Which teams in the Eastern Conference have gotten better and worse

August 18, 2012, by

The Rangers leaped from the ranks of the “status quo” to being one of the most improved teams in the league with the acquisition of Rick Nash, but how have their Eastern Conference competitors fared this offseason?

Here’s a look at which teams have improved, which teams appear weaker and which seem about the same as they were in 2011-2012.


Carolina – The Hurricanes made perhaps the two biggest “name” additions of the offseason, bringing in Jordan Staal and Alex Semin to compliment Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner on what should be a much-improved offensive attack.  Giving up Brandon Sutter and letting Bryan Allen go could make for a tough time on the other side of the rink, where Carolina has struggled recently.  Still, this team is undoubtedly trending upwards.

Buffalo – The Sabres sent inconsistent center Derek Roy to Dallas for the underrated Steve Ott and defenseman Adam Pardy.  Buffalo’s real success this offseason came in June, when the team drafted Mikhail Grigorenko and Zemgus Grigensons in the first round.  Grigorenko could make an impact right away and the Sabres suddenly have a few near NHL ready prospects worth talking about.

Pittsburgh – They traded a terrific player in Jordan Staal, but the Penguins will finally have both Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby healthy for the start of the season.  Whether the two remain in the lineup is a key question, but as long as both superstars are on the ice Pittsburgh will be among the best teams in the league.

Washington – Adam Oates seems destined to be a very good coach in short order and the Caps made a shrewd addition when they traded for center Mike Ribeiro at the draft.  Losing Semin looks worse on paper than it will on the ice and Washington may thrive with a little less attention this year.

Tampa Bay – The Lightning were one win away from playing in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals but fell off the map completely last season due to lackluster goaltending.  Anders Lindback still has a lot to prove, but it won’t take much for him to be an upgrade over Dwayne Roloson.  If Tampa can get even halfway decent play between the pipes, the Lightning could be a major surprise.  The Lightning also added two capable defenders in Sami Salo and Matt Carle.


Winnipeg – I don’t expect Olli Jokinen and Alexei Ponikarovsky to do much to change Winnipeg’s fortunes.  The Jets have been working hard to extend Evander Kane though, so that’s a positive sign.

Ottawa – The Senators are returning basically the same team that took the Blueshirts to seven games in round one of the playoffs.  A few young players could make an impact, but that will likely take time.

Toronto – The Leafs actually have some defensive depth, so swapping Luke Schenn for James van Riemsdyk made sense.  If JVR can stay healthy, Toronto could be marginally better, but the Leafs still have a long way to go to be a playoff threat.

Montreal – Brandon Prust is beloved by New York fans, but he’s not really a difference maker on the ice.  The Canadiens didn’t give Michel Therrien many quality reinforcements for his second stint behind the bench in Montreal.


New Jersey – The Eastern Conference champs lost their captain, Zach Parise, as well as two key coaches in Oates and Larry Robinson.  The Devils kept defenseman Bryce Salvador and dinosaur goalie Martin Brodeur, but New Jersey will have a very difficult time replicating its 2011-2012 success.

Philadelphia – The Flyers swung and missed on Parise, Ryan Suter and Shea Weber and watched Matt Carle, Jaromir Jagr and Ilya Bryzgalov’s security blanket Sergei Bobrovsky exit as free agents or via trade.  The Schenn acquisition was wise, but the Flyers do appear to be significantly weaker on paper.  The development of youngsters Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier could mitigate those key losses though.

Florida – The Panthers waved goodbye to bomber Jason Garrison and replaced him with Filip Kuba.  Peter Mueller’s health is the wild card here, but the obvious downgrade from Garrison to Kuba is concerning for a team that overachieved last season.  Adding top prospect Jonathan Huberdeau to the mix could be huge though.

Boston – Many believe that Tuukka Rask is capable of playing just as well as Tim Thomas did in his new starting role, but until Rask proves it the Bruins fall in this category.  Though Thomas became a bit of a distraction and could never handle a heavy workload, he’s been among the league’s best goalies for the last few years.  A disappointing second half may make him seem like less of a loss, but Boston no longer has a rock in goal to count on entering the season.

New York Islanders – This is partly contingent on what happens with defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky, who the Isles acquired at the draft, but is now trying to work his way out of the deal by citing a forgotten no-trade clause.  The Isles still have young talent on the way, but losing P.A. Parenteau was a big blow to an already thin team.


  1. Walt says:

    Nice job on your analysis.

    I don’t see where the Pens are improved at all, if anything, they lost a very good, under rated player in Staal. Say what you may, but Jordan carried the team two years, when Cindy, and Igor went down with injuries. He is also probably the best, in my opinion, two way player in the NHL. If you remember his rookie season, he was called up due to injuries, and he was great, especially on the PK, where he scored a load of short handed goals, and finished the season with about 20 goals.

    If we do indeed have a season this year, I’ll be gitty watching Filthadelphia get beat time, and again by teams around the NHL..

    The Devils will implode this year, with the relic in net finally falling apart, and he will be forced to hag up his skates. The dough boy then can chase his former sister in law again. I don’t see them even making the play offs this season.

    Carolina will be tough, with Eric, and Jordan playing together, for the first time. The pressure will be off of Eric, and the scoreing will be distributed between some quality players. To be honest, this team is going to be very dangerious, and fun to watch, against every other team but us. Fun in that they will play wide open type of game, but not fun to watch when they play us because we don’t do very well against those type of teams.

    The dark horse will be the Caps, with new coaching, and the style this team will play. Adam Oates will be a very good coach, and Ovi will back him, because he can again play his game, without concern for defense.

  2. Brian says:

    We all know the Devils will make the playoffs. I don’t know how they do it. They have no talent, no goaltending and no defensemen whatsoever and they’re only good player is a enigmatic, overpaid Russian, yet they still make the playoffs. And that’s why we all hate them so damn much.

  3. AD says:

    I think you have to put Pittsburg in the “Worse” column. Sure, Crosby and Malkin will be healthy on day one, but losing Staal and Michalek on defense represents an overall step backward in my view. The GM, Shero, banked on being able to sign Parise or other players and got shutout. This team’s defense is not that good; expect some high scoring wins and losses but, like I said, I think the Pens got worse in the offseason.

  4. rob sahm says:

    if we get doan and sauer comes back healthy the cup goes through broadway .

  5. LAC says:

    Best for Atlanta Thrashers to RETURN to Atlanta, and no more nonsense in that Minor League town, with The Minor League Arena !!!!!!!!!!