From west to east, we’re previewing every team in every division for the 2017-18 season and why they’re all trash. Today’s episode: the division most likely to produce a Cup winner, the Atlantic.
Last time: Led the Eastern Conference in points only to lose to the Caps in seven games, ending with back-to-back shutouts by Braden Holtby. It was awesome.
What changed: Forward Nikita Kucherov and defenseman Ryan McDonagh got long-term deals. GM Steve Yzerman surprised everyone by stepping down. Julien BriseBois took over; he spells his name with a capital B in the middle, which is pretty wild. Beloved ex-Cap and Maryland native Jeff Halpern named assistant coach.
Big question: Goalie Andrei Vasilevsky was on Vezina track for the first half of last year before collapsing. Can he bring the saves and the stability?
Why they’re trash: They couldn’t seal the deal with Erik Karlsson over the summer. That would have made them unbeatable. And yet…
Bottom line: Still a Cup contender.
Last time: Forward Brad Marchand was incredible, even while forward Patrice Bergeron missed a lot of time to injury. The team lost to the Bolts in the second round.
What changed: Not a ton, but they should really sign forward Daniel Winnik [UPDATE: they did not.]! Picked up goalie Jaroslav Halak to back up Rask.
Big question: What does the final year of man-bear/defenseman Zdeno Chara’s career look like?
Why they’re trash: I’d say something about Marchand, but then you’d say something about Wilson, and then we’d both be mad on the internet.
Bottom line: Pretty terrifying aside from depth. Cup contenders. But first they’ll have to watch us raise the banner on opening night.
Last time: The best Leafs team in decades got first-rounded again.
What changed: Oh just a little thing called John Tavares, who signed for $11 million dollars a year for infinity years. Forwards Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk left to make room for him.
Big question: Can anyone play defense? And does D even matter when you’re this stacked on offense? What are they going to do with forward William Nylander, who still doesn’t have a contract?
Why they’re trash: They’re not, but it’s pretty funny to me that this is probably their best team since the 1960s.
Bottom line: Feels very 2009 Caps-y to me.
This is Ovechkin practicing this summer at the Panthers’ practice facility
Last time: Their coach and players played in the Cup Final, but, um, they were on a different team.
What changed: They acquired forward Mike Hoffman from Ottawa via San Jose after he became toxic up north. This was all on purpose, I assume. Forward Aleksander Barkov was named captain.
Big question: No one cares enough about this team to ask, but I guess we should ask how sustainable a goalie trio of Luongo (39, signed through 2022), Reimer (signed through 2021), and Michael Hutchinson (UFA next summer) is.
Why they’re trash: Because they banished the “computer boys.”
Bottom line: Better than Detroit and Ottawa, I guess?
Last time: They missed the playoffs again, just like Detroit always does, aside from every year from 1991 to 2016.
What changed: They signed forward Tomas Vanek in free agency. Forward Henrik Zetterberg basically retired. They drafted forward Filip Zadina sixth overall, but he won’t make the team just yet for some reason.
Big question: What’s the deal with Mike Green, who has two years left on his deal with a $5 million cap hit? Worried about him… Also goalie Jimmy Howard, 34, is gonna want a new deal; should he get one?
Why they’re trash: They don’t seem to realize that a total rebuild is needed.
Bottom line: A total rebuild is needed.
Last time: Goalie Carey Price missed a lot of time, and the Habs missed the playoffs.
What changed: In addition to Price’s price tag? Well, they traded fan-fave forward Max Pacioretty to Vegas and dealt definite center Alex Galchenyuk in exchange for dubious center Max Domi, who promptly got suspended from the preseason for a cheap shot.
Big question: How soon will defenseman Shea Weber return from his knee surgery? Probably not before the new year. Meanwhile, can they get a performance from Price commensurate with his $10.5M cap hit?
Why they’re trash: Center is a position on most hockey teams.
Bottom line: Dark horse candidate for DFL in the division.
Last time: I have not the heart to tell you. For me the grief is still too near.
What changed: Defenseman Erik Karlsson, estranged by Sens owner Eugene Melnyk, fled to San Jose. They got forward Mikkel Boedker, who got number 17 from Max McCormick, which led them to do the fun fun fun MS Paint photo edit above. They jettisoned Mike Hoffman for ugly personal reasons and then got clowned by the Sharks for it.
Big question: How long before they deal forwards Matt Duchene, who really should have asked around before he jumped to Ottawa because he “wanted to play playoff hockey”, and Mike Stone? And how long before the league forces Eugene Melnyk, the Dan Snyder of Canada, to sell?
Why they’re trash: Melnyk (jesus, this video).
Bottom line: I’ll let GM/babe-in-the-woods Pierre Dorion tell you:
For those scoring at home, that’s a FULL 4-second pause from Senators’ GM Pierre Dorion pic.twitter.com/WGDpFkFJo4
— The Hot Route Podcast (@HotRoutePodcast) September 18, 2018
Last time: Tanked.
What changed: Tanking worked. They got defenseman Ramsus Dahlin in the lottery. They also dealt Ryan O’Reilly for a bunch of assets and picked up Jeff Skinner. Got forward Tage Thompson from the Blues.
Big question: Will Dahlin and Eichel be enough to carry this team any kind of success?
Why they’re trash: Dahlin and Eichel will not be enough to carry this team to any kind of success.
Bottom line: But they’ll be fun as hell to watch and are moving in the right direction.
Brennin Weiswerda and Julia Karron also contributed to this story.
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