooper replaced Guy Boucher as head coach late in the season and has a pretty good resume.  The Lightning just don’t seem to have the players right now to make the playoffs.  At Least Stamkos will score a lot of goals to keep everyone entertained. 

Player to watch
Steven Stamkos.  He’s pretty good at scoring goals.

Player not to watch
Radko Gudas.  He has a goon name and is a goon player.  He destroyed someone’s knee last year in his first game and gets in fights.  Maybe you should watch him.

Games vs. the Penguins
Oct. 12 @ PIT, 7 pm
Nov. 29 @ TB, 4 pm
Mar. 22 @ PIT, 1 pm

8.  Buffalo Sabres

It’s rebuild time in Buffalo.  They made a few minor deals in the offseason but they will most likely be making some bigger moves during the season.  Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek both look like they’re on their way out of Buffalo.  Ron Rolston is the head coach after they decided to remove the interim tag.  Darcy Regier is somehow still the GM for the Sabres.  Don’t expect much from the Sabres.  Oh, they have a new horrible third jersey.

Player to watch
Cody Hodgson.  He’s one of the few promising players that the Sabres have.

Player not to watch
Ryan Miller.  You can tell he wants out of Buffalo, he doesn’t get enough attention there.  Ryan needs everyone to see how good he is.

Games vs. the Penguins
Oct. 5 @ PIT, 7 pm
Jan. 27 @ PIT, 7:30 pm
Feb. 5 @ BUF, 7:30 pm