There’s no denying that last season was a down year for the Atlantic division. Ottawa finished with 98 points, but all they needed was 96 to get the second seed. Even Montreal only had 103 points, which was the lowest of the four division winners.
The Senators took advantage of an odd year where there weren’t that many super strong teams, but this year could be different.
It seems inevitable that a few teams will bounce back and improve, which could make things really hard on the Senators. With that in mind, let’s look at the other seven teams in the division and where they stand after the off-season to get a grasp of who the Senators will be competing against.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Additions: Mikhail Sergachev, Chris Kunitz, Jamie McBain
Subtractions: Jonathan Drouin, Kristers Gudlevskis, Jason Garrison
Although the Lightning did not add much net value in the off-season, they still have a talented team that should be able to bounce back.
Losing Drouin hurts, but they still have offensive weapons in Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson, and Ondrej Palat. Not to mention that they have the underrated Victor Hedman, as well as goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who I think is ready for a huge breakout season.
They missed the playoffs by just one point last season, and with some better luck they could go as high as the number one seed. They may not be as good as they were a few seasons ago, but this looks like a playoff team to me.
*Edit: I forgot about Dan Girardi. For some reason he didn’t show up on their transaction list.
Additions: Jonathan Drouin, Karl Alzner, Joe Morrow, Ales Hemsky, Mark Streit
Subtractions: Alex Radulov, Andrei Markov, Nikita Nesterov, Brian Flynn, Mikhail Sergachev, Dwight King, Alexei Emelin
The Canadiens are an interesting team. They will probably be a playoff team once again mainly due to Carey Price, but I’m not sure they got any better over the off-season. Jonathan Drouin is a huge get, but Mikhail Sergachev could have potentially made an impact this season on a blueline that is a bit thin.
Getting Drouin would have also been a lot more impressive if they had kept Alex Radulov as well, but now they essentially made a lateral move. The addition of Karl Alzner was supposed to be a “big splash,” but in reality he’s an okay second pairing defenseman at best.
Ales Hemsky and Mark Sreit were good signings that will help, but I’m still not that scared of a team that has two top centres of Tomas Plekanec and Philip Danault. This team will go as far as Carey Price takes them.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Additions: Patrick Marleau, Ron Hainsey, Dominic Moore,
Subtractions: Brian Boyle, Matt Hunwick, Seth Griffith, Roman Polak (if he gets cut from PTO), Brendan Leipsic
The Leafs are hoping that adding Patrick Marleau to their already potent offense puts them over the top. Their defense is still a big question mark, but there’s no denying their offensive ability.
Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Mitch Marner, James Van Riemsdyk, Patrick Marleau, Nazem Kadri, and Tyler Bozak combine for a scary group that few will want to face throughout the season. However, the Leafs only added Ron Hainsey on the back-end, and it’s clear that that is still a weak spot.
I expect this team to be involved in a lot of high-scoring affairs once again, and they will be apart of their fair share of comebacks and blown leads. It’s hard for me to envision this team missing the playoffs with only small departures in their lineup over the off-season.
Additions: Kenny Agostino, Paul Postma
Subtractions: John-Michael Liles, Joe Morrow, Dominic Moore, Jimmy Hayes, Zac Rinaldo, Drew Stafford, Colin Miller
The Bruins did vey little in the off-season, so my evaluation of them hasn’t really changed since they were eliminated by the Senators in April.
They are a team that heavily relies on their star players like Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, and Brad Marchand, as their depth throughout the lineup is quite suspect. They have been a playoff bubble team for the past three seasons, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
The only way they improve from last season is if Tuukka Rask returns to his old form, and their top line carries them farther than they should. At the end of the day, they are a potential playoff team, but they don’t look like a team that could go deep in the playoffs.
Additions: Evgeny Dadonov, Radim Vrbata, Henrik Haapala, Jamie McGinn
Subtractions: Jaromir Jagr, Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, Jussi Jokinen, Jakub Kindl, Jason Demers, Thomas Vanek
What has transpired in Florida over the past year or two is just incredibly strange. In the 2016 off-season, they made a bunch of smart moves that saved the team money, but it appeared to also make them better. They were known as the “computer boys” team due to all of their analytics people hirings. It didn’t work out for a variety of reasons, but I think it’s safe to say that it wasn’t due to the smart people they brought in.
Nevertheless, Dale Tallon is back to running the show, and that pleases me very much. The Panthers have had a pretty terrible off-season besides signing Evgeny Dadonov, as they lost five of their top eight scorers from last season. They still have talented players like Jonathan Huberdeau, Vince Trochek, Alex Barkov, and Aaron Ekblad, but they severely cut their depth from last year. I don’t see them as a playoff team.
Additions: Seth Griffith, Jacob Josefson, Chad Johnson, Benoit Pouliot, Nathan Beaulieu, Marco Scandella, Jason Pominville, Viktor Antipin
Subtractions: Dmitry Kulikov, Cody Franson, Brian Gionta, Anders Nilsson, Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno
The Sabres made some smart additions that did not cost very much, and with a healthy Jack Eichel, they could certainly be a team that takes a step forward from last season.
If Robin Lehner can keep up his solid play too, the Sabres have a chance to be a surprising team. However, even after adding Nathan Beaulieu and Marco Scandella, their defense is still quite bad. If they want to get anywhere, they will have to rely on solid goaltending, which they actually did receive last season.
The Sabres are probably still a year away from being good again, but you can see the outlines of a playoff team. They just need to continue to fill out their roster.
Detroit Red Wings
Additions: Trevor Daley, Tom McCollum
Subtractions: Tomas Nosek, Drew Miller, Joe Vitale
What a mess of an organization this has become. The Red Wings missed the playoffs for the first time since 1990, but their fortunes have changed so quickly.
Somehow Ken Holland thought that his team needed a 33 year-old Trevor Daley for the next three seasons, and according to Cap Friendly, they are over the cap by about $3 million. It’s astonishing that this kind of roster can be that expensive:
I can't get over the fact that THIS TEAM is over the salary cap. This. Team. pic.twitter.com/GJqEPcAusb— Trevor Shackles (@ShackTS) September 5, 2017
The Red Wings are an aging team that has a few good young forwards, but their future looks pretty bleak right now. It’s nice that for once, we won’t have to worry about them, and it will probably take a few years before they’re in the playoff conversation again.
So that’s how the rest of the division looks as we head into the 2017-18 season. I’m sure it won’t be as easy as last season, but we can always hope.