We’re over the half way point in the offseason now, and we’re only 44 days away from the start of the NHL season. With training camps starting up shortly, the hockey world is about to start buzzing. Teams will begin skating and bringing in the new players to test their skills on the ice, and we’ll have plenty to be excited about.
With the offseason winding down, and the hope of any news beginning to fade, most moves have already been made this summer. Some moves are still in the works, and some are free agents have yet to find new homes. So as of right now, here is how I rank out the dreaded Metropolitan Division. This division is as stacked as it’s going to get, and it should be an awesome race to the finish.
1. The Pittsburgh Penguins are a strong favorite every season. They went all in last season in an effort to bring home the cup, but were sent home empty handed by the Boston Bruins. The Penguins have skill unmatched by any other team in the league. The Penguins are a competitive team, that always finds a way to go out and win hockey games. If the Pens can keep their stars healthy, Sidney Crosby, cough, cough, they should have no problem winning the division.
2. The New York Rangers have Henrik Lundqvist, and that’s the only explanation needed. However, I do have more to say. The Rangers are a talented team, and if new head coach Alaine Vineault can bring the star players that are in New York back to life, the Rangers will be a very tough team to beat. Rick Nash and Brad Richards have to live up to their expectations if the Rangers want to go anywhere this season, otherwise they’re going to find themselves getting knocked out of the playoffs before the Conference Finals again. The Rangers get the second seed over the Capitals, only because I have an unbelievable amount of faith in Lundqvist, and not nearly as much in Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth.
3. The Washington Capitals came and went with Alex Ovechkin‘s stick last season, but lucky for them, he got hot when they needed him to and he was able to carry them into the playoffs. I don’t see that happening again this season. The Capitals and the Penguins rivalry is about to have some gas dumped on it with these two teams in the same division. The Caps find themselves in an all new division this season, and with the way the playoffs are working from here on out, the Capitals may want to make sure that they can get someone to step up and help Ovi out in the goal scoring department. Assuming Ovi can still play as well as he did in the last half of the season last year. That was the first time the real Ovechkin has come to play in a while.
4. The New York Islanders are quietly building their team, and they don’t even need cap space to do it. With John Tavares, the Islanders are set to make another run at the playoffs, and this time, maybe get a few more wins than they did the last time around. The group is more experienced now, but is going to have a hard time keeping up with the skill level of the Penguins and Capitals. The Islanders will have to battle it out to get one of the wildcard spots, I don’t believe they have just enough to crack the top three teams in the division.
5. The Columbus Blue Jackets are on their way to having a good team, and it’s all coming down to Sergei Bobrovsky in net. His Vezina winning season last year was remarkable and I don’t see any reason why he can’t do it again this season. The Blue Jackets defense is solid, if the offense can become more consistent, they have a shot at getting into the playoffs this time around. The Jackets are a tough team to play, but I don’t see them jumping into the top three teams.
6. Unfortantely for the Philadelphia Flyers, Claude Giroux‘s golfing accident that ended in surgery will mean he may miss the first bit of the season. He may be back and ready to go in time, but if he isn’t he shouldn’t be gone too long. The Flyers have a problem in net, and I don’t think Steve Mason or Ray Emery are the solutions. Getting Mark Streit helps strengthen the defensive corps, but the Flyers may have to sit through another season like last year. I don’t see them being overly spectacular this season, and in a division this tough, it’s going to be hard for them to pull it off.
7. The bad has outweighed the good for the New Jersey Devils until just recently. The team was sold and kept out of the NHL’s hands. But after watching Zach Parise leave last year, and now watching Ilya Kovalchuk walk back to Russia, what are they supposed to do? Go sign Jaromir Jagr, duh. The Devils have found the future in net in Corey Schneider, but Jagr’s numbers won’t be matching Kovalchuk’s numbers, and the Devils look like they might be in for another disappointing season.
8. The Carolina Hurricanes have problems on the blue line, and they didn’t do themselves too many favors in the offseason to fix that problem. In a division this crowded with talent, the Hurricanes are simply out-shined. The Canes have skill, but the skill has to come through for them if they want to get out of the bottom of the division. They started alright last season, but quickly plummeted. The Hurricanes are going to find it really hard to keep up in a division so full of skill.
Topics: Alex Ovechkin, Brad Richards, Braden Holtby, Carolina Hurricanes, Claude Giroux, Columbus Blue Jackets, Henrik Lundqvist, Ilya Kovalchuk, Jaromir Jagr, John Tavares, Mark Streit, Michal Neuvirth, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Ray Emery, Rick Nash, Sidney Crosby, Steve Mason, Washington Capitals