With the daily countdown to the start of the NHL’s 2019-20 regular season now in single digits, it’s time to take a glance around the rest of the league. We drop the puck on this season’s league-wide preview with a look at the Atlantic Division. Daily glances at the Metropolitan and Pacific Divisions will follow, ending with a one-team-per-day breakdown of the Central Division foes. To the east we go!
Last season: 49-24-9, 107 points, 2nd place, lost in Stanley Cup Final
Key losses: C Noel Acciari, F Marcus Johansson
Key additions: C Par Lindholm, F Brett Ritchie
Much of the Bruins original core remains intact, with Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask and David Krejci all still here. The next wave of talented Boston players is also still around, including David Pastrnak, Jake DeBrusk, Torey Krug, Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo. But that initial group is all on the wrong side of 30 now, meaning the clock is ticking if they want to squeeze another Cup run out of this group. If the veterans can recover despite a short offseason, the youngsters can continue improving and some prospects seize NHL roles, the Bruins should be in contention once again.
Last season: 33-39-10, 76 points, 6th place
Key losses: F Alex Nylander, F Jason Pominville
Key additions: Coach Ralph Krueger, F Dylan Cozens, F Jimmy Vesey, F Marcus Johansson, D Henri Jokiharju, D Colin Miller
A red-hot month of November pushed Buffalo into playoff contention last season, but a dreadful finish during the final five months had the Sabres on the outside of the playoff picture yet again. In the offseason, though, Buffalo added a slew of players, including trades to add Miller and Jokiharju in hopes of bolstering the blue line. With a new coach and a bunch of new players, there’s reason to believe Buffalo can make its first playoff appearance since 2011. But question marks will remain until they prove it on the ice.
Last season: 32-40-10, 74 points, 7th place
Key losses: D Niklas Kronwall, F Martin Frk, F Thomas Vanek
Key additions: GM Steve Yzerman, F Valtteri Filppula, F Adam Erne, D Patrik Nemeth
The rebuild continues in the Motor City, with team legend Yzerman returning to take the reins in the front office. The Red Wings were hampered by injuries to their veterans last season, but if the franchise is going to turn things around, that burden falls on the young prospects Detroit has assembled during the last 3-4 seasons. Players who need to start looking like NHL-caliber talent include center Michael Rasmussen, forwards Taro Hirose and Filip Zadina and defensemen Dennis Cholowski, Filip Hronek and Oliwer Kaski.
Last season: 36-32-14, 86 points, 5th place
Key losses: G James Reimer, G Roberto Luongo
Key additions: Coach Joel Quenneville, G Sergei Bobrovsky, F Brett Connolly, F Noel Acciari, D Anton Stralman
Florida was one of the busiest teams this summer, adding Joel Quenneville behind the bench and giving him the prize of the free agent class in Bobrovsky. Adding those veterans along with its crop of talented young forwards that includes Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Mike Hoffman, Evegnii Dadonov and Vincent Trocheck has generated some buzz around the Panthers for the first time in years. Aaron Ekblad remains a top young defenseman, but questions remain about the players behind him on the depth chart. Still, it seems like this is the right time for Florida to finally get over the hump and become a factor in the division and the playoffs — at least, it better be.
Last season: 44-30-8, 96 points, 4th place
Key losses: F Andrew Shaw, D Jordie Benn
Key additions: F Nick Cousins, G Keith Kinkaid, G Antti Niemi, F Ryan Barber
The health of Shea Weber remains the No. 1 focus for this team, and he has a clean bill of health after playing in just 84 total games over the last two seasons. Carey Price was back to his usual self in net last season and has a quality backup now in Kinkaid. A player to watch will be 2018 No. 3 overall pick Jesperi Kotkaniemi, whose continued emergence into a top-six player for Montreal could go a long way toward helping the Canadiens return to the postseason.
Last season: 29-47-6, 64 points, 8th place
Key losses: F Zack Smith, D Cody Ceci, D Ben Harpur
Key additions: Coach D.J. Smith, D Nikita Zaitsev, F Connor Brown, D Ron Hainsey, F Tyler Ennis, F Artem Anisimov
Defenseman Thomas Chabot was just locked up for the foreseeable future and 19-year-old forward Brady Tkachuk is the other piece leading the youth movement in Ottawa. New coach D.J. Smith reportedly has a specialty of developing young talent, which is about all the Senators have these days. Some veteran presence exists with the offseason acquisitions of Hainsey, Ennis, Anisimov and others, but the young players will be the primary focus here, as Ottawa attempts to rebuild itself from the ground up.
Last season: 62-16-4, 128 points, 1st place, lost in Atlantic Division semifinals
Key losses: F J.T. Miller, F Ryan Callahan, F Adam Erne
Key additions: D Kevin Shattenkirk, F Pat Maroon, D Luke Schenn, D Luke Witkowski, G Curtis McElhinney
Perhaps the most dominant season in NHL history ended with a resounding thud when the Lightning were swept out of the playoffs by the Columbus Blue Jackets in April. Most of the core remains in Tampa, including Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman, Mikhail Sergachev and more. The Brayden Point contract saga is also over, giving the Lightning another plethora of talent among its forward group. With so much talent on the roster again, it’s another Stanley-Cup-or-bust season.
Last season: 46-28-8, 100 points, 3rd place, lost in Atlantic Division semifinals
Key losses: D Nikita Zaitsev, F Connor Brown, F Nazem Kadri, D Ron Hainsey, D Jake Gardiner
Key additions: D Tyson Barrie, F Alexander Kerfoot, D Cody Ceci, F Jason Spezza, F Patrick Marleau
Now that Mitchell Marner’s contract dispute is over, Toronto can finally get back to focusing on its hopes of ending the league’s longest current Stanley Cup drought. A combination of young and old talent — including free agent signing Jason Spezza — puts Toronto in the conversation for best forward talent in the league. Questions remain on defense, and it’s not certain yet whether Barrie and Ceci can provide the answer. The Maple Leafs roster looks significantly different than the team that lost in Game 7 to Boston last season, but will that change the outcome for Toronto every other time it’s faced Boston in the playoffs this decade?