Monday, September 30, 2013

Metropolitan Division Thoughts

1. Pittsburgh*

What conventional wisdom gets right: Crosby, Malkin, and Letang can carry this team.

What conventional wisdom gets wrong: This team isn't that deep anymore. If Crosby and Malkin go down, they're done—no Jordan Staal-level player to pick up the slack. Their goaltending also looks merely average or slightly below—Fleury hasn't been bad during the regular season in awhile now. I highly doubt the situation in net can derail this team, unless Fleury and Vokoun are simultaneously out for a long period of time.

Recent developments: Kris Letang got hurt. Out indefinitely. Tomas Vokoun was also hospitalized for a blood clot and although he's been discharged, he's out indefinitely as well.

2. Washington*

What conventional wisdom gets right: Mike Green could be returning to old form. The Caps are fine in net with Braden Holtby.

What conventional wisdom gets wrong: Mikhail Grabovski is such a better player at 5v5 than Mike Ribeiro that it's not even funny to see people try to downplay the difference. The power play will likely be plenty worse next season. Martin Erat is a really nice player to have on the second line or third line. John Carlson should be a lock to make the Olympic team for Sochi.

Recent developments: Tom Wilson might make the team...if he does, another move needs to come. (Edit: they traded Mathieu Perreault, which could cost the team a point or two in the standings.) Brooks Laich is questionable for the opener.

3. New York Rangers*

What conventional wisdom gets right: This team has a pretty good roster, with great goaltending.

What conventional wisdom gets wrong: New coaches aren't guaranteed to improve their teams. John Tortorella got a lot out of the Rangers. Alain Vigneault only coached one elite possession side with the Canucks, in 2010-11...when the rest of the league was relatively weak (not a single 55% Corsi tied team). Other than that, it's been above average (say, 51-53%) with high-end shooting%. The possession falls in line with what Tortorella got out of NYR, and while shooting% improving should make a big difference, Nash/Stepan << Sedins in that regard.

In short—I expect Vigneault to improve the Rangers' power play, but that's about it—I'm not holding my breath for a big shooting% uptick, and I don't see their Corsi improving.

Also, Marc Staal is no guarantee to be the same high-end D he was before.

Recent developments: Stepan signed. Callahan was cleared for contact, but Carl Hagelin is still out.

4. New Jersey*

What conventional wisdom gets right: The Devils are good defensively.

What conventional wisdom gets wrong: A lot. People don't realize how big an upgrade Cory Schneider is—he arguably could have made the 2012-13 Devils a playoff team given 2/3 or 3/4 of the team's starts. Martin Brodeur is simply not a good goalie anymore, and hasn't been in at least three years. Furthermore, Ilya Kovalchuk didn't have a great season, so losing him won't hurt that much. Jagr, Brunner, Clowe, and Ryder should be able to replace a lot of what he did.

Recent developments: signed Damien Brunner

5. New York Islanders

What conventional wisdom gets right: Young team on the rise. Goaltending a weakness.

What conventional wisdom gets wrong: They may be good enough possession-wise to overcome below-average netminding (think Washington, 08-09). Losing Mark Streit isn't actually as big as a deal now as it would have been in the past, when Streit was nearly a Norris-level blueliner—his 2013 was a step back from his normal level of play.

Recent developments: Travis Hamonic got hurt.

6. Carolina

What conventional wisdom gets right: Lots of skill up front, lack defense, really need Cam Ward to be strong in net.

What conventional wisdom gets wrong: Eh, that's pretty much spot-on.

Recent developments:

7. Philadelphia

What conventional wisdom gets right: This team has plenty of talent up front. Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Scott Hartnell, Wayne Simmonds, Vincent Lecavalier...the list goes on.

What conventional wisdom gets wrong: An aging Mark Streit doesn't fix Philadelphia's blueline issues. Better health will correct it, partly, but Kimmo Timonen is still the only standout D there (assuming Streit's decline in play last year on Long Island isn't merely a blip on the radar). Oh, and Steve Mason I highly doubt will be part of an effective goaltending tandem. If Philly wants to make the playoffs, it'll either need to look for another goalie, or hope Emery can handle a starter's workload. Otherwise, it'll still be too many goals against to make the playoffs.

Recent developments: Scott Laughton made the team in his draft+1 season. May just be another nine-game stint...maybe not. Signed Hal Gill.

8. Columbus

What conventional wisdom gets right: Sergei Bobrovsky's performance will be the determining factor this season.

What conventional wisdom gets wrong: That Bobrovsky has a decent chance of repeating last season. That the Jackets are close to the playoffs without a great performance in net. The team is bad in possession, isn't icing a ton of youngsters (just Ryan Johansen, Ryan Murray, and maybe Tim Erixon, by my count), is very thin down the middle (I'm an Artem Anisimov fan, but neither he nor any of his teammates is a legit 1C), and one of its best players is out until December.

Sounds like a recipe for success. Sure.

Recent developments: none

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