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2014-15 NHL Previews: Metropolitan Division

The long-short summary on all you need to know about the Metropolitan Division

The Metropolitan Division
The Metropolitan Division

Taking a closer look at the so-called Metropolitan Division... you hear that? That is the distant sound of hockey fans cheering/booing/jeering. Hockey season is around the corner folks. While I took the entire summer to recuperate from the rollercoaster of emotions left from last season (the last emotion of which was complete despair and s***-faced shame as our most despised cross-town rivals proudly lifted the Cup), I am now recovered just about enough to crawl out of my dark cave and squint towards the light of day. Kyle and Ben have already previewed the Atlantic and Central division respectively. Let's proceed onto the oh-so-popular Metropolitan Division.

2013-2014 Standings


*Though the Pittsburgh Penguins came first in the division, I will preview the New York Rangers last because they saw the longest post-season success as Eastern Conference Champions

New York Islanders



Looking Back: Where were they at the end of last season

2013-14 Record: 34-37-11, Last in the Metro Division standings *insert sad face*

At the beginning of the season, the Islanders and Buffalo Sabres made big headlines when the Sabres traded forward Thomas Vanek to the Islanders in exchange for forward Matt Moulson, a first round 2014 draft selection, and a second round 2015 draft selection. Unfortunately, Vanek did not accept the club’s contract extension offer and was dealt to the Montreal Canadiens towards their post-season run for the Cup.

The Islanders did make a big stage appearance alongside the New York Rangers for the Yankee Stadium Outdoor game. Sadly, they dropped this game 2-1.

Not long after, any post-season hopes for this team was chopped by the devastating (and I mean devastating) loss of Captain John Tavares during the Sochi Olympics. A torn MCL and meniscus in his knee cued him for an early season exit.  But in addition to the gaping hole in the front, Defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky’s concussion sat him out from supporting the ragged blue line for three months.

Despite Kyle Okposo's impressive career year, I think it’s fair to say that the Islanders had a pretty rough 2013-14 season.

Offseason Shmoff-season: What they've done

Departures: Evgeni Nabokov

Acquisitions: Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin, Harry Zolnierczyk, Cory Conacher, Jack Skille, Chad Johnson, T.J. Brennan, Jaroslav Halak

2014 Draft: Michael Dal Colle (5th), Josh Ho-Sang, Ilya Sorokin, Linus Soderstrom, Devon Toews, Kyle Schempp, Lukas Sutter

GM Garth Snow made some pretty big moves during the off-season. One of the most noticeable changes for the Islanders was in net.  With Nabokov out, there was room to deal for the negotiating rights to the former St. Louis Blues netminder Halak. Snow additionally signed Chad Johnson as back-up to Halak.

Even though Snow failed to also obtain San Jose Sharks' defenseman Dan Boyle, he kept busy this summer with additional signings to fill in the Islanders' gaps.

Another important off-season activity to note was the sale of the New York Islanders hockey club by Charles Wang to former owner of the Washington Capitals, Jonathan Ledecky and Scott Malkin. Ledecky and Malkin will slowly transition over two years to become the majority owners.

Looking Forward into the 2014-15 Season

The Islanders embark on their final season playing at Nassau Coliseum. They will begin playing at Barclays Center beginning with the 2015-16 season.

That being said, this is a team that feels like they have a lot to prove. Contrary to last season’s standings, the New York Islanders are not a terrible team. Garth Snow made some big moves that largely improved the overall make of the team.

Offensively, the Islanders may very well be contenders against the big dogs of the East. Kyle Okposo alongside a healthy John Tavares should create quite a formidable pair among fowards.  The reunion of (puck possession dream team) Mikail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin could possibly produce rich rewards on the second line. These two players will have the large season agenda of proving their worth this coming season.

The caveat to a redeeming season for this hockey club lies on the blue line. The Islanders have struggled defensively for a couple of seasons now. With the loss of Andrew MacDonald, Lubomir Visnovsky will be largely leaned upon as the veteran pillar to the defense corps. Kids like Travis Hamonic and Calvin de Haan may very well have to step up to fortify the weaknesses in the back end. Fortunately, the upgrade from Rick DiPietro to Jaroslav Halak may help tighten up in and around the goal.

Prediction: Even with the return of a healthy Tavares, I can see the Islanders struggle for a Wild Card spot. The offense will not be enough to supplement the young and inexperienced defense.

Carolina Hurricanes

Looking Back: Where were they at the end of last season

2013-14 Record: 36-35-11, Second to last in the Metro Division standings



As we STILL continue to laugh at this video, the same seems to be with this team--simply laughable. The only reason they were in last place in their division was only because the New York Islanders plummeted after losing John Tavares to his season-ending knee injury. So in summary, the Carolina Hurricanes can claim the title to last season’s worst team in the Metro Division.

Let’s just say that Canes management and fans alike were all looking forward to their seventh overall pick on the first day of the 2014 Draft held on June 27th.

Offseason Shmoff-season: What they've done

Departures: Manny Malhotra, Justin Peters, Brett Sutter, GM Jim Rutherford, Head Coach Kirk Muller, Assistant Coaches John MacLean and Dave Lewis

Acquisitions: Brad Malone, Ben Holstrom, Tim Gleason, Jay McClement, Drew MacIntyre, GM Ron Francis (promoted), Assistant GM Brian Tatum (promoted), Assistant GM & Directory of Hockey Operations Mike Vellucci, Assistant GM Ricky Olczyk, Head Coach Bill Peters, Assistant Coach Steve Smith, Goalie Coach David Marcoux

2014 Draft: Haydn Fleury (7th), Alex Nedeljkovic, Warren Foegele, Josh Wesley, Lucas Wallmark, Clark Bishop, Kyle Jenkins

Besides taking the big bodied and solid defenseman Haydn Fleury at the seventh overall pick in the draft, Hurricane country was for the most part quiet. The biggest shake-up had to be on the management level. GM Jim Rutherford stepped down to take the vacant GM Pittsburgh Penguins spot. And not long after, Head Coach Kirk Muller along with his coaching staff were let go, soon ushering in a new era of Head Coach Bill Peters (formerly an Assistant on the Red Wings bench).

Looking Forward into the 2014-15 Season

"Bigger and more physical team"

But really, how can a team with Eric and Jordan Staal, along with Jeff Skinner and Alexander Semin be that bad? As evidenced from last season, it can get pretty bad. It should be interesting to see what new Head Coach Bill Peters brings to the table in Carolina. Since Peters' hiring, there has been a shift to a team comprised of more grit and hardiness under his coaching. Taking Haydn Fleury as the overall seventh pick speaks to Peters' attempt to begin a process of improvement with size and physicality. But while he may attempt to bring some sort of culture change to the team, that tactic would not necessarily improve the glaring problems existing on the make-up of the team.

Carolina is already a bad possession team, questionable in net with a weak blue line except for the rising Justin Faulk. rising kid Elias Lindholm in his sophomore year. Andrej Sekera is coming off a career year

Basically, start looking forward to the 2015 Draft class full of heavy talent because it’s going to be a long season. Hurricanes fans have a tough couple years ahead of them.

Prediction: Last in the division. Another sad face in the books for this team.

New Jersey Devils



Looking Back: Where were they at the end of last season

2013-14 Record: 35-29-18, 6th in the Metro Division standings and 5 points out of Wild Card

After moving to the Metropolitan Division, the New Jersey Devils ended their disappointing season five points out of the wild card. Like the Islanders, the win-loss record does not properly portray the caliber of the team. If not for the woeful 0-13 shootout record, the Devils could have very well been a playoff team last season. One of NHL's best puck possession teams with forever young Jaromir Jagr and Patrik Elias, the Devils suffered from Martin Brodeur-nostalgia and allowed him to play quite a bit more than he really should have over Cory Schneider.

So thus begins a new season, and a new post-Brodeur era in Jersey.

Offseason Shmoff-season: What they've done

Departures: Anton Volchenkov, Mark Fayne

Acquisitions: Scott Clemmensen, Mike Cammalleri, Martin Havlat

2014 Draft: John Quenneville (30th), Josh Jacobs, Connor Chatham, Ryan Rehill, Joey Dudek, Brandon Baddock

With the exception of moving on from Martin Brodeur, the Devils didn't make too many changes to the team. If anything, they further bolstered the front end with the signing of Mike Cammalleri and Martin Havlat.

Looking Forward into the 2014-15 Season

This team is old. And hockey season is a long one. While the addition of Cammalleri should boost offensive output, the real concern here is the who's to really say that he will be enough? Jagr, Elias, and Marek Zidlicky are at least 37 and only Adam Henrique among the Devils' abundance of forwards is under the age of 28. With all that being said, the team will still rely on Jagr and latest addition-Cammalleri for the majority of the firepower. Stacked against other Metro teams with younger guns like Alex Ovechkin, John Tavares, Claude Giroux, and Sydney Crosby, suddenly Jagr and Cammalleri look a bit worn out.

The small, albeit key losses of Fayne and Volchenkov may be the breaking factor for the Devils. As mentioned before, the Devils were one of NHL's top puck possessing teams. But Fayne and Volchenkov were two of the team's best Corsi players on defense. Fortunately, Andy Greene was signed on for an additional 5-years and his presence will most likely be foundation of the blue line. But all in all, the success in the back end will largely depend on the emergence of the youngsters to pick up the slack.

But unless the aged Devils players all suffer from a sudden collapse, the Devils should look to improve in standings with a newly instated Cory Schneider to stop pucks.

Predictions: No one will suffer from Brodeur-nostalgia with Schneider in net. But at the same time, this upgrade will not be enough for the Devils to make it into the post-season. The Devils will once again look in from outside the playoff standings. Despite the fact that the Devils obviously have replenished their Gatorade water bottles from fountain of youth, the firepower of the other Metro teams will just be too much. I predict seeing a lot of playing "catch up" this coming season for the team of seasoned vets.

Washington Capitals

Looking Back: Where were they at the end of last season

2013-14 Record: 38-30-14, 5th in Metro Division standings and missed out on a Wild Card spot

Alex Ovechkin had 51 goals last season. So what went wrong??? He was also minus-35. Nicklas Backstrom might have had 79 points, but he was also minus-20. Marcus Johansson who was often found on that same top line, had 44 points and a minus-21. The video below just about sums what went wrong with the Caps last season....

Ovechkin Controller GIF


What is this thing you hockey players call "backcheck"? Hell if Ovi knows....

Offseason Shmoff-season: What they've done

Departures: Head Coach Adam Oates, GM George McPhee, Jaroslav Halak, Mikhail Grabovski, Joel Rechlicz, Dustin Penner

Acquisitions: Head Coach Barry Trotz, Assistan Coach Todd Reirdan, (promoted) GM Brian MacLellan, Justin Peters, Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen, Chris Connor, Kris Newbury, Tim Kennedy

2014 Draft: Jakub Vrana (13th), Vitek Vanecek, Nathan Walker, Shane Gersich, Steven Spinner, Kevin Elgestal

The choice to bring in Barry Trotz will leave the biggest impact to this team going forward. While the make-up of the team is not entirely different, it should be interesting to see how Trotz will shape his well-stocked roster and give them the guidance that is needed to become a more complete team made to compete in the post-season.

Looking Forward into the 2014-15 Season

Keep a close eye out on the Caps because this team is unpredictable. They lost the offensive-minded coaching of Adam Oates but brought in the defensive-minded and firm-handed Barry Trotz. After the unexpectedly short season of the Caps, the obvious lack of defensive play by token players were highlighted and criticized. After bearing the brunt of judgment, it should be interesting to see how if Ovi will improve upon his two-way game. The success of the team is largely dependent on Ovechkin's reaction.

Picking up Niskanen and Orpik were moves to bolster the shabby defense. But the acquisitions came with an expensive price tag. If Niskanen and Orpik do actually help improve puck possession in the back end, the deals will be deemed a success--if not, well, then, brace yourselves for some criticism. Additionally, giving up Halak has given Braden Holtby the unofficial nod to start in net for the time being. The hope is that if the team improves on even strength, he will take care of the rest.

Prediction: This is one team that completely intrigues me. Who would have imagined that last season's roster would fail to see post-season action. But with the entrance of Barry Trotz, I believe the Caps will bounce back and safely make it to the post-season.

Columbus Blue Jackets



Looking Back: Where were they at the end of last season

2013-14 Record: 43-32-7, 4th in Metro Division standings, 7th in the East, lost Game 6 of Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Pittsburgh Penguins

For the second time in franchise history since being establish in 2000, the Blue Jackets made it to the playoffs. They earned the first wild card position pushing the division leading Penguins to a close Game 6.

Offseason Shmoff-season: What they've done

Departures: Nick Schultz, Jack Skille, Derek MacKenzie, Matt Frattin, Blake Comeau, Nikita Nikitin, R.J, Umberger

Acquisitions: Brian Gibbons, Jerry D'Amigo, Scott Hartnell, Simon Hjalmarsson

2014 Draft: Sonny Milano (16th), Ryan Collins, Elvis Merzlikins, Blake Siebenaler, Julien Pelletier, Tyler Bird, Olivier Leblanc

The trading of R.J. Umberger for Scott Harnell can be considered an improvement among the forwards. He will add to the offense led by Brandon Dubinsky and [hopefully] Ryan Johansen.

Speaking of Ryan Johansen, drama-rama still currently surrounds his signing as talks have now escalated into insults. Verbal jabs are being exchanged back and forth between management and his agent regarding the kid's asking price. As training camps are just around the corner, it doesn't sound like talks are improving in Columbus. The Blue Jackets do hold most of the cards here seeing as though Johansen was a top scorer last season, he lacks record to prove longevity. Something has to give.

Looking Forward into the 2014-15 Season

Columbus was another team that did not make a big splash during the off-season. But how they perform this coming season still remains up in the air. Stay tuned to see if the Jackets and Johansen's agent can move beyond the drama and finally ink the kid on paper. In addition, the hope of seeing a healthy Nathan Horton back on the ice from the outset may once again be doused as his back injuries may once again sit him opening night. But despite these looming pre-season questions, the Jackets are not to be discounted. The physical, bruising, and gritty style of play in addition to the Vezina-worthy goaltending of Sergei Bobrovsky will definitely provide a difficult match up against which to play for the Metro teams.

Prediction: Blue Jackets will have what it takes to once again see post-season action, but not enough offensive depth to move beyond the first round.

Philadelphia Flyers

Looking Back: Where were they at the end of last season

2013-14 Record: 42-30-10, 3rd in Metro, 6th in the Eastern Conference, lost in Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the New York Rangers

After a obscenely slow start and an early firing of Head Coach Peter Laviolette, the Flyers finally got their sh** together and made it into the post-season.

Claude Giroux was not kidding when he confidently predicted that the Flyers would make it to the playoffs despite the team's early record of 1-7-0 at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. The Flyers faced the New York Rangers in the first round of the playoffs and took them all the way to a close Game 7.

Offseason Shmoff-season: What they've done

Departures: Scott Hartnell, Steve Downie, Adam Hall,

Kimmo Timonen* (Suffered a blood clot shortly after he agreed on returning for another year)

Acquisitions: R.J. Umberger, Nick Schultz, Michael Del Zotto, GM Ron Hextall

2014 Draft: Travis Sanheim (17th), Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Mark Friedman, Oskar Lindblom, Radel Fazleev, Jesper Pettersson

The Flyers' off-season activities started immediately after their Game 7 exit when GM Paul Holmgren opted to step down (up?) to the role of team president while making room for Ron Hextall as the new GM.

As a result of the salary cap, the Flyers had no choice but to lay low during the off-season. They just didn't have the room. Trading Scott Hartnell for Umberger is a downgrade. Contrary to the summer trade rumors, Vincent Levalier is staying in Philly for the time being, though it remains to be seen which line he will fit in best this coming season.

The unforeseen loss of Kimmo Timonen was a very unfortunate blow to the blue line. As a result, Hextall signed defenseman Michael Del Zotto to a low risk one year contract, adding on to the earlier July signing of Nick Schultz.

Looking Forward into the 2014-15 Season

Once again, Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds will be looked upon to bear the offensive load. Brayden Schenn and young Sean Couturier should add to the firepower of the team. Umberger should easily slide into the second or third line and add to the mix. The Flyers have many younger prospects that will likely see more time with the big boys club and gain experience.

But there are questions that remain clouding the Flyers' future. Firstly, will Lecavalier ever find his place on the team without it coming as a loss to the rest of the team's performance? And more importantly, is Steve Mason worth the three-year $12.3 million extension?

Prediction: To answer the last question, no--Steve Mason will regress. He will not have the defensive output from his team to help him keep pucks out of net. This will ultimately bring questions regarding his performance. Goaltending (as per the usual) will be Philly's downfall.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Looking Back: Where were they at the end of last season

Pittsburgh Penguins' 2013-14 season can be summed up in this epic failure of a gif...


2013-14 Record: 51-24-7, 1st in the Metro division standings, 2nd in the Eastern Conference, blew a 3-1 Eastern Conference Semifinals series lead and lost in Game 7 against the New York Rangers

For the past couple seasons, beautifully stacked roster of the Pittsburgh Penguins have approached the latter half of the season with a "Go Big or Go Home"/ "Stanley Cup or Bust" mentality. But for the second year in a row, what seemed like brilliant trade deadline moves have ended in epic disappointments. I guess last season was the straw that broke the camel's back. After blowing a series lead against the Rangers and exiting prematurely to the eventual Eastern Conference champions, both GM Ray Shero and Head Coach Dan Bylsma would be let go (not without some interesting delayed announcements and drama of course). Dan Bylsma would not be informed of his firing until after new GM Jim Rutherford came to position. So with a fresh new face of Head Coach Mike Johnston behind the Penguins bench, the Penguins can once again refocus on the goal at hand.

Offseason Shmoff-season: What they've done

Departures: Lee Stempniak, Brian Gibbons, Chuck Kobasew, Tanner Glassm Deryk Engelland, Matt Niskanen, Harry Zolnierczyk, Chris Conner, Joe Vitale, Taylor Pyatt, Tomas Vokoun, Brooks Orpik, Jussi Jokinen, James Neal, Head Coach Dan Bylsma, GM Ray Shero

Acquisitions: Steve Downie, Thomas Greiss, Blake Comeau, Christian Ehrhoff, Nick Spaling, Patric Hornqvist, Head Coach Mike Johnston, GM Jim Rutherford

2014 Draft: Kasperi Kapanen (22nd), Sam Lafferty, Anthony Angello, Jaden Lindo, Jeff Taylor

As you can see, in addition to changing the coaching and GM positions, the Pens went through a pretty substantial overhaul of players, dismantling both the forward ranks as well as the defensive corps. While the core of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin stays intact supported by Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis, the loss of James Neal and Jussi Jokinen has opened slots for the new additions and younger prospects.

Marc-Andre Fleury enters the season on the final year of his contract. Most likely the management will wait to see this season's performance before offering an extension. With Vokoun out of the picture, newly added Greiss from Phoenix Arizona will be there as back-up in case sh** goes down.

Looking Forward into the 2014-15 Season

Another chance at redemption!



Sid and Malkin will continue to be the foundation and core of the Pittsburgh team. But with the departure of James Neal and Jussi Jokinen, there are questions regarding real offensive depth and scoring. The off-season transactions for the Pens were more of a downgrade. Similar to some of the other Metro teams, the Pens will have to rely on their youth to step up and replace the vacancies left this summer. To that point, the Metro Division is far from being locked down by the Penguins. Not only will Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin will have to continue dominating, but much burden rests on the shoulders of Fleury in order for the Penguins to gain a comfortable lead in this division.

Prediction: If all goes well and both Crosby and Malkin stay healthy, the Penguins will make undoubtedly make another playoff appearance. That being said, this team is a downgrade from last year's roster. They do not have enough depth up front or in the back end to come out as Eastern Conference Champions.

New York Rangers



Looking Back: Where were they at the end of last season

2013-14 Record: 45-31-6, 2nd in Metro Division standings, 5th in the Eastern Conference, eliminated in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final by the Los Angeles Kings

With a new Head Coach at the helm, the New York Rangers was in for a hell of a rollercoaster ride to the Stanley Cup Final....

Round 1, Rangers fought hard to Game 7 against the Philadelphia Flyers. In Round 2, they rallied from down 1-3 games to beat the highly touted Pittsburgh Penguins in another 7 games, then had to overcome the Montreal Canadiens in another 7 games to become Eastern Conference Champions.

The Rangers finally made a Stanley Cup Final appearance...first time since 1994. Then they allowed our bitter rivals to take the Cup for the second time in history. The End.

Offseason Shmoff-season: What they've done

Departures: Brian Boyle, Stu Bickel, Brad Richards, Benoit Pouliot, Anton Stralman, Derek Dorsett, Daniel Carcillo, Raphael Diaz

Acquisitions: Lee Stempniak, Matt Lombardi, Dan Boyle, Matt Hunwick, Mike Kostka, Tanner Glass, Chris Mueller

2014 Draft: Brandon Halverson, Keegan Iverson, Ryan Mantha, Igor Shesterkin, Richard Nejezchleb, Daniel Walcott, Tyler Nanne

Finally made the move to buy out Brad Richards.

Looking Forward in the 2014-15 Season

The Rangers look to have added more support offensively from last season with the addition of Stempniak and Glass. Between Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider, Martin St. Louis, Mats Zuccarello, and Rick Nash (fingers crossed), the Rangers look to be solid up and down the lines. They have balanced youthful firepower with veteran stability throughout the roster.

Defensively, the Rangers will most likely depend on Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi to lead the blueliners. The acquisition of Dan Boyle brings more offense to the back end. If I had to pick a weakness in the team, it would have to the lack of defensive depth on the blue line. But that can be alleviated by net presence, and who better to have in net than King Lundqvist?

That's a pretty solid team over there in New York.

Prediction: The New York Rangers will come out first in the Metropolitan Division. But as confident I am in the team locking down the Metro, I cannot see them beating a more complete team like the Bruins out of the Atlantic Division. New York Rangers out in Eastern Conference Semifinals.