Since hockey season is almost upon us (certainly the preseason at least) I figured it wouldn’t be a bad idea to write a quick preview of the Metropolitan Division, to refresh all of the things that went down this summer in our hockey backyard. It can be tough to remember every offseason transaction, so why not compile them all in one place and offer a little bit of analysis? Anyways, here’s your 2017-18 Metropolitan Division.
New York Islanders
This team got undeniably better, on the addition of Jordan Eberle alone. His chemistry with John Tavares is going to cause problems for teams around the Metro, and when you factor in Josh Ho-Sang the Isle’s scoring depth just became a force to be reckoned with almost over night. Still, although they’ve improved substantially up front, they’re the Islanders, with such luminaries as Dennis Seidenberg and Casey Cizikas down the depth chart, which is to say they’re not exactly stacked as you move down the lineup. I’d project them to make some noise as the playoff push begins to come together, but ultimately they’re a bubble team at best.
Few teams saw a mass exodus this offseason like the Washington Capitals, who are now depending on an aging core to prop their window open just a season longer. Even so, the loss of Karl Alzner is addition by subtraction, and that aging core is still one of the best in the game. Questionable contracts aside, Washington will, on ice, still be a good team, the question is just how good. They’re certainly not the favorites they were last season, but don’t count them out either.
Ah, the Pittsburgh Penguins. No one wants to say it, but unfortunately they’re still Cup contenders. That said, they’re not quite the favorites they were last year, with the addition of Ryan Reaves, Matt Hunwick, and Jay McClement on a PTO diluting their talent just a little bit. Still, they’ve got they best core group of players in the game, and if they make the right additions at the trade deadline they could be scary come springtime. At the very least, these guys are a lock for the playoffs, and if the Rangers end up against them in the quest for Lord Stanley’s Cup then we may be in trouble.
I’m going to be upfront about the Carolina Hurricanes: I like this team. The additions of Josh Jooris, Marcus Kruger, and Trevor Van Riemsdyk shore up their depth, Justin Williams adds a little bit more scoring umph, and Scott Darling solves their goaltending problem almost instantly. That, together with their young puck-moving defensive corps and guys like Jeff Skinner, Teuvo Teravainen, and Sebastian Aho, and this team is going to be good. I’m going to make a bold prediction right now – this team will make the playoffs at the very least and may make it even farther from there.
New Jersey Devils
So here’s the thing about the Devils. Yes, they did snag the first overall pick Nico Hischier, and yes they did land coveted college UFA Will Butcher, but unfortunately, they’re still the Devils. The only real shining light for the Devils this year will be Corey Schneider, and unfortunately the team in front of him isn’t all that formidable. I’m not worried about the Devils and neither should you be. Adding Brian Boyle is fun though I guess?
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets are an interesting team. I think the addition of Artemi Panarin, while on paper, may seem to move the needle for them a bit it may actually be counterproductive. Brandon Saad does a lot of little things right that makes him hard to play against, and I’m not sure I could say the same about the Bread Man. Their young guns are only going to get better, so be on the lookout for Alex Wennberg and Zach Werenski, but I’m not so sure that CBJ is a lock for a playoff spot. With a team like Carolina now in the mix, Columbus may be the odd man out come spring. That being said, they still won’t be a team you can phone it in against, and will certainly make a push to make the playoffs. They’re not a given playoff team, but they’re not pushovers either.
The Flyers are an interesting team. With the addition of the second overall pick Nolan Patrick, they now have some solid center depth. Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov are only getting better, and if guys like Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier have good seasons then this team could be good. This is another team I’d be on the lookout to maybe land a playoff spot, along with CBJ and Carolina. Certainly won’t be as easy to play against as they were last year.
So there you have it, your 2017-18 Metropolitan Division. It won’t be easy, but the Rangers should be their regular selves when it comes to locking down a playoff spot, and if they make the right moves at center they may just even be contenders. It won’t be easy though, because even if each team not named the Devils or the Capitals got just a little bit better then this division is going to be a tough one.