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 finale episode: the division that has spawned the last three champions, the Metro.
Last time: No time for losers.
What changed: Aside from their BACs? Well, head coach Barry Trotz is gone, possibly amicably, as is fan-fave forward Jay Beagle. Goalie Philipp Grubauer was traded to the Avs, along with bad-penny defenseman Brooks Orpik. Except then he came back with a much lower cap hit. They added some forward depth and a brand new head coach, Todd Reirden. The practice arena is called MedStar now. The third jerseys are the same as the Winter Classic jerseys. The new seats at Cap One Center have cupholders. RMNB has a million new writers who are all better than me.
Big question: None. There are no questions about this team. No one is wondering about Cup hangovers or actual hangovers or the new coach or aging curves or Holtby’s reliability or Burakovsky’s hands or the fourth line center or the wifi at the arena or any of that. Instead, everyone’s just watching this video on repeat.
Why they’re trash: How dare you. How could you ever describe a team that did snow angels in a public fountain while screaming drunk as “trash?” Apologize to the Caps right now.
Bottom line: Back to back.
Last time: Oh, you didn’t know?
What changed: They picked up defenseman Jack Johnson, who had been a healthy scratch in Columbus. John Tortorella was not happy about it. They sent forward Connor Sheary to Buffalo for picks.
Big question: We know that the Pens will be excellent when Malkin and Crosby are on the ice. The only question is about when they’re not. They weren’t world-beaters during 5-on-5 last season. Can they fix it? Jack Johnson probably won’t help…
Why they’re trash: Just watch the video again.
Bottom line: It’s a honest-to-goodness crime that they won’t be in DC for the banner raising, but any team with Malkin and Crosby will be deadly.
Last time: Lost to the Penguins in the playoffs, which is something only a schmuck team would do.
What changed: They picked up ex-Flyer James van Riemsdyk, one of the best forwards available in free agency. Forward Jori Lehtera is a suspect in a big cocaine bust in Finland. Goalie Michal Neuvirth might’ve injured himself again.
Big question: Can Neuvirth stay healthy? Will they keep playing Andrew MacDonald so much?
Why they’re trash: Gritty.
Bottom line: Destined for mediocrity, but at least now they’ve got a nightmare-fuel mascot.
Last time: They were a half inch from going up 3-0 on the Caps in the first round, but they didn’t win the Cup, did they?
What changed: They let defenseman Jack Johnson go, but they weren’t using him anyway, and that’s somehow controversial because anything near Torts is controversial. Seth Jones suffered an MCL sprain in the preseason and will miss time. Forward Mark Letestu was traded away mid-season.
Big question: How long before forward Artemi Panarin is traded? If goalie Sergei Bobrovsky wants out too, and it sure seems like he does, how long will GM Jarmo Kekalainen keep them both around? They’re a damn good team as constructed right now.
Why they’re trash: Their two best players don’t want to play for them.
Bottom line: With Panarin and Bob, they could win a Cup. Without ’em, no one knows.
Last time: Had a strong season, but fell to the Bolts in the first round.
What changed: Nearly nothing. The Devils were maybe the least active team in the offseason.
Big question: Can ex-Cap forward Marcus Johansson come back from an injury-riddled season on the last year of his $4.6M deal? Can goalie Cory Schneider improve on a mediocre outing 2017-18 (91.5 percent saving during 5-on-5)? Can MVP Taylor Hall keep carrying them?
Why they’re trash: If they’re a team on the rise, why do they have just one forward booked for more than three years out, forward Miles Wood?
Bottom line: Well, they’re not boring anymore, but this is still probably not a formula for long-term success.
Last time: They had the puck a lot, but they couldn’t score or keep it out of their own net.
What changed: Everything! Coach Bill Peters is gone. GM Ron Francis is gone. Goalie Cam Ward is gone. They’ve got a new coach (Brind’Amour), GM (Waddell), and a relatively new owner (Tom Dundon, who took over in March). Ex-cap forward Justin Williams was named captain. They picked up excellent defenseman Dougie Hamilton.
Big question: Will they still drive play without Bill Peters and can they score more now that he is gone? Can Scott Darling not be a total disaster in net this time? How will he and Petr Mrazek share time?
Why they’re trash: If you’re a statistics person, this team has made you look like a total dork over the last few years.
Bottom line: I’ve made an ass of myself by predicting that this will be the year the Canes get good, and I’m doing it again. This is the year the Canes get good. Take it to the bank. (They’re gonna suck again, aren’t they? Dammit.)
Last time: They were so bad, you guys. No one since the lockout-shortened 2013 season bled scoring and high-dangers chances like the 2017-18 Islanders (13 and 31 per hour, respectively). They hit 80 points though, which will feel like a good season compared to what’s coming this time around.
What changed: Quite a bit! They fired GM Garth Snow and coach Doug Weight, replacing them with Lou Lamoriello and ex-Caps coach Barry Trotz (for $20M over five years, woof). They lost superstar John Tavares to free agency and Toronto in humiliating fashion. They signed Leo Komarov for four years, got forward Matt Martin back, and signed forward Valterri Filppula in free agency. They gave Vegas castoff defenseman Luca Sbisa a tryout and then signed him for some reason.
Big question: Who will they select with their number-one overall pick in next year’s entry draft?
Why they’re trash: They’re a young team with a coach that I don’t think is great with young players. They have no higher scoring talent, and their defense is really thin after Leddy and Boychuk. Their GM is 75 years old and has no intention of sticking around and was only brought onboard to re-sign Tavares, which he failed to do, but he did pay a premium to hire Barry Trotz, who was a couple goals away from being fired by Washington several times last season.
Bottom line: The bottomest.
Last time: They threw in the towel way back in February.
What changed: Not much, yet. They picked up forward Vladislav Namestnikov from Tampa in the spring and have picked up some assets, but the on-ice situation is pretty unchanged so far. David Quinn, formerly of BU, will take over as head coach.
Big question: Goalie Henrik Lundqvist has three more years on his contract at $8.5M per. Will he stick around for the whole rebuild? Does the team even want him to? Can ex-Cap defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk do better than his pretty bad 2017-18 season?
Why they’re trash: Because they want to be.
Bottom line: Any team with Hank behind ’em should never be counted out.
Brennin Weiswerda and Julia Karron also contributed to this story.
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