HockeyBuzz Hotstove: Hotstove: Metro Division Predictions

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Welcome to another edition of the Hockeybuzz hotstove.

In this one we’ll be looking at the Metropolitan Division, and predicting exactly how things will shakeup throughout the season. Todd Cordell: Pittsburgh Penguins

Most people will preach the losses of Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik will set the team back until the cows come home, but the reality is that’s not the case.

Christian Ehrhoff is probably the most underrated high-end defenseman in hockey, and his skating ability and effective two-way play makes him as good of an option or better than Niskanen.

As for Orpik, he spends most of his shifts in his own zone chasing opponents with the puck before blocking a shot and being praised for ‘good defensive work’, when the reality is if he was in the other end he wouldn’t need to defend. I think Derrick Pouliot, Simon Despres or any other young defenseman the Penguins have will be a better option in Mike Johnston’s up-tempo puck possession system.

They have a deep, mobile defense and two of the best forwards in the NHL, so they’ll win a big chunk of games.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Columbus Blue Jackets

New York Rangers

New Jersey Devils

New York Islanders

Washington Capitals

Philadelphia Flyers

Carolina Hurricanes Michael Stuart: Pittsburgh Penguins

The Metropolitan Division, in my opinion, breaks down a little bit like this: There’s the Pittsburgh Penguins, and then there’s everybody else.

Looking at Jim Rutherford’s offseason in Pittsburgh, it’s hard not to be impressed. First of all, the Christian Ehrhoff signing is huge; getting him on a one-year deal at such a manageable dollar value is just a bonus. Combine that shrewd move with the addition of some much-needed depth (i.e. Blake Comeau, Steve Downie, Nick Spaling, and Patric Hornqvist), and you’re looking at a much more complete Penguins team. Put a great coaching hire on top of all that and it becomes quite easy to predict big things for the Penguins in 2014-15.

An already great team got better this summer. The Penguins should win the Metro. After Pittsburgh, things are tough to predict.

Pittsburgh

Columbus

New York Rangers

New Jersey

New York Islanders

Philadelphia

Washington

Carolina Ryan Wilson: Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins ran away with the division last year and they improved their bottom 6 forward grouping as well as their defense corp. Adding Ehrhoff is an upgrade on Niskanen and losing Orpik is addition by subtraction. Thomas Greiss was brought in to backup Fleury and could be a threat to become the starting goalie. The top six took a hit, not with losing Neal, but with losing Jokinen. They are short one guy in that area. Good news is that they have 9 NHL caliber defensemen (not including Scuderi). A trade will be made eventually to improve in that area. A team with Crosby and Malkin should find regular season success.

Columbus Blue Jackets – Ryan Johansen will be signed and will have another solid year. Adding Scott Hartnell for RJ Umberger was a great move, especially in the short term. Bobrovsky remains a top end goalie. Look for Cam Atkinson to pile up the points this year.

New York Islanders – The Islanders were movers and shakers this offseason. Goaltending killed them, that shouldn’t be the case anymore. A Halak/Johnson duo should guarantee them at least league average goaltending and potentially more. Grabkovski and Kulemin are great signings and the Islanders have awesome forward depth. Defense remains a murky situation, but losing Andrew MacDonald was a plus.

New York Rangers – Rangers were a great team last year driven by their depth. They lost some of that when Benoit Pouliot, Anton Stralman, and Brian Boyle left for other places. Henrik Lundqvist is still the best and he will be a rock for them. How will newcomers Dan Boyle, Lee Stempniak, Kevin Hayes , and Ryan Malone do? How the hell did Tanner Glass get a three year deal?

New Jersey Devils – Devils are a tough team to peg. They were a great possession team last year that was sunk by Martin Brodeur. Brodeur is gone and the excellent Cory Schneider will be playing most games. Goal scoring was also an issue so they signed Mike Cammallieri and Martin Havlat. How many points can Jaromir Jagr get? Will he become trade bait?

Washington Capitals – Alex Ovechkin is still one of the best players in the NHL, but he has yet another coach, how will he adjust to Trotz? Brooks Orpik was one of the worst signings of the offseason so that limits the impact of signing the more talented Matt Niskanen. Brayden Holtby is an underrated goalie who will give them solid goaltending. Evgeny Kuznetsov and Mike Green will have to have good seasons for the Capitals to succeed.

Philadelphia Flyers – The Flyers didn’t really make any moves to improve from last season and they received the devastating news that Kimmo Timonen has blood clot issues. He was their best defenseman, that is a hole they can’t replace. It is also very unlikely that Mason matches his performance from last year. This team is closer to McDavid than the playoffs.

Carolina Hurricanes – Everybody thought the Buffalo Sabres were going to be the favorite to finish in dead last this year, hold the phone, the Hurricanes want in on that action. This is not a well put together hockey team and they will have their struggles this year. Jordan Staal has a broken bone in his foot and will miss the start of the season. They need to hand the keys to Anton Khudobin and get rid of Cam Ward. Look for Eric Staal trade rumors if the team does indeed struggle. Tim Chiasson: Pittsburgh Penguins

The Metropolitan Division is still Pittsburgh’s division to lose for the time being. I think, with the new additions, this is the year that the Islanders become relevant again and join Columbus, Philadelphia and the Rangers as teams playing second fiddle to the Crosby/Malkin show. Losing Brad Richards was a business decision for the Rangers and it’s going to be felt on the ice. Richards was a good hockey player caught up in a bad contract and losing depth down the middle is hard on any team, but King Henrik is still there to save the day. Columbus, providing Ryan Johansen gets a deal done, should fight for the third spot simply because I think they have better goaltending than Philadelphia. Until the Capitals prove they have a game plan that doesn’t involve Ovechkin shooting twenty shots a game I don’t think they are a real threat to anyone.

Pittsburgh Penguins

New York Rangers

Columbus Blue Jackets

Philadelphia Flyers

New York Islanders

Washington Capitals

New Jersey Devils

Carolina Hurricanes Adam French: Pittsburgh Penguins

1. Pittsburgh Penguins – A look on the team might not change as much as fans hope, or might change everything. What hasn’t changed is a team with a ton of regular season power at the very least. You know the drill, if Crosby, Malkin and Letang are healthy this team has too much firepower for the open East. Hornqvist will be an interesting addition and the defense as far as it goes looks better in my opinion sans Orpik and a minor upgrade (if at least a wash) in Erhoff for Niskanen.

2. Columbus Blue Jackets – Should they get Johansen back (99% they do), I really like this team as the big riser in the year. A healthy Horton added, one of the biggest forward groups in the East and a defense that outside of Jack Johnson looks like it can compete with the top in the conference. I’m not a big fan of Hartnell, but maybe a change of scenery can get him to stay on his feet more often and take less insanely inane penalties?

3. New York Rangers – I find it hard to ever bet against the best goalie in the league, nor against what is maybe the best top-4 defense in the league. I think the Rangers are good enough to fight for the top of the division, but would need big convincing years from Brassard (who will now have a lot of pressure on him) and Kreider.

4. Philadelphia Flyers – If Columbus is the wildcard, the Flyers are the flaming card of possibilities. The defense worries me, it worries me very much, but it worried me last year and they were still strong enough to make the playoffs. The forward core is the bread and butter of the team and still potent with several younger players being waited on to burst out. If Mason plays as well as he did last season they” be 4th or higher.

5. Washington Capitals – Kuznetsov will make or break this team, which is really unfair for a rookie. The Caps lack depth in their forward core and must find a way to not rely 100% on OV scoring a goal per game. Holtby is not as bad as he was last season, I think he will have a bounceback year, especially if Trotz can teach some defensive structure to what is a very underachieving group of talented defenders.

6. New York Islanders – If you believe in Halak, you’ll have this team much higher, I’m on the fence. I still think their defense is a tire fire, but without MacDonald losing possession for 30 minutes it might improve if only from that. Strome’s growth and the additions of Grabovski and Kulemin are going to be key for their depth. At least Tavares is back.

7. New Jersey Devils – Possession stats be damned, but I don’t know where to put the Devils. With a rapidly aging forward core you’d expect them to be less effective, but the Czech national team seems to find ways to be ageless. There are a few too many of the same player on the team (Cammy, Ryder and Brunner), but this is a team that will live or die as a comity (with Jagr as chairman?). Brodeur was…terrible…a full year of Schneider could do wonders.

8. Carolina Hurricanes – I don’t know what to make of this team, but if Eric Staal and Cam Ward aren’t playing like elite players the team loses. Simple lack of depth will destroy them and that defense is…nightmarish on paper. Recent posts Pacific Division Predictions Central Division Predictions Predicting the Selke winner Predicting the Rocket Richard winner Predicting the Calder winner Predicting the Hart winner Predicting the Vezina winner Predicting the Norris winner

This post originally appeared on www.hockeybuzz.com and we thank them for permission to rebroadcast it here.

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