The Northeast Division is expected to be close once again this season, but the Sabres won’t have an easy time repeating as division champs again. The Northeast saw many changes and will be as competitive as ever as Toronto is attempting to return back to the playoffs.
The Northeast is considered one of the toughest in the NHL and this year should prove that statement to be true. The Bruins improved the most in the during the offseason with the additions of Nathan Horton and Greg Campbell from the Florida Panthers. Horton was rumored to possibly land with the Sabres, but the Bruins swooped in and offered the Panthers Dennis Wideman.
Wideman will be missed dearly, but a change of scenery for Horton might be the solution to his injury plagued career. The Bruins selected such a talented player in Tyler Seguin at the draft. Questions have been raised whether or not Marc Savard will be moved to open up some cap or if he stays. The Bruins are very tight to the cap as of now but we will have to see how they manage it.
The highlight of the Bruins team last season was Tuukka Rask. Rask even out played the star goaltender Ryan Miller in the series against the Sabres. Boston turned heads as they upset the third seeded Buffalo Sabres in the first round of the playoffs. In the second round they blew a 3-0 lead in the series to the Philadelphia Flyers.
Look for the Bruins to win the division, but it won’t be easy as the division is very close in skill. The Bruins moves in the offseason will make them an even tougher task. Look for the Bruins to be one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. The player to watch on the Bruins will be Nathan Horton and if he will break out with his new team, given all the potential he has.
Buffalo- The Sabres had an interesting offseason with the departures of Henrik Tallinder, Toni Lydman, and Tim Kennedy. Buffalo added Jordan Leopold, Rob Niedermayer, and Shaone Morrisonn, but the losses of Lydman and Tallinder might hurt the Sabres defensively. By adding Leopold, it may help offensively and Morrisonn will help bulk up the size.
The front office of the Sabres didn’t bring in the big name that many Sabres fans were begging for, but they had a decent offseason. The only advantage that the Sabres have of not having Tim Kennedy is that they signed Shaone Morrisonn and he can step up as a big defender of this team. Morrisonn isn’t very well known but he quietly plays his game and has the chance to emerge with the Blue and Gold.
Tyler Myers had a stellar year last season and you could look for much of the same this year. He won’t have Tallinder by his side but look for him to be paired with Jordan Leopold. Derek Roy and Tim Connolly can’t disappear as they did down the stretch and into the playoffs last year if they want to be successful.
Rob Niedermayer will be a very good pick up for the Sabres, especially when playoffs roll around in April. With Ryan Miller between the pipes for the Sabres, they will be solid as long as he stays healthy. With Miller to protect them they are undoubtedly a playoff team.
Ottawa- The Senators replaced their big shot blocker on the point in Anton Volchenkov with Sergei Gonchar. Gonchar is a very good defender, especially on the power play and will be a good fit to a young Senators team. The goaltending should be enough to get the Senator’s by with Pascal Leclaire and Brian Elliot.
The Senators can be a playoff team if they played as hard as they did last year. The player to watch for this season on the Senators is Pascal Leclaire and how he will emerge as the starting net minder, as much of this season relies on him.
Toronto- The Leafs were one of the most active teams in the league during the offseason. Toronto’s two big additions were Kris Versteeg and Colby Armstrong. The leafs should make good progress this season, but they will be golfing early this year as usual.
The season relies heavily on the defense of the Leafs. The goaltending should be solid this year with Giguere and Gustavsson. The player to watch this season is Dion Phaneuf to see if he emerges as the leader of the team as he is the newly named captain. If Phaneuf can have the Leafs play with more heart than years passed they may have a chance to push for the playoffs.
Montreal- The Canadiens had a great run in the playoffs as the eighth seed. Montreal knocked off the Capitals and Penguins before losing to the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Canadiens had a very disappointing offseason with the loss of Jaroslav Halak, who was the hero for them in the playoffs.
The Canadiens still have to sign Carey Price who they felt would be their starter. The big issue for the rest of the offseason is to sign Price or to trade for a starting goaltender. Mike Cammalleri was another hero in the playoffs for Montreal as he recorded 13 goals.
The Canadiens will have to fight in the tough Northeast, but I think it would be hard for them to return to the playoffs. The player to watch on the Canadiens is PK Subban. Subban played well in the playoffs and might emerge as one of Montreal’s top defenseman, with his great offensive skills.