NHL 2013-14 Metropolitan Division team-by-team preview

Sunday September 29th, 2013

Marc-Andre Fleury
Gene J. Puskar/AP

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Pittsburgh Penguins

Coach: Dan Bylsma
2013 record: 36-12-0, 1st in the East, lost to Bruins in conference finals
Vital signs: 3.38 goals-for per game (1st), 2.48 goals-against per game (12th), 24.7 power play pct. (2nd), 79.6 penalty kill pct. (25th), shootout record: 3-0 (17th)
Notable adds: D Rob Scuderi (Kings), F Matt D'Agostini (Devils)
Notable losses: F Jarome Iginla (Bruins), F Brenden Morrow (Blues), D Douglas Murray (Canadiens), F Matt Cooke (Wild), F Tyler Kennedy (Sharks)


Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
Jussi Jokinen - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Tanner Glass - Brandon Sutter - Matt D'Agostini
Chris Conner - Dustin Jeffrey - Craig Adams
Joe Vitale

Brooks Orpik - Paul Martin
Rob Scuderi - Matt Niskanen
Olli Maata - Robert Bortuzzo
Deryk Engelland/Harrison Ruopp
Kris Letang (injured)

Marc-Andre Fleury
Jeff Zatkoff/ Tomas Vokoun (out indefinitely)

Outlook: Give GM Ray Shero credit. It would have been easy to overreact to his team's stunning dismissal from the playoffs after the Pens scored just twice while being swept by the Bruins. Instead, he recognized it as an anomaly, and focused on the fact that his team had dominated the East during the regular season and won two playoff series for the first time since capturing the Cup back in 2009. A little tinkering was all the Pens needed to stay in a good place, so he repatriated stay-at-home defender Rob Scuderi and brought in some veteran depth to shore up the bottom six. His most compelling off-season additions were made to the coaching staff. Jacques Martin will work on improving a weak penalty kill and team defense in general while Mike Bales will be charged with getting Marc-Andre Fleury back on track mentally and mechanically. If Bales succeeds, the Pens are again Cup contenders. If not, Fleury's days with the team are numbered.

New York Rangers

Alain Vigneault
christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images

Coach: Alain Vigneault
2013 record: 26-18-4, 6th in the East, lost to Bruins in conference semi-finals
Vital signs: 2.62 goals-for per game (15th), 2.25 goals-against per game (4th), 15.7 power play pct. (23rd), 81.1 penalty kill pct. (15th), shootout record: 4-4 (12th)
Notable adds: D Justin Falk (Wild), F Benoit Pouliot (Lightning), F Dominic Moore (DNP)
Notable losses: F Ryane Clowe (Devils), D Steve Eminger (Russia), D Matt Gilroy (Panthers)


Brad Richards - Derek Stepan - Rick Nash
Benoit Pouilot - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello
Taylor Pyatt- Brian Boyle - Jesper Fast
JT Miller - Dominic Moore - Derek Dorsett/Arron Asham
Carl Hagelin (LTIR/shoulder) - Ryan Callahan (shoulder)


Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Michael Del Zotto
John Moore - Anton Stralman
Justin Falk

Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron

Outlook: "Ding, dong, the witch is dead," proclaimed New York Post writer Larry Brooks after the dismissal of coach John Tortorella, a sentiment that was echoed in parts of the Rangers' dressing room. Tortorella's abrasive and dismissive style had run its course with this team, making the signing of Alain Vigneault the most important move that GM Glen Sather made all summer. A gentler tone and a lighter hand on the whip could be exactly what's needed to get the most out of the considerable collection of talent on hand, especially Brad Richards, who struggled under the critical eye of his ex-coach. Derick Brassard sparkled upon joining the Blueshirts at the deadline. He could be in for a massive year. The defense looks much more sturdy with the return of Marc Staal from the eye injury that cost him most of last season, and Henrik Lundqvist is probably the best in the world at his position. With all those pieces in place, it's easy to see this team making some real noise in the postseason.

Washington Capitals

Braden Holtby
Fred Kloury/Icon SMI

Coach: Adam Oates
2013 record: 27-18-3, 3rd in the East, lost to Rangers in conference quarter-finals
Vital signs: 3.04 goals-for per game (5th), 2.71 goals-against per game (18th), 26.8 power play pct. (1st), 77.9 penalty kill pct. (27th), shootout record: 3-0 (16th)
Notable adds: F Mikhail Grabovski (Maple Leafs), D Tyson Strachan (Panthers)
Notable losses: F Mike Ribeiro (Coyotes), F Joey Crabb (Panthers), F Matt Hendricks (Predators), D Jeff Schultz (Kings), F Wojtek Wolski (Russia)


Marcus Johansson - Nicklas Backstrom - Alex Ovechkin
Brooks Laich - Mikhail Grabovski - Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera - Eric Fehr - Joel Ward
Martin Erat - Jay Beagle - Tom Wilson
Aaron Volpatti/ MIchael Latta

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
John Erskine - Mike Green
Jack Hillen - Steve Oleksy
Connor Carrick

Braden Holtby
Michal Neuvirth

Outlook: It took awhile for them to warm up to the ways of new coach Adam Oates, but once they bought in to his message, the Caps were nearly unstoppable, rampaging through the final two months on their way to a fifth Southeast title in the past six years. Alex Ovechkin gets most of the credit for the turnaround, and he should. His willingness to adapt set a tone that the rest of the team followed, but don't overlook the impact of Braden Holtby, whose .923 save percentage shows that he's on his way to becoming one of the league's best stoppers. The loss of Mike Ribeiro will knock the league's top power play down a couple of notches, but Mikhail Grabovski, his replacement, should make Washington a tougher team at five-on-five. The defense is the one real area of concern. There's a big drop-off after the top three of John Carlson, Karl Alzner and Mike Green, and whoever gets the big minutes in the four-spot could be exploited. Expect an upgrade at that position before the trade deadline as the Caps stay in the hunt for the first Metro crown.

Philadelphia Flyers

Claude Giroux
Len Redkoles/Getty Images

Coach: Peter Laviolette
2013 record: 23-22-3, 10th in the East
Vital signs: 2.75 goals-for per game (9th), 2.90 goals-against per game (23rd), 21.6 power play pct. (3rd), 85.9 penalty kill pct. (5th), shootout record: 1-2 (28th)
Notable adds: D Mark Streit (Islanders), F Vincent Lecavalier (Lightning), G Ray Emery (Blackhawks)
Notable losses:  F Daniel Briere (Canadiens), G Ilya Bryzgalov (UFA), F Ruslan Fedotenko (Russia), D Kurtis Foster (Russia), F Jody Shelley (retired)


Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jake Voracek
Brayden Schenn - Vincent Lecavalier - Wayne Simmonds
Scott Laughton - Sean Couturier - Matt Read
Zac Rinaldo - Adam Hall - Max Talbot
Jay Rosehill

Kimmo Timonen - Braydon Coburn
Mark Streit - Luke Schenn
Andrej Meszaros - Nick Grossman
Erik Gustafsson/Hal Gill

Ray Emery
Steve Mason

Outlook: The Flyers boasted a top-10 offense and top-flight special teams last season, but injuries and inconsistency, especially between the pipes, conspired to leave them well off the playoff pace. The solution? Throw money at it. GM Paul Holmgren is gambling that Ray Emery can solve one problem by being the same keeper that he was during the regular season for the Cup champion Blackhawks, but that's hardly a sure bet. Neither is Vincent Lecavalier, though if he stays healthy, he's an upgrade over Danny Briere. The most interesting pick-up was Mark Streit, a gifted two-way defender but, at 35, you have to wonder how much is left in his tank (and you can ask the same question of incumbent No. 1 defender Kimmo Timonen, now 36). The team's strength is up front, where youngsters like Jake Voracek, Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn could be primed for big seasons and there's a nice mix of skill and toughness. As long as Claude Giroux bounces back to 2011-12 form -- and stays off the golf course -- the Flyers should grab a spot.

New York Islanders

John Tavares
Paul Bereswill/AP

Coach: Jack Capuano
2013 record: 24-17-7, 8th in the East, lost to Pegnuins in conference quarter-finals
Vital signs: 2.81 goals-for per game (7th), 2.83 goals-against per game (21st), 19.9 power play pct. (11th), 80.3 penalty kill pct. (21st), shootout record: 4-3 (10th)
Notable adds: F Pierre-Marc Bouchard (Wild), F Cal Clutterbuck (Wild), F Peter Regin (Senators)
Notable losses:  D Mark Streit (Flyers), F Nino Niederreiter (Wild), G Rick DiPietro (UFA), F Brad Boyes (Panthers)


Matt Moulson - John Tavares - Josh Bailey
Pierre-Marc Bouchard - Frans Nielsen - Kyle Okposo
Peter Regin - Brock Nelson - Michael Grabner
Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Colin McDonald
Eric Boulton

Andrew MacDonald - Travis Hamonic
Lubomir Visnovsky - Brian Strait
Matt Donovan - Thomas Hickey
Griffin Reinhart/Matt Carkner

Evgeni Nabokov
Kevin Poulin 

Outlook: After five years of off-ice distractions and on-ice dysfunction, the Islanders took that first step back toward respectability with a gritty six-game loss to the Pens in the opening round of the playoffs. The series capped off a star-making turn for John Tavares, a worthy finalist for the Hart Trophy who now faces of the challenge of taking the next step forward ... and bringing the Isles along with him. It would help if Josh Bailey and Kyle Okposo picked up where they left off last season. Both players finished strong after slow starts and could provide much-needed secondary scoring. First rounders Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome should get a chance to chip in as well. Both can be dynamic offensive forces. The defense, led by Travis Hamonic and Andy MacDonald, doesn't get anywhere near the respect it deserves, largely because its efforts are foiled by inconsistent goaltending. At 38,Evgeni Nabokov is a placeholder in net and appears to be the team's weak link. He'll have to channel a much younger version of himself for this team to contend for a playoff spot. It would also help if the isles could be less hospitable hosts. They were just 10-11-3 at Nassau Coliseum, the worst home record of any playoff team and the fourth worst overall in the league.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Sergei Bobrovsky
Jason Mowry/Icon SMI

Coach: Todd Richards
2013 record: 24-17-7, 9th in the West
Vital signs: 2.40 goals-for per game (25th), 2.40 goals-against per game (9th), 14.2 power play pct. (28th), 82.6 penalty kill pct. (11th), shootout record: 5-4 (6th)
Notable adds: F Nathan Horton (Bruins), F Jack Skille (Panthers)
Notable losses: F Vaclav Prospal (UFA)


Nick Foligno- Artem Anisimov - Marian Gaborik
Cam Atkinson - Brandon Dubinsky - Nathan Horton
RJ Umberger - Ryan Johansen - Mark Letestu
Matt Calvert - Derek MacKenzie - Blake Comeau
Jared Boll

Fedor Tyutin - Nikita Nikitin
Tim Erixon- James Wisniewski
Jack Johnson - Dalton Prout
Ryan Murray

Sergei Bobrovsky
Curtis McElhinney

Outlook: A 19-5-4 tear through March and April wasn't enough to earn the Jackets a ticket to the dance, but it did catch the eye of a league that had long categorized Columbus as irrelevant. Now the question is: Was this a team that caught lightning in a bottle during a shortened campaign, or one that had finally taken a big step toward respectability? The signs look positive. The post-Rick Nash era finds them a much grittier group that plays an up-tempo, all hands on deck-style. They prefer to spread the offense, but have an elite game-breaker in Marian Gaborik, acquired at the trade deadline last spring, and something like one in Nathan Horton, an experienced power forward who'll make for a huge upgrade once his shoulder heals up. They have a defense that's hard to play against. And they have Sergei Bobrovsky, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner who'll be motivated to prove that he wasn't a fluke and that he should be the starter for Russia in Sochi. But while this looks to be the best lineup the team has ever iced, the move to the Metro Division likely means they're nowhere near as close to making the playoffs in the East as they were in the West. Think of it as one step back before taking two steps forward.

New Jersey Devils

Cory Schneider
Rich Graessl/Icon SMI

Coach: Peter DeBoer
2013 record: 19-19-10, 11th in the East
Vital signs: 2.29 goals-for per game (28th), 2.54 goals-against per game (13th), 15.9 power play pct. (21st), 81.1 penalty kill pct. (16th), shootout record: 2-7 (21st)
Notable adds: G Cory Schneider (Canucks), F Jaromir Jagr (Bruins), F Damien Brunner (Red Wings), F Michael Ryder (Canadiens), F Ryane Clowe (Rangers), F Rostislav Olesz (Blackhawks)
Notable losses:  F Ilya Kovalchuk (Russia), F David Clarkson (Maple Leafs), F Alexei Ponikarovsky (Russia), D Henrik Tallinder (Sabres), G Johan Hedberg (UFA), F Krys Barch (Panthers)


Patrik Elias - Travis Zajac - Jaromir Jagr
Ryane Clowe - Adam Henrique - Michael Ryder
Damien Brunner - Andrei Loktionov - Dainius Zubrus
Mattias Tedenby - Ryan Carter - Steve Bernier
Cam Janssen - Rostislav Olesz

Andy Greene -- Marek Zidlicky
Anton Volchenkov -- Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador -- Adam Larsson
Peter Harrold

Martin Brodeur
Cory Schneider

Outlook: There have been plenty of occasions in NHL history when a team improved dramatically after losing a superstar ... but this doesn't feel like one of those, does it? The unexpected defection of Ilya Kovalchuk, followed by David Clarkson's exit, decimated an offense that was just one goal removed from last in the league in 2013 and led GM Lou Lamoriello to scoop up virtually anyone with an NHL resume and a pair of skates in hopes to filling the void by committee. There might still be some twinkle left in the twigs of Jaromir Jagr, Michael Ryder and Ryane Clowe, but all three vets are slow of foot and not particularly strong away from the puck. Damien Brunner adds a bit of intrigue to the mix. He has the hands, but he has to prove that he can handle traffic and play enough defense to earn top-six minutes. Adam Henrique and Travis Zajac, both recipients of big contracts over the last 12 months, need to step up. Adding Cory Schneider was a coup, but he could be a long-term investment. Until Martin Brodeur decides he's had enough, the former Canuck will spend most of his nights opening the gate. Probably just as well, though. It's going to get ugly out on the ice.

Carolina Hurricanes

Jeff Skinner
Gene J. Puskar/AP

Coach: Kirk Muller
2013 record: 19-25-4, 13th in the East
Vital signs: 2.65 goals-for per game (14th), 3.31 goals-against per game (29th), 14.6 power play pct. (27th), 77.6 penalty kill pct. (28th), shootout record: 1-1 (26th)
Notable adds: D Ron Hainsey (Jets), D Mike Komisarek (Maple Leafs), F Nathan Gerbe (Sabres), G Anton Khudobin (Bruins), F Aaron Palushaj (Avalanche), D Andrej Sekera (Sabres)
Notable losses:  D Jamie McBain (Sabres), D Joe Corvo (Senators), D Marc-Andre Bergeron (Switzerland), G Dan Ellis (Stars), F Chad Larose (UFA), F Tim Brent (Russia)


Jiri Tlusty - Eric Staal - Alex Semin
Nathan Gerbe - Jordan Staal - Patrick Dwyer
Jeff Skinner - Riley Nash - Drayson Bowman
Brett Sutter - Elias Lindholm - Kevin Westgarth
Tuomo Ruutu

Justin Faulk - Ron Hainsey
Andrej Sekera - Ryan Murphy
Jay Harrison - Mike Komisarek
Brett Bellemore/Tim Gleason

Cam Ward
Anton Khudobin

Outlook: It's been four years since the 'Canes last earned a playoff berth and there are few reasons to believe that streak won't stretch to five. Sure, they've had to deal with a wrath-of-God plague of injuries along the way, but that isn't what doomed them. The reality is, this has been one poorly constructed team. And while GM Jim Rutherford has made a couple of sharp adds over the summer to begin to address that problem, the lineup still has a patchwork feel to it that suggests expansion team more than postseason contender. The first line is solid, but the second is a huge concern with health problems (Jeff Skinner, Tuomo Ruutu) and disapponting production (Jordan Staal) to overcome. Scoring isn't their main concern, though. That 29th-ranked defense is. The focus then will be on a blueline that will sport at least three new faces after a season-ending injury to Joni Pitkanen. The ability of that group to impact the league's worst special teams unit will determine whether Carolina makes a show of it or quickly sinks to the bottom of the conference.

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