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Blow Up The Outside World – The Metropolitan/Megalopolis Division

Staying out east, it’s now time to take a look at the other half of the realignment mess that is that conference with the Metropolitan Division, which consists of all of the Mid Atlantic teams, and somehow Columbus and Carolina, which is the first time either place has been referred to even remotely as metropolitan. Most of the punditry will tell you this will be the best division in the new alignment. But just because it’ll be competitive doesn’t mean it’ll be well played.

Carolina Hurricanes – The Canes changed their uniforms this offseason, but not really. The same could be said for their roster, which added Anton Khudobin as a value pickup as Cam Ward’s backup, and Ron Hainsey only when they absolutely had to because Joni Pitkanen was lost for the season. And when Joni Pitkanen is a key loss on the blue line, that should tell you what expectations for the team are. And they’re still one Staal short of completing their collector’s set.

Columbus Blue Jackets – The other team to move east to spare their 8 fans the indignity of having to stay up past 9:00PM to watch their road games. Last year the Jackets came oh-so-close to making the playoffs on the back of Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky, who back stopped a far scrappier group of Jackets than the Central division had seen. Now they have Marian Gaborik and no one to really get him the puck, so it’s pretty much just like his days in Minnesota. And now that Bobrovsky’s paid and has to do it over a full 82 game season in a tough division, expect the Jackets to regain their rightful place at the bottom of the heap. But keep an eye out on their GM, Jarmo Kekalainen, who at least seems to have a plan.

New Jersey Devils – Uncle Lou pulled perhaps the biggest draft day shocker in trading for Corey Schneider for a first round pick, which caused much rejoicing at the expense of the Canucks and their ridiculous handling of the Roberto Luongo situation. Lou now has his replacement for when Fatso retires, whenever that might be. Speaking of overweight 40 year old hockey players, the also have Jaromir Jagr, ostensibly to replace the the now KHL bound Ilya Kovalchuk. I personally still need convincing that there weren’t some illicit dealings between the League and Lou that allowed him to escape with only a 250K annual cap recapture penalty. The Devils were wise to let Toronto overpay for David Clarkson, but then they turned around and overpaid for Ryane Clowe’s dumb ass. I guess the extra E’s carry a minimum charge or something. And Michael Ryder will still score 25 goals even though he can’t move.

Oh, and they have a new owner as well. So overall a slow summer in the Meadowlands.

New York Islanders – With their first playoff berth in 8 years, the Isles and newly minted Captain John Tavares gave the Penguins a bit of a scare in the first round before ultimately falling short. It’s a team with a ton of cap space, all of their young talent locked up and cost-controlled, and moving to a new arena shortly, albeit in an borough too cool for hockey and in a building not built for it. Even after finally cutting bait with the sad tale that is Rick DiPietro, Garth still cast his lot with Evgeni Nabokov, whose awful play was only hidden by how spectacularly terrible Marc-Andre Fleury was. But if the other JT provides another Hart-caliber season with a C on his sweater now, Nabby might not matter. At least until the playoffs start.

New York Rangers – It really never gets old watching Slats screw the pooch. This time around it’s the Derek Stepan situation, which we touched on earlier in the summer, and he remains unsigned. That no one in the league, particularly the Islanders, has tendered a sheet towards him screams “collusion”, but again, that’s a story for another time. Slats also launched Torts in favor of AV, which is pretty hilarious at face value, but despite all of his shitbag antics, Vigneault showed in Vancouver that he’s on the bleeding edge of some of the possession metric stats as they relate to zone starts, and that very well could get Brad Richards’ career back on track, despite now being in his mid 30s. But even with that handsome guy Big Bank Hank stopping pucks, they’re still relying on suspected wiener tucker Rick Nash to perform in the spring, Michael Del Zotto to not be a mess defensively, and for Vigneault to not implode when shit gets tough. Good luck on all those fronts.

Philadelphia Flyers – The next best thing to the Clown College that is Toronto. Even in jettisoning Bryz and Briere, the Flyers still have some abominable cap numbers, starting with giving Vinny $4.5 mildo over 5 years. The Mark Streit deal might be even worse, at $5.25 over four years, and his is a 35+ deal.  Chris Pronger will never play again, and the Flyers will continue to look for his replacement in all the wrong places until his deal expires after two more years of LTIR. Ray M. Murray should get a chance to take the starting goalie job away from Steve Mason, but his numbers will probably look drastically different than last year’s behind Philly’s blue line. But if Claude Giroux returns to form it should be enough to get them into the playoffs, and therefore make Paul Holmgren do something hilarious at Ed Snider’s behest at the deadline.

Pittsburgh Penguins – If Ray Shero was such a genius for acquiring Douglas Murray, Jarome Iginla, and Brenden Morrow, how come none of them were re-signed by the Pens, with Murray going deep into the summer before catching on with the Habs, and Morrow still without a home or even a tryout?

Still, if Sid and Geno can remain upright together for prolonged periods of time Shero’s throbbing brain, Dan Bylsma’s ever-increasing deer-in-headlights look, or Marc Andre Fleury’s sheer ineptitude might not matter.

Washington Capitals – The Caps were able to capitalize (GET IT?) on Toronto’s imbecilic personnel decisions by nabbing Mikhail Grabovski after he was bought out by Nonis & Co, and waited for his price to go down to a managable number. While only a one year deal, his cap hit at $3.0 mildo is less than 60% of the rat faced, flop artist, woman-beater Mike Ribeiro at $5.5, and is a far better player.

This is a team that could go either way, either balls up or primed for a deep playoff run, though for the sake of many people’s jobs (specifically George McPhee, whose punch of Lorne Molleken’s face gets curiously glossed over whenever pieces about his icy demeanor pop up), they’d better hope it’s the latter.

  • Paul the Fossil

    Yeesh now that’s a clown gallery that really makes one appreciate the team management we have nowadays. In fact when you add Toronto to the list it seems like all of the most consistently thickheaded, flailing NHL team managements are in the East these days.

    • mightymikeD

      We’ll always have Calgary..

      • Z-man19

        Vancouver has to rank up there as well with the fumbling, bumbling of Lu

  • MattC86

    It’s funny, I had been telling people all summer that Washington was going to be dreadful with the new division and such, but I look at this list. . . and all of a sudden I’m not so sure. All of these teams are flawed. The Rangers could be a #1 seed or a #8. Everybody has problems on this list. The Caps could well make the playoffs. Wow.

    Also it makes it doubly hard to imagine anybody besides Boston winning the East.

    • 10thMountainFire

      Year to year, I’m not sure where to slot the Blue Shirts. ‘Enigma’ seems to fit them well. With a backstop like that, they really should have no problems sneaking in the top six. But they even struggle to make the post-season some years (cough 2010 cough).

      Again, I’m picking them to run deep into the post-season. Again, I’ll probably look stupid for doing so.

      • Why

        I’m with you. And this is a deep division. Who are the top three here? Pittsburgh, Washington, Rangers? I’d accept the Islanders in the top 3, Jersey isn’t terrible and for all the Philadelphia jokes, there are some pieces there (McClure’s point on Claude is pretty tough to argue with).

        • putmeinthemadhouse

          laviolette needs to adjust his system. if they fall short again, or lose out bad in the first round i hope they jettison his ass. its not really their blue line that is terrible (its…okay) its the complete lack of team defense and run-and-guns-blazing style that lavy runs.

          • Why

            He’s at the point where he needs to at least make the playoffs, at least in my opinion.

          • Z-man19

            If you look at where Philly ranks year in and year out in SA, it is really hard to understand why their defense isn’t that good. They usually are at the bottom of the league in penalties so I’m sure that doesn’t help but it’s still hard to figure

        • MattC86

          If NJ hadn’t lost Kovalchuk and seems determined to play Brodeur at least half the games, I’d agree about NJ – they had great possession metrics and were clearly undone by dreadful goaltending, with or without Fatso in the net. But without Kovaluchuk, their scoring is very rickety, and if they let Brodeur play even 30-40 games, let alone more than 41, I have a hard time imaging them making the playoffs.

          All that said, yes, all of these teams have a case for making it and all save maybe the Rags and Pens have a case for missing.

      • putmeinthemadhouse

        i feel the coaching change will make quite a difference.

      • Z-man19

        You don’t need predictions to look stupid XMF. I say that with all the love possible

        • 10thMountainFire

          That hurt. I’m going to file a hurt feelings report with Sam.

          • Joe Banks

            I love you, man.

          • 10thMountainFire

            At least someone does. Thanks, Joe.

          • Z-man19

            Oh come on, you know I love you. I kid because I care

  • disqus_IWvo6ZRziW

    Penguins
    Rangers
    Capitals
    Blue Jackets
    Islanders
    Flyers
    Devils
    Hurricanes

    • Why

      Kudos to you for going out on the limb with that one. I think I get the reasoning behind the Rangers over Capitals, but what has you so high on the Blue Jackets?

      • disqus_IWvo6ZRziW

        To be honest, I needed to type something to see what my “disqus name” is, so that’s why I have the obligatory “lame prediction comment”, but to your answer your question, I am high on the Blue Jackets because of their vast improvement over the season last year, and with Horton they can only get better. And since I don’t know much about the Islanders, I just went with the Jackets. Also, even with Bob returning to normalcy this year, he still might be the 2nd best goalie in this division.

        • Why

          Fair enough. These predictions interest me because that division looks like a bit of a clusterfuck from 2 through 7.

          • BestPredsForward

            I definitely agree…and who knows if the Penguins are even the clear #1? They’ve only won the Patricklantic twice in the Crosby era so why would this year be different? (Although they are clearly the most talented.)

    • birdhead

      Woof, poor old Hurricanes. I don’t think they’re in that rough shape, although they admittedly had a terrible season last year and their defense is … rough. But their forward corps is okay. I think they can finish above the Devils, anyway …

  • steeg of their own

    Does anyone know if tonight’s preseason opener is being televised?

    • Paul the Fossil

      It appears not.

      • Joe Banks

        Tears…

    • justforkicks

      will be on the radio though

    • ahnfire

      No. You can get John & Troy via wgnradio.com or the WGN radio app though.

  • Paul the Fossil

    After a bit of thought informed by McClure’s piece and the comments below, it looks like the Canes/Devils/Flyers are the pretty clear havenots of this division. I’d be willing to wager even money against any of those three making the playoffs this season. The Canes and Devils will be just boring and bad while the Flyers will be a bad soap opera, same diff in the standings.

    Then the Islanders and BJs are a little clump of bubble uncertainty: could blossom and become quite good, could regress and miss the playoffs.

    Then the top of this division looks actually fairly strong. I share the feeling that the coaching change will enable/energize the Rangers’ talent. And both the Pens and the Caps meanwhile have the talent to go deep and it seems reasonable to think that they won’t repeat the same mistakes of last season. Right? Wait, why are you all snorting? Well if they don’t then some people in those cities will get fired, put it that way.

    • Why

      That’s the interesting thing. I think there’s a bunch of “even money” non playoff teams in this division (I’d throw the Isles and Blue Jackets into that list as well).

      And Carolina seems to belong in another category entirely. They’d be a major surprise, at least to me, if they squeaked in.

  • http://www.lotsofbutterplease.com/ I am not Chico Maki

    Quick Update:

    We’re nearing the halfway point against Detroit in our first preseason game, and we’re only 0 for 6 on the power play so far! Percentages looking up!

    • QCBlackhawk

      Where’s the FEED?

      • http://www.lotsofbutterplease.com/ I am not Chico Maki

        …there was no feed. Sorry for the late reply. I just checked in on the boxscores a couple times.

  • QCBlackhawk

    Sharpie with the first goal of the pre-season. Nice.

    • QCBlackhawk

      And Crow dropping his stick again. Oh lawd.

  • QCBlackhawk

    Crawford shutout. CONTROVERSY

  • steeg of their own

    Saad’s FO% tonight leaves a lot to be desired.

    • lizmcneill

      He fitted in well with everyone else, although it’s pretty sad when him getting shoved out for Kane would have been an improvement. TT and Frogger managed to scrape up 40% each, and that was the best on the team. Natural centers are better at FOs, who knew?

      • Z-man19

        I thought TT was sent back to Jtown?

        • steeg of their own

          He’ll be sent back before the start of the season proper. Q said they planned to let him play in at least a couple exhibition games before they ship him off, though.

        • lizmcneill

          He and the Manchild took a turn at Toews’ slot tonight.

    • 10thMountainFire

      Welcome to our new nightmare. Q will play anyone except #10…

      Hopefully Sharp will be taking much of the work at the dot, though. Fingers crossed.