Eastern Conference Preview
Different year, same results
Boston Bruins – 1st place
The Bruins led all teams in points last year but failed to make it out of the second round. The Lightning were 'King Slayers' of sorts in the playoffs defeating both Eastern Conference favorites. This time around, the Bruins lose the services of Alex Ovechkin but replaced his offense by committee with the likes of Blake Wheeler and Max Domi. The team should be just as good as last year and there is a very good chance the Bruins repeat as the BRHL’s best Regular Season team. The forwards are deep on all four lines and the defense is under-rated. Led by Kris Letang and Hampus Lindholm, the remaining 4 defensemen are all solid defensively despite lacking some offense. In net, Frederik Andersen should remain one of the top goaltenders in the league.
Buffalo Sabres – 8th place
It’s going to be a long season for what was once a very promising team. The tank continues for the third year now but the Sabres should be turning a corner soon. The team this year will be led by top prospect Thomas Chabot as well as young veteran Ryan Strome up front. Ivan Barbashev looks to have turned a corner this season and should also play a big role in the team. The issue with the Sabres is they lack depth as they have a few high end prospects but haven’t built up enough draft picks. The regression of Gabriel Villardi really hurt. The Sabres made a splash in the free agency market this year and went “Full Anthony” in signing both Corey Crawford and Anders Nilsson to ridiculous contracts. Never go “Full Anthony”.
Detroit Red Wings – 5th place
Nolan’s reign on the Atlantic Division is officially over. It ended last season, but there was still hope. This year, there is no chance of winning the division. With that said, the Wings could very well be a playoff team again. The Altantic had 5 teams make it to the playoffs last year and that will most likely happen again. The Wings will be in a fight for a playoff spot, there is no easy ride this year. The team will continue to be led by Steven Stamkos, Leon Draisaitl and Phil Kessel up front. On defense, P.K. Subban, Tyson Barrie and Jacob Slavin still make a great 1 through 3. Both Duncan Keith and Adam Larsson took a small step back this year. The biggest difference this year is in net as Connor Hellebuyck did not have a good season and is no longer a top 10 goaltender.
Florida Panthers – 6th place
The Panthers made some strides this off-season and continue to improve their team every year. They are still a year or two away from the playoffs, but Tyler is taking the realism approach and is not going full on tank mode. He is taking a page out of the Larry approach to building a team. The only difference here is Tyler is one of the better drafters in the league and has stockpiled some nice talent already. On the pro roster, Matthew Barzal and Artem Anisimov lead a team who haven’t given up hope on former Oilers Milan Lucic, Cam Talbot and Andrej Sekera.
Montreal Canadiens – 4th place
Steve and his Habs got off to a hot start last season before falling short during the second half. The stellar start kept them in the playoffs all year. Still, it was a drastic difference between the first half performance and second half performance. Which Habs team will show up this year?. The team made some off-season additions in Alex Steen, Jamie Benn, Matt Duchene and Dustin Brown. The team overall is improved and the defense looks solid with newcomer Dustin Byfuglien. Between the pipes, Sergei Bobrosvsky has moved on but will be replaced by two good, young goaltenders in Jordan Binnington and Carter Hart.
Ottawa Senators – 3rd place
Steph is all in again this year. I believe we’re at the point where this can only go on for so long. Eventually there will be no more draft picks to trade, and when that happens the Sens will be a team stuck in BRHL purgatory. Until then, the Sens have a realistic shot at the division and are a lock for the playoffs. Tyler Seguin, Sidney Crosby, Ryan O’Reilly and Colton Sissons perhaps make the best 1 through 4 down the middle in the entire league. On the wings, there is no shortage of talent in Marchessault, Pacioretty, Mark Stone and Tyler Johnson. The weak point on this team is obvious, and that’s the defense. All the offense will come from Mattias Ekholm and Colin Miller, while M.E Vlasic and Marc Staal pick up the defensive load. Darcy Kuemper is their starter, who has solid rates for this season.
Tampa Bay Lightning – 2nd place
Last year was a shock to many people when the Tampa Bay Lightning made it to the Stanley Cup finals. Their run to the finals was nothing short of impressive but it all imploded once they got there. This years version of the team is deeper then it was last year up front. Not a whole lot of changes were made but the team sees better rerates from a couple of it’s fringe players. Andrew Shaw, Brock Nelson, Zach Aston-Reese and Oskar Sundqvist are all playable now and newcomer Travis Zajac fills a hole left by Brad Richardson. On defense, the Lightning went out and acquired Ryan Ellis to add to it’s solid defense core of Brent Burns, Mathew Dumba and Brent Seabrook. In net, Anton Khudobin becomes the one year starter as they hope they can find a repeat in performance by James Reimer.
Toronto Maple Leafs – 7th place
The Doughty saga ended this off-season as he was shipped out to the Winnipeg Jets. The Maple Leafs will continue another season of rebuilding as their current squad is a bit more deeper then it was last year. Pierre-Luc Dubois and Kasperi Kapanen both benefitted from solid rerates. We are lead to believe that Kyle Turris will be this years version of Drew Doughty as he remains on the block all season long. On defense, the Maple Leafs are a bit stronger with the likes of Morgan Reilly, Zach Werenski and Samuel Girard. In net, Malcom Subban will lead the way, while they hope for a bounce back season from Jonathan Quick.
Carolina Hurricanes – 5th place
Rich was excited to get an Eastern Preview, but will be disappointed after reading it. We aren’t quite sure where he rates his team in the division. Something tells me he thinks he can win it, but we just aren’t seeing how it’s possible. The team does have a solid top 4 of Malkin, Niederreiter, Kreider and Palmieri, but guys like Brayden Schenn and Tyler Toffoli have taken steps back. On defense, it’s not looking much better as Johnny Boychuk, Kris Russell and Erik Gudbranson will be relied on heavily. If Rich is serious about the playoffs, he needs to move Laurent Brossoit for another defensemen. Thomas Greiss is more then capable of getting this team to the playoffs with some additions during the year.
Columbus Blue Jackets – 2nd place
Jesse’s team is much improved this year and it’s mostly due to rerates. Brayden Point, Jeff Skinner, Brock Boeser and Mika Zibanejad all saw rating increases. They added Paul Stastny in FA to round out the top 6. On defense, the team could have used a guy like Dustin Byfuglien as its top 4 defensemen are Neal Pionk, Brian Dumoulin, Esa Lindell and Chris Tavev. In net, the team could also use an upgrade, although Jacob Markstrom should be good enough to get the job done.
New Jersey Devils – 6th place
It looks like Tim conceded this year as he sold off the remainder of his really good players, and then made a few signings in free agency. The roster still has Yanni Gourde, Brandon Pirri, Mikko Koivu and Bryan Rust that they could use as trade bait. On defense, it’s a mish-mash of 3rd pairing dmen. Henrik Lundqvist will do his best to keep this team out of the basement.
New York Islanders – 1st place
Blue Balls and his Islanders should prove to be the top team again in the Metro. The team is top heavy and deep. Alexsander Barkov remains one of the top players in the sim and he’s surrounded by talent. Kucherov, Connor, Tkachuk, Ehlers, Konecny and the list goes on. The Islanders should be in a fight with the Bruins all season long for top team in the East. On defense, the team is not nearly as strong as their top options are Charlie McAvoy, Dougie Hamilton and Mike Matheson. They also decided to pay Brooks Orpik 8.9 million dollars which may hinder their ability to make a trade.. but we’re talking about Joe Bubanj, so that was most likely not an option anyways. They have one of the best 1-2 punches in net with Andrei Vasilveskiy and Jaroslav Halak.
New York Rangers - 3rd place
P.J. has been pretty active lately, making a lot of trades and a few signings. The team still has it’s core in Auston Matthews, Artemi Panarin and Cam Atkinson. It added Logan Couture as well during the off-season. On defense, they still have one of the best in the game in Victor Hedman, to go with Nate Schmidt and Josh Morrisey. The team moved out a lot of players, but never fully committed to a rebuild. Instead we see a re-tooling so the Rangers are still one of the better teams in the East. They went out and shored up their goaltending with Jimmy Howard for 10 million dollars, but unfortunately Howard isn’t the answer if the team really wants to contend.
Philadelphia Flyers – 8th place
Another year, another rebuild for the Flyers. I haven’t been around long enough to see a winning season in Philadelphia, but I’m sure it happened at one point in time. Anthony’s focus this off-season was not goaltenders, instead it was defensemen. The team signed Zdeno Chara, Justin Braun and Jordie Benn. All of which were multi year deals so he can retain. They also signed Brad Richardson to a 10 mill, 2 year contract. The funny thing here is even at 5m per season, it’s still a poor value contract for Richardson with the second year added. Anyways, the team as is should be good enough to finish 6th in this division, but we all know it will be ransacked before the trade deadline.
Pittsburgh Penguins – 4th place
Toby made some confusing trades this off-season, some for the better, some for the worse. Despite all this, the Penguins should be good enough to complete with the Red Wings for the final playoff spot. Despite trading for Sergei Bobrosvksy and Elias Petersson, and re-signing Mark Giordano, the Penguins should be on the outside, looking in. The team is just not deep enough up front. On defense, they are a bit stronger with the likes of Giordano, Faulk, Gardiner and Parayko. As mentioned earlier, Bobrosvksy should be an improvement over Corey Crawford.
Washington Capitals – 7th place
What’s this? The self named “Best Expansion team ever” is not going to be dead-last in the division?. For what Larry’s team lacks in talent, they make up in heart. Larry refuses to lose, and will get the most out of this squad. With that said, he should finish above the lowly Flyers on the backs of Alex Touch, Scott Laughton and Tony DeAngelo. They also have the leagues best valued goaltender in Jack Campbell, who Larry will try to move out as his value will never be this high again.