Here we are barreling toward the start of the NHL Regular season. So it is time to start previewing what is to come in the upcoming 2019-20 season. I will break down every division, than the league as a whole. With a final look at the playoffs and crown my 2019-20 Stanley Cup Champion.
Ahhh the oddly named Metro Division. This division has seen the biggest roster changes in the NHL offseason. Huge names have left the division, some have been added, and others have simply switched teams. This Division last year was won by the Washington Capitals. The stunner of the division was Barry Trotz lead New York Islanders finishing second. The Sweetheart of the division was Jarmo Kekäläinen’s all in Columbus Blue Jackets.
This season we are likely to see a tight conference. Any team in the division not named Columbus has a shot at winning it. The old guard of Pittsburgh and Washington are aging quickly as the youth of the division like New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils, and Philadelphia Flyers are coming into their own.
Up front Washington will still be able to score at will. Ovi is now officially chasing Gretzky’s goal record so he will be unleashing un holy hell on every NHL Goalie. Plush Braden Holtby is still in between the pipes. However they have lost some bodies on the back end. Matt Niskanen is now in Philly and Brooks Orpik has retired. These are major losses to the Washington Blue Line. It use to be above average and now it is average at best. Yes they still have American Hero John Carlson and Dmitry Orlov, but that’s about it. They added Radko Gudas in the Matt Niskanen deal but he is bottom pairing material. They will need to find some help on the blue line if they play on winning the Metro again this year.
New York Islanders
The Islanders are an interesting case. Barry Trotz schemed them into the playoffs by playing a stingy style of defence and having a career year from Robin Lehner. Lehner is now in Chicago. So they signed Semyon Varlamov. An arguably more talented goaltender but far older then Lehner. Other then that their roster remains largely the same. I think last year the Metro was weak and the Islanders stole some points from teams they won’t be able to do that this year. However if Matt Barzel continues to take steps forward in his progression they maybe to maintain a playoff spot.
Well the mighty flightless birds of the Metro are cooked. They are done. They finally have hit the wall . . . Right? Not a fat chance in hell. This team still has Sidney F*cking Crosby so they will make the playoffs. They lose eighty points in Phil Kessel. Which will take some adjustment, because like it or not, Phil was a huge part of this team the past few years. So they have filled his absence with a deeper roster. Adding guys like Dominik Kahun and Alex Galchenyuk provide the Penguins a litany of wingers to move up and down the lineup. Which lets be honest is what the two star center of the Penguins prefer. Guys who don’t play overly complicated games. Skate in a straight line with their sticks on the ice. Let the future hall of famers do the work. The Blueline seemed to steady out as the year went on, they are returning everyone but Olli Maatta. I think the true heel of the Penguins will be in net. Which Matt Murray are we going to get. If healthy Murray can become one of the elite netminders in this league. If he is nursing nagging injuries he is terrible. How long of a leash will Jim Rutherford give his goalie? Only time will tell.
Oh my. Well if last year was a surprising step forward for the franchise this season maybe a regression. They have lost a lot of talent and have lost a lot of heart. They lose, Micheal Ferland, Justin Williams and Trevor Van Riemsdyk. They still have all their young talent from last year, but they have lost some veteran leadership, steady defensive play and a guy who makes your top six incredible. They also lose Petr Mrazek’s goalie partner in Curtis McElhinney. You may not think this is a big deal, but if you have a great goalie tandem and you break them up and can affect that position immensely. Especially if it was well known that McElhinney was there solely to support Mrazek. Now with Reimer as his goalie partner will he feel the pressure? Hard to say. Hopefully Rod Brind’Amour can keep the wheels moving on this train. But if he doesn’t, I don’t think anyone will blame him.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Jackets are the team to likely take the biggest step backward this season. They went all in last season to make the playoffs and attempt to win a series. They did it in spectacular fashion. Sweeping Tampa Bay in the first round. Then losing a very close series to Boston. Unfortunately all those heroes from the playoffs have left town. What they are left with is their home grown roster. Which is still a decent team. It is just a team that lacks star power. Cam Atkinson is a stud, but can he be a top point getter on this team? If Columbus looks to add pieces as the season progress that would be great. However they have lost just about every draft pick for the next three years for going all in last season. So they have no pieces to trade for talent from other teams. Their goaltending is very much in limbo in its first year without Bobrovsky. They do not have a defined number one goalie. Unfortunately I don’t have high hopes for Columbus.
This team made some major moves this off season. They add Kevin Hays, Justin Braun, and Matt Niskanen. This is adding to an already solid core of players. Even more dangerous, they have a lot of cap space left. There will be a couple of teams looking to dumb some big contracts late in the season and Philly will have the room to take them on. Imagine Philly snatching up a Drew Doughty. Yikes.
New York Rangers
New Jersey Devils
How can you not be excited about the New Jersey Devils. Number one overall pick Jack Hughes, Nikta Gusev, PK Subban, and a returning cast of very good players. Plus a former MVP Taylor Hall. This team is ready to compete now. The one major hole is goaltending. A team that for decades never had to worry about who was stopping the puck now finds themselves wondering if Cory Schneider is past his prime? He is very injury prone, and when healthy has not installed a lot of confidence. If they figure out their situation in between the pipes this team could be very dangerous in the division. I will be traveling to The Rock in November to see them up close. Fingers crossed we see a show.
The Metro is going to get scrambled pretty good this season. So if my standing seam odd it’s because big changes are coming.
I think Sid and Geno get the Penguins back on track this season. I think that Washington’s blue line holds them back. While Philly and Jersey make the jump to the playoffs immediately. The Islanders, Hurricanes and Rangers all battle it out at the bottom of the division while Columbus falls off a truck. Top four make the playoffs, unless the Atlantic is as good as I think they are.