We start off our countdown to the start of the NHL’s 2022-23 regular season with a look at the rest of the NHL, beginning with the Atlantic Division.
Last season: 51-26-5 (107 points), fourth place in Atlantic Division, lost in first round
Key losses: F Erik Haula, D Josh Brown
Key additions: F David Krejčí, F Pavel Zacha, G Keith Kinkaid
Boston went into the offseason with some potential franchise-changing questions hanging over them in the form of will-he, won’t-he re-signing of Patrice Bergeron. Good news for Bruins fans: he re-signed, with the added bonus that his signing seemed to lure back David Krejčí, who spent last season in the Czech Extraliga league. Otherwise the Bruins group looks pretty similar to last year with the likes of David Pastrnak, Taylor Hall, Jake DeBrusk, Brandon Carlo, and Hampus Lindholm still around.
However, the Bruins will be without Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk for at least the first month or two of the season, and they’ll be under a new coach in Jim Montgomery. For a league that often sees the playoff picture set by Thanksgiving, Boston will need to weather the loss of those three key players to make Bergeron and Krejčí’s resignings worth it. They’re obvious a top-four divisional team when firing on all cylinders, though.
Last season: 32-39-11 (75 points), fifth place in Atlantic Division
Key losses: F Mark Jankowski, F Drake Caggiula, D Colin Miller, G Dustin Tokarski
Key additions: D Ilya Lybushkin, G Eric Comrie
The Atlantic division is an interesting one because it’s a mix of serious Cup contenders and full-on rebuilding teams. The Sabres, with their 11-season playoff drought, are obviously in the latter group. The team didn’t really do much this season to improve the on-ice product, so it seems they’re mostly hoping for general development of players already on the team and in the system.
Their young core does seem to be shaping up — Owen Power will be joining Rasmus Dahlin on the backend and the forward group of Dylan Cozens, Tage Thompson, Peyton Krebs, and Alex Tuch is a good start — but Buffalo still isn’t close to spitting distance to the playoffs.
Last season: 32-40-10 (74 points), sixth place in Atlantic Division
Key losses: D Marc Staal, G Thomas Greiss
Key additions: F David Perron, F Andrew Copp, F Dominik Kubalik, D Mark Pysyk, D Ben Chiarot, D Olli Maatta, G Villie Husso
Detroit made a lot of moves this summer, but none are more impactful than finally moving on from Jeff Blashill as head coach and hiring Derek Lalonde instead. It feels like practically anyone would have been better than Blashill, but Lalonde has the potential to be a huge improvement, having spent the last couple of seasons helping lead the Lightning to consecutive Stanley Cup titles in 2020 and 2021.
The added firepower of the forwards added this summer as well as Ville Husso in net should come in handy considering the Red Wings defense is still pretty lackluster. The continued excellence of Dylan Larkin and the emergence of Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond means that Detroit are taking strong strides in their rebuild, but the playoffs still feel a bit out of their reach in the semi-competitive Atlantic division.
Last season: 58-18-6 (122 points), first place in Atlantic Division, Presidents’ Trophy winners, lost in second round
Key losses: F Jonathan Huberdeau, F Mason Marchment, F Claude Giroux, D MacKenzie Weegar, D Ben Chiarot
Key additions: F Matthew Tkachuk, F Chris Tierney, D Michael Del Zotto, D Marc Staal
For a team that just won the Presidents’ Trophy, Florida had a decent amount of turnover this summer. They had a blockbuster deal with Calgary that saw Huberdeau and Weegar swapped for Tkachuk was seismic change, a trade that seems to negatively impact the Panthers chances in the playoff race this upcoming season but could be beneficial in the long-term. Moving on from Marchment and Giroux — both of whom Florida just couldn’t afford — compounds the loss in immediate roster quality.
Florida also traded in Andrew Brunette for Paul Maurice as head coach, somewhat surprising considering how well the Panthers performed under Brunette. Only time will tell if that was a mistake.
Last season: 22-49-11 (55 points), eighth place in Atlantic Division
Key losses: F Ryan Poehling, D Jeff Petry, D Alexander Romanov
Key additions: F Sean Monahan, F Juraj Slafkovský, F Kirby Dach, F Evgenii Dadonov, D Mike Matheson
Montreal didn’t really make a splash this offseason until it picked up Monahan in the fire sale from the Calgary Flames. For the most part, the other moves seemed to fit in line with pushing the Habs’ rebuild forward: drafting of NHL-ready Slafkovský, acquiring reclamation project Dach, and naming Nick Suzuki captain. And Martin St. Louis was officially named head coach after positively impacting the young players — especially Cole Caulfield — last season during his interim phase.
Even with this interjection of some skill, Montreal is not expected to perform much better than last year.
Last season: 33-42-7 (73 points), seventh place in Atlantic Division
Key losses: F Chris Tierney, F Connor Brown, F Colin White, D Michael Del Zotto, D Victor Mete, G Matt Murray
Key additions: F Alex DeBrincat, F Claude Giroux, G Cam Talbot
Ahh ... the Senators, a team that will be hard to watch for Blackhawks fans this season if only because of the bitterness of seeing Alex DeBrincat in another jersey. GM Pierre Dorion did an amazing job adding DeBrincat to a young core that already included the likes of Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stützle, Josh Norris, Drake Batherson, and Thomas Chabot. Giroux can be the veteran leadership needed for such a forward group.
Ottawa is definitely a team that is trending up, but it’s still iffy if they’ve improved enough to make the playoffs. A wild card spot isn’t out of the realm of possibilities, but the Senators will need a lot to go right for that to happen. And they’re not exactly off to an auspicious start with goalie Talbot expected to miss 5-7 weeks with an upper body injury.
Last season: 51-23-8 (110 points), third place in Atlantic Division, lost in Stanley Cup Final
Key losses: F Ondrej Palat, D Ryan McDonagh, D Jan Rutta
Key additions: F Vladislav Namestnikov, D Ian Cole, D Philippe Myers, D Hadyn Fleury
Like the Blackhawks between 2010 and 2015, the Lightning keep finding ways to keep their core mostly intact and their roster fleshed out with good to great depth. Yes, they lost Palat and McDonagh, who were solid players during their two Cup runs, but they were able sign several players to long-term extensions: Anthony Cirelli, Mikhail Sergachev, Nick Paul, and Erik Cernak. This is after locking up Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, and Victor Hedman for at least another three seasons as well. Only Steven Stamkos’ contract is up in the next couple of seasons, but with the salary cap reported expected to rise sharply in the coming years, Tampa Bay should have plenty of space for their captain if they and he wish to keep the party going.
To add to the almost unfairness of the Lightning of having and keeping such an excellent skater group, they’re also backed by arguably the best goalie in the league in Andrei Vasilevskiy and coached by one of best in Jon Cooper. It’s easy to see how they could win their third Cup in four seasons next June.
Last season: 54-21-7 (115 points), second place in Atlantic Division, lost in first round
Key losses: F Ilya Mikheyev, F Ondrej Kase, F Colin Blackwell, G Jack Campbell,
Key additions: F Calle Jarnkrok, F Nicolas Aube-Kubel, G Matt Murray
Toronto only made minor adjustments up front in swapping out depth players, which is to be expected since many believe the team underachieved last year in the playoffs — though arguably, underachievement has been the theme of this iteration of the Leafs core. Still, their top-four forward group of Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander is a strong one and they had above average depth, so they’re likely going to be one of the best in the division regardless.
Goaltending is going to be their biggest issue, like it seems to be every year. Campbell surprised last year but faltered in the playoffs. Replacing him with Murray — who is a Cup winner but also spent much of last season in the AHL — seems ill advised for a team hoping to contend. Making the playoffs should be easy for them, but it’s unknown if the Leafs can slay their playoff demons this season.