We spent the last few days getting a team by team preview by our SB Nation friends within the brand new Metropolitan Division. I wanted to wrap up the division as a whole with some "outside the box" thinking and bring in a different voice. Today I am bringing in one of the biggest New York Rangers fans I know, Scotty Hockey, to give us his outlook on the Metro Division, so enjoy!
Welcome to Second City Hockey's season preview. What a nickname for Chicago, the Second City. The "Second" part I get, I'm from New York and we're Number 1! But the "City" part, I just don't know. I mean, the NHL doesn't consider you as such ... if Chicago was much of a city, wouldn't it be Metropolitan?
met·ro·pol·i·tan: adjective: of, relating to, or denoting a metropolis, often inclusive of its surrounding areas.
me·trop·o·lis: noun: the capital or chief city of a country or region.
So Uniondale, Raleigh and Columbus are more chiefly to their country than Chicago. Maybe this should be Sixth or Seventh City Hockey? I mean, if Detroit can be Atlantic despite being over 700 miles away from the ocean then Chicago could be Metropolitan, right?
It is astounding that Bettman and his boys think that Metropolitan makes more sense than Patrick as a name. I mean, when you think metropolis, you think Uniondale, New York. And Patrick, well, that is only the name of the Royal Family of Hockey. A family that included four Hall of Famers (Frank, Lester, Lynn and Craig) that is only responsible for turning hockey into the game as we know it. But Metropolitan it is.
The Metropolitan Division consists of all of the old Patrick Division teams - New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals - as well as the Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets. The thought must be to finally make the two latter teams relevant, even a Cup in Raleigh couldn't do that.
Ludicrous name aside, the new division will see some of the top players in the entire NHL and, hopefully, the eventual Stanley Cup winners - the Rangers, of course ... Nah, I can't even keep a straight face as I typed that. Sorry.
Remember: the new, irrational system has the top three teams in the division automatically making the playoffs with the next two highest-placed finishers in each conference - regardless of division - making it to the postseason. With Boston, Detroit and Ottawa all but guaranteed to make it in the Atlantic, that leaves some terrible teams (Buffalo, Florida, Tampa, Montreal and Toronto) for the No. 4 and 5 franchises in the Metro to tangle with for the extra spots.
So who makes it, and in what order does the chief division of the NHL finish? My not-very-humble opinion:
1- Pittsburgh Penguins: First place is the Pens' to lose. They are a despicable group of whiners and crybabies but damned if some of them aren't quite good at hockey. When the squad's weakest link is a Stanley Cup-winning goaltender - flakey as he may be - the team's pretty good. Ray Shero was pretty quiet over the offseason, bringing back solid defenseman Rob Scuderi and picking up Matt D'Agostini as Matt Cooke's replacement. Hopefully D'Agostini doesn't try to kill anyone.
2 - New York Rangers: The initial rush from their release from John Tortorella's reign should be enough to set the Blueshirts up for a good result. With Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin out with injury at the outset of the campaign, they have to hope Brad Richard$ legs return and Derek Stepan signs in time. Olympic injuries and hangovers have to be avoided if they are to have a shot in the playoffs.
3 - Columbus Blue Jackets: John Davidson is a genius, and I'm not just saying that as a total fanboy from his days as the colour guy on MSG. Ok, maybe I am. But it can't be denied that this franchise is headed in the right direction with all of the former Rangers around. Plus a healthy Ryan Murray should boost the back end in front of Bob. As long as the Russian can repeat his stellar performance from last season, the BJs should fare fine in a far-easier division than the Central.
4 - New York Islanders: All the years of awfulness are beginning to pay dividends with a plethora of top prospects. Sure captain Mark Streit is gone but JT had his taste of the playoffs and there is little reason to think this team will regress. And when you add a talent like Ryan Strome into the mix, they are more dangerous than they've been in decades. Pierre-Marc Bouchard should be able to add some points IF he stays healthy and Cal Clutterbuck should quickly become the most hated player in the division not named Crosby.
5 - Philadelphia Flyers: The Flyers may have missed the playoffs last season but they ended their campaign on a 6-1 streak and added several valuable parts this summer. Ray Emery has been brought back to Broad Street and this time his hip is not necrotic. Given he put up a 19-1 record for Chicago, the move theoretically gives Philly a reliable netminder for the first time in forever. Theoretically. The two other additions that should help the Bullies are Vinny Lecavalier and Streit. Vinny is bigger Danny Briere - both in stature and ability - and the Swiss Streit gives the Flyers a second solid puck mover on the edge of Social Security. As long as Claude Giroux can shake off his golf injury, Philly should improve.
6 - Washington Capitals: Alex Ovechkin finished the last lockout campaign with 32 goals, 56 points and the Hart Trophy. Can he do it again? Ovie has been eyeing the upcoming Olympics for years, so how much will be bring to Washington, and how much will he have left after Sochi? Mikhail Grabovski should replace Mike Ribeiro pretty well but the Capitals now Laich Semin. Sorry, had to. Last season the Caps were heavily helped by their horrible SouthLeastern division-mates: they took five of six games from Winnipeg, four of four from Florida and three of four from Tampa. Sure they also took four of five against Carolina, but not having those other losers around will hurt Washington.
7 - Carolina Hurricanes: Carolina's future is hard to peg, as Semin's enigmatic ways cloud any attempts at prediction. If he shows up for the entire season, he will be a huge help to the Staals. Andrej Sekera will boost the blueline but the biggest free agent addition may very well be the new backup goaltender Anton Khudobin. The Kazakh keeper put up good numbers with the Bruins - granted, an easy accomplishment - and he replaces Justin Peters, arguably the worst goaltender in the NHL last year not named DiPietro. Peters won just one of his final seven starts and closed with a 4-11-1 record, a 3.46 gaa and a .891 save percent.
8 - New Jersey Devils: Mmmaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrttttttyyy, Mmmaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrttttttyyy, Mmmaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrttttttyyy. Now it's just not Ranger fans chanting that but Father Time as well. Brodeur refused to retire and it will hurt New Jersey by keeping Cory Schneider out of their net for at least half of the season, if not more. Ilya Kovalchuk gave up millions of dollars just to escape from Newark, and the best Lou Lamoriello could do to replace him was Jaromir Jagr and Michael Ryder. For all of the talk about Jagr's training, there's no denying that he's a poor shadow of the player he once was. And Ryder's 35 points in 46 games last regular season hides the fact that he had no goals and just three assists over his final nine games and his disappearing act in the playoffs (where he had one goal and one assist in five games). Ryane Clowe came over from the Rangers but, having seen him skate on Broadway, I feel safe - albeit very, very silly - in saying he's no replacement for David Clarkson.
So this was my best guess at the moment as to how things will end up eight months from now. It could be right on the money, it could be completely off. Surprises happen. If a number of intelligent, well schooled professionals could all agree that Metropolitan can be a good name for a NHL division, anything is possible.
Thanks again to Scotty for taking to time to give us his preview, I really appreciate it! Do yourself a favor and follow him on Twitter @ScottyHockey.