In case you missed it, part one of the Metropolitan Division preview posted yesterday, go check it out: http://bluelinestation.com/2013/09/29/season-preview-metropolitan-division/
Now, let’s take an in-depth look at the next four teams in the Metro:
Columbus Blue Jackets
Projected Depth Chart
Overview: After spending 12 long seasons in the Western Conference, the Blue Jackets will make the shift East in the hopes of making some noise in the playoffs. The Jackets have just one playoff appearance and zero victories to their credit. They came awfully close last season, but they conceded the eighth and final spot to the Minnesota Wild by verdict of the ROW (Regulation and Overtime wins) tiebreaker.
As they rode the wave of momentum caused by Vezina-winning goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus won 20 of their final 28 games, earning points in all 28 except five. Bobrovsky will have to perform at that level, or at least close to it, if the Jackets stand any chance at clinching a playoff-berth.
Up front, Columbus signed Nathan Horton to a seven-year deal this summer, the forward won a Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins in 2011 and came close in 2013. However, the former 30-goal scorer will be unavailable at the start of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery. With Horton sidelined, Marian Gaborik will have to get near the 40-goal mark once again, after a disappointing 12-goal season last year.
Coach: Kirk Muller
2013 record: 19-25-4, 13th in the Eastern Conf.
Notable additions: Nathan Gerbe (Buffalo), Elias Lindholm (Fifth pick in 2013 NHL Draft), Mike Komisarek (Toronto), Andrej Sekera (Buffalo), Anton Khudobin (Boston)
Notable losses: Chad LaRose (Disappeared), Joe Corvo (Ottawa), Jamie McBain (Buffalo), Dan Ellis (Dallas)
Projected Depth Chart
Overview: For the Hurricanes, last season had it’s ups and downs. After leading the Southeast Division with a 15-9-1 record after a 4-0 win against the Capitals on March 12, they won just two of their next 19 games as they quietly faded away to finish 13th in the Conference.
As it has been over the past several seasons, the success of Carolina has been drawn back to goaltender Cam Ward. Example: with Ward injured by a third-degree MCL sprain last year, the Canes won just seven of their final 27 games. They have acquired a capable backup in the form of Anton Khudobin, which will allow Ward to have a little more rest from time to time.
At the forward position, Carolina’s top six consists of Eric and Jordan Staal, Jeff Skinner, Alexander Semin and Jiri Tlusty. The top line of Tlusty, Eric Staal and Semin accounted for almost 43 percent of the team’s goals last season. They were also the most productive even-strength line in the NHL.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said at defense. Carolina allowed the second-most goals last season (159). General manager Jim Rutherford tightened up his blueline by acquiring veterans Mike Komisarek and Andrej Sekera, both of whom will play big minutes this season. A defensive unit that features those two plus Tim Gleason, Justin Faulk, Jay Harrison and Joni Pitkanen, they will surely not be an easy team to play against, but they are also not the strongest of last line defenses.
New York Islanders
Coach: Jack Capuano
2013 record: 24-17-7, 8th in the East, lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Quarterfinal round.
Notable additions: Peter Regin (Ottawa), Pierre-Marc Bouchard (Minnesota), Cal Clutterbuck (Minnesota)
Notable losses: Brad Boyes (Free Agency), Keith Aucoin (Free Agency), Nino Niederreiter (Minnesota), Mark Streit (Philadelphia), Radek Martinek (Free Agency), Rick DiPietro (Bought out)
Josh Bailey, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Eric Boulton, Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck, Michael Grabner, Matt Martin, Colin McDonald, Matt Moulson, Brock Nelson, Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo, Peter Regin, John Tavares
Overview: Not since the days of former NHLer Alexei Yashin had the Islanders qualified for a playoff birth before last season, when they squeezed in as the eighth seed and faced the top-seeded Penguins in a hard fought first-round battle, where they would ultimately lose in six games. However, they have put up enough of a fight to raise the spirits of the hopefuls out on Long Island.
The Islanders have built a young nucleus featuring captain John Tavares, Matt Moulson, Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey and Travis Hamonic, just to name a few, and don’t forget Griffin Reinhart, the fourth overall pick in the 2012 NHL draft and Ryan Strome, the fifth pick a year before.
With Tavares (28 goals last season), Moulson (15 goals), Bailey (11 goals) and Michael Grabner (16 goals), New York should have balanced scoring in their lineup this year, with “should” being the keyword. They will need Okposo to step up his game, while the organization is hoping that potentially playing on the first line will ignite the play of Pierre-Marc Bouchard, as it did with Brad Boyes last season (35 points).
The defense will need to produce their fair share of offense as well. Losing power-play man Mark Streit, who earned 27 of the Islanders’ 77 points from the point last season, leaves a huge crater that needs to be filled. A possible solution could come in the form of Matt Donovan, who led all AHL defenseman last season with 48 points.
The play of goaltender Evgeni Nabokov will also play a pivotal role in the Isles’ success. The 38-year old won 23 games during the regular season, along with a 2.50 GAA and a .910 save percentage. He slowly deteriorated in the playoffs however, allowing 4.44 goals per game and stopping only 84 percent of the Penguins’ shots. Backup Kevin Poulin played five regular-season games last year with poor results (1-3-0, 3.02 GAA, .893 SV%). He will have to improve upon those numbers if he wishes to give Nabokov a much-needed breather.
For the first time in a long time, there are positive expectations surrounding this Islanders team, and their performance under those expectations in a tougher division will prove how close they are to competing on a day-to-day basis.
New Jersey Devils
Coach: Peter DeBoer
2013 record: 19-19-10, 11th in Eastern Conf.
Notable additions: Jaromir Jagr (Boston), Ryane Clowe (NY Rangers), Michael Ryder (Montreal), Cory Schneider (Vancouver)
Notable losses: Ilya Kovalchuk (Retirement), David Clarkson (Toronto), Alexei Ponikarovsky (KHL), Henrik Tallinder (Buffalo), Johan Hedberg (Bought out), owner Jeff Vanderbeek (debt).
Steve Bernier, Damien Brunner, Ryan Carter, Ryane Clowe, Patrik Elias, Stephen Gionta, Adam Henrique, Jaromir Jagr, Jacob Josefson, Andrei Loktionov, Rostislav Olesz, Michael Ryder, Mattias Tedenby, Travis Zajac, Dainius Zubrus
Cory Schneider, Martin Brodeur
Overview: On a negative note by losing Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk and David Clarkson, the Devils have lost almost 40 percent of their offense over the past two seasons (124 combined goals out of 326 total). On the other hand, even with Kovalchuk and Clarkson last season, New Jersey scored just 2.29 goals per game, second-fewest throughout the entire league (although, Kovalchuk did miss 11 games due to injury).
In all seriousness, the Devils will sorely miss Kovalchuk. Really their only offensive motivation. He led all forwards with almost 25 minutes of ice time per game (in the 11 missed games, New Jersey averaged 1.72 goals per game). GM Lou Lamoriello signed veteran forward Jaromir Jagr, along with Michael Ryder, Ryane Clowe and he also brought in Damien Brunner as he continues to cement the NHL’s oldest team with an average age of 31 years old. He hopes that they, along with Patrik Elias, Travis Zajac and Adam Henrique will lessen the blow of losing Ilya.
Martin Brodeur has guarded the net for two decades, but this summer, Lamoriello was able to successfully acquire his successor, Cory Schneider from Vancouver. Brodeur will continue to be the starter for New Jersey, but Schneider should expect to see more games in 2013-14 considering the fact that the Devils have a league-high 22 sets of back-to-back games.